• Robert L. Giron

Issue 89 — Ann Bracken, Matt Hohner, Tim Hunt, Cindy King, G. Manzione, M. Milburn, Leona Sevick

Ann Bracken


Barriers


It is only the invisible guard

that keeps you from your dreams.


No straps bind your wrists

no bricks stacked and mortared.


Your demon menace

twirls you into paralysis


as invisibly as a phantom

train whistle

echoes through your dreams.


You must find the distant bell

announcing your singular calling


Focus on the clear surface of a lake

then dive.



Copyright © 2016 by Ann Bracken.




The Autoworker on the Radio Explains How the Factory Works


You never stopped the line,

no matter what mistakes you saw.

We worked a lot of overtime fixing mistakes

but we never stopped the line. “This American Life,” 2010


And I feel the same way about Ben,

my student determined to graduate from high school

still reading reading at the third- or fourth-grade level.


The administrators say,

Ben needs credits to graduate,

reading class doesn’t count

if kids take it more than once.


So administrators find ways

for teachers to push him along,

like the auto factory grinding out

a Ford Focus with Fiesta doors

held on by Explorer bolts.


Nothing fits, and you can’t drive the car,

but we don’t stop the line.

for Ben who understands a lot about history

but he can’t read well enough to take the test.


So we give him an accommodation—special help—

and someone reads him the test,

which worked well when he was seven

but seems foolish when he is 17—

and hoping to get a job, hoping to graduate

So I ask, Will someone read to Ben at work?


The answer echoes back We can’t stop the line

But when you peek under the hood—

like the car with the wrong bolts

Ben will need repairs.



Copyright © 2016 by Ann Bracken.




Biography:

Ann Bracken’s memoir in verse, The Altar of Innocence, was published in 2015. Her poetry and interviews have appeared in several anthologies and journals. Her poem, “Mrs. S,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review and lectures at the University of Maryland.



Matt Hohner


To A Poet of the Three Gorges


It is evening: cold wind, late November,

east side of Baltimore’s harbor. In the display

window of an upscale home furnishings

boutique, an old wooden ox cart wheel,

circa 19th century China, mounted

on an iron stand: prized salvage

from the flooded towns and valleys where

the Yangtze carved deep into millennia,

cascading through culture and time.

I think of Du Fu, turning his ear

to the gibbons’ howls reverberating

deep in the three gorges, his skiff

moored along the shore, verses coming

like lanterns at night, borne by the dark currents,

lifeblood of heritage, surging past his bow.

Downstream, a new power flows from the river,

its megawatt hum echoing off concrete ramparts.

The old voices, now whispers, drown in waters

rising to light cities of millions where, once,

men in simple wooden boats and carts

delivered the news one verse at a time.



Copyright ©2016 by Matt Hohner.




Famine Memorial, Dublin


Smudges of Liffey’s silt shuffle towards

the coffin ships, eye sockets plucked of sight.

There are no wailing keeners here to mourn

these shadows rising like wisps of peat smoke

from the cobbled walk. The dirges are long

gone from the rigored moors, sunken trenches

carved across the heart of Ireland where clans

interred their stories and thatched roofs hushed

into ruin. Under April’s bright sun, the buds

of spring in the trees lining the riverbank,

waiflike parentheses mark the barren spaces

and unspoken sighs of cultural hurt: always

there, that void in the gut that faith once filled,

whence song took flight into the Atlantic wind.



Copyright ©2016 by Matt Hohner.



Biography:

Matt Hohner, a Baltimore native, holds an M.F.A. in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where he won the 1996 Ted Berrigan Scholarship and the 1996-97 Honors Scholarship. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Baltimore Review, September Eleven: Maryland Voices, The Potomac (online), Lily (online), The Mom Egg Review, Truck (online), Cobalt, The Moth, The Irish Times, and Free State Review. His poems have been finalists for the Sow—s Ear Poetry Review Poetry Prize, the Cobalt Earl Weaver Prize for Baseball Writing, and the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize in Ireland. He has recently been awarded a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, made possible by a fellowship from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. He lives in Baltimore City with his wife and his cat.




Tim Hunt


The Boy Recites Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep


Tonight as you try to sleep

You imagine again that wind

Of flame sweeping out

From the mushroomed pillar

That is not God’s wrath but

Something called Preemptive

Strike.


You haven’t heard yet the one

About the tree and if it falls

In the forest and no one is there

To hear—whether that makes

A sound, but you wonder

If no one is there to see

The Nuclear Winter, is it winter—


As you pray you would

Not wake if you could only

Sleep instead of wondering

If the flame would be God’s

Flame, and if not, and one burns

Only a moment, is

That Heaven?



Copyright © 2016 by Tim Hunt.




This, Too


The science tells us we are wired to interact, nerve

Endings tuned outward to the surrounding show,

Or whatever in it we have learned to filter

Into the world of mattering—the denting

Of the drifted oak leaves that mark

A path into a thicket, eyes emptied


To register the twigs twitching and the buck is

A moment still against the Manzanita

As you raise the rifle up so much without thought

That deer and Manzanita bring the bullet

Together and you move down the hill

To the harvesting, reaching for your knife.


It isn’t that you understand

This world. You are this world—the folding

Seams of the hills, and how the branchings

Of creek dry to scum as the arc of heat

Builds across the summer, and too the porch at night,

The trees in the yard like tent

Poles of canvassed stars, the day exhaling.


There are, you sense, other logics, other

Grids, and that world, too, thinks it is

Real and that you are in it, hailing you

As if you have wandered

From its encodings, even as you

Give yourself to your world, knowing

You have not.


Copyright © 2016 by Tim Hunt.




Vachel Lindsay Walks the Roads of Kansas Offering Poems for Bread


Oh, Vachel, you have walked all day,

The cicada dust abuzz as if light from

The fields of corn shining within

The light the sun drops as it walks

Its different pace, not hand in hand

With you but perhaps smiling

As it passes on. And yes, you are

Thinking of such things because you

Are a poet and you are walking

To bring that light into these fields

And the far scattered houses

Where the far scattered men and women

Tend the light that often feels

Like a dark burden, the ache of shoulders

Holding to the plow, the ache

In the small of the back bending

To the weeds in the kitchen garden. Oh,

Vachel your feet are tired and even,

Sometimes, your heart. Sometimes

The cicada dust is only noise and not

An aura golden above the tassels

Awaiting harvest as the west

Opens the door to its visitor, the stranger

Always welcomed, a place set

At the table, as tonight someone

Will open the door to you, a stranger,

And you will glow with poetry

And at the table you will savor the bread

As if it, too, is a poem, their poem

Shared for yours, yours for theirs,

Spirit unto spirit within the spirit.

And tomorrow you will walk again,

The light and dark within you,

Holding to the hope as if a plow

And the road an endless furrow

And another night of the puzzled

Farm people listening before you

Will let them sit down and eat with you,

Sharing their poem, the one

They understand. The one they

Do not think of as a poem.



Copyright © 2016 by Tim Hunt.




Relic


Let us pretend that this white

Chip of bone is from the toe

Of Saint Someone who lived Some Where

Some When and was so

Saintly that we might care

If a bleached bit of bone

Was indeed his body and touched

By his soul. Let us fashion

A tiny box to hold it for our

Reverence, carved and lacquered

With such devotion that we

Can look upon the box and know

The truth of what is inside’and know, too,

Some sanctuary of words as if Then

Is still Now for always and ever,

Even as Now and Then recede

From each other like a boat

Drifting off into a lake with no

Shore, remembering the pier,

The rock, where it was once moored

And wondering why it is

Empty. Let us not think of that.

Let us think of the box beneath

Its lid of stone. Let us glory

In the play of light it draws

Through the soldered fragments

Of colored glass, and how in this

Story the farther shore

Welcomes home the drifting boat.



Copyright © 2016 by Tim Hunt.



Biography:

Tim Hunt’s publications include the collections Fault Lines (The Backwaters Press), The Tao of Twang (CW Books) and the forthcoming Poem’s Poems & Other Poems, along with the chapbooks Redneck Yoga, and Thirteen Ways of Talking to a Blackbird. He has been awarded the Chester H. Jones National Poetry Prize and thrice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He and his wife Susan live in Normal, IL.




Cindy King


First Response



You have been cautioned to discontinue use,

but you persist, applying heat and pressure.

Your application is neither even nor thin,

your occupation, to spread yourself,

to be taken all at once, in the evenings,

toppling the nightstand, racking up bed time.


You have always been rash, ignoring

the stop signs, refusing to brake

out of tenderness. To keep out of reach,

to avoid contact, results in prolonged

inflammation. At the increased risk of my heart’s

own failure, you never will burn unattended.


That night you required immediate attention.

As means of prevention, I sprinted up stairs,

skipping steps when restraint should have been

exercised. Now I’ve worked out the days, but

you close your eyes. I detect side effects;

you are spotting the symptoms.


You are pregnant, or think you may be,

or may become pregnant. Never apparent,

your first response. You blink

several times, feel something—

rainbows, halos, some foreign body.



Copyright ©2016 by Cindy King.




All in the Mind


Thoughts, like rabbits,

spring to it, such things as:

the mind can be small and neat,

closed like a book of hymnals,

or open like the singer’s mouth.


Beautiful or criminal—

if only you could master it,

you might overtake the world.

And for those who are not

in their right one, the mind can be

controlled, first numbed, then warped

like long-play record left in the sun.


It has its own state, the mind,

perhaps even its own country.

Yet in days like these, rarely

does something set it at ease

or give it peace.


The single-minded

often find themselves

alone. However, one may

change his mind,

be of two, or even three,

like the tree in which we

find three blackbirds.


You can make it up, but

can’t take it anywhere,

in fact, it takes you

wherever it wanders; it

can be lost and never found.


You can take it off

or set it to something—

and the mind's got it all over

matter. Whatever’s out of sight

is also out of the mind.


To be out of one’s mind,

to see the best ones of your

generation destroyed by madness.

Sadly, the minds often meet,

starving, hysterical, naked

in the street, perhaps because the great

ones always think alike.


Some have one for business,

another for pleasure, and though few

would fess up, most minds

are quite filthy all the same,

the dirt, not your garden variety.


They say it’s a terrible thing to waste,

so why not boggle or blow it?

It can be altered, like a suit,

should you outgrow it.


It has an eye, to be sure,

but no ear, although it may be

“of sound,” either with

or without the body. It has

no mouth, yet you can speak it,

and if you’re feeling generous,

you may just give us a piece, though

we may not accept it; so much depends

on whether we’ve got one of our own.



Copyright ©2016 by Cindy King.



Biography:

Cindy King’s work has appeared in Callaloo, North American Review, Black Warrior Review, American Literary Review, jubilat, Barrow Street, River Styx, and elsewhere. It can be heard at weekendamerica.publicradio.org and cortlandreview.com. She has received a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Workshop and the Agha Shahid Ali Scholarship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She will begin teaching as an Assistant Professor of English at Dixie State University in the fall.




Gianmarc Manzione


Work


The first time I killed somebody, I still

made it back to work before the end of

lunch break. Violations of ordinance,

settled in accordion folders at

the desk where I filed them for the county,

arranged the unimportant afternoon.

I heard the woman in the cube by the

copy machine crack open a Coke. What

was it inside me that was sated by

the snip of telephone wire, the drawing

of indigo curtains in a house I

had never been? (I only had reason

to visit once, see.) You should have seen the

mother’s eyes when she saw my gun and told

her two kids to do as the man said, then

helped me board them both in the bathroom. I

strangled that one with no more thought than she

gave to slipping off a shoe. Excuse me.

My wife’s calling; the dog got out again.



Copyright © 2016 by Gianmarc Manzione.




Lunch Break


The paper’s named the pill that put the knife

in the millionaire’s hand and nobody’s

wiser. The blown-up dead from Kabul to

Kirkuk are known here as news and done with.

Whose father bled to death with his rings on?

Fine. Listen to car engines idle in

the Starbucks drive-through, wondering again

how a whole season has passed without a

call from your kid, what wrench you need to fix

the busted washer back home, how any

number of years seems to pass in a day.

Answers worth knowing don’t wait like the sea.

Oh look. The trucked-in trees abide

their concrete plots in the lot at Freedom

Mall. They belly up to bus fumes between

the Dollar Store and Dillard’s. They beckon.



Copyright © 2016 by Gianmarc Manzione.




Cedar Springs


Then truck fumes smudge the sun as it slips

down the day like an oyster

and cops question two crying girls with pumped lips

and fishnets in the back of a Condom Sense to register

their complaint the way cooks take orders

while penis rings pursed in raspberry cellophane

throb on hooks and for $10.99 they’ll really take you somewhere

like the buses wheezing up and down Wixom Lane


You know last night a man knotted birthday balloons around his waist

and jumped off a bridge under the same unminding

moon as the Cedar Springs trannies laced

in pleather bustiers and the boys who drove by whistling

which made no one think of Bruegel or Brussels or the shame

in fact the paper didn’t even print the guy’s name



Copyright © 2016 by Gianmarc Manzione.



Biography:

Gianmarc Manzione’ first collection of poems, This Brevity, was published by Parsifal Press in 2006, portions of which appeared in The Paris Review, The Southern Review, Raritan, and other journals. His work also has appeared in The New York Times, The Southeast Review, Waccamaw, Inkwell, and other journals. His nonfiction book, Pin Action: Small-Time Gangsters, High-Stakes Gambling, and the Teenage Hustler Who Became a Bowling Champion, was released in 2014 by Pegasus Books. He currently works as Editor-in-Chief of Bowlers Journal International, and I lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, with my wife, Brittni, and daughter, Ellianna.





Michael Milburn


Pose


He went for the classic

arm over shoulders,

pulled in, best buddies look,

whereas my arms hung stiff

until I draped one over him,

gingerly, a little allergically,

not from lack of affection,

but an instinct for physical recoil,

like my visible flinch

when someone hugs me from behind.


He gets his demonstrativeness

from his mother.

From me he gets ý

nothing tangible, I think—

maybe perseverance,

though I’m only capable of that on a good day,

the kind on which

I can see in this photo

how much I have closed our distance,

gained that ground.



Copyright ©2016 by Michael Milburn.




Venom


I like this word

for what a bee uses

to overcome its buzzing insignificance;

like what my mind unleashes

on perceived enemies,

although, unthreatened,

I’m a little mystified as to the cause

of my constant gush

of poisonous thoughts

like a prehistoric species trait or family legacy

of men spewing to themselves

and their humoring wives.


As steady as a humming

is this hostility,

though the fact

that a bee need not release

and in doing so depletes

wrecks my analogy

because I can’t keep mine in,

draw on an endless ready supply,

and give my victims

no rueful consolation of knowing

that having stung

I died.



Copyright ©2016 by Michael Milburn.




Strong Silent


Tall quiet men

are expected

to speak meaningfully

as if not talking much from on high

qualifies us

as gurus of talking,


but just because I don’t contribute regularly

as my teachers scolded me

doesn’t mean that when I do

I want a damned papal audience.

Yet let one inanity

or flopped joke escape


and listeners look at me

as if wondering why

I haven’t parted a sea.

Like film fans

who confuse actors with their roles

strangers suppose


that just because

I loom looking

stern and withheld

Iým reserving anything like wisdom.

What a relief, then,

after I speak stupidly


to be listened to

without expectation

because only then am I capable

of impressing, just as expected

to impress,

I disappoint.


Copyright ©2016 by Michael Milburn.



Biography

Michael Milburn teaches English in New Haven, CT. His poetry has been published most recently in Poetry East and Mudlark. His third book of poems, Carpe Something, appeared from Word Press in 2012.




Leona Sevick


Self-help


First, get yourself a good cast iron pot. Don’t skimp.

You know what kind; you see them everywhere

and think Who would pay that much for a fucking pot?

You will. Go to every Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and

Home Goods in a hundred mile radius, and maybe

you’ll get lucky and find an odd colored one—

mustard yellow or baby shit brown’marked way down

because some people only care about how these things

look, not what they do. My aunt’s like this.

Had a pantry full in every variation—grill pan,

Dutch oven, braiser, you name it. I don’t think her

manicured hand (always holding a Virginia Slim)

ever touched one. Even if you don’t find one cheap,

get one. Steal it if you have to. I won’t judge.


Once you get your pot, you’ll know why you have it.

This pot can do anything and perfectly, every time.

Fancy a fry up? You have your pot. Need a twenty minute

cry? You’ll have a perfect risotto when it’s over.

Want to make grand statements with a heavy thud

while you’re tidying up? Turn to your pot.

Soak your pot for no longer than 30 minutes and you’ll

be able to wipe whatever’s stuck to it free with a

soft sponge. No need for a man to provide some

elbow grease. You can do it on your own.


In old pictures of refugees, the ones that show women

with their bundles tied tight with string, there is always

a pot balanced on top of their precious possessions.

You’ll never wonder again what it all means.



Copyright ©2016 by Leona Sevick.




Wishing Doll


He’s squatted on the bookshelf for years,

hardly drawing dust on his crimson jacket,


even after weeks of neglect. Faithlessly

I’ve dusted him, felt the multitude of ridges


hardened from the paper and flour

he’s formed from, fingered the depression


of his face that looks like an even bite

from an artificial apple. His painted


eyebrows form the hopeful wings of a crane.

Chop hairs, meant to look like tortoise shells,


are rushed and uneven, the shoddy work

of a quick-handed man cranking out


Daruma dolls at piece-work rate.

The white businessman likely to buy him


doesn’t know craft from conveyor-work.

Looking toward the corner


of the room, catching the eyes

that seem to follow wherever I go,


I swear he sometimes winks at me.

Weighted at the bottom, my little man


resists the temptation to fall over,

to lie still and wait for it to be over.


Seven times down and eight times up

is what the Japanese say, and I know this is


a metaphor for my life, for everyone’s life.

The second eye, Sharpied in by the man of my


house, makes me think I should set my own

goals, that I should pack my bags and head to


the other side of the world where I can

burn him up and start again.



Copyright ©2016 by Leona Sevick.




Burn the Ships


Fearing his soldiers would choose the safety of what they knew

over the promise of what they didn’t,


Cortés set all his mighty ships afire, stranding himself

and his men in unfriendly Veracruz.


It is a glorious story, much better than the anguished

truth: the mutiny uncovered, the sad scuttling


of the ships that sent them creaking into the sea,

no gorgeous blaze to mark their beautiful demise.


How he must have suffered. The bitter betrayal,

the unknown world he had yet to conquer.


When we burn our ships we want to picture them

ablaze behind us, the heat warming our necks


as we move from the crackling destruction.

Instead, there is only the sucking sound of sinking,



Copyright ©2016 by Leona Sevick.



Biography

Leona Sevick’s work appears in The Journal, Barrow Street, Potomac Review, and Poet Lore and is forthcoming in American Arts Quarterly and North American Review. She is the 2012 first place winner of the Split This Rock Poetry contest, judged by Naomi Shihab Nye and a semi-finalist for the Philip Levine Poetry Prize. Her first chapbook, Damaged Little Creatures, was published in 2015 by FutureCycle Press (www.leonasevick.com). She is provost at Bridgewater College in Virginia.


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