Nomi Stone - Two Poems

Nomi Stone: Two Poems

Iraqi role-players are weeping over a bodiless coffin in a remote American wood. In a pre-deployment simulation some military contractors call “The Crying Room,” the women perform for three days straight, howling their lamentation for successive units of training US soldiers. In this quadrant of rooms in the woods, the role-players are hired to enact mourning or bargaining, chatting or suffering, as Arab others might. They act out a kaleidoscope of archetypes: Corrupt Mayor; Insurgent; Imam; Mourning Mother. These poems are a tiny document of war and empire, and of the four-chambered ache where the simulations were staged. I became an anthropologist for my poetry, to extend my seeing. Enter here: A fake wound is applied to the chest of an Iraqi role-player who nearly (actually) died when he worked as an interpreter for the US military in Iraq. An ambush is scheduled; I stand in the middle of a field of wild onion, between the curls of grass-scent and weeping. Soldiers who pantomime death are lain shirtless by the fire. Come closer: they are …


Karen An-Hwei Lee: “Say If Not a Moon”

I live near the sea. Even if I can’t see the ocean from my window, its marina fog reaches miles inland to my sill, carrying a disembodied yet corporeal, saline quality in the air. This first inklings of this poem surfaced with a memory of a full moon over the sea close to midnight, unfurling turn by turn its uncurious, empty mode of witness – a nocturnal silver screen of its own obscurantism, or a tabula rasa for diverse fables and mythologies – “eye without an iris,” if one can even call the moon a type of witness, an utterly oblivious one. Its image glided quietly in chiaroscuro, glossing an obsidian surf late at night. To this end, the poem concludes with the radiant darkness of a new moon, “this pupil of light.” On a final note, I was pondering theological questions about God hiding, or God’s purported there-ness while apparently not there, when oftentimes we’re most likely the ones who exist here without here-ness: God is there. Say If Not a Moon +++++++++++Gliding in circles, a …


Corey Van Landingham: “Epithalamium”

“The poet’s role,” Robert Duncan wrote, condescendingly, to Denise Levertov, “is not to oppose evil, but to imagine it.” I’m still trying to wrap my head around this statement. It seems Duncan’s stance was against a polemical, or moralizing, poetics. Understandable. But, conversely, it often seems that poets are discouraged from imagining evil, or the inconceivable experience, the foreign problem. Surely poems can be irresponsibly predatory in their metaphorical appetite. That there is no objective correlative to suffering outside the realms of our daily lives, I concede. When I read about a drone strike mistakenly killing civilians at a wedding, I know I’m not supposed to think about the dissolution of my own engagement. I’m not supposed to write that poem. So, this is a poem about that, in a way. About the reception of news from afar. About how distance affords miscomprehension. About dangerous comparisons, and human error, and technological error, and their interstices. This is a poem about the borders of experience and the imagination. About misanthropy, opposing the evil in one’s self, …


Rachel Rose: Two Poems

Ars Poetica It is hard won, it is fragile, it does not bring joy. It holds water, it holds air, it is its own reward. It is light as cobweb, it is tough as cobweb, it is barely visible. It is hollow as a victory in the battlefield. It is heavy as a baby’s coffin, great as a dolphin’s eye. It beckons, it whispers, it flickers in the wind. It is impractical, it is laughable, it wrestles. It is free, it is precious, it speaks the sound of water. It is mad, it is alchemy, it is fleeting and enduring. It can be studied but it can’t be learned by heart. It can be followed in the forest but only by its track. It can be followed in the city but only by its blood. It jumps fences, it embroiders, it ferries the dead. It can’t be captured and it has no price. It’s in the screaming alley, the ink-blot pines, the village well. On the threshold of your pain you may find it holding …

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Kai Carlson-Wee reads “Westbound Train”

Horses asleep on the cusp of a minor hill, / quietly bending their heads to the grass. / I could be one of them, lit by the billboard signs,


Mark Levine: “Creek”

I’ve never gone on a “father-son fishing trip.” Nor have I ever called anyone “Pa.” Still, this is my go at a fishing poem. I’m drawn to the idiomatic force of the “fishing trip” as a trope for intimacy, serenity, and spiritual fulfillment in nature, just as I’m drawn to the possibility of “ordinary” speech as a vehicle of familiarity and ease. Neither one is mine, though. The poem’s suggestion that one might join one’s father for an end-of-life fishing trip, speaking in cadences of folksy directness, provokes awkwardness in me. The poem, I think, wants to embrace that awkwardness, and to take the journey that it knows is unavailable to it. In literal terms, it follows a much denatured creek that rambles through the town I now live in, and it dumps out into the Lake Ontario of my childhood. Even as a full grown person, far into one’s own life, one might persist in imagining how “everything” would be different had you and Pa only taken that trip together.    Creek I suppose …