15 December 2021

Three Poems by Lauren Mallett

Ask Your Father
 
 
Her cadence of I can’t be bothered.
The beauty of I did what she ordered.
 
Dad, why does Mom—?
 
Oh, my first-born perch.
Oh, this particular triangle propped
upon what I’d call stable.
 
Oh, sad little lice on my heart.
 
What are skunk shrimp
and where do you find them?
 
I know. My heart doesn’t ask
who eats the shrimp. The eel
doesn’t. The eel waits, agape
 
as the shrimp tears apart and swallows
lice after lice from the tongue,
its two pair of pincers
 
waving how good do I have it
the whole damn meal.
 
 
 
Over and Out
 
 
Of course we preferred baby alien,
before the teeth
and the aggression, before
we knew exactly what the outer moon
had given us,
specimen that grew a surplus mouth
to wreck us with,
our vacuum-sealed quarantines wheezed
open by the lat pull of
its primary limb. Today our final dispatch:
the ejected pod plummeting
to Earth, thermometer
making its slow climb to
life, cells frenzied
in their splitting dance,
splashing into the oceanic array
of their own floating cradle.
 
 
 
Blood Stays Put
 
 
I will not leave the not room
of my body.
No eye no bead creeping to its corner
not how it doesn’t sweat.
I like to lie down.
Wait for the runoff of my not thoughts
wade through the tunnels
of my not head.
Paddle to the bank grab the not mandrake
and hoist myself over
the terra cotta
aqueduct. I hadn’t considered not before
jumping how it is
I would traverse the not land.
Blood stays put
unlike sweat.  The way one does bird
of paradise is the not
way one does pigeon. I did not hear that
I was just trying
to starfish here not lose this gleaming
please excuse me
not my reach.


07 December 2021

Three Poems by Matthew Dube

Concrete Fantasy
“Under the paving stones, the beach.”
Situationist slogan
They’ve been busy for two weeks,
the construction crew working on the street
to reveal the sewer lines below. They’ve done

a flawless job removing the rubble
their piledrivers created so you need to imagine
the mess they made. They’ve set orange cones
around the edges of these plots they’ve opened.

Ease around them slowly, pausing, always, to respect
oncoming traffic, or idle beside them like they’re gardens
and you a flower-sniffer, maybe, or you’re someone

choosing a piece of sheet cake. Not a checkerboard
but the squares Michael Jackson’s dance shoe lit up
when he danced across them. Or graves kept ready for
those whose deaths fill actuarial tables. They require

us to drive past them automatically, these invitations
to dream what might change by them being here
and us, but I turned the wheel. As wrecks go,

this one is barely enough to meet the deductible.
As a departure from the everyday, it’s priceless. 
 
 
 
Wolf at the Door

America, you and I have been testing
Ourselves, watching horror movies
And tv shows, to see if they

Still scare us, after everything
We've been through, serial killers,
Masked and unmasked

Menacing office buildings where
We looked for jobs, laid off
By the pandemic or else

Something worse, a disease
That turns you into a creature
That hungers for blood, and my father-in-law

Gets lost driving to the pharmacy
And finds himself in a coven of witches
Who want to monitor his heart rate.

And what about you, America? When
I drove by your apartment, I’ll admit
I had questions, but what I saw

Made me think that you need
Answers even more than me, the help
That the zombies were hoping

For when they said, Send more cops
And even stoned and seventeen I knew
They meant Brains. I’ll admit some mistakes

But when I showed you my new place and
You said it looks haunted, I heard it lacks
content and I had to disagree. I’m scared

how I’ll hold up if this isn’t it, not even a preview.

 
 
Table Manners

Young children and their curious eyes. I’ve seen them,
caged in high chairs or else sitting forward on their knees,
feet tucked under. They play with their food,
chicken nuggets can be dinosaurs, fire trucks, or building
blocks; the bowl of macaroni-cheese centered
on the plate, its golden corona a volcano waiting to be pierced
by the spoon stabbed bluntly from above.
These kids don’t recognize hunger
is a desire that can be sated. They regard food
warily, a distraction from pain, or boredom,
or the sense that nothing could possibly help.

Their eyes as dull as the oversized spoons they hold,
that pull their mouths into flat grins. They forget
about the food in their mouths or on the plate
to recline regally and observe their domain, chewing
when they remember. Jaws ruminate, the swallow
abrupt as a tantrum. Filled, their eyes turn to clouded glass,
guarded portals to a soul sovereign and absolute
until a server passes with a sizzling steelhead or a crash
of plates captures their interest. Once their gaze finds a focus,
they cannot be restrained; they raise their arms
to be lifted free; they’ll squall till we do it. They’re learning
how we are in the world, that it’s up to you to feed
yourself and to push back from the table when you’ve
had enough. When it’s safe to just look and when you need
to put it in your mouth and swallow it down.