Poem of the Week: April 19th, 2015

John Nieves’ first book, Curio, won the 2013 Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize and was published in 2014. He also won the 2011 Indiana Review Poetry Prize and was a 2012 Pushcart Prize nominee. His poem, “Kennings,” can be found in Volume 2, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By John A. Nieves

If I called this
body a bonehouse,
would my flesh feel
cheated? Would it
sallow and wriggle
itself free? If I
called my soul other
smoke, would it wonder
what fire? Would
it search for the teal
center, the whiplick
withering the wick?
What if I called us
us? Would it close
the road like an accordion
with mile marker spines?
What note would it
play? What note?
What if I called?

Poem of the Week: April 15th, 2015

Kara Dorris is the author of two chapbooks: Elective Affinities (Dancing Girl Press, 2011) and Night Ride Home, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Her poem, “Like the Negative Side,” first appeared in Volume 1, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

By Kara Dorris

of a film strip, nights of small survivals
& small sacrifices bleeding through until
you can’t tell one from the other.

Until guessing at ghosts is the only thing
left. I know, I hear the moans,
giving birth to litters on the air, I hear

the coyotes taking what they think
is theirs. I hear the protest, the mediation
between mother and country: take
this one,
                                   not those two.

Poem of the Week: April 6th, 2015

Megan Gannon’s chapbook, The Witch’s Index, is forthcoming from Sweet Publications. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has just completed her first novel, entitled Cumberland. More of her work can be found in Volume 1, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Megan Gannon

All around here the neighbor-lights darken
and darken to surrender this endless
tumble we never stop dropping down.
Mumble the dim sounds of shifting
in the deep of the dark of all our stumblings,
alive with the lit and eye-bright
of rested, fed, and humbled, kept.
Hungers touched and tended, fingers
fumbling buttons over keys holding spoons
inside drawers around doorknobs, the ten
thousand thousand oceans and the rumble
of tides, ears sloshing up beneath dream,
the stinging of hourglasses crumbled
and all the jumbled gone gritty with wrested sighs.

Poem of the Week: March 30th, 2015

Gregory Mahrer’s work has been published in The New England Review, The Indiana Review, Green Mountains Review, Volt, Colorado Review, and Haden’s Ferry Review. More of his work can be found in Volume 3, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

By Gregory Mahrer

All my disobedient bodies cannot refuse
the allure of light bent by water or glass

as if I were a lanterned thing, more guest
than occupant: a small blaze of self at wick’s end
as the iris in the field of the body is also the night’s eye
fraught with half-shapes and phantoms
finding its way in the thinnest light

among the small and large catastrophes of fire –
the house, the car, the missing brother
the one who centered his life around the rung bell
gone among rivered and branching places
as will we or so say
those who know the weight of such matter:
all that can be measured in paper and ink
sent aloft by the unseasonal appetites of fire.

Poem of the Week: March 1st, 2015

Katherine Frain edits Blueshift Journal and her work is also forthcoming or published in The Journal, Sugared Water, and Vector Press, among others. Her poem, “1973” was recently published in Volume 3, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

By Katherine Frain

That was the year I looked down and saw frog
    bones jutting from the open tops of my toes. By which
      I mean I learned how to jump when needed. We all

steal the dead’s muscle memory. By which I mean
    I flinch even when men who are not my grandfather
      salute the flag too quickly. It wasn’t his fault. Vietnam

LSD, experiments in forever tracking the red
   shadows of what could not be shot. That year, summer
      was sneaking into the break between bank

and rapids, was interrogating
   surly sixth graders about war’s secret
      plans. We knew blood, the intimate ways

of the body, by which I mean like toy
   planes. We knew how to leap
      off the curbs into our own

Mekong deltas, Chicago swarmed over
   with a wildness of rice. My first shot
      when I was eight, by which I mean my father

threw a knife across the room
   and then offered me a drink.
      My mother had turned the kitchen to a war,

the flour jar broken against the sink. Everything
   rising. We sat like a poor-
      boy’s planes after that, trembling for the flight,

all cobbled together from what wings we could find.

Poem of the Week: February 24th, 2015

Lillian Kwok, author of our poem of the week, lives and studies in Sweden. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Hawaii Pacific Review, Salt Hill, NANO Fiction and other journals. She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Check out more of her work in the latest issue of burntdistrict.

By Lillian Kwok

We wake up very late, I pull your arm over my body and we sink back into sleep. This is the last day of our lives so we can do whatever we want. This is what I want. I want you always, but always means less than nothing to me. Let’s paint our bodies white and roll around on the dark roof so the gods will know that we were here.

Poem of the Week: February 9th, 2015

Anthony Frame is the co-founder and co-editor of Glass: A Journal of Poetry. His first chapbook, Paper Guillotines, was published by Imaginary Friend Press. More of his work can be found in Volume 2, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Anthony Frame

If truth really is relative, then power
is defined by the size of your voice.

I’ve studied enough semiotics to know my body
is a sign and every word is significant.

Like my beard, which has nothing to do
with my wife. My cover-alls are a costume

worn to ward off customers who say,
It’s none of my business, but are you…

I don’t know how to keep smiling, how to be
comfortable in my confused DNA. Mostly,

I want arms that don’t surprise when they
lift a ladder. I want hair that is the twin

of wind gusts, and I want it nowhere near
my ass. It’s the crisis I see in trees just

before fall. I know this is a zero-sum game,
but my voice needs more than a blow horn,

especially when editors encourage me to kill
my I. So, don’t ask me, I’m too busy

blowing smoke out of my truck’s window.
Blame my molester for his definition of love.

Blame my uncle who trimmed my girly eyelashes.
Blame the 1990s, when every window was

cracked but none were shattered. My problem
is I’ve never been good at self-

analysis. My expertise is in incomplete
metamorphosis. So, go ahead, blame me.

Poem of the Week: February 3rd, 2015

Leah Sewell is assistant editor at Coconut Poetry, an MFA graduate of the University of Nebraska, and a book designer, poet, and mother. Her chapbook, Birth in Storm, was the winner of the 2012 ELJ Publications Chapbook Competition. Her poem, “Eat Something,” can be found in the latest issue of burntdistrict.

By Leah Sewell

The food has grown not moldy
but barbed. To eat is to fish
if my tongue were a worm. I can’t shield

myself from the fact of geese dying
of fish line and hook obstruction.
Every crumb is a bezoar. I spun

a spoon a million rotations
over the stove, fattened
my husband, patted his rotunda,
delivered too many beers to count. Now

I dole sharp grapes down my gullet.
Food gives you energy.
I peck a crusty bread because
food is life is a thing
they say when they tell me to eat.

The life travels
through goose esophagus,
through body sleeve.
It does reward energy

to resist the want
to quell the rumbling
of my husband’s stomach
where he thins across town.

Poem of the Week: January 26th, 2015

Shanan Ballam teaches poetry writing and academic writing at Utah State University. Her poetry has appeared in several literary journals, including Crab Orchard Review, Main Street Rag, and Indiana Review. Her chapbook, The Red Riding Hood Papers, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2010. More of her work can be found in Issue 2, Volume 1 of bunrstdistrict.

By Shanan Ballam

Lupine’s silver smatters
blue penstemon,
throats open, drinking bees.
In the shade, damp grass
flattened, the oval
of an animal body.

Once, washing walls, behind
the bookshelf I found
the faint footprint of a girl,
angled as if she were lying down,
gazing out the window
into thin rags of rain.

Tenderly, I cleansed her toes away.
I remember bathing
her small body in a steaming
basin, my cloth dripping
pale perfume.

It must be so lonely
to be the fading print,
the fragrant indentation
laced with musk.

I lie down so it can hold
me, this cradle
of long, fine grass.

Poem of the Week: January 18th, 2015

Teri Grimm, author of our poem of the week, is the author of Dirt Eaters (University of Florida Press) and the forthcoming Becoming Lyla Dore (Red Hen Press, 2016). She teaches in the University of Nebraska’s low-res MFA program. More of her work can be found in Volume 1, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Teri Grimm

As they’re dying, I want my lovers to think of me,
my hair draped silk across their chests,

my calculated breath creating small summits
of skin I conquered many times before

in Catalina, the Garden of Allah, balconies,
desks and office couches. Reverie will tempt

their tongues to slip through lips like small snakes.
I’m the charmer urging their mouths into a parting kiss.

Careworn wives think they need a drink, offer ice chips
and rest sad hands on their arms, heavy as overripe pears.

But they turn away, move toward the fragrant shade
of memory’s hair. Sweet like orange blossoms.

Behind my ear it’s white as orange blossoms.
I’m the secret you will keep from this world

spills from my mouth in soft petals. My face dissolves
into so many petals, they cannot blink them away.