The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one’s own. Willa Cather
For years I misremembered it as The heart of anotheris always a dark forest
, believing the wilderness a given,
a problem to solve before
we’re let in. That once you find
the way in, it’s a wood you can know, with beasts
you can name if not outwit, even when they try
to take you by wonder. Above all, that the getting close
would unravel a path in the undergrowth, beat back
stinging snarls, so we’d arrive at some degree
of recognition, then have every reason to expect
improvement, even comfort thereafter, the screaming
and slithering thinning over the years
until it’s more Hyde Park than Yellowstone.
But there’s no accounting for the loneliness
of a journey we expected to share and ended up
taking solo, and though we knew there were
tunnels everywhere underfoot, that everything
living beneath the surface was as afraid of us
as we were of it, fear kept tarnishing our way,
and the grizzly of hope was always somewhere ahead
just off the path, unaccountably cute in its hunger,
swatting berries toward its giant smiling maw
as if there were years to accomplish the task
of fattening the chance of survival.
But Cather knew what she was doing
when she moved that insipid always
That the region of the heart is impenetrable ever,
that knowing the beast doesn’t shame him,
that proximity invites peril, that even
with his snout smeared in huckleberry juice,
his eyes too tiny to detect you in the bramble,
he is the intimate who stumbles toward you,
navigating by smell alone, with damage in mind.Leslie Adrienne Miller
’s sixth collection of poems, Y
, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2012. Her previous collections include The Resurrection Trade
(Graywolf, 2007), Eat Quite Everything You See
(Graywolf, 2002), Yesterday Had a Man In It
(Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1998), Ungodliness
(CMU, 1994) and Staying Up For Love
(CMU, 1990), as well as several chapbooks of poems: No River
, chosen by William Stafford as the winner of the Stanley Hanks Chapbook Award from St. Louis Poetry Center, and Hanging on the Sunburned Arm of Some Homeboy
, (Domino Impressions Press 1982).
She has been the recipient of a number of prizes and awards including the Loft McKnight Award of Distinction, judged by Alice Fulton, two Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowships in Poetry, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, the PEN Southwest Discovery Award, two Writers-at-Work Fellowships, a Pushcart Prize, the Billee Murray Denny Award in Poetry, and a number of prizes from literary magazines, including the Anne Stanford Poetry Prize, the Strousse Award from Prairie Schooner, and the Nebraska Review Poetry Award. She has also held residencies and fellowships with Le Château de Lavigny in Morges, Switzerland; Fundación Valparaíso in Mojácar, Spain; Literarisches Colloquium, Berlin, Germany; the Hawthornden Castle International Writers Retreat in Lasswade, Scotland; the NALL Art Association Vence, France; and with Arts International in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Miller’s poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies including Best American Poetry 2007, American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, Georgia Review, Ploughshares,
. A Professor of English at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, since 1991, she holds degrees in creative writing and English from Stephens College (B.A. 1978), the University of Missouri (M.A. 1980), the Iowa Writers Workshop (M.F.A., 1982), and the University of Houston (Ph.D., 1991).Read Caper Literary Journal's interview with Leslie Adrienne Miller here.
C’est ceci. This is it.
La pluie tombe.
The rain is falling.
Rien ne me plâit aujourd’hui.
Nothing pleases me today.
Pouvez-vous deviner à quoi je pense?
Can you guess what I am thinking of?
It is we.
It is you.
Nous nous aimons l’un l’autre.
We love one another.
Qui a un appétit de loup?
Who is as hungry as a wolf?
It is we.
Si je l’avais vu, je lui aurais parlé.
If I had seen him, I would have spoken to him.
It is you.
Si elle avait cherché un peu plus longtemps, elle l’aurait trouvé.
If she had looked a little longer, she would have found it.
Je ne la connais pas.
I do not know her.
(Mais, ça ne fait rien.
But, that doesn’t matter.)
Tant à voir.
So much to see.
Tant de choses.
So many things.
Rien ne me plâit aujourd’hui.
Nothing pleases me today.
Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire?
What does that mean?
We weed through fragile life
rooted in this garden; stems
hold firm, guard against frosts,
freezes, burns. Petal and leaf
huddle as we pluck the dead,
encourage the living.
Grief waters our roots
where beneath this soil,
companionship is tucked in
closer to Mother Earth’s core;
where whiskers and paws
once roamed above ground.
We must never leave
this place, the garden and bed
too much to move, the remains
of what lives too tightly wound
beneath this earth.
Lori A. May is the author of four books, including stains: early poems. Her work has appeared in publications such as The Writer, Rattle, Two Review, Writer's Digest, and anthologies such as Van Gogh's Ear. Lori is also the founding editor of Poets' Quarterly and an associate editor with Northern Poetry Review. A native of Canada, Lori now lives and writes on the shores of Michigan. More information is available online at www.loriamay.com.
We walked round and round in circles that afternoon
We were in love enough to look for Apollinaire’s tomb
Not Jimmy Morrison at Père Lachaise
Nobody knew where it was when we asked
Or who he was or what we were doing
Looking for what should have been easy
It took ages remember but the final stumble across it
Would have pleased him, secret-hearted and cryptological
Just about as far away as he could be
Charles Pitter has been published by Mediavirus, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Clockwise Cat, Underground Voices, Sugarmule and Fire magazine.
Five Dead Women
1. Megan loved the movies.
Feared past, at thirty-three,
the moment of plucked
from obscurity discovery,
Dame Fortune finally folded
the coverlet back. A prostitute
of golden sacrifice and secret grace,
a watershed catchment for battered
ambition. Worn shopgirl--
requirements of pink powder,
perfumed scarves, mauled lipstick
the retail waged anointing of
wrinkle cream and toes so soft--
showgirl dreams entangled
in scented hair, a phone call
to mother the only evidence
of promise as late for the casting
couch, the call, she blow
dried her tresses in the tub.
2. Daisy, dried from disuse,
bought kitchen appliances
with frightening frequency
as her forty-eighth birthday
flashed searing hot,
a magnesium scalpel.
"Did you miss the rain?" she asks
her apartment's swarthy underground
garageman, while exiting
to shop for a Target toaster.
"It was on the news."
The treelined stretch of Route 202,
how to assuage the derailment
of genetic destiny, how to unknot
the desiccated kernels of possibility,
when time has repossessed
its Mixmaster lottery of the body?
Daisy adjusts her hairpiece
in the rearview. A child
appearance, warped in the
corner of her cornea, into
the road with Freon eyes. Heart-
leap veer, a rugged minivan.
3. Brenda was a beauty.
Her long, twenty-four-year-old
legs had a lightly sunkissed sheen,
which she buffed and polished
while the dust on her coffee table
was defiantly constant, motes tumbling
down through her studio's sunbeams
to gather around her refrigerator's
buzzing electrical coils
like a beard of bees.
The following footsteps started
in December, on lunch at the deli
under a Manhattan money hive
of dissected and teetering balances.
The invisible clattering haunted
and described her routine, her late hours,
her blithe shortcut through a darkened alley,
dazzle blinded by distant streetlamps.
Her legs a intricate fluttering of moth's wings,
a cricket's rubbed eek of vibrato,
fly legs' urgent, hungry crisscrossing,
they would smell of dewy meadows at dawn.
He revealed the desperate accountant
she'd suspected. In the darkness he
was as formless as empathy. Brenda pivots
to stride, discovers his infesting friends
intent on the primal purpose of pheromones.
4. Frederica craved the wind.
Sixteen, she remembers her mother,
but has forgotten her face and name.
She wishes wild rocs to clutch
her in their talons, flapping her straining
from the ground, dangling
her wretchedness in effigy.
The night breeze disregards quiet, demands
a blot, seeping into ruts and rivulets as
she whistled upon the hole in the flute
with fluttering fingertips and pursed lips.
Freddie stifled thick coughs to keep
from being noticed, and yet
bristles at sidelong regards,
tugging at the chafing tethers
to the torment of the actual.
The voice of whispered insinuations
caresses her ear in a hiss of unworthiness,
picking at the endless imperfections
of being encased in flesh.
A firm draft whisks her to the ledge,
earthbound cars blaring far below.
The wind overlooked or neglects
to carry her plummet to the bottom.
5. Lauren carved glass. At eighty-one,
her breathing is harsh, shattered,
slicing trachea, bronchioles, each alveolus,
with a lifespan of sharp fused sand
and obsessive dedication
settled resident in her lungs.
But the patterns her instruments
traced in the molten molecules--
refracting light in a fine, subtle bevel,
supplying shadows to circumscribe shape,
etching illustrations in the prismatic ether--
shimmer, earnestly coherent in her memory
with a childlike delight in rainbows.
The hospital sheets are crisp
on her dissipating, translucent skin.
After years of repetitive, constant effort
she feels time's allowance to embrace
the authority of ease,
industry's simple, common, only
reward for work well done.
Lauren fumble slides oxygen mask off,
refusing to beep out final gasp
Warped, rippling with pain,
she exhales glittering hard gems
into the welcoming air.
At night magic
is most often abroad. Listen
for the glimmering source
of feeble rushlights while above
the ordered patterns wheel silently.
The moon herself rests
upon the tangled branches of the trees--
stout vows, arguments, sighs, and threats:
oak, wailing when cut;
hawthorn, fairy dominion;
Northerners say ash holds up the sky;
and always, a willow, shuffling to grab travelers
to encase within a dense trunk.
The name of the old man has been rendered
unimportant in this story.
His eyes are a boy
on a winnowing floor,
surrounded by similarity.
A moment all is still
the name spoken under the sun when words
float cheap thistledown in a daybeam--
with only distant echoes
of the power they once possessed.
Lasting perhaps only a night, words gave
shape. Knowing the name of a thing
was essence perception,
therefore a moment's mastery.
Name the thing of absence--
a summons of being,
encased alive in words.
"I am a musician, an artificer like the wren.
I was many things before I was released,
I was a word in letters."
This night sings, faint in falling mists.
The ground dampens thick with wet
under a canopy of redwoods.
Before the sun rises with bursting light,
Gene Hult is the author of more than 50 published novels, novelizations, non-fiction titles, and novelty books for children and young adults. He lives in the SoHo neighborhood of New York with his good, fat cat named Gladys and his evil cat named Mabel, who is getting fatter.
I can’t be Alice tonight
Jumping down holes and swallowing
Pills that change my size
Always his blue eyes that fill rooms,
My heart can’t handle shrinking
Into some small cocoon,
Expanding into some Aurora Borealis
Always his hands that hug tightly,
My body can’t handle the gravity,
Falling into some elusive world of that
I sit alone, waving at my Alice,
Trying to unravel a childhood fear of home
Jennifer Hollie Bowles writes to prolong breathing. She is the editor of The Medulla Review, a venue that caters to edgy, surreal, slip-stream writing. She has been published in blossombones, Counterexample Poetics, Word Riot, and The Ampersand Review, The New York Quarterly, Echo Ink Review, Caper Literary Journal, DecomP, among others.
The Poetry Brothel, a unique and immersive poetry experience, takes poetry outside classrooms and lecture halls and places it in the lush interiors of a bordello. The Poetry Brothel presents poets as high courtesans who impart their work in public readings, spontaneous eruptions of poetry, and most distinctly, as purveyors of private poetry readings on couches, chaise lounges and in private rooms. Central to this experience is the creation of character, which for poet and audience functions as disguise and as freeing device, enabling The Poetry Brothel to be a place of uninhibited creative expression in which the poets and clients can be themselves in private. The Poetry Brothel also explores and responds to the tendency of poets to undervalue themselves inside the creative marketplace by providing a seductive and intimate means of confirming for writers and audience alike the literal monetary value of such work. The Poetry Brothel is produced by The Poetry Society of New York, LLC, a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas.
The stray cat gave birth to kittens. Four of them lived, which was a bit of a miracle considering. Prior to the birth, she crept over the black stones of the tawny red clay city. The fat sun that hung so determinedly in the sky finally relented and slipped toward the horizon. The cat settled down. She moved only when the people hide. And when they moved, she hid as best she could. People started to come to life again now that the sun was gone. They crept out of doorways and opened shutters to let in the hope of a breeze. They carried their prayer books to the open mosque in the center of the square. They bowed and prayed and filled the hours.
She was pregnant. Very pregnant. And in being pregnant with a litter her movements where hampered which is a very unfortunate situation to be in as a cat. Especially in this area. There were children to contend with. They did not like the cat. Any cat. Especially the one girl.
“Get out of here!” the girl screamed, stamping her foot only inches from the cats face. The cat pulled back and hissed, baring all its teeth. She swiped a paw out and nicked the girl’s bare toe. The blood glistened. The girl ran away. The cat was pleased.
She cleaned herself, her fat rolling belly. The cat knew she had to find a place to deliver these kittens. There was nowhere safe in this city. There was a spasm of pain down her back that made her legs twitch. She wanted to run but couldn’t.
Later that night the girl came back. She yelled at the cat again, her face contorting into a snarl. The cat dug her claws into the dirt of the road and hissed back, teeth showing, ears flat. The girl kicked at the road, a shower of dirt and pebbles flew at the cat. She tried to run but managed only to hobble under a nearby car. The girl laughed and peeked under the car. The cat pulled herself in as close as she could. Her eyes stung from the dirt that was now stuck in them. She didn’t dare lick her paw and try to clean them out. She didn’t dare move. Still was safer. She waited for the girl to go away.
Days later, right before the waves of pain that would send the cat leaping, with a half born kitten falling out of her, the girl came back. The cat watched her; her and another one. Taller. Stronger. She could smell the boy before he rounded the corner. They spotted the cat and laughed, creeping up the stairs. The cat purred to calm herself. The kittens inside her rolled over and over each other. The boy climbed the stairs behind her up to the balcony. The cat watched him and wondered what he was doing.
He lifted a glass jug which shone in the sun, the light blinking off it like a warning. The cat started. Something was wrong. She could feel that.
“Do it,” the girl on the street yelled. The cat turned her attention to the noise and the boy above her, on the balcony tipped the jug pouring thick olive oil out of it which splattered and smeared the cat in its slime. The cat tried to run again. The oil coated her fur making her skin itch horribly. Hobbled, she hid under the car, behind a wheel. The children laughed, their voices fading down the road. The cat tried to clean herself, desperately knew she had to clean herself. Her rough tongue pulled at the oil soaked hair. The kittens inside her rolled over and over again. It was time.
Only four would survive. They would be confused by the foreign smell of their mother, her fur still matted with oil. They would nip and cry and refuse to drink. The ones that died, their necks twisted, some half formed, she left under the car for a day. Later she would gather them, one by one, her mouth closing over the loose skin on their necks. Some had no necks so she dragged them by whatever she could. She lined them up, neatly, right on the front step of the girl’s home. She cleaned them each in turn and then she ran away to wait till sunset when the girl would find them. She would wait to hear the girl scream.
Ally Malinenko has had poetry published by Alembic, Blind Man’s Review, Small Brushes, Whiskey Island Magazine, The Unknown Writer, HeART, Mad Poets Society, Posey, Jack Magazine, Words-Myth, Pens on Fire, Sugar Mule, The New Yinzer, Zygote in My Coffee, Delirio, Orange Room Review, Why Vandalism?, Mad Swirl, Gutter Eloquence, Caillope Nerve, Clockwise Cat, Unlikely Stories, Deuce Coupe, Black Listed, 13th Warrior Review, Lit Up Magazine, Amphibi.us, Plebian Rag, Rusty Truck, Alternative Reel and Metazen, Black Words on White Paper and Weave. She is also a contributing poet to Reading Ground Blogazine hosted by Breedingground.com. Her first book of poems, entitled The Wanting Bone, was recently published by Six Gallery Press. Her stories have been published by Outside Writers Collective, Troubadour 21, The New Yinzer, The Crow’s Nest, The Legendary, Metazen, Xenith, Jersey Devil Press and Red Fez.
Prelude To The Morgue
“They think it’s benign,” Mrs. Shelton tells me.
We sit at her piano; it’s time for my lesson.
“I’ll need surgery. You’ll feed my cats?”
I’m learning Bach’s Little Prelude in D minor,
an atonal piece that turns chaos into order.
“I’m eighty-five,” Mrs. Shelton says,
“same age as Bach when he died.”
I look at my teacher’s fluffy white hair
and picture Bach in a powdered peruke.
“I’ll leave you the Steinway in my will
if you promise to play Bach once a week.”
It’s a small price to pay. I agree.
“But you might still live a long time,” I suggest.
“And you might get to Carnegie Hall,”
Mrs. Shelton says. She points to the Prelude.
“Play,” she orders me. “Music never dies.”
Esta Fischer's poetry has appeared in Steam Ticket, PANK, The Blotter, Bacopa, and New York Quarterly. She received a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Boston University.
I Must Remember To Tell Her
Why is Mother on the floor? I wonder.
Don’t lie on the floor, Mother always says, the cold will creep into you. I wonder if this harms only six-year-old boys. With so many people in the room someone needs to remind Mother about cold, even with that rug under her and the white blanket that is almost hiding her face.
Uncle Kashi seems sad. He looks at me and tries to smile but his eyes are not the same.
I've never seen such a crowd at one time. Usually, there is Mother, me, Aaya, and the few guests who stay here in our lodge. Mother says Aaya has worked here since she was a little girl my age, even changed my diapers when I was a baby boy. From big cities I've never heard of, they come here to Coorg, sit outside in the mornings on the porch sipping ginger tea, scream happily at the birds that visit our yard, and take pictures with scary-looking cameras, sometimes asking Aaya and me to pose with their kids.
My hand is aching from Aaya holding it. She did not even let me enter Mother's room today. "She’s dead, Cheena," Aaya whispered even though there was no one around.
I want to ask everyone to let Mother get up and take me out, tell them that I've not seen a peacock this season and today might be the day, the skies sending little clues, frosted and slow like they might be holding rain.
The constant smell of incense and sandalwood is making me dizzy. I break away from Aaya’s grip, and run into the back woods. Little raindrops tumble down my nose. I close my eyes and think of Mother. And wonder what dead means. I've heard that before, just once, when Mother pointed to a chicken sticking out of its eggshell, unable to push farther. Its eyes were open. I hoped it would gather the power to come out once it became undead.
I know Mother has been ill for the past few days. Aaya told me Mother hasn’t slept well since Father left us. Maybe she’s tired.
Sudden voices stop me near the edge of the woods, close to the road. I recognize uncle Kashi; he heads a group around the curve, carrying Mother, still sleeping, on a wooden plank. I run behind them, but remain out of sight. They might send me back to Aaya.
I know this winding path well, where Mother and I have come a thousand times, holding hands, with her humming a soft tune. The next time I will tell her how soft her palm feels when she tugs at my forefinger and swings our hands playfully in a great arch.
The crowd is about to cross the hanging bridge. Mother always stops there and stares at the waterfall plunging down the rocks. I hope they will pause there. I feel sad when they don’t. The next time I'll make sure our stop here - just Mother and I - is longer, long enough for Mother to feel her energy return, to be glad not to have remained dead for long.
There is a flash of color in the woods. With hesitant steps, I follow the movement, and feel happy. There is pride in predicting that a peacock would finally show up today. Pride in knowing what the skies predict, in remembering little hints of nature that Mother talks about on our walks, my finger contented in her grip. I must remember to tell her how soft her hands are. She will giggle.
Ajay Vishwanathan is a three-time Best of The Net Anthology nominee. Ajay has work published or forthcoming in over eighty literary journals, including Smokelong Quarterly, The Minnesota Review, elimae, 34th Parallel, and The Potomac.