15 August 2017

Daniel Borzutzky

The cop doesn't want a prayer
He doesn't want the bodies to stand over the dead animals that wash onto the shore
He doesn't want to hear the bodies offering love and compassion to their sick friends who rest inertly on the beach
He doesn't want the so-called healthy bodies standing over the so-called sick bodies and wishing that the sick bodies will recover
He doesn't want to hear about Jesus or the holy spirit and he doesn't want anyone to stand or kneel over the sick bodies the state requires him to beat
With his nightstick he beats the so-called sick bodies     the so-called healthy bodies who care for the so-called sick bodies
See the healthy bodies walking away from the sick bodies to avoid the blows from the cop who walks behind them on the beach because they have broken a legal code
They have failed to comply with the authoritative bodies' attempts to order society
according to a set of logical and common ideals
The camera zooms in on the mouth of a healthy body as the police officer strikes his teeth with a nightstick
The healthy body who came to pray for the sick bodies crumbles to the ground
There are black birds flying above      there are white birds flying above
There are warblers      there are ducks    there are hawks and scoters above the police officer who beats the healthy body
There is a small songbird     look at its brown back     its chestnut cap     its bright yellow undertail that is constantly wagging     the faint streaks of yellow on its side
There is a sparrow with a plump body with white and brown streaks running across it
The birds witness the police officer beating the healthy and the unhealthy bodies
It is beautiful to fly     we sing
It is what the body must always remember
I am on the shores of Lake Michigan
I am lying in my cot with my dog who is panting and coughing and dying from heart failure
I cannot tell an authoritative body anything about my dog's failing heart or my dog will immediately be euthanized     thrown into a body bag and dumped into the middle of the
My dog is a migrant from Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico he was clubbed by a Puerto Rican police officer for being homeless
He was run over by an imperialistic taxi service
My dog has tropical worms in his heart
Sometimes I pray in my native tongue for his body to rest peacefully
This prayer is an illegal activity
The authoritative bodies have deemed it illegal to pray in another language
Everything the police officer did on the shores of Lake Michigan was legal
It is legal for a police officer to beat a praying body
It is legal for a police officer to beat a peaceful body a brown body a black body a beige body a gray purple healthy or unhealthy body
The courts have upheld the right of a police officer to beat the body of anybody he deems a
threat to public safety
The healthy man praying on the beach for the sick bodies is not actually praying for the sick bodies     he is putting a curse on the police officer
He is praying to a god who is a goat or a deer or a bear or a monster    says the police officer
Your god is an innards-eating quadruped    he says
It's a mammal but it's not the right type of mammal
It's the type of mammal who thinks it can destroy its own shadow
I have the right to beat a body if the body says something that will threaten my life
Words    the police officer says     are actions
You're a decrepit public body     says the police officer to the man who prays
And your prayers will land you a lifetime         in the foamiest hole        of our diminishing carcass economy


04 August 2017

Nickole Brown

A Prayer to Talk to Animals

Lord, I ain’t asking to be the Beastmaster
gym-ripped in a jungle loincloth
or a Doctor Dolittle or even the expensive vet
down the street, that stethoscoped redhead,
her diamond ring big as a Cracker Jack toy.
All I want is for you to help me flip
off this lightbox and its scroll of dread, to rip
a tiny tear between this world and that, a slit
in the veil, Lord, one of those old-fashioned peeping
keyholes through which I can press my dumb
lips and speak. If you will, Lord, make me the teeth
hot in the mouth of a raccoon scraping
the junk I scraped from last night’s plates,
make me the blue eye of that young crow cocked to
me—too selfish to even look up from the black
of my damn phone. Oh, forgive me, Lord,
how human I’ve become, busy clicking
what I like, busy pushing
my cuticles back and back to expose
all ten pale, useless moons.  Would you let me
tell your creatures how sorry
I am, let them know exactly
what we’ve done? Am I not an animal
too? If so, Lord, make me one again.
Give me back my dirty claws and blood-warm
horns, braid back those long-
frayed endings of every nerve tingling
with all I thought I had to do today.
Fork my tongue, Lord. There is a sorrow on the air
I taste but cannot name. I want to open
my mouth and know the exact
flavor of what’s to come, I want to open
my mouth and sound a language
that calls all language home.

15 July 2017

Margaret Ross


The socks came in a pack of five.
What is the most boring subject
possible? Translucent blue
with punctures pierced to shape
a star around the ankle.
I carried them along the aisles
as if I needed them. I fingered
lacquered dishes and the rubber heads
of mallets, crystal trinkets
stitched to underwear.
Wherever you go, this buffering.
A dull hour. All that time
I could have touched you and didn’t
or did absentminded, getting in
or out of bed or trying to reach
something behind you.
I didn’t need anything
I could buy. I bought the socks
and a slatted spoon I haven’t used.
Blue interrupted by the living points
of constellated skin. I’ve been
looking for a long time
at the stretch of table where you had
your hand. I am afraid
to touch it. Love, all I’ve ever
seen is things in airless dense
configuration and no transparency.

07 July 2017

Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

Ginuwine - Pony

or: what it is to ride or be ridden
to have a spine bend under the weight of what you carry
to sit atop what will take you to the promised land
by promised I mean any land that is untouched
and precious enough to be stolen a thrashing and noisy child
ripped from the fingers of its only mother
what it is to ride fast on the back of something hungry and claim whatever meets your arrival
run your tongue across anything naked and name it conquered
what it is to have your sweat plant a flag in new earth
I claim this land in the name of what exits the skin after it has had its fill of our reckless want
everything we hold inside of us always ruining a good set of sheets
or a good pair of pants
or a family
or a whole country
the darkness is spreading earlier and earlier. I have stopped looking for myself in pictures. I ask my therapist: if I cannot see my hands how will anyone know to love me. he tells me that it is best to not speak of what happens at night. I do not speak in winter. I watch the news. I think about what picture they would use if I died. it is a miracle babies are born at all. I think a baby is what happens when you get tired of leaving notes on someone’s nightstand before they wake up. if men could carry babies we would watch childbirth on ESPN. we would place bets on it. the world is on fire again but I’m not alone this time. I just want to touch someone who thinks of me while their coffee cools. I just want to kiss a mouth that has grown my name inside. I just want to make good use of all this nighttime.  instead I make lists of everything outside that can kill me. the organic market next door is at the top. how much is too much to ask for nourishment. take what is left of my hands. give them back when the sun comes.

25 June 2017

Solmaz Sharif

Vulnerability Study

your face turning from mine
to keep from cumming

8 strawberries in a wet blue bowl

baba holding his pants
up at the checkpoint

a newlywed securing her updo
with grenade pins

a wall cleared of nails
for the ghosts to walk through

12 June 2017

A. E. Stallings

Not my photo, not my fingers.

11 June 2017

Inroads Up Hills

I don't typically post IRL content on here anymore, but this seemed worth a share. 

23 May 2017

from Paul Bowles' "A Distant Episode"

The tiny ink marks of which a symphony consists may have been made long ago, but when they are fulfilled in sound they become imminent and mighty.

favorites from Coffin Corner number one, Varsity Goth Press

Failure Is the Largest Animal to Have Lived on Earth - Justin Karcher

On this Fourth of July weekend,
I would like to apologize to all my exes.
I'm sorry you've seen my eyes narrow
Into little ghost slits night after night,
Real anxious for the exorcism of a kiss.
The pressure of passion has always
Gotten the better of me, but I'm not making
Any excuses. It's just that
I'm slowly losing my lipsight
Due to mistletoe glaucoma
Caused by excessive dreaming.
These last couple years I've been good
At missing the mark of my heart
Like US drone strikes killing scores
Of civilians in Afghanistan.

I expect America to do the right thing,
Just like lovers are expected to kiss
Under the mistletoe. All that beauty,
It's there for the taking, so for the love of God
Just do the right fucking thing.
I want to do what is right, but I don't do it.
Every day I wake up, I tell myself
That today is the final day
Of my addiction to alcohol, the final day
Of my addiction to terrible lovers.
Every day I wake up, the sun
Looks like a dead humpback whale
On a Los Angeles beach that needs to be towed
Back out to sea, because failure
Is the largest animal to have lived on Earth,

And it's very important to blow the whole thing up.
On this Fourth of July weekend,
I want all my friends, all my exes,
To stuff fireworks  into the mouths
Of their own beached whales,
Whatever it is that's weighting them down,
And blow their heavy sadness to smithereens.
I want to walk along the water, right before
Independence is about to blow its load,
And see the porta potties burst into life.
Angry, like animals breaking out of testing labs
And destroying everything in their path,
Until their junk-withdrawal eyes are buried deep
In the optometry of absolute freedom,
Where everything looks better

And nothing is bloodshot.
On this Fourth of July weekend,
It would make me happy if the earth
Looks right at me with bleared eyes
And lips swollen, its green and blue skin empurpled
And monstrous with fossil fuel afterbirth,
And tells me to get over it, that the lover
Crucifying my confidence on a cross
Made of birth control pills isn't worth it,
That the office job I work to pay the bills,
Because no school is hiring full time,
Isn't worth it, that I should put up
Or shut up, that I should stop walking naked
Through a sea of other men's smells,
That if love doesn't shine on this whiskey boy

Or whatever's left of him, I should finally grow up
And be a man, that I should stop sitting cross-legged
On my lonesome twin bed eating Chef Boyardee
Out of the can. The chicken alfredo is always cold,
But I'm always pretty buzzed. Even the strongest kind
Of love can make you feel like a crocodile
Climbing a tree. Crocodiles haven't changed much
Over millions of years and a lot of people think that
They have stopped evolving. Well,  maybe that's true.
Maybe it isn't. But whenever I hear about crocodiles
Climbing trees in Florida, I think it all makes sense.
They just want to taste evolution for the first time
In forever. On this Fourth of July weekend,
I want to evolve. There's no desert nearby
With ancient ruins to show us just how old

"Old" can be, or how sophisticated our ancestors were
In devising their lovemaking methods. It's important to know
Where we come from, but too many of us don't care.
Too many of us are scared of digging deep within
And discovering ruins off the coast of memory.
Not making mistakes if the biggest mistake.
There are no important bones buried in Rust Belt dirt
And that's part of the problem. What we do have
Are dead animals washing up on the unsalted shores
Of the Great Lakes. Their ghosts hibernate
In our bloodstreams until they're hungry for life once again.
Just give them time to grow and beef up,
But in the Rust Belt, our concept of time is distorted.
You don't wash your sins away with hourglass sand.
You can't build a city on the backs of mummies

With no life left to live. You need vibrant life
Or something close to it. What do have
Are vampire architects licking their chops
And building sandcastles out of kitty litter and rat blood,
And sometimes their skylines kick the piss out of me.
Despite all this, we can't be at each other's throats.
On this Fourth of July weekend, we need unity now
More than ever, especially when everybody in the club
Is getting shot, especially when everybody's like,
"Run — get out of here," especially when the lights come on
And there are rivers of tears, especially when the better angels,
Of our nature become janitors trying to clean up this mess
With used q-tips. On this Fourth of July weekend,
I want to walk along the water, right before
Independence is about to blow its load,

And see a nation of heartbroken people
Choosing what will lift them up,
Choosing what will break them down,
Because when it comes to breakage
Or building your own set of wings,
You better make it count,
You better make it worth your while,
Because failure is the largest animal
To have lived on Earth, and sometimes
You have to put it out to pasture
Or push it back into the water.

ship of theseus - Dylan Krieger

these bows were made to be broken    vs.    this aft will still be here after i’m dead
a former foremast sold my soul    vs.    O captain my captain won’t go down without a fight

same false bay, different day    vs.    never skinny dip in the same river twice
nothing new under the gundeck    vs.    complete cerebral rebirth after 7,000 sunsets
feeding seamen to the sirens    vs.    sure to leave the shore celestial fixed & syphilitic
now mix in all the new pieces of ship + skin & bone + row your boat straight into the apocalypse there’s something sudden about the horizon // how it slips like silk down the earth’s domed ass fastest way to go insane is just by being left alone // you think there’s a hard line, and then you don’t 

tell me the difference between rock and skin - Kristie Shoemaker

my nails are breaking
like a fault line
one rock trying to establish dominance over another but in the end everyone loses
there are little chips of pale pink
scattered all over the floor
like sad confetti after a pity party for one
there is a wound in my mouth from your acidic tongue i try to keep my broken rust covered nails away
but the temptation is too great
and i play with it like a cat plays with a dead fly
in the end everything breaks
in the end everything is dust 

01 May 2017

Sam Sax

On Alcohol

my first drink was in my mother
my next, my bris. doctor spread red
wine across my lips. took my foreskin

every time i drink     i lose something

no one knows the origins of alcohol. tho surely an accident
before sacrament. agricultural apocrypha. enough grain stored up
for it to get weird in the cistern. rot gospel. god water

brandy was used to treat everything
from colds to pneumonia
frostbite to snake bites

tb patients were placed on ethanol drips
tonics & cough medicines
spooned into the crying mouths of children

each friday in synagogue a prayer for red
at dinner, the cemetery, the kitchen

how many times have i woke
strange in an unfamiliar bed?
my head neolithic

my grandfather died with a bottle in one hand
& flowers in the other. he called his drink his medicine
he called his woman
    she locked the door

i can only half blame alcohol for my overdose
the other half is my own hand
that poured the codeine    that lifted the red plastic again & again &

i’m trying to understand pleasure     it comes back
in flashes    every jean button thumbed open to reveal
a different man     every slurred & furious permission

i was sober a year before [          ] died

every time i drink     i lose someone

if you look close at the process of fermentation
you’ll see tiny animals destroying the living body
until it’s transformed into something more volatile

the wino outside the liquor store
mistakes me for his son

27 April 2017

24 April 2017

from Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch

[...] I feel as if I should say it as urgently as if I were standing in the room with you. That life -- whatever else it is -- is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn't mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we're not always so glad to be here, it's our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping our eyes and hearts open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn't touch.

from a PDF of Jessie Janeshek's I Want You to Haunt Me

20 April 2017

from Joshua Didriksen's Swimming Pool

Pierced. I am pierced.
Can't take it out, can't leave it in.
A trail of viscera, dances on the water like oil
When I try and swim.

18 April 2017

A Useful Violence

What is the Writer's Place in a Violent World?

I am talking about our responsibility, our duty, in the face of those unspeakable and unheard-of things. How do we begin to construct a vocabulary if all we can do is stand in numb and silent grief? What is there to really see of those who once stood and then were forced to kneel, if all we do is look away?

White Noise

Debra Magpie Earling

What is the West?

A battle continues to rage over the idea of the West and its territorial boundaries. What is the West? I'm afraid I have no clear answers but if pressed I would say the West is haunted by ideas of Encroachment and Displacement. The Malheur standoff was the current manifestation of that historical idea. 'Who owns the West' is the question in the current senate and gubernatorial races in Montana. Encroachment on someone's rights is messy business--the stuff of pulp fiction and literature. Encroachment is gritty and ugly and tough and it drives our imagination and determination and calls the stranger into town to clean up the mess or gun it up all over again. Displacement is the human toll of encroachment, the suffering, the loss. Displacement offers the hopeless and the hopeful a lockstep with tragedy and comedy and either self-serving sanctimony or true indignation and moral righteousness. We love and hate the never-ending question of the West but we cannot resist the call to define it.

13 April 2017

Total beasty.

Graham, looking wary and hungover, stares out the windows and over at Tower Records across the street with a longing that surprises me and then I'm closing my eyes and thinking about the color of water, a lemon tree, a scar. 


The train arrives in L.A. at dusk. The city seems deserted. In the distance are Pasadena hills and canyons and the small blue rectangles of lit pools. The train passes dried-up reservoirs and vast, empty parking lots, running parallel to the freeway then past a seemingly endless row of vacant warehouses, gangs of young boys standing against palm trees or huddling in groups in alleyways or around cars with headlight on, drinking  beer, the Motels playing. The train moves slowly as it eases toward Union Station, as if it's hesitating, passing Mexican churches and bars and strip joints, a drive-in where a horror movie is playing with subtitles. Palm trees are highlighted against a shifting orange-purple mass, a sky the color of Popsicles, a woman passes my door, mumbling loudly to someone, maybe herself, "This ain't no Silver Streak," and out the window a young Mexican boy in a red Chevrolet truck sings along with the radio and I'm close enough to reach out and touch his blank, grave face, staring straight ahead.

- The Informers

12 April 2017

from Belinda McKeon's Tender

Songs that had the exact shape of your heartbreak: they were the songs you had to cross the room to turn off.

Waking and saying to the morning, Please do not get any worse.
But you could not reason with a morning. A morning was not a thing that had to give anything beyond what it was.

And the music like a shimmering, oceanic wall. [...]
Singing of mystery, of the mystery that life was. [...]
And no, but really, had all these songs always been so brilliant, all along? These songs that had been only tinny radio rackets in your childhood, and only things you thought embarrassing in your teenage years, and now—now they were genius. Now they were perfect.
Was this just irony, this dancing, this sheer, sheer happy love, now, or was this honesty? [...]
Were you meant to actually know which one it was? [...]
(And how many other songs were there from your childhood that turned out to be so much about your life? Not just your life, but everybody's life? Everybody's happiness? Everybody's love?)

In the backyard of Baggot Street, a feral cat close to giving birth. Dragging herself around. The noise of her. Trying, as they watched from the steps, to burrow into a tangle of ivy. 
"She's trying to get away from the pain of it," Cillian said. "She doesn't understand it's inside of her."
Catherine stared at him. Could that be true? Could that possibly, possibly, be true?

(But even if you went into the farthest waters, from the farthest tip, someone would find you eventually. And then someone would have to see.)

[...] years passed, and the surreal, more and more, was simply the real.

Among our last peaceful exchanges: a couple, reading.


Upon the black hole Cygnus X-1 that wobbles
as if boffed by an invisible companion,
upon a silk stocking the color of bees
rolling itself up and down a leg, upon the soft dip
over the clavicles, which accept only tongued kisses,
upon the tongue that slowly drifts
into the other's mouth and chats
there with her opposite number,
gravity exerts the precise force needed.

In the wings of the Eskimo curlew
flapping through the thin air of the Andes,
in the sacral vertebrae of the widow
who stoops at the window to peer
behind the drawn blind, in the saggy skin
under the eyes of the woman
who is in love with a man incapable
of love, who lives in the heaviness
of emotional isolation, in the lavish
cascade of urine the rhino releases,
in the mouthwater of the child who waits
in shriek position for the dentist,
in the scradged skin dangling in shreds
from the children who lurched toward
the Nakashima River screaming, as if this were
the single aria they had ever rehearsed, gravity
shudders at its mathematical immensity.

As long as two kvetches remain alive,
because inside each is self-hatred so hardened
not even nonexistence can abide them,
as long as the hummingbird strikes
the air seventy-four times per second,
as long as the mound of earth remains heaped
beside the rectangular hole wanting to be filled,
gravity cannot be said to impose its will.

If the pilot ejects one second too late,
if the condemned man shrinks at seeing
the trapdoor gives way, if the man who stands
with fire at his back and a baby in his arms
hears the near neighbors cry,
"Drop her! Don't worry! We'll catch her,"
if the juggler gets behind in her count
and the bright object flies past the spot
where the other hand was to snatch it,
gravity cannot pause to rectify matters.

When a deer kenning us stands immobile,
and for one moment we know we exist
entirely within her thoughts, when cichlid fry,
sensing danger, empty their air bladders
and drop to the river bottom like pebbles,
when the snow goes and millions of leaves
reveal themselves pressed down over the contours
of earth to create her hibernation mask,
when a person in a military cemetery
among grave markers that spread to all the horizons
understands that all of existence has been destroyed
again and again, when depression after mania
causes clock hands to stick and days to crawl,
when the full moon's light creeps across a sleeper
calling to her atavistic soul, when a solider,
who has always known life is imperfect,
is wheeled to another hopeless attempt
at surgery—but, this time, resolves
to sleep and not wake again until such time
as time begins again—then gravity
grips us to the earth, and crosses its fingers.

In the case of the last ancient trees at Ypres
still turning out their terrified wood,
in the case of the concertina wire
hurled out in exuberant spirals and set down
between rich and poor, in the case of the howls
that fly off the earth through madhouse windows,
in the case of the word "heavenly"
when we remind ourselves that earth,
too, was a heavenly body once,
in the case of the numeral keys
totting up the number of humans
humans have killed, in the case of the man
who strays into a gravitational field where
the differential between the force on the scalp
and the force on the foot sole will stretch him
into an alimentary canal thin as a thread,
in the case of the child who has upset
his ink bottle while doing homework
and quickly snaps both arms down
to halt the lateral gush of the black juices,
gravity, if it could, would rescue itself.

- Galway Kinnell