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.

1973
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.

LE CARNAVAL DES ANIMAUX: LE CYGNE
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.

EVERYTHING I KNOW I LEARNED FROM RACHEL MADDOW
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.

EAT SOMETHING
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.

GRANDMOTHER WAITING FOR RED RIDING HOOD: THE FOOTPRINT
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.

THIS IS HOW IT ENDS
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.

Poem of the Week: January 11th, 2015

Gary Dop lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife and three daughters. His essays have aired on All Things Considered, and his first collection of poems, Father, Child, Water, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. His poem, “Randy’s Civil Rights” was published in Volume 2, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

RANDY’S CIVIL RIGHTS
By Gary Dop

I’m naked as a baby cow
when I’m in my house
because that’s a man’s space.
My neighbor lady

with that gimpy leg
called the cops,
but they didn’t say nothing
about me giving her

an eyeful
because a man’s land
is the space he got.
Not even cops can make me

wear nothing over my junk
when my own naked feet
are on my property.
I fried some chicken

standing snow white
in my kitchen window.
I could probably mow
the lawn in the raw

if I wanted, except
some yellow peace-hippy
would probably say
I’m a dandy fellow. I ain’t

gotta prove nothing, not
with this tattoo – everything
you need to know
about me is in my tattoo:

I covered the nipples
with that red bikini
for ten dollars because
my nephew kept pointing.

This cowboy hat is ’cause,
well, I’m a cowboy.
The southern flag, well,
that’s a battle flag –

I ain’t afraid to fight.
The boobs and all that
is ’cause I like women,
blondes first. I know

if a woman doesn’t
get it and like it,
she’s just too shallow.

Poem of the Week: January 4th, 2015

Sally Houtman is the author of a non-fiction book and her work has appeared in more than thirty print and online publications, earning four New Zealand writing awards. Her poem, “Pivot clockwise, watch the footing on its fragile crust,” appears in Volume 3, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

PIVOT CLOCKWISE, WATCH YOUR FOOTING ON ITS FRAGILE CRUST
By Sally Houtman

because you live on this broken island,
Gondwanaland’s forgotten pedestal of bone

because there is no line of demarcation
between the east and impossibility

because there is no reasoning with the tide
or greed or ghosts or gravity

because the foolish sun is halved twice a day
and the sky remains indifferent, wind-rubbed and bare

because this is no way to live, weeping over onions,
in a winter kitchen, wounds still raw, because

all the earth is just a grave that hoards
its granite, and there is no room in its sarcophagus

for silent, rusted things, because beliefs
will not rest on sturdy hinges and a memoir cannot be written

in the sand, because wishes cannot bruise the air and a swallow cannot roost
higher than it flies, because the tree does not cling to its leaves

and fruit will ripen off the vine, because a hole requires an edge to exist
and because this edge might, at any moment, fall away -

Poem of the Week: December 30th, 2014

Lee Ann Roripaugh’s most recent collection of poetry, Dandarians, was released by Milkweed Press in 2014. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently a Professor of English at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as Director of Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review. More of her work can be found in Volume 2, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

SHAPESHIFTER TSUNAMI: A SCARY EPITHALAMIUM
By Lee Ann Roripaugh

s/he’s the glitter of koi
snake’s chain-mail slink / heart-shaped
cockle belly dragging
as she FaceBook creeps
on tiger’s hushed paws
velvet-horned / oxen-eared
shy-eyed as a rabbit until
camel’s spit and eagle’s claw

s/he gender-switches easy as
the sea change shimmer
of lenticular flicker pictures
flipping with each shift of light:
MTF / FTM / sea walnuts
to Venus’ girdles / emperors
and clownfish / sea stars
or the beautiful moon wrasse

sometimes s/he passes as human
buys laundry detergent
forgets which day’s trash day
updates the Netflix queue / quietly
reads Godzilla comix on the plane

sometimes s/he takes a bride/groom
they adopt a kitten from the pound
until s/he begins to turn invisible
secretly starts smoking again / exhalations
of clouds and ash on the back porch

newly single / monster’s her go-to form
glitter and hiss and growl and spit and claw

the dragon tattoos of firemen
a talisman against burning
calling in her quenching
tonnage of water to them

the resolute voice of miki endo
dragon’s turtle messenger
calling out loudspeakered warnings
calling the silvery fury in

she’s the kind of dragon who’ll
demolish town hall / pluck out
the lone girl still manning
the disaster prevention office
to keep as her own choice pearl

s/he’s the kind of dragon who’ll
tear the world apart / toppling
institutions and tossing cars
troubling the nuclear reactor
down to its cracked fragile core

s/he’s the kind of dragon who
won’t stop until s/he’s unrepressed
the phoenix who dreams inside her
becoming her own mortal enemy
birthing her own monster bride

the nuptial bed’s self-immolation

honeymoon’s toxic / apocalypse of flame

Poem of the Week: December 21st, 2014

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose most recent collection of poetry, Almost Rain, was published by River Otter Press. He’s also one of our 2014 Pushcart Prize nominees. More of his work can be found in Volume 3, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

UNTITLED
By Simon Perchik

You can still make out the stars
though it’s noon and the beach
changes – you can tell by the feel

and listening for engine scrap
breaking apart, smelling from smoke
expects you to stand up barefoot

keep struggling with shoreline
– you’re not new to this
will start the grill weeks ahead

as if stars are never sure
are milling around, forgot all about
the darkness you’re breathing in

and no way now to pick and choose
the fires however small or close
to some ocean or daylight

till it creaks and your mouth
no longer lit for kisses
and songs about nothing.