Yes, Poetry

JUNE POET OF THE MONTH: KEEGAN LESTER

image

Keegan Lester is the co-founder and poetry editor at Souvenir: A Journal.  He lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, but has managed to live in four states in the last four years. Inspired by Victoria Legrand one night on the way home from a Halloween Party in Los Angeles and Pat White’s subsequent return to the NFL—-Keegan came out of his post MFA writing retirement late last October.   It’s rumored he doesn’t mind airports, the shapes of clouds and what clouds shape. His poetry is forthcoming or already published in: The Barn Owl Review, Sixth Finch, ILK Journal, Moon City Review, Death Hums, Red-Headed Step Child and Mixed Fruit, among others. 

the topography of this place

The ocean stopped being cruel
so the sailors went home.
No one jumped from cliffs anymore.
People stopped painting and photographing the ocean
because the sentiment felt too close to a Hallmark card.
Everyone had treasure because
it was easy to find,
thus the stock market crashed.
Then the housing bubble burst
mostly not due to the ocean,
though one could speculate pirates
were going out of business and defaulting on loans.
When I say speculate, I mean I was reading
the small words that crawl at the bottom
of the newscast, but I was only half paying attention
because Erin Burnett was speaking
and she’s the most real part of this poem.
I’m speaking in metaphor of course.
The end of the world is coming
seagulls whispered to the fish
they could not eat due to their fear
of the ocean’s newfound kindness. 
One of my professors spoke today.
She hates personification, treasure and linear meaning.
She hates poems not written by dead people.
She hates the ocean’s newfound kindness,
she wrote it on my poem.
Not everything can be ghosts and pirates, she says.
But that’s why I live here.
My rhododendron’s never crumpled in the summer.

 

the topography of distance

Intellectuals kill their bodies
because what else
can they kill
with just their hands?
I mean, have you ever seen
the hands of an intellectual?
This was part of a real phone conversation
I had last night, beginning:
“Edith, for twenty-years I misheard
the Fats-Domino lyric
my tears fell like rain
as my hillbilly name”.
On the phone
our words are like fortune cookie words:
Small blue font;
heavy in the “abstract”
and “unbelievable” departments
and yet: necessary for reasons
that will one day reveal themselves to you.
I only believe the fortunes
if the number thirteen
is tattooed to the face
of whatever is telling me the fortune,
because how could you not?
Tattoos last forever.
There is a kind of credibility
to forever. Ask Emily D
about not stopping for death.
Last night you said:
I once had two love birds.
I think my mother killed one accidently.
and I thought only of
the constellation of freckles
spanning your shoulder blades.
The manifest destiny of those freckles
following the continental maps
of tendons and ligaments to the muscle
wrapping your spine.
Each word has a color: 
Petricher, glass and eucalyptus
are the blue
before the sky turns
pink some summer mornings.
It’s science, really.  Fortune
is the last color you see
in the bath of your own
neurotransmitters
as they burn out
one by one like little stars
behind your eyelids.
I’ve heard it resembles
popcorn over a campfire.
I’ve heard that all of these things
only look small
because of their distance
relative to your imagination at night.  

 

the topography of unicorn theory

for john cotton


Beauty finds such crush 
inside beauty. 
A variation on a field
of dandilions, or red streaks
or a satellite 
trailing sky.  It’s the ones
I don’t sleep with  
that I tend to remember, John says,
and if I catch my unicorn, 
it may become people.
And what then?
And what then?

 

________________________________________________________

Listen to Keegan read his poems:

April Poet of the Month: Tiffany Chaney

Tiffany Chaney is an artist and writer residing in North Carolina. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Salem College in 2009. Her works in poetry and fiction have appeared in Ophelia Street, Pedestal Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review (InstaPoetry) and Thrush Poetry Journal, among others. Her poetry collection Between Blue and Grey won the 2013 Mother Vine Festival Award for Best in Poetry. Discover more about her at tiffanychaney.com

Sabbat for My Sisters


(I)

The bone fire with its crimson lips
broke a kiss upon my forehead;
a branch with a twisted tie
stroked my neck so that I knew
it wouldn’t
break.

The skin peeled away
the desire to breathe but just
die, unafraid to burn
so bones become like wood
not burning to a crisp,
but shining, polished in flame.

The women dance around my
exquisite corpse
drinking the merlot on a Sunday
picking bones out of their teeth
and singeing their hair by the fire.

Ring around the rosy,
a pocket full of posies
they sing, and then they
all fall down.

And the branch with its twisted
tie strokes away all flaming lies
glimmering in the embers.


(II)

The sabbat of Shakespearian sisters
passes between lines
of Woolf, Plath, and Belieu.
The bone fire livid and alive
as caskets are laid bare
language written not upon rotten limbs
but pure shining bone
our unconscious collective
and no mere satellite.

Dearest sisters,
Woolf, Olsen, Dickinson, Mirabel, Marvin, Plath, Belieu…
a chant to rival
Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna…

Sacred, so buried
Sin, so burned
Scribe, to each sister a room
be it the casket, the closet,
or the self, at last,
solitary and rendered whole.
Sing, my sisters,
and dance.


(III)


Something is beginning in my bones.
Somewhere in the hollow
where the marrow—still a pool,
lies protected and confined
my writer’s fool.

Dangling by his toes, he
knocks knocks knocks.
The fool is in my marrow, and
I must knock back twice.
The sound is dull inside, but
something is beginning there.

The laughter grows until
it is my own, and my writer’s
fool has become a madwoman.

Take me to the nunnery!
Take me to the mental ward,
but I will not serve convention
a day longer in Truth’s despair!
The fool is in my marrow
where we buried Shakespeare’s
sister with the remnants of her spurned
scrolls, we women privy to not even each other’s
word, mouth once so sewn
and singed open to begin
a new year this night.

Gather sisters and sing
words, dance your dance
around the bone fire.
For we dig not our graves,
but a collective womb
inside our Mother.

Spring 2014

Dearest Readers,

Why do we write? Who are we writing for? These are the two most significant questions poets can ask of each other; for me, I’ve found the answer to be simple—I write for myself, for others like me. When I read a poem, I’m hoping to find that vulnerable side of someone else in order to feel less lonely, to connect my nerve endings with another’s. 

Let’s connect our nerves & hearts to verses featured in this issue, by Stella, Jason, & Melissa. 

Best wishes,
Joanna C. Valente
Founding Editor

________________________________________________________

In this issue:


Stella Padnos-Shea

"Do we need separate sinks. So our germs don’t mingle. / We enter or close each other, doors with a trick lock. / Which side am I on." 

Jason Gordon

The cervix melts like butter, / the baby oozes out.”

Melissa Walker

That tree would be a bush at home, that wood would be a heater. / Listen to the messages from your mother.”