August 18th, 2014

Our poem of the week, “Heads & Tails,” comes from Volume 1, Issue 1 of burntdistrict. Carine Topal is a native New Yorker who writes and teaches in Los Angeles and the desert area. Her 3rd collection of poetry, In the Heaven of Never Before, was published in December 2008 by Moon Tide Press.

By Carine Topal

I will bury you – your husky giggle,
your gutterblood heart, your black iris,

its pupil, window to your circumsized life
beneath heaps of cobblestone we walked

near December street, cobble by cobble laid down
by peasants, prisoners, and Finns.

Bury you. I forget how I held you, there on the calendar
of marital moments, in the season of herring boats

and egrets, while the night sailed the slips of St. Petersburg.
Or I will throw you off the bridge of the four bronze horsemen

into a large Russian emptiness. What I never named,
what you left unspoken, I swallowed whole, watched,

as you sailed down the Rekoi Neva, past the glorious summer
palace, its gaudy turrets sparkling in the distance.

It was sunset, when the nets you wouldn’t live to see, came out,
spilling the near dead hip-deep to the fisherman,

heads and tails flapping. And there was spawning somewhere.
Somewhere other than where we were.

August 4th, 2014

Alec Hershman, author of our poem of the week, lives in St. Louis where he teaches at The Stevens Institute of Business and Arts. More of his work can be found in Volume 2, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

By Alec Hershman

Tracing a molar with your tongue,
searching for an attitude of no distinction,
an ease of feeling some let be, the clouds break.
A bit of lift in the eyebrows then, stubborn
and arcane, twin segments of wood
like a fork in the fallen tree
in whose dark the beetles whittle
soil into byzantine chambers, the fresh gray
pearls of the pill bugs, surprised
at your surprise. Imagine the face
is a covert clock, replete
with sprockets, Swiss precision.
There is a ticking in the conversation
and none of the others knows where it comes from.
Is this what is meant by private?
You laugh with your teeth to make a noise
to swallow the noise. There is always a nerve
to bury or a fence to erect. Need a hand someone said -
but what would you do with a hand
that’s not already shaken?

Poem of the Week: July 28th, 2014

Our poem of the week is “The Rain Alone,” published in Volume 3, Issue 1 of burntdistrict. Derek Pollard is co-author with Derek Henderson of the book Inconsequentia. He is also the editor of Barrow Street Press as well as a Black Mountain Fellow at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

By Derek Pollard

Suddenly, love, you are
A skein of chili peppers
Making the sky equidistant
To the sky, which is such
A bright and hugely blue

Just as the bushes
Go silver in the faltering
Blush, the sky becomes
Absolutely new in a way
That not even newness is
Wont to be but for you
Looking at it in just that
Way, which is queerly lit
With wonder and
Unexpectedness and is
The most colorful of trees

Desert mouse
Darting between, you are
Ever only that matchless
Joy we sometimes barely
See, and are perfectly
At ease in the smallness
That you clothe yourself in
That is the smallness first
Of the pebble carved by
Rain, and then of the rain

Poem of the Week: July 21st, 2014

Lizi Gilad is a 2012 Pushcart Prize nominee and an MFA candidate at UC Riverside’s Low Residency Program. Her work is published or forthcoming in Amethyst Arsenic, A-Minor, Country Dog Review, Literary Bohemian, Thrush, and others. Her poem, “Hosanna,” can be found in Volume 2, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Lizi Gilad

Save, we pray.
Save me.
Maybe mommy.
Maybe bee stings
or royal jelly.
Maybe infatuation:
hope in high heels,
a wax, flimsy underneaths.
Maybe hamster ovary cells.
Maybe machinery.
Maybe exercise.
Maybe sex and pheromones
afterward floating
like dust motes.
Maybe love. Love as in mountain.
Love as in swimming pool.
Maybe atonement, swinging
a chicken around the head.
Maybe more fat, less fat,
green juice, juice cleanse,
gluten free, meat free,
dairy free, sugar free.
Honey. Herbs.
Maybe the words
of the turbaned taxi driver
speeding me along the 280:
pray to Allah, beg
forgiveness for sins.
Maybe a laying of the hands.
Maybe little pink pills.
Maybe Om Nama Shivaya
in a strip mall yoga studio.
Maybe my child’s hands
digging in sand,
maybe watching the rows
of her todays, tomorrows.
Maybe Oprah.
Maybe rage.
A better haircut.
Another cupcake.
Maybe therapy.
Maybe poetry.
Maybe a weekend at Bethany Beach:
kneeling to the sun, kneeling,
and kneeling, and kneeling.
Maybe the bubble muscled men
in black tank tops at the corner
cupping flowers in their hands.
Maybe flowers. Fields of them.
Yarrow, chickory, blue vervain.

Poem of the Week: July 15th, 2014

Jenn Monroe, author of our poem of the week, is author of the chapbook Something More Like Love as well as the founder/editor/executive producer of Extract(s): Daily Dose of Lit. Her poem, “Newborn,” is from Volume 1, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

By Jenn Monroe

I have no reference point for babies,
their knowledge of shadows
and light. This one, head balanced
in the crook of my arm, is not mine,
yet we rock together at the edge
of this hospital room packed
with family. His mother winces
when she laughs, her incision fresh.
Eighteen, petite, she’s happy her son
did not get her red hair. He’s kicked
off his socks exposing dry white cracks
in pink skin. Everyone has been watching
the game for the past hour as I lean in
and out of his light. Let me see your eyes.
He refuses me. We will not save each other.

Poem of the Week: July 7th, 2014

Jim Peterson’s most recent poetry collections are The Owning Stone (Red Hen Press, 2012, winner of the 1999 Benjamin Saltman Award) and The Bob and Weave (Red Hen Press 2006). His new chapbook, The Resolution of Eve, is based on the last engravings of Goya. “Migration,” our poem of the week, can be found on Volume 1, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Jim Peterson

A vase half full of dirty water gathers light
on a windowsill in a house surrounded
by forest on a piece of forgotten land.
A book on the sill opens under the open window.
Breezes flip its pages until each leaf
has its own moment in the sunlight or in

cold shadow, letters long gone,
lifted off to become particles of air.
Clothes made for a man and a woman hang
on a line stretched between two trees so old
their voices uncoil from roots that plunge
into earth’s core and soar from the highest branch

to track the faraway scars of starlight.
The words in towns and cities resonate
with these arboreal voices and tear themselves
from books like a swarm of ants that crawl
over miles and miles of undergrowth and roots
and ancient deer trails and up the exterior wall

of this house. They fill the emptiness
of the book’s pages beside the vase
where their meanings surge and coalesce
in the candlelit attentions of the man and woman.
Sometimes the words form a choir and sing:
here are the seeds of new understanding

untouched by the past; here are the bodies
of a man and a woman entangled under the sweet
verbosity of leaves; here is the place where
something in the muddy water germinates,
concentrates like a face. The moon grows full
and round as the woman. The man sleeps

open-mouthed in the sun.

Poem of the Week: June 30th, 2014

Winner of the 2011 Nebraska Book Award for Poetry for her debut collection, Cradling Monsoons, Sarah McKinstry-Brown is also the author of “Persephone Writes Her Mother,” our poem of the week. More of her work can be found in Volume 3, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Sarah McKinstry-Brown

He promises I will learn to burn
beneath his gaze; that if I close my eyes

and tell him where to put his hands,

I’ll hear the babbling brook where I used to bathe. I’m always
thirsty. He says the body is a ladle. He says

you’ve set the world above us on fire
and all the rivers are flowing backwards. He says

the sky is falling, that the calves in the fields cannot drink
from their mother’s teat, and the grass doesn’t remember

being green. He says it’s my fault,
that if only I’ll soften beneath him, the sky will open.

His eyes are tongues, his arms, twine. I can’t sleep,
and when I dream, it’s always the same: you lean in to kiss

the top of my head, and I am pulled under. My hair, once famous to the sun,
gone anonymous,

fused with the old cottonwood’s roots.

Poem of the Week: June 26th, 2014

July Westhale is the author of our poem of the week, “If V. Woolf filled her pockets with balloons instead of rocks.” She was recently nominated as a Best New Poet for 2012 and 2013, for an AWP Intro Award, as well as a Creative Writing Fulbright. More of her work can be found in Volume 2, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

By July Westhale

Wires below are cutting land into property.
From above, the houses look like small, blockish heads,
chimney-mouths in surprised Os, long blurs of green fields
and strange silo shapes. Leonard will be sleeping,
dreaming of the kettle’s steam. And then the clouds
come up suddenly, shocking in large elephants of white hair,
faces unimpressed with your buoyed body, careful bun.
Go back to your man, your drawer full of letters, one softer cloud
motions. Stop being a fool with balloons. At once, you hit your head
on a black bit of plastic. You rattle the sky and stars.
The clouds tsk you, gathering together like a bouquet of black peonies.
You have reached the edge of the set, and there is nowhere else to go.

Poem of the Week: June 15th, 2015

Our poem of the week, [The Clouds Do Not Bother Us] by Russell Evatt, was published in burntdistrict Volume 2, Issue 1. Russell’s 2012 chapbook, We are Clay, won Epiphany Edition’s chapbook prize. His website is

By Russell Evatt

The clouds do not bother us
when we look for heaven. Always

we find a faint, veiled outline
like the ship on the horizon,

a dark memory
on the edge. The sea moves in waves,

garbling the language.
We’ve been a great distance

and the darkness has rolled back
enough to be honest.

In the guesswork
of light I heard: the figment

of god does not love you.
Meaning: I was not the only apparition

in the room. Meaning: there was a room.
Time’s running low,

the Eastern sky
an unreachable horizon of amber,

specks of definition, a fleet
idling on the soft ledge.

Poem of the Week: June 10th, 2014

Jordan Sanderson’s work has appeared in Phantom Limb, Caketrain, Double Room, Mad Hatters’ Review, and of course burntdistrict. More of Jordan’s work can be found in Volume 1, Issue 2 along with our poem of the week, “The River.”

for James Tate
By Jordan Sanderson

The goat with one horn swallowed the river whole, fish and all. It gave birth to catfish, which flounced in the afterbirth, making a new river. Floods fell from their fins. Hornets nested in a tree that grew from the absence of horn on the goat’s head. The people who had been skinny dipping when the goat started lapping at the current turned up in town still naked. No one could make clothes to fit them. The goat gnawed at pieces of a wreck that divers gave up on finding decades ago. The new river took a new course, but the few families around there accommodated it, letting it wash through their windows and out their back doors. Every night, they sat on its banks, built fires, bathed. They hoped no one would say the river had healing powers, though they felt significantly rejuvenated. Whether by water or turn of events, they couldn’t tell. The river did not smell like a goat, but some people said it made goat sounds. Maybe that’s why the goat refused to leave it and licked it so affectionately. Everyone lived too close to it to name it. They just knew it was there. The river carved a boat from its own water, and the people boarded gladly. They were always thirsty, even after they drank the last of the river. The river, they said, was in each of them, and they fell in love with each other. The most beautiful of them married the goat, lived like people who had watched their first loves drown.