Jane Rosenberg LaForge is the author of two poetry chapbooks: After Voices, from Burning River of Cleveland, and Half-Life, from Big Table Publishing Co of Boston. Her poem, “Grief in the Catskills,” originally appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.
GRIEF IN THE CATSKILLS
By Jane Rosenberg LaForge
She believes there is something
alive in me, like a flame cradled
in glass and wax; she believes
in her grandmother, and that air
is antiseptic. She is not so young,
but she is curious, and the curious
remain oblivious to what their
enthusiasms unleash. I am sealed
in my experiences and my tattooed
humiliations. Whatever else is left
is a sick, curdling seed she would
have spread into roots; fingers and
flickering needs that would garrote
my organs, my esophagus, all the
places where twigs and stems might
have their next spring, the principles
of testimony. I would rather my parts
removed and delivered to those who
once placed bets on their viability.
Air is catching, air is flammable,
like a click in the throat, a cough,
a cold, the lint of excuses as it
dives and burrows into fingernails
and the fillings of teeth; like how
unattended birdsong wavers at
the wind’s discretion, and how
monkeys swing from blackened
branches in the zoo in Berlin.
The graves are still there, aren’t
they? It’s been years since I’ve checked.
Rebecca Connors was raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and received her BA in English from Boston University. After trying multiple cities, she is back in Boston where she writes poetry and works as a digital strategist. “This is how to read me” can be found in Volume 3, Issue 3 of burntdistrict.
THIS IS HOW TO READ ME
By Rebecca Connors
Start left to right, keep
your eyes cross-haired
on my lines. Knock your teeth
against my consonants, my hardhearted
under haunted elms,
I found myself
detoured in the foothills –
found myself outside
your house. I will remind you
of the last time we crumbled
pecan pie, your fingers, absentminded,
rubbing my thigh.
Read me. Closer, I will
remind you of the tucked-hair
kisses. Serif-bound now,
I’m your ache in written words.
Keep your eyes on me as we move
to the next line, as we slide to the
last time. Use my hip as a guide
until you find us parting
on the highway, a handshake
at the gas station, receding
to smaller versions
William Cordeiro has recent or forthcoming work in Copper Nickel, Crab Orchard Review, CutBank online, Drunken Boat, Fourteen Hills, and elsewhere. More of his work can be found in Volume 2, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.
By William Cordeiro
Expect delays. Roadblocks, back roads. Snowblind
heaps and drifts. Lines of tumbled traffic cones.
Deer leap into your lane. Wind-twisted signs
for detours out. Abandon mobile homes.
The crumbs I’ve followed come from my old shoes.
Doors swing foreclosed. I peel away my face
as if a longneck’s label, hangnails, loose
ends – so much dead skin I’ve written off, unfazed.
The blizzard whistles sing-alongs. It’s on repeat.
Whiteouts. Black ice. You say I should embrace
mistakes. But I refrain. I turn down one-way streets.
I’m washed with the weather. You fade into space.
Aran Donovan’s poetry has appeared in the journals Rhino, New Ohio Review, and Southern Poetry Review. More of her work can be found in Volume 3, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.
on the up and up
By Aran Donovan
gallows make order
of witches and new
colonies but to find a ladder
trained up this building like
a climbing rose – there’s no
way past it even
for a simple task
I am so recently
recovered: my shadow kept
me, a pack of dogs
leashed shortly and insisting
on words like marooned.
of the moon are named
for loneliness or
Spanish governors, but I
am on the up and up,
compiling grocery lists:
no gate, no Beatrice, the moon
is not for you.
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?
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.
LIKE THE NEGATIVE SIDE
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
not those two.
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.
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.
ADAIGO WITH BELL AND LANTERN
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.
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.
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.