Z.D. Dicks “Sleepless”

 

Sleepless

In late November 
our children baste
in the Forest of Dean
and we doze in lounge 

The raucous screen 
storms half shuttered
as commentators clatter
in sleep filled ears 

They cuddle soft toys
while we recline
separate on shared sofa
swaddled in dry air

I still feel the burn 
in backs of hands 
cracking gloveless skin
after leaving a cuddle 

It’s only one night
I remind us, face forward
They’ll be back tomorrow 
and I think of roots 

Thousands of trees
stirring as stones 
boar and deer masked 
the moon banished

And I, a sharp lump 
splintered in apathy
tell myself, 
Be a rock, that life 
as the blasting Severn 
will smooth your edges

 

About the Author: Z. D. Dicks is the author of Malcontent (Black Eye Publishing) described as ‘Uncompromising, sometimes controversial, but always entertaining’ by Clive Oseman and ‘Evocative, atmospheric, breathing new life into the everyday’ by Nicola Harrison. Z. Dicks is the CEO of Gloucestershire Poetry Society and Gloucester Poetry Festival. His work has been accepted by Ink, Sweat and Tears, Three Drops from a Cauldron and Fresh Air Poetry. He frequently reads at poetry events throughout the UK.

 

More By Z.D. Dicks:

Downpour

 

Image Credit: Eugène Atget “Sapin, Trianon (Pine Tree Trunks at the Trianon)” (1910) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Caroliena Cabada: “True Story”

 

 

True Story

The river once flooded the K through 8
school in my hometown. When the waters took
weeks to recede, they held classes in the
town’s only peach-colored outlet mall. Lunch
in the food court. Economics in a
house of commerce. Recess playing four-square
in the parking spaces painted white on
greying blacktop, dodging cars. But it won’t
become a storied place. The town let the
mall fall apart, torn down for a Super
Wal-Mart where I once bought crusty bread and
salad greens with my dad on a health kick
and this was the cheapest produce in town.
I attended the new elementary
and middle built out of the old school’s kind
of red brick, Frank Lloyd Write Prairie Style (it’s
the Midwest) built further from the river
bed. In the sun-soaked nook of the middle
school library I read a book written
about those kids in that mall during that
flood, going to school. I wonder: Next time
the waters rise, what incongruous place
will house our learning? The second amendment
in a Bass Pro Shop, hunting rifles on
the walls. Gladiators in a professional
football stadium after a hurricane.
Science experiments in a farm-to-table
restaurant. A while back, people just called
that home economics.

 

About the Author: Caroliena Cabada is an MFA candidate for Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University. She serves as co-managing editor of Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. Her poetry appears in Eunoia ReviewThe Orchards Poetry Journal, and Lyrical Iowa

Image Credit: Carl Mydans “Ohio River in flood, Louisville, Kentucky” (1936) The Library of Congress

Jeff Hardin: “A Namelessness of Starlings”

 

 

A NAMELESSNESS OF STARLINGS

Down hollows I go walking, nine years old,
as nameless as starlings on far-away fence posts.
To what larger world do I feel myself drawn?

I thirst after ripples dying out on an inland pond.
I dream a circumference of wandering along
until an answer blooms forth from the call of an owl.

Maybe already I have disappeared, a creek stone
no morning light falls upon. Sycamore leaves
drift and touch down and slide the sky along.

Syllables, too, can lengthen how we listen 
to an afternoon of wind through sage grass
leaning toward so many moments still unknown.

A sapling rises through the dawn come down
to find another fallen cedar, its privacy just one 
more face I’m happy to have mistaken for my own.

 

About the Author: Jeff Hardin is the author of six collections of poetry: Fall Sanctuary (Nicholas Roerich Prize); Notes for a Praise Book (Jacar Press Book Award); Restoring the Narrative (Donald Justice Prize); Small RevolutionNo Other Kind of World (X. J. Kennedy Prize), and A Clearing Space in the Middle of BeingThe New Republic, The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, Southwest Review, North American Review, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry Northwest, Hotel Amerika, and Southern Poetry Review have published his poems. He teaches at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, TN.

 

Image Credit: James W. Rosenthal “Close up view across stream to fallen tree – Middle Bridge American Sycamore, Near former site of the historic middle bridge, U.S. Route 34, Sharpsburg, Washington County, MD” (2006) The Library of Congress

Daniel Romo: “The Main Event”

 

 

The Main Event

The man standing behind me in Target tells his buddy 
his workplace is creating a fight club.
And I wonder if hands will be thrown in the name of
middle management and manhood 
or if the employees will simply be arguing back and forth,
pointing fingers like political parties stressing 
just how wrong 
         the other one is. 

I recently read about a man dying immediately after
entering a taco-eating contest.
The coroner officially listed choking as the cause of death,
but what are the odds the autopsy would also show 
ego and competition are 
kindred spirits?

           I understand the dynamics of blowing off steam.
           I’ve studied how the mouth forms a shape just small enough 
           to free the air from the toxic body,
           but large enough to proclaim and pronounce 
                                                                              glory.

I struggle with how much of my personal life 
to share in a poem.
Should I say how the fissures from my own darkness 
spread until I was ready to stop lamenting 
the curvature of imperfect lines, 
finally ready to plug the cracks 
and resurrect the foundation?
Or should I just say,
    Earthquakes suck, man.

Is there a Richter scale that ranges from self-pity to rehabilitation?
How well can you withstand 
what is eating you alive?
It’s often a case of self vs. selfless, 
the poet vs. the person,
picking your punches 
as if the next uppercut to the gut
           could end it all. 

 

About the Author: Daniel Romo is the author of Apologies in Reverse (FutureCycle Press 2019), When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014), and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). His poetry can be found in The Los Angeles Review, PANK, Barrelhouse, and elsewhere. He has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and he is an Associate Poetry Editor at Backbone Press. He lives and teaches in Long Beach, CA

Image Credit: “A Boxing Match” (1890) The Library of Congress

Jason Baldinger: “it was a golden time”

 

it was a golden time

been on the road
long enough now
to feel like three
mummified frogs
dried in a tejas mudpuddle

a woman in a wal-mart
parking lot shouts
I don’t believe you
should leave a baby
in a car, even if its running

I’m gonna steal what I need
some scoundrel hunter
gatherer from ancient time

there’s a dead bear in an irrigation
ditch, it left me with the strange
feeling I’ve been here before

the windshield grows
a mustache, I see the world
clearer in my dreams
problem is, I never
remember my dreams

 

 

About the Author: Jason Baldinger is a poet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He was recently a Writer in Residence at Osage Arts Community, and is founder and co-director of The Bridge Series. He has multiple books available including the soon to be released The Better Angels of our Nature (Kung Fu Treachery) and the split books The Ugly Side of the Lake with John Dorsey (Night Ballet Press) as well as Little Fires Hiding with James Benger (Kung Fu Treachery Press). His work has been published widely in print journals and online. You can listen to him read his work on Bandcamp on lps by the bands Theremonster and The Gotobeds.

 

More by Jason Baldinger:

“I forgot the earth and heaven”

“When Cancer Come to Evansville, Indiana”

“blind into leaving”

 

Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Deserted truck stop in Sierra Blanca, made a virtual ghost town when the interstate highway bypassed it in Hudspeth County, Texas” (2014) The Library of Congress

Dandylion Riot: An Interview with Poet and Artist Jeanette Powers

 

 

Dandylion Riot:
An Interview with Poet and Artist Jeanette Powers
By Chase Dimock

The problem with writing an introduction to Jeanette Powers’ work is that by nature, an introduction presumes that you can define your subject and contain it in a rough overview. It also presents the reader with the assurance that you have prepared them for what you’re about to subject them to. I’m not sure I can wholly achieve that because Powers’ art is consciously transgressive of definition and containment. Powers’ poetry explores identity and the language with which we express it, not by defining it in a way that pins down or immobilizes, but by pushing at the seams of what these words can hold. 

Powers identifies as a hillbilly, but stresses how this identity can be reclaimed as subversive, queer, and ecologically progressive. And yet, for all this rebellion against expectations, their writing is never isolating or cold. There are so many deeply personal stories and intricate descriptions of their relationships with nature, family, and one’s self that it’s easy to connect individually with Powers’ work. To simultaneously challenge and intimately connect with a reader is the toughest, yet most powerful move a poet can make. In short, Jeanette Powers is heckin’ rare.

Chase Dimock: What first drew me to your work was how you locate expressions of queerness and gender non-conformity within the nature and culture of the midwest. As someone who has lived on both coasts and the midwest, I feel that the coasts tend to overlook how the midwest cultivates uniquely queer communities and identities. How do you feel that living in the midwest has shaped how you articulate queerness in your poetry?

Jeanette Powers: I’ve never lived on the coasts, so I can’t speak to the real differences between the queer communities, but I can definitely say that I find a lot of interest on the coasts and abroad in specifically the Midwestern and MW queer experience. People sometimes are shocked to find out about large and thriving queer communities in the Bible Belt, people want to know how we are surviving in MAGA America, and they are very interested in how our communities thrive. 

I am born and raised in Kansas City, both sides of the state line, so Kansas and Missouri. I’m a Pure D Midwesterner and that experience shapes the paradigm from which my ethics and art both arise. I am a poor, “white trash”, river rat, polite to a fault, redneck hillbilly; farm loving, meat-eating, off-leash dog having, bonfire building, corn eating, hot plate cookin, truck loving, camouflage wearing radical. I want to de-stigmatize some of those traditionally derogatory words I used there. For me, being a hillbilly is directly related to the subversive attitudes I have: an idea of living “off-the-grid”, a belief in the value of our indigenous cultures, an anti-authoritarian ethic, a deep value of the land and resources. I reclaim being poor white trash as being something beautiful and an agent for change. In some ways, class struggle and connection to nature supersede my queerness even, and I think my heartland upbringing are part of why.

So from that perspective, queerness is an underlying fact and lens through which my connection to the rest of America happens to occur. My art is less about being a non-binary, pansexual queer human than it is about loving nature, discovering the inherent self, abhorring oppression, seeking equity, and striving for healing or reconciliation. In that way, my location becomes less visible because folks all over the world share those values. But the Ozarks, the prairie, rivers and state fairs are the context from which all the metaphor arises. And being a hella queer who lives for performance art, challenging the status quo, and being a deeply intellectual human is all in there, too. 

I do question sometimes if the queerness being an underlying rather than leading component is a reflex of preserving my safety. I pass as straight, cis as long as I restrict my language, and that is powerful here in the Midwest, where hate crimes against queer folk are common. Many of our families reject us, discrimination is still happening. These thoughts have caused me to lead with the queerness more often, and to shake the chains which hold all non-passing queer folks in danger. That is using my privilege as a tool for change rather than as a mechanism to keep just me safe.

 

Chase Dimock: To go a little deeper in exploring where your poetry comes from, I’d like to bring up the role family plays in your work. Your new book, Dandylion Riot is filled with childhood memories of your grandparents, aunts, and other family members. You also have a tendency to connect your memories of family with objects: a yellow rotary phone with your grandparents in “Hearts Break All the Time,” a stuffed monkey with your aunt in “The Mon Chi Chi,” and a Buddha statue with your grandfather in “The Laughing Buddha.” How do these portraits of your family fit into the objectives of your art that you talked about in your previous answer? Why do certain associations with people and objects stick with you as you depict them?

Jeanette Powers: It is interesting how much my family plays into my poetry, when in reality I don’t have much of a relationship with them. Except for my son (and bonus kid, and an aunt and cousin, and my sister), who I actually write about very seldom. I guess I’m tracing back the lineage of my emotional being, trying to reconcile what one is taught and how that shapes one against what one wants to be, or maybe really is. It’s part excavation, part commemoration, part study. It’s all very interesting to me and does tell the story of the culture I was raised in, which of course shapes the person I am today. In some ways, I’m dismantling the cognitive dissonance that I’ve experienced trying to reconcile the love with the trauma. And I hope I do that respectfully. I know my family is upset with me talking about the darker aspects of our family culture, but I’m committed to not being silent about what made me, I don’t feel that helps anyone. And maybe, some other folks will feel the solidarity and in some way that will help them feel less isolated, or consider their (and my!) own problematic, learned coping mechanisms.

Those specific examples you bring up speak so much to the life of poor, emotionally unavailable, working class white people. Well, everyone had rotary phones once, so maybe not that example so much, but that memory is so powerful because it’s the only time I ever heard my grandfather say I love you to my grandmother. Ours was not a physically (or verbally) loving family. In fact, I’d say I grew up in a atmosphere of neglect. So what makes the phone so powerful is hearing that affirmation. I am very affirmation seeking, really, a natural born optimist and creature of love. 

Much of my early work is about the negative, trauma informed memories and objects, but Dandylion Riot begins an exploration of the other moments, too. The Buddha opens a door to acknowledging the racism of my family. I’m in a space where I believe strongly in adding that element to my art, not to shame me or my family, but simply because it’s true. I hope the love of my grandfather shows through still, I think many of us struggle with reconciling our family’s problematic views and behaviors with our love and appreciation for them. The Mon Chi Chi was an object which felt unattainable as a child, much too expensive, and the monkey is a device to illuminate how my aunt was never stopped from eating sugar, an object to orbit a wider story around. As an adult I look back and realize the price that consumerism and denial had on my aunt, potentially anyway. It’s also a call to why her adopted kids were abandoned by my family after she died. The same way I’m abandoned? I’m not recording precise history here, I’m recreating vast emotions that span decades and working to encapsulate them in a moment. 

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Glen Armstrong: “Bestiary”

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Bestiary

Three aggressive swans fall
in love with my daughter’s Tickle
Me Elmo.

I fail again
to observe the Feast
of Saint George.

So we drink.

Faces real and imagined,
flawed and remade
with cosmetics,

trade places.

So we drink and wash
the cheeks of dirty turtles.

We fail again
to completely fill

the crude alligator
form with plastic

and can only imagine
the edges that should be

smooth to the touch.

 

About the Author: Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters and has a forthcoming book of prose poems: Invisible Histories. His work has appeared in Poetry NorthwestConduit,and Cream City Review.

 

Image Credit: Frans Snyders “Cygnes effrayes par des chiens” Public Domain