Poem of the Week: April 14th, 2014

Our poem of the week is “Our Lady Endured a Mutiny,” by Becca Barniskis. Becca works as a poet, teaching artist and free-lance writer and curriculum designer in arts education. More of her work can be found in Mid-American Review, Prairie Schooner, and Volume 1, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

OUR LADY ENDURED A MUTINY
By Becca Barniskis

She had a ship and lost it. Her crew, hardy souls
fickle and true, had grown disillusioned with the
ever-distant horizon. They rose up as one,
unhanded her sextant, left her upon a small,
volcanic island. She was disordered in her manner
for a time. She picked at old seashells and
hardened her nails. She made improbable feasts
from the salty innards of the sea that washed and
washed the rocks, feasts that made her long for
sugar and candlelight and the way her old cabin
berth swung her gently at night after a good meal
and a freshening day of navigating the high seas.
Giant sea turtles ambled by, their faces outdated
maps. She might bring herself to follow them. But
she would not search the skies, knowing from
experience whence help really came.

Poem of the Week: April 9th, 2014

Matthew Landrum is the author of “Advice to a Friend,” our poem of the week. He lives in Ann Arbor where he teaches writing and literature at a high school for students with Asperger’s syndrome. His poems and translations are forthcoming in Modern Poetry in Translation, Nimrod, and Memoir Journal. “Advice to a Friend” was originally published in Vol. 2, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

ADVICE TO A FRIEND
for B.E. Jenkins
By Matthew Landrum

Try to time your death with a good sale on flowers
to spare your loved ones expense in arranging a funeral.
Expire in the heyday of chrysanthemums or at the peak

of lilac time. Die when tulips are bursting
through the loamy soil of spring, still wet with snowmelt,
or when bluebells turn the woodland floor

into a shimmering sea. And if you can’t die, try to live
with dignity and poise. Drink moscato but never alone
and only after dinner. Buy flashy accessories

to set off the clothes of a limited wardrobe: blouses
and pants that show in the seat the wear of drab days spent
hunched before a flickering screen. Compliment others

for panache and gumption, qualities you admire. Use good words
like panache and gumption. Step on cracks in sidewalk.
Tempt fate. But avoid trampling any plants growing there -

flower or thistle – they have worked so hard
to exist. Notice the lines at bus-stops, passersby on streets,
the boats of small souls that pitch and yaw about the city.

This is your kingdom while you have breath
and your wits about you: plastic bags crucified on hedgethorns,
a hogtied pair of converse all-stars looped skillfully

over a telephone line, the rain of leaves from gutters
when the wind blows high. Praise these commonalities
of life, a life that would go on without you, from blossom

to bare branch, the hands of time oozing crimson sunsets
in late July or August, skin scathed from grasping
at the manicured rosebuds in a good year for roses.

Poem of the Week: March 31st, 2014

Hillary C. Katz’s “August,” published in burntdistrict Vol. 2 Issue 1, is our poem of the week. Hillary’s poems have appeared in Salamander, Blue Earth Review, Sweet, and other journals. She is an Editorial Assistant for Weave Magazine and lives and works in San Francisco.

AUGUST
By Hillary C. Katz

The city grays over. Blackness at the edges
like an underexposed photograph. Before sunrise
I witness a pigeon strung around the neck, hanging
from a wire fence. When my bicycle’s front tire goes
flat, I walk twenty blocks in the morning’s mist
past toothless men on the sidewalk who smile
more than children. These early hours are striped
with humid sadness. The day turns to sand, a beach
with patterned divots and pelicans floating overhead.
The summer sweats itself, the ocean swallows spineless
bodies. Brutality cannot be unseen. This is the month
I keep mixing up the words terrible and beautiful.

Poem of the Week: March 23rd, 2014

Our poem of the week is by Jeanine Deibel and comes from vol 1, issue 2 of burntdistrict. Jeanine is an MFA Candidate in Poetry at NMSU where she teaches Creative Writing and works as Managing Editor for Puerto del Sol. For more information, visit: jeaninedeibel.weebly.com.

from SPYRE
By Jeanine Deibel

I might pretend that the ladies’ curvature is my grab-at
go-to place for kicks, like I don’t cup myself and gyrate to
“Beat It” above the sanctuary all night long, but let’s face it,
I’m self-sufficient. I mean, have you watched a baseball
game? That shit is broadcasted globally. What are we really
trying to hide? Not baseball players nuttin their mittens.
But MJ – you can’t dance while you do it. Not in public.
Then it’s a desecration of a sacred act. Every man
instinctually must move three clicks away from you. Where
are your bats, man? You need a fucking decoy, numero uno.
That’s what got MJ killed, that or diet Pepsi, I’m still up
in the air on that.

Poem of the Week: March 16th, 2014

Our poem of the week is Richard Robbins’s “The Venice Boardwalk” from our first issue of burntdistrict. Richard has published five books of poems including The Untested Hand, Radioactive City, and Other Americas. He currently directs the creative writing program and Good Thunder Reading Series at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

THE VENICE BOARDWALK
By Richard Robbins

Secret Father waits
until she’s twenty to break
the news. Skateboarders

weave around them in a roil.
He’d been the one to buy her

coffee and a roll,
to talk long in the wave-churned
haze about common

friends or the architecture
of forgiving. She saw whole

desperate blocks flattened
to sand. He a tsunami
that might unhinge them

if they let it, all the grief
one grief beneath that blue noise.

Poem of the Week: March 10th, 2014

Our poem of the week, “Balloon,” is by Dan Pinkerton. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa and his poems have appeared in Boston Review, Sonora Review, Indiana Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. More of his work can also be found in the latest issue of burntdistrict, volume 2, issue 2.

BALLOON
By Dan Pinkerton

He grew tired of its whispered demands,
the hot soggy air on his neck, so he decided
to fill it with the voices of those who yelled

at children and dogs. In his garage he kept
a hose and vacuum seal for such tasks.
The balloon now resembled a snared animal

puckered at one end, tight pink belly heaving
with labored breaths. Lately he found
he’d been yelling at librarians and doormen.

His library privileges had been revoked.
He dreamt of opening a hatch and watching
the balloon drift skyward, carrying with it

the weight of this daily clamor. It would
scrape against the atmosphere as shards of ozone
flaked away, and he would stand in his yard

beneath the ghostly bare branches of the sycamore,
summoning first the silver-flecked winds, then the rains
that would fall like canvas over empty pianos.

Poem of the Week: February 24th, 2014

Rachel Custer’s “You Are, Somehow, Not” is our poem of the week. Rachel Custer works as a therapist at a residential facility for children. More of her poetry can be found at confessor-rachel.blogspot.com as well as Volume 1, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

YOU ARE, SOMEHOW, NOT
By Rachel Custer

You are, somehow, not
your body

(s)lumbering thing the ground needs

but a constellated orbit
around the self

She was three people who denied
they were three people

felt like shale,
fine-grained and fractured

particulate (brain) matter
(it didn’t matter –

nothing was so bad as all that)

felt toxic and thorned, like yellow starthistle

all fluttering filament
and hyaline spine

Poem of the Week: February 17th, 2014

Nancy Devine provides our poem of the week, “Waking,” which was published in burntdistrict volume 1, issue 1. She teaches high school English in Grand Forks, North Dakota where she lives. She also co-directs the Red River Valley Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project.

WAKING
By Nancy Devine

My head a nest of clouds stirred
by a wooden spoon. No coffee.
Quitting—like how the French leave a building:
door slammed on morning’s first mouth.

Sometimes I want to rub everything
on my teeth: the fish, the marvels…the moon.

Poem of the Week: February 10th, 2014

Sara Henning’s “Orpheus after Eurydice (or After Finding Your First White Chest Hair),” from burntdistrict volume 2, issue 2, is our poem of the week. Sara is also the author of A Sweeter Water (Lavender Ink), as well as the chapbook, To Speak of Dahlias (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poetry, fiction, interviews and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Verse, Willow Springs, and the Crab Orchard Review.

ORPHEUS AFTER EURYDICE (OR AFTER FINDING YOUR FIRST WHITE CHEST HAIR)
By Sara Henning

I tear it without asking, frail
as a sunfish’s bones, only one
in a nest of dark magnolia vines
suturing your chest to your body’s
age, swallow it so it can’t emaciate
other hairs with its version
of tensile strength, body becoming
not part of me, but its own
inevitable end. You’re lucky,
male black widows hunker between
the female’s fangs just to gain
entry to her body, male orb weavers
die immediately after mating,
so there’s nothing to lose
by being loved or eaten.
When hungry, even an exhausted
spider unweaves her web,
fashions the silk to the size
of the beetle she can’t liquefy
with venom to drink the sweet
meat, leave the exoskeleton,
her failure as huntress. So I
swallow the hair because I know
what it is for the body’s pieces,
once separated, to sing to each
other, know how once separated,
the body, given time, stops
yearning.

Poem of the Week: February 4th, 2014

J. Bruce Fuller is a Louisiana native and currently resides in Lafayette, LA where he is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Louisiana. His chapbook 28 Blackbirds at the End of the World was published by Bandersnatch Books in 2010. His poem, “Boy, Age 9,” can be found in burntdistrict volume 2, issue 1.

BOY, AGE 9
By J. Bruce Fuller

This is what I learned of dismemberment.
Hunting squirrels with my uncle,
I learned to track them through the trees,
to walk beneath their rustle and chase.
When the squirrels noticed us they froze
and lay flat against the mottled bark.
It was my job he said to walk noticeably
across the straw covered ground
and move them around to expose
the squirrel’s splayed back to him.
The scattershot would hardly ever kill them,
but drop them like a top to the wooded floor.
I learned to grab them by the tail
and flail them fast against the trunk.
I learned to listen for the moment of death,
that hollow crack of skull on tree
like acorns falling on a tin roof, early winter.

                         for Bhanu Kapil