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.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT NATALIE PORTMAN CAN STILL HURT US
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.

THE FIRST TIME I KISSED HER
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.

HOW YOU SPARKLE WITH HALF YOUR HEAD GONE
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
clementines,
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.

Poem of the Week: November 12th, 2014

Our poem of the week, “Beatrice: 285 Mt. Vernon,” was published in Volume 1, Issue 1 of burntdistrict. Kelly Fordon’s work has also appeared in The Kenyon Review (KRO), Flashquake, Red Wheelbarrow, The Windsor Review, The Bear River Review, Voices in Wartime and various other journals.

BEATRICE: 285 MT. VERNON
By Kelly Fordon

I was new to the neighborhood. You’d seen me pregnant, galumphing up and down. One day you showed up at my door with a gift basket. You’d just had your baby. Your husband was from the thumb, his hair stiff as Florida grass. Your baby’s name was Mavis. “They cry a lot,” you warned me. You gave me Crabtree and Evelyn Primrose Bath Beads. “You’ll need a bath,” you said. Turned out you needed more than that. It was hot so you needed to cut your pants off with kitchen shears. You needed to run through the street in your birthday suit. You needed to take a sledgehammer to the wall. Your baby wasn’t blowing raspberries, she was sending you messages: Run naked down Mt. Vernon Avenue, take the kitchen knife and… When you came back weeks later, I was still pregnant. I watched you shuffle Carrie-like up and down the streets with your caregivers, your husband, your mother. Then the medication took and you went on to get your real estate license, paint the fence Tom Sawyer white. But, I will always see you naked at noon doing pirouettes in the middle of the street. It was awful. It was amazing

Poem of the Week: November 3rd, 2014

Jeff Whitney is a co-founding editor of Peel Press, a new home for genre-bending literary book art. Recent poems have appeared in Devil’s Lake, Salt Hill, Thrush, and Verse Daily. More of his work can be found in Volume 3, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

ON A HILL OVERLOOKING A CITY
By Jeff Whitney

Those little flags of town
could be toothpick top
for all these grinning
know. Maybe if we’d lived
under a different sun
we’d say good luck
a little less. Flowers
might tilt like little drunks
in their borrowed clothes.
However concerned we might be
a gazelle would be
doubly, born as it is
spring-wired and bounding.
A gazelle must not know though
how inaccurately we measure
loss. How likely it is
to be at a bus stop again
combing hair in a mirror
or looking at something
very far away. How
we all keep hummingbirds
in our pockets but forgot
long ago the reason
for carrying such things.

Poem of the Week: October 22nd, 2014

Eric Weiskott, author of “Submit Seasonal Poems Two Months in Advance,” is a PhD student in English Language and Literature at Yale University. In addition to scholarly articles on Old and Middle English poetry, he has published poems in Canopic Jar, Cricket Online Review, Versal, and elsewhere.

SUBMIT SEASONAL POEMS TWO MONTHS IN ADVANCE
By Eric Weiskott

I am writing autumn poems
in June, Doctor, my liver hurts,

I have started thinking in words
I don’t recognize. Please help me

kill myself. I love the summer
and what the fall inherits,

trees, the clarity of nighttime.
It is fall during each season

separately, but especially
during summer, which sometimes begins

two months in advance, and sometimes
earlier, the chicks melt, sometimes

summer begins in other countries,
in advance, indiscernibly,

one day it is clear to people
through and through.

Poem of the Week: October 15th, 2014

Susan Aizenberg is the author of a full-length collection of poetry, Muse, from Crab Orchard Poetry Series/SIUP and a chapbook length collection of poems, Peru. More of her work can be found in Volume 2, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

MORNINGS
By Susan Aizenberg

She would have cooked
his breakfast, eggs sunny-side up,
runny the way he liked them,
strong boiled coffee poured
and waiting, better than the diner.
But before the train screaming
through tunnels, his windowless office,
the idiots he had to “sir,”
he needed a space without her
or his children, so he dressed
in a crack of light from the bathroom,
held his shoes by two fingers,
and left them sleeping. That walk

to the diner was his time, last stars
fading out, sky lightening
from black to blue to white.
He walked in all weather,
let each season touch him all over,
lifted his face equally to rain
or sun. He liked to watch the old
houses stir awake, to nod to the woman
in her slippers on 27th, smoking
as she strolled her little mutt.
To step back smoothly
from the paper boy’s wild toss.

Milk bottles sweated on doorsteps,
sweet cream left on top,
and once, though he never told
this, he lifted one from its wire basket,
drank it down, right there, under
his neighbor’s winking porch light,
left the empty on the stoop.

Poem of the Week: October 1st, 2014

Carolyn Hembree’s first collection of poetry, Skinny, was published by Kore Press. Her poetry can also be found in Volume 1, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

WHAT PLACE THEN FOR A CREATOR?
By Carolyn Hembree

The dead girl decks herself in redbud, red algae, red-shouldered hawk for me

She swims through reeds to my sick room

She burns sassafras in the mountain cave

She steeps black elder tea

She reads is smoke is smoke is smoke

She hangs gourds in a chinaberry

She hangs chinaberry and owl in eventide

She charms me with water mocassins

She charms them from water from skins from cans of lard

She puts her fingers and tongue through a treillage of green heron horse nettle

She molds double vowels to her gums – sweet gum woolly adelgid

She speaks through fever dreams in tongues without skulls

She is like the blood thrown from my window

She greens my sunken chassis in splendor

               o earthen vessel                o living water                o algaeic angel

Poem of the Week: September 24th, 2014

Alex Lemon is the author of Happy: A Memoir (Scribner), and the poetry collections Mosquito (Tin House Books), Hallelujah Blackout (Milkweed Editions), and Fancy Beasts (Milkweed Editions). His poem, “Life Coach,” can be found in Volume 1, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

LIFE COACH
By Alex Lemon

O moral courage, O Barry
White-sized doses of human

Growth hormone. Gird your
Loins, grasshopper: Blood

Clots are branching up to
The heart of each person you

Love. In the preternatural light
Before the sun rises, every home

On your block, foggy with dream
Fumes, has, for one imperfect second

Of lightning zaps & rodent
Bites, a 50-50 chance of becoming

A mound of smoking dirt.
Your child’s EZ-bake oven

Has been recalled. Do not
Weep. You must be strong.

A mother is leaving her two
Kids in the car. Listen up.

Feel it. Already, the temperature
Is a dozen above 100.