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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Poem of the Week: December 14th, 2014

Our poem of the week, another of our Pushcart Prize nominees, was written by Alexander Lumans. He is currently the Spring 2014 Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University. His poem, “What We Don’t Know About Natalie Portman Can Still Hurt Us” is from Volume 3, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Alexander Lumans

Natalie Portman is a calving glacier. She is not
               long for the world before she turns
               a series of colorful, textbook evaporations.
And rumor has it
               she was once an invasive school of Asian carp,
but she kept landing facedown in our ice chests.     Twice,
                    she made a living
by selling those silver collector spoons – who doesn’t
have this empty space inside his heart? In the eye of the storm?
               Natalie Portman is No Man’s Land.
And those ambient sound players –
                         the kind with settings like “Whales”
                    and “Whales Talking”
and “Whales Talking about How They’re Suprprised
that We (Humans) Know that They (Whales) Can Talk”?
               -that’s her.
And me? I was born too late with the distinct desire
                    to collect all things porcelain:
                         1) Dolls
                         2) Natalie Portman’s zygomatic bone
                         3) Butter dishes
Naturally, I found my way back to the sea, only to find it
               had risen. And was backward.
                                        I blame her.
               O Natalie, no one knows where the afterlife starts,
only that we’re always tacking in that one direction,
               chewing gum that’s just lost its cotton candy flavor.
Come winter, you detect a lot of buzz with a lot of info
                                                  that’s not right.
The truth about Natalie Portman is that her heart is growing
               on the outside of her body.           I believe this is it.
Too dangerous to do anything around here but stay the same.
               Having once been startled by the line
                                   “the sight startled him,
like a drawer flung open to an intimacy of spoons,”
I had three hundred questions.     Namely, is “intimacy”
a hive term – as in a pod of cetaceans
                                        or a 16-piece dinnerware set
               of Aegean Mist? Second: why am I all of a sudden
crying?           She is a glass-bottom boat.
               A thousand thousand years ago
Natalie turned to ice. Watch closely as I extract a core sample.

Poem of the Week: December 4th, 2014

Amber Rambharose, one of our 2014 Pushcart Prize nominees, runs Forthcoming Poets and is an Assistant Editor at YesYes Books. More of her work can be found in Volume 3, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Amber Rambharose

We were in the bathtub and it was just us
and the tub was empty and it was strange
to sit in an empty place – white as bone
and dry as bone and robbed of its purpose.

I didn’t want to do it. No, I did. I wanted to
peel back her cracked lips or peel back love –
the word, what it actually is underneath
the sound and what it does to the body.

I didn’t want to kiss her but I was born
to do it. I loved my little sister and our father,
watching over, smiling and the camera
lens, smiling and there was no water

in the bathtub so I knew it wasn’t bath time
and there was nothing else to do.

Pushcart Nominations

It’s been a busy fall, both personally and professionally, and we’ve been a little discouraged at the delays we’ve run into putting our 6th issue out. Ugh, poetry! we’ve said more than once. But this week, we spent some time rereading our 2014 issues, poem after poem after poem, and my god, what an honor it is to do this work. We are beyond delighted to nominate the following poems for the Pushcart anthology.

From burntdistrict Fall 2014 (Forthcoming December 2014)

Steven Schroeder Literally

Gregory Mahrer Adiago with Bell and Lantern  

Nandini Dhar Dream Collection

From burntdistrict Spring 2014

Alexander Lumans What We Don’t Know About Natalie Portman Can Still Hurt Us

Simon Perchik Untitled (First Line: You can still make out the stars)

Amber Rambharose The First Time I Kissed Her

Best of luck to these poets, and many thanks to all of those who share their work with us.

All best,

Liz and Jen

Poem of the Week: November 20th, 2014

Meg Cowen’s chapbook, When Surrounded By Fire, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. More of her poetry can be found in Volume 1, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

Blanche Barrow, to her husband Buck (brother of Clyde) outside Platte City, MO, July 1933
By Meg Cowen

My father named me Blanche
because it never snows
where we’re from. But I can’t
whitewash the berry patch
this backseat has become.

Don’t mind that chiming, it’s only
my eyes closing on glass and reopening,
reborn as clusters
of quartz. If my eyes

can do this, why don’t my fingers
thin out to bone needles
and sew up this hole in your head?

I can feel your thoughts
throbbing out in the shape of
but don’t apologize
to me, keep your guts down

until we get to Iowa or at least
long enough to end up somewhere
I can lay you out in the flinty grass.
I’ll etch your face into my eyelids,
like a medieval woodcut.

Wouldn’t a good wife let you bleed out
into her own hands
for four days?

My eyes are folding in
on their last bezeled tree line,
but I see well enough to know
that you, darling, are no Lazarus.