SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: NICKY BEER

By Nicky Beer:


DEAR BRUCE WAYNE,

My parents are dead, too.
A dirty, self-cannibalizing Gotham—
I also claim it, its city limits
built by my skin. I slough
and slough, but the city remains.
Tell me, if you’d watched
your mother’s face go
a slow yellow after they cut
off her breast, if you’d watched
your father’s mind get chewed down
to spasms, who would
you fight then? What broken
string of pearls would you chase
into the gutter? Lucky boy
to have an enemy.

*
Admit it—what bugs you
the most about the Joker
is his drag. You suspect
his crayoned mouth a lampoon
of your dead mother.
But don’t you crave,
sometimes, to be a little
tacky? Doesn’t the all-black
bore after a while?
Even your sweet ride can’t help
but leave a little fart of flames
in its wake.
How many others
glare from the shadows
at a one-man parade
in a loud costume, blowing
glitter kisses at grim Justice?
You just think you want
to kill him for better reasons.
What kind of person would trade
laughter for righteousness?

*
Every woman goes out
knowing what you think
you alone had sussed:
the world is a dark alley
hiding a gun in its mouth.
It has more than enough
reasons to make you
cover your face.
The moon waxes. The bruise
wanes. Every woman
is Batman.



Today’s poem first appeared in Issue Four of Cherry Tree, February 2018, and is reprinted here with permission from the poet.


Nicky Beer is the author of The Octopus Game (Carnegie Mellon, 2015) and The Diminishing House (Carnegie Mellon 2010), both winners of the Colorado Book Award for Poetry. She has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is an associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver, and a poetry editor for the journal Copper Nickel. You can find her on Twitter at @nbeerpoet.

Guest Editor’s Note: As with all epistolary poems, this one is meant not only for the recipient—in this case Bruce Wayne—but is addressed to readers located in this complicated and frustrating time and place in history. The first line is reminiscent of a fan letter, choosing a shared experience between fan and celebrity that brings them together in some way, but the feeling that they are kindred spirits stops there. What follows in that stanza are philosophical questions about death and justice in the voice of someone who needs to find an enemy to rail against and a tragedy to seek retribution for in order to feel heroic power associated with that “Lucky boy” in line 14. The first stanza braces the reader for more questions for this hero who everyone has been led to believe fights diabolic evil in the world wherever it rears its head and who seems to have misunderstood what it is he is fighting against.

The two stanzas that follow further distance the hero from the letter writer and anyone who holds him in heroic esteem. The second stanza brilliantly questions Mr. Wayne about what really bugs him about the Joker and suggests that perhaps he harbors some jealousy for the evildoer’s colorful style, reducing the Batmobile to a “sweet ride” that can only leave “a little fart of flames / in its wake.” The speaker uses some cunning psychoanalysis on the Caped Crusader, deflating his motives and weakening his stature as a revered hero. The third stanza reveals truths women have always known about the nature of this “dirty, self-cannibalizing Gotham” we live in and how women cope every day in a world that “is a dark alley / hiding a gun in its mouth.” The final lines are a punch just below Batman’s utility belt that knocks the air out of his alter ego, reducing him to a bruise that wanes.

Want to read more by and about Nicky Beer?
Nicky Beer’s Official Website


Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus (Bibliotheca Alexandrina), Gluttony (Pure Slush Books), The Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, Random Sample Review, Into the Void Magazine, Allegro Poetry Magazine, and Rivet Journal.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

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


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LAURA READ


RIP, LAURA’S VAGINA
By Laura Read


Your vagina is beginning to devitalize,
the doctor explained, when I asked him why
I had had so many urinary tract infections lately.
The first thing I thought was that I should say
No, your vagina is devitalizing, because I have
two teenage sons, and that is what passes for wit
in our house. But then I got lost in the fact
that he didn’t, in fact, have a vagina,
and I thought I should point that out instead
because in some circles—say, mine—
that would be an insult. Then, in the little
room inside my mind where Dorothy Parker
was holding court at the Algonquin,
I thought maybe devitalize is just a medical term,
give the guy a break. But I didn’t even know
this man. Couldn’t he just give me a prescription
and say something vague about aging?
What about euphemism? I guess devitalize
was one because he went on to more vividly
explain that my tissues were, frankly, deteriorating.
At that point, I was thinking But you haven’t even
seen the area in question
and How did you get
this far without knowing how to talk to women?

Devitalize reminds me of de-ice which is what
I was doing just before this tricky moment
at the Urgent Care. My son was late to Algebra
because it’s really cold and it took a while
to clean the car. And at 8:00 the door
where he usually goes in automatically closes,
so I had to take him around to the front,
and he dropped his phone in the snow
and it got run over, so now there’s a crack
in the screen. He wants me to replace it,
but I said, No, it still works.



Today’s poem previously appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Volume 68, No. 1. Winter 2018, and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Laura Read’s first collection of poems, Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral, was published in 2012 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her second collection, Dresses from the Old Country, will be published by BOA in fall of 2018. She teaches English at Spokane Falls Community College.

Guest Editor’s Note: This poem moves through thought and returns to previous memory in a deceptively effortless progression, as if listening to someone recount an experience in conversation. The speaker fixates on a word that informs the tone of the experience and the poem: devitalize. This word takes her down a linguistic path that leads to another path and another, but, unlike Robert Frost, she returns to the fork in the road at the end of the poem with her response to her son that is meant for the insensitive doctor: “No, it still works.”

The allusive dark humor of Dorothy Parker is conjured as a familiar satirical connection and an anchor for association or a metaphorical leap. The “little room” inside the speaker’s mind is where pithy retorts are stored for occasions such as the encounter at the Urgent Care clinic, but she doesn’t respond in the way that she wants to, keeping her thoughts to herself, as many women do in these situations when they are being told that their bodies have failed them in some way by doctors who make assumptions without being completely sure.

The significant linguistic turn the speaker takes to a new word: “Devitalize reminds me of de-ice” leads her to recent memory, and the experience of taking her son to school that morning evokes mournful anger and defiance in the face of a doctor’s proclamation that a vital part of her female-ness is deteriorating. The details are important in her reliving the moments with her son as she is sitting in the clinic, and seemingly mundane facts become the thematic crux, informing the reader how life and language connect to produce intense emotion when we least expect it.

Want to read more by and about Laura Read?
Laura Read’s Official Website


Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), the Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, and Rivet Journal.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

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


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: MARISA CRAWFORD



By Marisa Crawford:


I’m too sensitive for this world / this Foot Locker

Oh right, the bomb
Sorry so boring
300-year-old wiener dog
China teacups rimmed in gold
Oh right, underwater
Backwards somersault, no
Outside w/ the flowers
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh like it matters
9th grade Metallica disaster
Cutest hottest-pink dress ever
Janie / not Janie / not over
Summer that bled into forever
See that backslash that’s the gash in my left arm
See that scar that’ll always be there
Janie’d be like, so show me so stop doing it
So eat something, J
So coconut cake bonne bell
You shoved it in my face / posted on my wall
Smell it, smells like a memory
Smells like a fake cake
This metal gate has been a gift to me
That metal guy at the party with the long hair and the gift for
Piercing the beer can / swallowing it all in one gulp
Was that the first time
He like, put his arms around me from behind
Somehow I willed it to happen w/ my mind
& then there was / a porch swing
Macbeth, my whole life, my death, everything


Poem

I like being a lil bit mean to Stephen
Wearing things that look architecture-y
Eating apple pie with my ice cream
I guess I couldn’t help it
I imagined my wedding brunch
on the tabletop catalog spread
called “A Perfect Match”
Girls at work who talk on the phone
in another language, girls who don’t
She asks me where I live in New York City
I don’t live there, I don’t live anywhere
Clip art of a nine-year-old
girl climbing a tree
leaning on her elbow
skinning her knee
VP of Creative sending an email
with the subject line “The Future”
You calling my tampon a “little mouse”
as you pulled it out



Today’s poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Marisa Crawford is a New York-based writer, poet, and editor. She is the author of the poetry collections Reversible (2017) and The Haunted House (2010) from Switchback Books, and the chapbooks Big Brown Bag (Gazing Grain) and 8th Grade Hippie Chic (Immaculate Disciples). Her poetry has appeared in publications including Prelude, Bone Bouquet, Glittermob, and No, Dear, and she’s written about feminism, art, and pop culture for Hyperallergic, BUST, Bitch, Broadly, The Hairpin, and elsewhere. Marisa is the founder and editor-in-chief of Weird Sister, a website and organization that explores the intersections of feminism, literature, and pop culture.

Guest Editor’s Note: Reading Marisa Crawford’s poems reminds one of the feeling you get while looking through a Viewmaster. The reader experiences a gut punch of image and sensory recognition as Crawford takes the reader to the a New York City street, to a party, to a phone screen, face-to-face with a tampon. She plays on our olfactory senses. Macbeth shows up and makes us briefly feel those feelings of doom and futility in the face of human fallacies, blood trails and all. In “Poem” we confront the absurdity and futility of office life. Crawford writes, “VP of Creative sending an email / with the subject line ‘The Future,’” and with that the future unfolds. What will it taste like? What will it remind us of? She is a master of non-sentimental nostalgia. There’s a lightness of being to reading these poems, but the poems themselves are not light. They speak of the feminist and the feminine, the collective experience of being alive in these weird times.

Want to read more by and about Marisa Crawford?
Marisa Crawford’s Official Website
Buy Reversible from Swtichback Books
Weird Sister


Guest Editor Natalie Lyalin is the author of two books of poetry, Blood Makes Me Faint, But I Go For It (Ugly Duckling Presse 2014), and Pink & Hot Pink Habitat (Coconut Books 2009), as well as a chapbook, Try A Little Time Travel (Ugly Duckling Presse 2010). She is the co-editor of Natural History Press. She lives in Philadelphia and is working to befriend a flock of crows.


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: #METOO POETRY




Editor’s Note: As the #metoo movement that originated ten years ago with Tarana Burke reached a critical mass this week, together we bore witness to innumerable traumas. Perhaps, like me, you felt far more than you were able to articulate. In times like these I turn to poetry to find the words there are no words for. To that end, today I turn to poetry of witness and testimony. To poems that are unafraid to call out sexual assault and its aftereffects. To poetry that says: me, too.


“Seized” by Rachel Heimowitz

“I Should Quit Teaching” by Lois Roma-Deeley

Rupi Kaur’s #metoo poem

“bone” by Yrsa Daley-Ward

Nayyirah Waheed

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