SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: DEEP CALLS TO DEEP




From DEEP CALLS TO DEEP
By Jane Medved:


WINTER BURIAL

For the sky that reaches into its hushed pocket,
                                           for the bridle of winter waiting to be released.

For the ghost face which slips over everyone,
                                           for the tusk of the same white beginning.

For crystals that shape themselves while falling,
                                           for the storm’s icy laugh.

For the charred bars of the petting zoo,
                                           whose cages were made out of wood and went up fast.

For the twin goats trapped, for the small fire they turned their back on,
                                           the bread burning, the coffee.

For the one surviving goose housed in a Little Tikes kitchen,
                                           the black centers of his eyes and the string closing the door.

For the fenced-in storage area now zoned for a park,
                                           where there used to be patches of dried grass.

For the last time it snowed on the Jerusalem highway,
                                           and they wouldn’t let anyone in or out.

For the holiday makers who were stranded
                                           without fun.

For my niece’s baby who never woke up that day,
                                           she was an angel in her crib.

For they got her into the ground just before it froze,
                                           but no one knows where.

For the hidden ear of the tzaddik she is buried next to,
                                           for the cooing she drops into the ground where it melts.

For her small breaths, none of which are
                                           shaped the same.

For the soul, which cracks open the body,
                                           for the body, which is told what it must carry.

For when the ice let me back down the hill,
                                           I found my niece in her kitchen, forgiving everyone.



from THE LAST TIME I SAW HEROD

I. Women’s shelter, Miriam HaHashmonait St., Jerusalem

He was banging on the gate
even though there is no way
to know that we are in here.

He was looking for his wife,
aren’t they all, which is why
we make the children play

in the yard and of course
he knew her real name,
which makes me wonder

what’s the point of being
a princess if even that
can be taken away. I’m not

sorry he looked thin. I used
to feed my own husband
but I never watched him eat.

In my mind he was gulping
me down, tearing everything
apart so as not to miss a piece.



EVERYTHING WILL TELL ITS OWN STORY

sooner or later, coins, a copper lantern,
bits of colored glass, Napoleon’s diary
on loan from Harvard and the endless
lap of water at the world’s toothless edge.

These were found in the Phoenician port
where Napoleon threw his cannonballs
into the Mediterranean to lighten the load.
He wised up soon enough and tossed
his soldiers overboard instead.

The metal balls are shocked into rust
and stare like thick black eyeballs
from their shelf in the dusty museum.
History ignores the bodies though,
their bones turn to fine sand
that tricks the treasure hunters
with its unpredictable lapses. Never mind.

We are all one part ocean anyway,
which is why sex smells like fish, and waves
always come back to a dry river bed.

We are all one part earth, which is why
snow angels cannot fly but lose themselves
to the ground, only the children
leave a clue, a small piece of spine
that still remains even if they are forced into ashes.

We are all one part fire, angry
as a kidney stone, a fist, absolutely certain,
a blaze that hides for months in the smoking
roots of the rotem tree, waiting
to be lifted out, spoken into flame and taken.

We are all one part wind, did you notice
how birds spread out like notes
when they fly, faithful as radio beams
to their unseen connections.

I inhale the invisibility of it, using up
my appointed breaths, certain
that the air will always pass through me
cold and hot and justified.



WHICH IS TO SAY,

                               there is another way home.
                                                                                Just
yesterday, I saw the beating arc of starlings

who migrate to the Negev every year. It was late
and you have to take my word for this. They

became a single body that exhaled a melody
of startled scales made out of bones and feathers,

a flock of notes that scattered to swoop and play,
then reassemble in a different serenade, a fist of

sky squeezing its shape, or the curve of a swan’s
neck.
                   It was remarkable,
                                                      how soundless waves
could cart away the distance,
                                               and how I forgave,
in that moment, everyone.
                                                             Which is to say,

that the desert is a grave and lonely place,
where silence reappears as another kind of music.



Today’s poems are from Deep Calls to Deep (New Rivers Press, 2017), copyright © 2017 by Jane Medved, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Deep Calls to Deep: “Taking its title from Psalm 42, Deep Calls to Deep explores the nexus between the depths of biblical history and the depths of the self, and the twin powers of faith and doubt that drive them both. Building from a masterful sequence exploring the legacies of Herod to a final richly lyrical sequence, Deep Calls to Deep becomes richer with multiple readings. With stunning formal variety and skill, it enacts not only the struggle to maintain faith, but to ground it equally in past and present, chaos and void, self and other.” — Leslie Adrienne Miller, author of Y and The Resurrection Trade

Jane Medved is the author of Deep Calls to Deep (winner of the Many Voices Project, New Rivers Press 2017) and the chapbook Olam, Shana, Nefesh (Finishing Line Press, 2014) Her recent essays and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, The Tampa Review, The Atticus Review, The Cortland Review, 2River View and Vinyl. She is the poetry editor of the Ilanot Review, the on-line literary magazine of Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv. She lives and teaches creative writing in Jerusalem, Israel.

Editor’s Note: “History ignores the bodies,” but Jane Medved does not. It is through her own determined lens on history that the poet shapes this stunning new collection. The history she embraces is personal and familial, ancient and deeply entrenched, a history of people and place, of nature and land, of violence and loss. One might approach this work like an archaeologist, gentle and sifting, knowing that “coins, a copper lantern, bits of colored glass” are all precious, that every word and artifact you come across has a story to tell.

Deep Calls to Deep is ambitious, provocative, heart-wrenching and sacred. Within its pages the spiritual commingles with the archaeological, and words lay bare lost treasures like a desert wind revealing fact and fiction from beneath centuries of sand. The collection is divided into four sections, each so distinct and compelling that I could only begin to give you a taste of the whole by sharing a poem from each.

How visceral it is to read this collection. How engrossing. How evident on every page the capable hand of the poet who wrought the work, her knowledge and skill as writer and reader, how in tune she is with the human experience. Deep Calls to Deep is a masterpiece of the lyric, overflowing with stunning language and accessible imagery, at once startling in its beauty and reassuring in its familiarity. “Which is to say, // there is another way home… Which is to say, // that the desert is a grave and lonely place, / where silence reappears as another kind of music.”

Want more from Jane Medved?
Buy Deep Calls to Deep from Amazon
Queen Mob’s Teahouse
Cortland Review
2River View

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. It is an honor and a unique opportunity to now share this series with a number of guest editors, and we’ll be hearing more from them in the coming weeks. Today’s feature, however, is a labor of love from yours truly.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LITTLE CLIMATES

 

From Little Climates
By L. A. Johnson:

 

EPISTEMOLOGY

I never had quiet times in the kitchen
making an icebox cake.
I never inspected the back of the box,
folded wafers up with cream.

In the morning, you fix whatever
needs fixing. You make eggs
with toast. And in the afternoon, I walk
out far past the end of the acre.

Only then do the strays come
to the porch, looking for a dish of milk,
a can of fish left open. No arguing
or crying can be heard nearby.

In the evening, the walls confine
the regular angers. We listen
to the kettle sing on the stove
that nobody bothers to stop.

In the freezer, always, only the notion
of an icebox cake—its layers
softening to be like the real thing.
The icing, milk and smooth.

Stranger, if only things had been
a little different, I could be
old-fashioned in my happiness,
blushing and easy to love.

 

SPLIT-LEVEL

Today the six of us perform a funeral for a home—
we wreathe the doorway with lilies, carry
our possessions above our heads like caskets.

We scatter the enviable parts of our lives
across the lawn: a radio, ceramic bowls, a sweater

that never fit. Strangers stop by to look
at all our things, each one dressed in black.

Then with hammers, we begin the destruction.
Afternoon sun exposes the fine particles
of wool and fiberglass that kept us warm.

Behind the medicine cabinet, we find razor blades
rusted in a wall-hollow. In the vacant lot next door,

a ravine appears that no stray dog will cross.
We know in some towns, this demolition is modest

or even ordinary. A bulldozer loiters elsewhere.
In a future, this house will become honeycomb
and bees will make clear honey out of all our mistakes.

 

“Epistemology” previously appeared in the Antioch Review and “Split-Level” previously appeared in the Indiana Review. Both peoms are from the collection Little Climates (Bull City Press, 2017; copyright L. A. Johnson) and appear here today with permission from the poet.

 

Little Climates: The lyric poems of Little Climates address the divisions between the self and the world, the self and the lover, and self with the self. In her debut collection, L. A. Johnson examines of the disparate spaces humans occupy in relationships: together and separately, alone and as unit. Each partner’s past, how they’ve changed, how they dream of the present—these are the little climates.

 

L. A. Johnson is the author of the chapbook Little Climates (Bull City Press). She received her MFA from Columbia University and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost’s Fellow. She’s received scholarships and fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, The Iowa Review, Narrative Magazine, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

 

Guest Editor’s Note: I first heard L. A. Johnson’s poems at a reading the poet gave in Los Angeles. When I read Little Climates a few weeks later, I realized that her imagery is so acute and vivid that it had stayed with me. Johnson is an expert at creating poignant landscapes and visceral environments. At times, they are intensely familiar: “the notion/of an icebox cake—it’s layers/softening to be like the real thing,” but the poet also deftly moves in directions the reader might never have imagined; “In the evening, / the walls confine the regular angers.” The detailed, sensory world the poet creates builds into unforgettable landscapes that stay with the reader long after the pages of Little Climates have been closed.

 

Want to read more by and about L. A. Johnson?
L. A. Johnson’s Official Website
Buy Little Climates from Bull City Press
Buy Little Climates from Amazon
Read more poems via At Length
Read more poems via The Account

 

Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. Today and in the coming weeks, please help me welcome a series of guest editors to the newest incarnation of the Saturday Poetry Series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ALICE IN GREENPOINT


from Alice in Greenpoint
By Iva Ticic:


Alice in Greenpoint

Four glasses of fine red wine at a dinner party in Brooklyn
and you go from being a wallflower to discussing Trieste.

Though they mostly wanted to speak of Girls at this soirée—
An irony which caught in the mind of the writer
as an annoying bug caught in the web of a spider.

These four girls in Greenpoint discussing a show
about the four girls in Greenpoint
mirroring lives.

But I felt like Alice, the one from the book,
crossing on to the other side
of the baroque looking mirror the apartment contained— a
s if I haven’t been looking as it is
to check if I’m worthy, in presence of smooth skirts.

Meanwhile, the wine glasses have been placed on a puzzle
portraying Manhattan in three hundred pieces

minus one.

For there’s a piece missing in midst of the chatter
the clinking and clacking
with edges of crystal leaving a stain ring
on the Chrysler building.

The point of fixation and hypnotic frustration;
this elaborate jigsaw
without the very part which would have provided
someplace to draw meaning—

While white rabbits and grinning cats
are starting to be born
in the pregnant pauses of the evening.

And yet it gapes open, this odd imperfection,
shaped like a bug that chewed through the web

and eerily left.


On Loan

I have eavesdropped all day in search of something
beautiful.
Under Brooklyn Bridge where sewers funnel into beaches—

I have found it in the reverb
stolen from the unsuspecting:

The girl who flings her Conway bag
back and forth, a Sunday church bell—

Chiming for the crimson palette,
the holy shimmer of skyscraper
swimming on water.

I mean just look at that shit.

The boys who wrestle in shaggy grass,
strangling each other with an

Attitude adjustment
after
Attitude adjustment.

The lovers who say nothing.

A jet ski slits the water open like a wound;

I smell like coffee on the weekends,
if that’s something you’re into.


The Interpreter

I want to live in the hollow
of your Steinway piano.

Right there beneath the
slender silk of peeled ebony.

I want to become
a part of your conversation
between the pulse
of your fingertip symphony
and the dignified elephant
which you saddle and tame.

I want to learn the dialects
of this foreign arena.

Where are you taking me?

Give me the keys by which to decipher
the treble and bass
needed in order
to follow the melody
of tangy disorder.

Please bring me along.

I can be very still
while you improvise symphonies,
ponder the harmonies—

I’ll translate the hum.



Today’s poems are from Alice in Greenpoint (Finishing Line Press, 2015), copyright © 2015 by Iva Ticic, and appear here today with permission from the poet.

Alice in Greenpoint: “Welcome to the world of Alice in Greenpoint where everything is an eerie reflection of itself but slightly different — the global village tilted and on air. Our speaker strides through a foreign landscape at once knowing and homesick – but for where? The traveler is in constant exile – but the poems are witty and joyous, brimming with expectancy and hunger. Such a debut collection!” –Marie Howe, award-winning author of What the Living Do and the State Poet of New York

Iva Ticic is an internationally published bilingual poet from Zagreb, Croatia, who has lived, worked and studied in the US, Honduras, and now China. Her poems and short stories appear in Four Way Review, Prelude Magazine, and The Tishman Review. In 2013, she was awarded the Academy of American Poets John B. Santoianni Award for Excellence in Poetry for her poem, “The Interpreter.” Alice in Greenpoint is her first published poetry collection.

Guest Editor’s Note: Ticic’s poetry rings the many changes of dislocation: in place, in time, in the long struggle to become one’s own self against all challenges. She maps the many misunderstandings we both try and fail to overcome in our lives. Even when we believe we do understand one another, we still wonder if we got it all. The title poem, “Alice in Greenpoint,” makes, among others, the excellent point that even if some people feel themselves seen, really seen, others are always standing nearby, looking on, amazed, mystified. There is always a missing piece. In “On Loan,” the speaker walks through the city looking for beauty, picking up bits of language like pebbles, keeping some, tossing others back into the water. “I have found it in the reverb,” she writes. In “The Interpreter,” she documents the place in between where the translator lives, nearly invisible, the only one to hear “the melody of tangy disorder.” Iva Ticic’s poems are built of the recognizable and quotidian, but also spangled with arresting phrases: “I keep dreaming of parallel lines/slowly diverging/like the first sign of trouble/between lovers” or “As if . . . to believe in something, anything—could never be innocent,” or “the holy shimmer of skyscraper/swimming on water.”

Want to read more by and about Iva Ticic?
Four Way Review
COLDNOON
Buy Alice in Greenpoint from Finishing Line Press

Originally from MN, Guest Editor Julie Hart has lived in London, Zurich and Tokyo and now in Brooklyn Heights. Her work can be found in PANK Magazine, The Rumpus, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Poets Anthology and at juliehartwrites.com. She is a founder with Mirielle Clifford and Emily Blair of the poetry collective Sweet Action.



A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. Today and in the coming weeks, please help me welcome a series of guest editors to the newest incarnation of the Saturday Poetry Series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MALAK




From MALAK
By Jenny Sadre-Orafai:


LAST READING

There is a pregnant bird in the cup.
Malak looks at me like she has never looked

at that in a cup before. My father looks at me
like there are things I’m not telling him.

She crochets baby caps, square blankets,
booties in Neapolitan ice cream colors.

If I ever have these babies, if I’m the bird
in the cup, I’ll want to devour them.

After the last reading she leaves the cup turned up,
daring the bird to forget I was pregnant.



MOTHER SPELL

I felt for mountain
and ocean, my first globe.

Mouth or beak. Arm or wing.
Skin or feather. Feet or feet.

Who brought these to me
to dress in booties and caps.

I didn’t ask to know a belly
so tight.

I didn’t ask if it was girl
or boy or bird.



LANGUAGE OF SIGNS

I slept the whole day
without remembering, Malak.

I dreamt I had a son
growing so fast,

a tomato plant sprawled
everywhere, unstoppable.

I held him at my hipline.
And I fed his hunger.

Now he’s a pitcher
of water.



Today’s poems are from Malak (Playtpus Press, 2017), copyright © 2017 by Jenny Sadre-Orafai, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Malak is an invocation of past and future. With familial lament and childish wonder, the words lay tribute to the infinite—to the beauty in descent and the heartache that binds us to place. To our smallness in death and the importance of conjuring anew.

Jenny Sadre-Orafai is the author of Paper, Cotton, Leather and five chapbooks. Her poetry has appeared in Cream City Review, Ninth Letter, The Cortland Review, Hotel Amerika, The Pinch, and other journals. Her prose has appeared in Los Angeles Review, The Rumpus, South Loop Review, Fourteen Hills, The Collagist, and other journals. She is co-founding editor of Josephine Quarterly and an Associate Professor of English at Kennesaw State University.

Editor’s Note: Birds, tea leaves, foxes. If there are talismans that illuminate the path Jenny Sadre-Orafai’s Malak lays out for the reader, these may be those divining objects. There is magic within these pages — the kind that is conjured up in Gypsy tents and over old world kitchen tables, magic from a time and place when women were believed. But the future is always uncertain, and the tales that unfurl within Malak‘s pages curve and splinter like the lines on a palm.

What is inheritance, this collection asks. What is lived? What is lost? Do we inherit even that which cannot be passed down? Are predictions only as good as their fruition?

Malak is a book that pairs loss with beauty, future with past, the certainty of fate with the unknown and the unknowable. Throughout its pages, a sense of familiarity is established that both grounds and destabilizes. Its stories are told in the dark of night, but under the light of a full and generous moon. When Malak‘s truths reveal themselves, you bask in their luminosity and marvel at the careful magic of their making. You do not ask if they are boy or girl or bird.

Want more from Jenny Sadre-Orafai?
Buy Malak in paperback from Platypus Press
Buy Malak on Kindle from Amazon
Jenny Sadre-Orafai’s Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE TREASURES THAT PREVAIL




From THE TREASURES THAT PREVAIL
By Jen Karetnick:


ADVISE AND CONSENT

It seems to fall to men to create
disasters and women to mop up after.

The first thing people have to forget

is their sense of the senatorial

desk, the deep leather armchair.

There’s always
somebody screaming

off stage or window-shopping for the ridiculous,
arm in arm. Sooner or later these moments come.

We have seen this happen and cannot refrain.



UNDER MANGO CAMOUFLAGE

They bloomed too soon, pistils coral,
hung green like left-behind seawater
well into the sodden fall, ripened
into a bilirubinous yellow.

Falling, they broke themselves
open into Cyrillic letters on the unearthed
limestone as if they were envelopes
stuffed too full of possibilities.

Now marked only with a flag of memory,
this is where we buried the bits
of flesh snipped as easily as a stem
from an eight-day-old son, disguising

the dreams that in the wrong hands
could have been so readily rewritten.



THE OPPOSITE OF MECCA

Oh, the darkness of it all—black cat, black dog,
black monkey on the black-eyed woman’s shoulder,

rocking on a boat dock over water so absent of light
even our dreams have lost their shadows. In this house

made of books and planks, under the art of thatch
and weave, we are birds nesting together who have closed

our throats to song. This is where, without definition, we pin
the horizon as the center on a map of our always new world.



Today’s poems are from The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, 2016), copyright © 2016 by Jen Karetnick, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


The Treasures That Prevail is about climate change and its effects on Miami; the poems in this collection confront the ills of modern society in general, mourn both public and personal losses, and predict the difficulties of a post-modern life in a flooded, Atlantis-like lost city. The narrators are two unnamed women, married with a teenage daughter and a teenage son, who live in a part of Miami that will be underwater unless action is taken. The Treasures That Prevail is a parable about what could happen to any of our low-lying coastal cities if we don’t start to make changes now.

Jen Karetnick is the author of seven poetry collections, including American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016)–which was a long-list finalist for the Julie Suk Award from Jacar Press–and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016). She received an MFA in poetry from University of California, Irvine and an MFA in fiction from University of Miami. Her poetry, prose, playwriting and interviews have appeared recently or are forthcoming in TheAtlantic.com, The Evansville Review, Foreword Reviews, Guernica, The McNeese Review, Negative Capability, One, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Spillway, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Waxwing and Verse Daily. She is co-director for the reading series, SWWIM (Supporting Women Writers in Miami). Jen works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School and as a freelance writer, dining critic and cookbook author. She lives in Miami Shores on the remaining acre of a historic mango plantation with her husband, two teenagers, three dogs, three cats and fourteen mango trees.

Editor’s Note: How fearfully prescient this collection has proven to be as California is burning, as large swathes of the world are recovering from hurricanes and earthquakes, as Harvey Weinstein has been outed as a sexual predator, as man after man shows us what it really mean to be “senatorial” in his “deep leather armchair,” as the world is melting and our future threatens to emerge underwater.

With The Treasures That Prevail Jen Karetnick has penned a collection that is beautiful and terrifying, that is lyric and devastating, that rings of Cassandra in the ways its truths fall upon deaf, ignorant, or apathetic ears. The language within these pages is thick and malleable, painting with words a picture that you might cut back with a machete in a valiant effort to combat the vengeful wrath of a raped and battered Mother Earth. For even the best among us — in the age of capitalism and consumerism and selfish, self-destructive climate change — are but “birds nesting together who have closed // our throats to song.”

Want more from Jen Karetnick?
Buy The Treasures That Prevail from Amazon
Jen Karetnick’s Writing Portfolio
Buy American Sentencing from Amazon

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THEY WERE BEARS




From THEY WERE BEARS
By Sarah Marcus:


PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN BEARS

You said you were afraid of bears—

we weren’t safe until there was ice
along the shoreline. I said we all need trauma,

and my heart breaks every Autumn, so we broke
ourselves against those rocks until the cave mouth opened:

a womb for blind crayfish,
a passageway harboring beetles.

I want you to reach into the depths of your backwoods
and remember our Winters. We need the bears, ourselves

ursine sleeping in dens—the caverns drip-stoned and stunning.
I was and still am in search of a great bear

because people have always known bears—
we will always be shelter for each other.

When we first met, I told you that a long time ago,
grizzlies came down from the Rockies—

they were poisoned on the range, trapped,
hounded, shot out—we found cranial fragments.

We still listen to those legends of bounties paid
to mountain men, harboring that ancient fear of

the bears that made meat of us, boar and sow,
mauled and gnawed away. Our bones resting in caves,

because you were born to hunt, and I was
born of hunting: a witness of great fires.



LOVE POEM

First snow of the season—
your eyes say
there’s not much oxygen
                  in the mountain air
.

I have never wanted someone
                  as much as I want you.

I devalued the damage:
you won’t belong—stay gone longer—

                  let it melt.


I’ve been thinking about you
                  because we cannot be separate.
The gravitational pull defies
                  the thousands of miles between us.

Even in the deepest woods,
                  we kneel beside the rill,
the river’s riffle,
the spruce’s mantle of rime,

                  until the point of rock
                                  swells tightly around us.

There’s a chant building in the forest: I won’t be your secret.

Everyone knows how to leave,
but I don’t know how to be
in this city
without you.



MYTHOLOGY FOR DESERT LOVERS II

These things are real:
you are a desert moon rising a hundred mornings away.
My horses paw a cracked Earth.
The air threatening Winter.
The solitude of sand.
We can smell the danger

of you and her
in that house.
In every house.

When you are so strongly connected
to another person, what did you call it? Rare?
It’s like the sunset.
No one can hold that kind of beauty
for more than a moment.

Our small ribs are thick
enough to take on a prairie panic.
The fear of too much open space.
So many acres;
we can never catch up.

You say I’m always on your side
and this will always mean more
to a woman.

I try to explain that love is a violence,
even when it’s beautiful.
When you enter someone,
you must also leave them.

And there’s always that moment of relief
when I realize that I’ve always known—
I am a hundred deserts.

I will wait for you or some version of you
to become sky.



Today’s poems are from They Were Bears (Sundress Publications, 2017), copyright © 2017 by Sarah Marcus, and appear here today with permission from the poet.



They Were Bears gives us a world that is intimate, complicated, and lush in its raw, brutal meditation upon the complexities of Nature, both within and beyond our grasp as both human beings and animals. These poems by Sarah Marcus channel what the world demands of us, and our bodies as we are guided through a startling cartography of desire, trauma, and memory that is both refuge and wilderness. Marcus writes, ‘I want to say that there are places I have to go, and you have to follow me…through all this orange light, every version of the color red, we betray ourselves for miles.’ With stunning craft and intuition, Marcus places her lyric power against the beautiful, terrifying bones in us where words often feel broken and impossible. Her poems expand through their stark and luminous discoveries to reveal a natural and psychic world too complex to ignore. Marcus gives us sacred breath in which to claim that world when she writes, ‘We inscribe the rocks/with our names, wanting a sign,/want the sky to say:/This is mainland. Solid ground./The place you’ve been looking for.’” -Rachel Eliza Griffiths, author of Lighting the Shadow


Sarah Marcus is the author of They Were Bears (2017, Sundress Publications), Nothing Good Ever Happens After Midnight (2016, GTK Press), and the chapbooks BACKCOUNTRY (2013) and Every Bird, To You (2013). Her other work can be found at NPR’s Prosody, The Huffington Post, McSweeney’s, Cimarron Review, Spork, The Establishment, Cosmopolitan.com, and Marie Claire.com SA, among others. She is an editor at Gazing Grain Press and the Series Editor for As It Ought To Be’s High School Poetry Series: Gender, Identity, & Race. She holds an MFA in poetry from George Mason University and currently teaches and writes in Cleveland, OH.


Editor’s Note: In the Jewish calendar, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a surreal and reflective time of reckoning. During these days we are introspective, coming to terms with our true selves before turning outward and asking forgiveness from those who we have wronged. It is in these Days of Awe that I come back to a collection I have been meaning to review for quite some time. It is in this magical time of brutal honesty that I dive deeply into a carefully-wrought world that is far beyond my comfort zone, with eyes and heart wide open to its savage and beautiful truths.

They Were Bears is one of the most thoughtful–if not the most thought-provoking–poetry collections to be released in recent memory. Rife with hunger and blood and animal instinct, this work pulsates at the intersection of nature and violence, family, sex, and love. They Were Bears drags us mercilessly back to our animal nature, honoring vulnerability and calling out sexual violence. This book pulls no punches, spares us little. What is reflected in its waters is our truest selves, as beautiful and terrifying as they are wont to be.

The tender, ravenous, brutal honesty of the book’s thematic spectrum is brought to life by the true craftsmanship of the poet. This is an absolutely stunning collection on every level–its words and images thrash and breathe, fly and tether. The poems are lush in their soundscape, and on the page they mark their territory distinctly. And the moments. The breathtaking moments. How true their revelation, declarations, and admissions: “because you were born to hunt, and I was / born of hunting: a witness of great fires;” “I try to explain that love is a violence, / even when it’s beautiful. / When you enter someone, / you must also leave them.”

Mazal tov to Sarah Marcus on this incredible work, and may we all start anew together in these Days of Awe.


Want more from Sarah Marcus?
Sarah Marcus’ Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: IN THE ABSENCE


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From IN THE ABSENCE
By Dara Barnat:


IMPRINT

I hear you’re gone and I fall with you.

In that place part of me stays,

like a hand in clay,

even as I make rice for dinner, boil water,

measure the grains,

pour wine, set out flowers with all their petals.

The imprint holds the loss of everything.

It holds what we thought was joy.



IN THE ABSENCE

              Dark is just dark–

rooms and all we’ve built are nothing.

Chairs with their backs, tables with their legs, beds with their heads.

Outside, trees with their leaves.

I can’t write that wood into a vessel

that will carry us to a place

where life is a river never not flowing.

I close my hand around a filament of sun as it filters

through the window, try to catch
              its meaning,

              but light is just light.



PRAYER I DO NOT KNOW

There’s no one here, but me
alone. I close

my eyes and try
to remember your face,

its light, your
fingers, their light

touch, your laugh,
the lightness. I say a prayer

that is my own:
May we live

a thousand years together,
in another life.



Today’s poems are from In the Absence (Turning Point Books, 2016), copyright © 2016 by Dara Barnat, and appear here today with permission from the poet.



In the Absence: Dara Barnat’s In the Absence evokes a yearning of the spirit so strong that it becomes presence, its light unstopped.


Dara Barnat is the author of the poetry collection In the Absence (Turning Point, 2016), as well as Headwind Migration, a chapbook (Pudding House, 2009). She also writes critical essays on poetry and translates poetry from Hebrew. Her research explores Walt Whitman’s influence on Jewish American poetry. Dara holds a Ph.D. from The School of Cultural Studies at Tel Aviv University. She currently teaches at Tel Aviv University and Queens College, CUNY.


Editor’s Note: Dara Barnat’s first full-length collection begins by declaring that “Dark is just dark.” But the assertion casts a shadow question: Is dark just dark? For it is light that is at the heart of this work: “I close my hand around a filament of sun as it filters / through the window, try to catch / its meaning, / but light is just light.”

But “light is just light” is no more the truth of these poems — and the poet’s journey that unfolds across them — than “dark is just dark.” This work is neither a book of questions nor of answers. Instead, In the Absence is an honest experience of grief that explores the inevitable, never-ending pilgrimage inherent within loss: “I hear you’re gone and I fall with you. / In that place part of me stays, / like a hand in clay.”

Not since Li-Young Lee’s Rose have I been so slain by a book of mourning. Like Rose, In the Absence mourns the loss of a father while acknowledging that such a loss is anything but simple, that the complications of life remain a reckoning for the living. “The imprint holds the loss of everything. / It holds what we thought was joy.”

Held close within this incredibly moving and painstakingly wrought collection is a poem titled “Walt Whitman.” I had the honor of featuring this poem here on the Saturday Poetry Series in 2013 as I marked my father’s first yahrzeit (Jewish death anniversary). Tomorrow will be five years since my father’s death. What at one year could be commemorated with a single poem, five years later needs an entire book. Such is the nature of grief — it does not diminish; it grows. And in its growing it becomes more painful and more beautiful all at once.

In the Absence transforms the poet’s personal grief into communion. I will re-read this book tomorrow as I remember my father on his five-year yahrzeit, and I will grieve. But, more than that, I will say a prayer that is the poet’s and is my own: “May we live / a thousand years together, / in another life.”


Want more from Dara Barnat?
Buy In the Absence from IndieBound
Buy In the Absence on Amazon
Poems in YEW
Poems in diode
Interview in Poet Lore
Dara Barnat’s Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: DECENCY


Decency


From DECENCY
By Marcela Sulak:


selections from SOLIDARITY

vi. Virginity

It’s not that you get tired, it’s that it starts to be the only thing,
starts to disappear you.

Your parents phone you at college to ask: how is your virginity
doing? Did your virginity have a good day?

What does it want to be when it grows up? Your virginity sounds
a little sad this morning. What kind of cake does your virginity want

for its birthday? your girlfriends saw the most amazing shoes
that your virginity would look terrific in!

Want to go shopping? your boyfriends—would your virginity like to see
a movie? What about dinner?


ix. witches

My daughter is named for my grandmother, a midwife
who attended the births of 90 babies in rural Texas

before they had cars and after they finished having witches
but before there were doctors. Now you may understand

what I mean when I say another woman
gave my daughter a book called “The witches and the rabbi”

for her birthday. Here is the plot: a village is terrorized by a plague
of witches who fly from their cave when the moon is full,

on brooms through the sky except when it’s raining. I’m not sure
what the witches actually do to the village, since no one

actually goes outside on those nights. Gary, Indiana, could use
an infestation of witches—no stabbings

or gunshot wounds on evenings of full moons.
But one full moon when it is raining the rabbi shows up

with twenty townsmen. The witches
are so delighted they make them a feast of all the good things

they have. The rabbi tricks them into dancing with him and
the vigilante men, out into the rain,

which kills them. I knew her father’s mother was secretly
glad when I started to hemorrhage. She didn’t want me

to have a homebirth with a midwife.
“What kind of rabbis are these?”

Says my rabbi, stopped by for a quick hello. My daughter
wanted to show him that we had a book about rabbis. “They’re

engaging the poor witches
in mixed dancing and leading them astray,” he says.

This is the broom which sweeps the sky of the stars you have
to be too drunk to write about, as Daisy put it.

This is the housework the princesses do disguised
as village maidens. These are the constellations that form

in the shadow of the stars.
Silent are the women in the village

who took their cloth packets of herbs and were silent
when their husbands rushed off to kill the witches in that story.



CHOCOLATE

The day I won the custody case my lawyer gave me a bitter chocolate
in black and silver paper. Once I saw cacao pods
drying in a Venezuelan village square

during Easter week; through the open church doors, peeling saints sniffed
        and were carried
like colicky children through night streets. The local hot chocolate
was thickened with cornmeal and canella bark

somebody tore from the trees. To reach that village we found a fisherman,
        plowed
through rows of porpoises, then hiked five kilometers
inland through banana and cocoa trees,

which like shade. Once only men could drink
chocolate. Women were permitted cacao beans as currency,
to buy meat or slaves or pay tribute. It feels good to imagine a single seed,

hidden in the forbidden mouth, the tongue
curled, gathering the strength to push. The Aztec king discarded
each gold-hammered cup after its initial use; his chocolate was red as fresh
        blood.

He was a god to them. It was frothy,
poured from great heights. When we bathed in the village river, girls
gathered around me, whispering, why is your skin so pale? Why is your
        hair so straight?

Can we braid it? Dime, eres blanca?
The judge, our lawyers, her father, and I decided the fate
of my child. The dark liquid we poured was ink, initialing our little
        negotiations.

Who can know the heart of another, the blood
spiced with memory, poured from one generation to the next
over great distances? The Mayan word for chocolate means bitter. The
        village

used to be a plantation; now it is a co-operative, owned by descendants
of the former slaves. At Easter Vigil the women lined up
behind the most beautiful, in a long sky

-blue dress adorned with gold stars. Between the decades of the rosary she
        called out,
while we shuffled our feet in merengue beat, bearing the saints
through the streets, someone shot off a Roman

candle. The men’s procession paused for rum. I know I’ll be paying for it
        the rest
of my life. The Mayan word means bitter water. The cacao
tree was uprooted from paradise.



HOW TO USE A NAPKIN

Understand the napkin
has been unnecessary
for most of human history.

Understand the world is filled with people
eager to bend
things to their will.
We shall practice on the napkin.
When you have finished eating
place your napkin loosely
next to your plate
.

It should not be crumpled or twisted,
which would reveal untidiness or nervousness;
nor should it be folded,

which might be seen as an implication
that you think your hosts
might reuse it without washing
.
.
It is a delicate affair.
Don’t argue with me
said my husband

who had called for my advice
about the apartment he was renting
when he didn’t want to live with me.

It is largely
symbolic today
except for barbecues.
Lightly dab the lips.

I suspect the word
argue is the space
in the mouth for things
to come apart in.

The napkin must not be left
on the chair, it might seem
as if you have an inappropriately

dirty napkin to hide
or even that you are trying
to run off with the table linens.

It takes great trust
to use a napkin.
It takes an act
of faith to leave
the table.



Today’s poems are from Decency (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), copyright © 2015 by Marcela Sulak, and appear here today with permission from the poet.



Decency: Poetry. Jewish Studies. Women’s Studies. Decency celebrates the spunky wenches, the unfortunate queens, the complicated translators, the wistful wives who have been hustled off the spotlit stages of history. Through the lens of Victorian manuals of etiquette, through the unfolding of religion from the Middle East to the American Southwest, Decency thinks through the brutal things we do to one another, recording the ways the individual operates in relation to society’s mores and harms. From the Sumerian queen Puabi to contemporary female recruits to the Israeli intelligence’s “Honeytrap” operation, Decency is a mix of the documentary and the lyrical, the wrathful and the joyful.


Marcela Sulak‘s poetry collections include Decency (2015) and Immigrant (2010), both with Black Lawrence Press. She’s translated four collections of poetry from the Czech and French, and, most recently, the Hebrew: Orit Gidali’s Selected Poems: Twenty Girls to Envy Me (University of Texas Press, July 2016). She’s co-edited the 2015 Rose Metal Press title Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres. Sulak directs the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University. ​​


Editor’s Note: If there is a question driving the poems in Marcela Sulak’s sophomore collection, it is a question of the ways in which we are and are not decent to one another. As individuals and as countries. As intimates and strangers. Both within and across the (real or artificial) divides of race, creed, culture, and nationality. Sulak pursues the answers to this question with the keen eye of an academic and a researcher, then relays her observations and discoveries with the skilled and deliberate abandon of an artist. These questions of decency are considered and depicted through the lenses of history, relationship, and etiquette. The result is a brave yet dainty collection. A powerful yet vulnerable collage. A work that charms the reader with its quaintness so that its harsh truths and difficult revelations go down like chocolate–bitter yet sweet, delicate yet bold.

Among the many long poems in this collection is one that stopped me in my tracks when I heard the poet read it aloud at the book’s New York launch last year. “Solidarity” is a stunning inquiry into rape–its ramifications and its afterlife and the endless experiences that collide with sexual violence in concentric circles. Today, for example, are Sulak’s reflections on misogyny and witch hunts, virginity and agency. Of virginity she writes, “It’s not that you get tired, it’s that it starts to be the only thing, / starts to disappear you.” Determined that her daughter know the truth about the history of hysteria, misogyny, and women healers, she considers witches through the skewed twin lenses of history and scaremongering: “Silent are the women in the village // who took their cloth packets of herbs and were silent / when their husbands rushed off to kill the witches in that story.” If I could have, I would have reprinted this long poem in its entirety. But then, you really ought to buy the book so that you can read this breathtaking work for yourself.

Throughout this masterful collection the poet’s own experiences are coupled with the larger lenses of the book–history and etiquette, for example–so that what is gleaned by the reader is at once deeply personal and delightfully educational. “The day I won the custody case my lawyer gave me a bitter chocolate,” Sulak writes of her unique experience, then later, in the same poem, writes of the history of chocolate: “Once only men could drink / chocolate. Women were permitted cacao beans as currency, / to buy meat or slaves or pay tribute.” Yet these ideas are not disparate; they are finely woven together by the poet’s skilled hand. The genius of this interrelation is beautifully evidenced by moments like this, in a poem that appears to be about the history of the napkin, but is equally about the poet’s leaving her husband: “It takes great trust / to use a napkin. / It takes an act / of faith to leave / the table.” The art of the poem–like the collection that houses it–is enriched beyond experience and information by a powerful lyric: “It feels good to imagine a single seed, // hidden in the forbidden mouth, the tongue / curled, gathering the strength to push.”


Want to see more from Marcela Sulak?
Marcela Sulak Official Website
“Jerusalem” in the Cortland Review
Decency” and “Raspberry” in Haaretz
Buy Decency from Black Lawrence Press, Book Depository, or Amazon

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RIVER ELECTRIC WITH LIGHT

river-electric-with-light


From RIVER ELECTRIC WITH LIGHT
By Sarah Wetzel:


A WORSHIP OF RIVERS

If I must choose a word for you,
let it be river. Not the river’s smoothed banks
that, like skin, give form
to breath and blood, the throb
of twenty trillion red cells wildly
ferrying their burdens.
If I must choose a word for you,
let it be the word
for what flows. Down one river,
a ruined house, down another,
eight empty boats bobbing. Inside a ninth,
there is a girl on her knees, knife
in hand. A kind of river
is running through her.
Because the worship of rivers
is also the worship of a chimney
for smoke, the needle its thread
as it closes the wound, of the wire
for its extra electron.
Because all three are worships
of motion, which is why
I race after rainclouds and trains, the postman
and bicycle messengers. Why I think
wind speaks to me. You,
you don’t speak. Yet you take
whatever I throw in. Which is why
I will always live close to water
but never again by the sea
from which everything eventually
finds its way shore again—
arthritic driftwood, the bones
of dogfish and dogs, and Mr. Levi,
the wristwatch still on his wrist. Which is why
I believe the girl puts down the knife
and she rises, the river
                                          electric with light.



THIRD VERSION

The rain leaves fingerprints
in last summer’s
window dust,

while just off shore, anchored
and waiting,
the barge that will ferry the lucky.

In one version of my story,
I sell my hair
and the good skin of my stomach.

In one version, I carry you
from the burning car
and this time you don’t die.

The sea with the rubber hose of a river
down its throat
is swallowing as fast as it can.

If you watch long enough, you’ll see that rain
shapes a path in the pane
for what falls behind it—

yet if you put a hand
to the glass,
the water will fall toward you.

Our lives are always half over.
There’s still time.



SAYING JERUSALEM

It’s become tricky to talk about Jerusalem
these days. Tricky, that is, without saying
cinnamon trees and narrow alleys, overfed
sparrows
, or Hasidic boys in metal spectacles.

I’ve nothing to say about trees or sparrows
or quaint Jerusalem characters, mustached men
selling talismans. Why don’t you like Arabs,
one asked, when I tried to bargain. Some Israelis joke

all we really need is Tel Aviv and the freeway
to Ben Gurion airport. Let the Arabs and fanatics
fight over everything else. From the roof
of my Tel Aviv house, I can sometimes glimpse

Jerusalem, the gleaming tip of al-Haram ash-Sharif.
Let them have everything else. Everything.



Today’s poems are from River Electric With Light (Red Hen Press, 2015), copyright © 2015 by Sarah Wetzel, and appear here today with permission from the poet.



River Electric With Light: Sarah Wetzel’s stunning second collection of poems, River Electric with Light, is a work of pilgrimage, a work in search of the sacred and the spiritually significant. Touching down in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Kabul, New York, and Rome, Wetzel’s poems, ranging from lyric meditations to discursive drama, weave themselves from her life as wife, lover, stepmother, and traveler. She names the force propelling her River—“If I must choose a word for you, / let it be the word / for what flows,” she writes. At times joyful, at times grief-ridden, Wetzel’s poems accumulate associatively pulling slivers of secular solace from a world where violence infuses the body, the landscape, and even dreams, recognizing that while: “Our lives are always half over. / There’s still time.” – See more at Red Hen Press


Sarah Wetzel is the author of River Electric with Light, which won the AROHO Poetry Publication Prize and was published by Red Hen Press in 2015, and Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published in 2010. Sarah currently teaches creative writing at The American University of Rome, Italy. She still spends a lot of time on planes, however, dividing time between Manhattan, Rome, and Tel Aviv, Israel. Sarah holds an engineering degree from Georgia Institute of Technology and a MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. More importantly for her poetry, Sarah completed a MFA in Creative Writing at Bennington College in January 2009. You can read samples of her work at www.sarahwetzel.com. ​​


Editor’s Note: Sarah Wetzel’s River Electric With Light is enigmatic, transversive, transformative. There is a motion within its pages–between sections and poems, between concepts and experiences–that is reminiscent of the Italian notion of attraversiamo; crossing over, moving on, getting to another place. Be it that of the smallest rain drop or the greatest ocean, be it that of trains, planes, or automobiles, this collection is electric with movement, even in its deepest and most sacred moments of quiet contemplation.

There is water–and the life water ensures–running through this book. Rivers that carry words, ideas, people. “If I must choose a word for you, / let it be the word / for what flows.” And along with this motion comes an unsettled feeling underlying the life of these poems: “Which is why / I will always live close to water / but never again by the sea.”

This collection hums with a delicate, thoughtful lyricism that lulls the reader so that we float along easily–though shifting locales, through political commentary, through mindful meditations on religion, relationship, life and death. Never set or singular–because life is never as black and white as one experience or perspective–we are reminded that “Our lives are always half over,” but, in the same breath, “There’s still time.”


Want to see more from Sarah Wetzel?
Superstition Review
Poetrynet.org
Ilanot Review
Recours au Poeme

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LOUDER THAN EVERYTHING YOU LOVE


Louder_Cover


From LOUDER THAN EVERYTHING YOU LOVE
By Nicole Rollender:


SCATTERING

I remember your clavicle pressed like a blade
under your skin, the moon

pooling in your cheeks’ hollows. You wanted
to be buried in the green dress

you always wore with pearls. We’d sit outside your back
door, watching bats swing over the lake.

Once you were like a weather vane twisting
at the edge of a field as you watched tornados spin

toward your house, your mother asleep on the couch.
I suppose you couldn’t tell me you wanted

her dead. But now you’re gone like she is.
I listen for your voice in the church

inside me, where a priest’s hands outline the shape
of a death. Yes, he believes vertebrae have ghosts.

This luminous pew, where a bird can earn a spot
in paradise—but I’m told the earth

can’t perform the miracle of giving you back.
I know the music your bone shards

make in the urn. You could be an old woman
shaking fish skeletons to conjure the dead.

You could be this fish skeleton.
I should know when a body need not be resurrected—

when the ways we said our names between us,
quietly near the azaleas, trying not to startle

robins (now, now they’re singing on your spine),
stop being music I can hear in my mind,

but become something other: how I scatter
the notes, adagio, pianissimo, and what answers

as the wind scatters white feathers into the lake.



PSALM TO BE READ WHILE MY DAUGHTER CONSIDERS MARY

A swaddling, a manger: but what happened before all this, my
daughter says: when Mary was a girl: I said yes: did she feel an
undersea tug on her spirit: did she think she might be able to move
jugs of water with her mind: I said yes: to birth a man who would
walk on water: a man who would tattoo his image in blood and sweat
on a shroud: did she, in the night fields, look for a star that would
lead seven shadows as colors into her life: what is wine: what are
these fishes, these loaves: for, he entered and exited her as light: her
waters stayed intact: yet, she swaddled a baby who would nurse, laid
him in prickly hay next to goats’ stiff fur: I said yes: listen to this: your
great-grandmother saw Mary appear next to my mother’s crib: my
mother caught measles as a baby: your great-grandmother was a seer:
she walked with Mary back to the stable: comets circling as angels in
a flock overhead: Joseph, wondering: I said yes: Mary, whose baby
pierced through her as light: holding a boy who’d be lanced with a
sword: who would bleed, pee, sweat and groan: who contained God:
who contained her blood: who contained everything in the world:
yet, held out his hand and cried for her milk.



THE LIGHT MAKES MY GRANDMOTHER CRY

Her stories still smoke up the kitchen, a dead woman
cooking peasant soup. Pigeons, lightning boiling

for the living. What kind of truth-telling do we expect
to fall off bird bones? Her death was supposed to be

a leaving, except it wasn’t. Her mutterings clack on
the backs of my teeth. She’s learning what dead women

do: swim the blood of their daughters, spread themselves
on ceilings like giant moths radiating light. The solstice

lights the halo-less among us. Her gap-teeth swallow ashes
in the urn. The coffee grounds won’t settle. She pushes

her hands up into mine, slides her ghost bones under
my skin, and watches my fingers dance the shadow-

-woman-waltz-grasping-at-spoons. She remembers
the day Pinky the poodle was nabbed from her front

yard, pretends to pet his wooled head. That’s why you
need fences to keep the dark ones out
. She uses her skull

as a pot, hissing up, Give back the life I gave you. The sink
runs red angry water. She tiptoes up my spine in her

old slippers, knocking on every vertebra she sees.
It’s true that the dead get younger. Some nights she’s

a skinny girl waking from a bad dream, calling for
a winged mother, the saint of lost dogs, to come down

from a parapet. It’s this girl I let stay, because she also
cries at the stars, whose light goes right through her,

for the dead woman she will grow up to be. That new
blaze, coming from as far away as blue stars going nova,

the lesson in the death-light: The dead learn
to smell what’s sweetest among all the rotting.



Today’s poems are from Louder Than Everything You Love (ELJ Publications, 2015), copyright © 2015 by Nicole Rollender, and appear here today with permission from the poet.



Louder Than Everything You Love: Nicole Rollender’s poems balance on the uneasy boundary between third eye and communion wafer. Beside an “old woman shaking fish skeletons to conjure the dead,” the poet as body becomes a conduit for the generations in both directions, such that her “body is full of holes the dead / look in and out,” while of her daughter she says, “my ribs / were her scaffolding.” Rollender alternately glories and suffocates in her holy entanglement with her lineage, with her God. And when she comes up for air, she ululates a hauntingly familiar song. —Jessica Goodfellow, author of Mendeleev’s Mandala


Nicole Rollender’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, The Journal, Memorious, THRUSH Poetry Journal, West Branch, Word Riot and others. Her first full-length collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, was published by ELJ Publications in 2015. She’s the author of the poetry chapbooks Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications, 2007), Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio, 2015), Bone of My Bone, a winner in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest, and Ghost Tongue (Porkbelly Press, 2016). She has received poetry prizes from CALYX Journal, Ruminate Magazine and Princemere Journal. ​​


Editor’s Note: Nicole Rollender’s first full-length collection is haunting and haunted, tender and tendrils, eye of newt and mother’s milk. The poems contemplate generations and generation. Death and little deaths. The ways we go on, the ways we are remembered. How birds alight on our remnants after we are gone. Its pages are rife with the inheritance of seers and magic, wisdom and sight. With what is passed down amongst women through the ages, from mother to daughter again and again and beyond.

The book’s moments of stunning lyric are interwoven with its major themes so that they become “the music… bone shards // make in the urn.” On the theme of death, the poet writes: “I listen for your voice in the church // inside me, where a priest’s hands outline the shape / of a death” and “I’m told the earth // can’t perform the miracle of giving you back.” When contemplating Mary as mother, she notes the real miracle, that Mary birthed a god “who contained her blood: who contained everything in the world: / yet, held out his hand and cried for her milk.”


Want to see more from Nicole Rollender?
Author Website
Author Blog
Order a signed copy of Louder Than Everything You Love and get a bonus broadside
“How to Stop Drowning” in Muzzle Magazine
“Aperture” in A-Minor Magazine