Scoundrel Time

Poetry

Text and Flame

The news brings such terrible stories—   The girl who kept texting a friend to give up the weight of his worries, and bring his own life to an end. The woman who fought against fire found dead in a national park, shamed in an unending furor— A...

kayfabe

who will prosecute the wind’s unconstitutional surveillance of skin? hands up if they told you snowflakes speak for diversity. * I held my breath like a basketball passing through the projects to pan-am plaza. my sister concealed steel blades, a...

Prayer

There ought to be a prayer for the little exhaustion of light where bullets worm clear through the apples clinging to limbs. There ought to be a prayer for the flesh they pass through, the space left, bits blown into grass, that they resemble teeth...

Transept

Unlike me, she made a choice, chose Indian over Chinese, because she felt she looked more Indian than Chinese. It “takes strength” to choose. At age five, while playing near her feet, my grandmother knitted sweaters for me because she was always...

Genesis

Then Adam, to reluctant Eve  Said, come, my love, it’s time to leave This wilderness, why grudge and grieve?— We’ll name the creatures as they pass— White oryx, bonobo, wild ass, The dodo, lynx, rhinoceros. Eve hushed her pair of squabbling...

Alien Language

Day in, day out, I go over my vowels, my back-to-back consonants, my stress and intonation. I am at the mercy of an alien language. I hide under it pieces of a previous life: the memory of a first kiss in Tehran; Mom’s chador being my childhood...

words made flesh

I am reading about a 400-year-old document found in a gap in the buttocks of a statue of Jesus in the Cathedral of Burgos when restorers removed a piece of fabric used to cover Christ’s behind when K. says she is perplexed by her extreme repulsion...

Thirty years pass and

Again I dream I’m stuck in a room with my rape—my rapist is long gone and it’s just me and the rape now. I could say that the rape was a beast with red eyes breathing smoke and fire at me But, no, it’s just a tired looking thing (a big one) piled up...

My Mother’s Alzheimer’s Test

He said: Who is the president? And she said: George. Did she get partial credit for that? Maybe three points for the trio of Georges, or just one for the George who invaded Iraq. She couldn’t count backward from one hundred in sevens. Can you? If...

Kin

When you have to kill every motherfucker in the room accept no substitute is what he says as he shows off his 26 guns, which don’t include the one near the rack of ribs on the kitchen table, or the one making company with dust left in a gap between...

Let us draw near

“No day shall erase you from the memory of time,” Virgil, The Aeneid, National September 11 Memorial Museum Ten days after 9/11 my father’s heart exploded, his life collapsing in a matter of moments. We could not find each other in our own familiar...

Two Poems by Aaron Smith

The Trump Years The fireflies are lit and the field makes a Rothko with the sky. The stray cats eat food my mother left—the sound of their bites like someone unwrapping a package. The gray one sneaks up behind me, runs when I try to touch its head...

Sphinx

A sugar sphinx is lying on her stomach the balls of her knees pressed hard into the ground palms of feet kissing like this so everyone can see everything so you won’t try to look away so you can add her to the collection so you can memorize the pull...

“As yet but knock, breathe, shine”

–from Donne’s Holy Sonnets in this time of terror that has yet to make the flesh of the bourgeois bleed, though our souls tatter in this time of the cruelty in our names against which we send money and signatures through the electric...

Two Poems by Ed Ochester

Trump in the 19th Century the following lines are from Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now, 1875 This man was undoubtedly a very ignorant man. He had probably never read a book in his life, had no preference whatever for one form of government...

June 16, 2016

  I am listening to talk radio as I drive home to visit my mother Who has Alzheimer’s and is in a diabetic coma. A hot day in late June, orange barrels dividing The bumpy lane I am driving on from the smooth black one Where the workers are...

The Truly Screaming Baby

Thank God says the woman in 13E we’re not back there she means back there with the mom with the truly screaming baby and the two toddlers to boot (by God she’d never boot these two) these other two who didn’t once between them...

Elegy in Glass & Stone

Crows working the ground, picking at husks. Harvest one place starves the rest, crosswinds can’t be read, and nothing can parse the syntax of the soul. Listen: it’s the thin wail of a world gone wrong; what takes cover under the tongue is the song...

Two Poems by Jeanne Larsen

Singing, Studying on Whiteness, This Penelope Strings along suitors & the lyre-warp of her loom. On last night’s unspun body bag, weaves pictures: deployed youths, broken masts, horses’ heads hacked. An infant prince flung from a tower tall as a...

Flotsam

Flotsam (In memory of America) We find ourselves where the waves drag bodies onto the beach.  Our fingers rake the sand, our breath salts the air, shells and seaweed spill from our pockets like strange currencies.   Out there somewhere float...

Hold

Where, where are the tears of the world? —Roethke, “The Lost Son” I. I am reading this book about human consumption, how our sense— and headlong pursuit—of thriving depend, in institutional, ineradicable ways, on resource depletion. To the point not...

End to the Brief Unbeaten Streak

La vía del tren subteraneo es peligroso.   Several board (everyone faking shut-eye), pull out the students of history (ID’d by their lesson plans). Too late for remedial anything. Asked to pass. Told where to stand. Detention. Dawnbirds grackle...

Two Poems By Kate Lynn Hibbard

Present Fashions of Dress All dress must transact its weighty work, changing old modes and boldly innovating thought and intellect to render it progress. Our present fashions of feminine attire are in harmony with the swiftness and force of a...

Three Poems By Ashley M. Jones

Mary, Don’t You Weep, or, Mary Turner Resurrected When Mary Turner threatened to press charges for the wrongful lynching of her husband in Brooks County, GA on May 19, 1918, she was strung upside down, her clothes were burned off, and her unborn...

CHOOSING ALTERNATE FACTS, FEBRUARY

An iris dares to bloom. Six wasps chastise a window from inside, ignore an open door nearby. For hours. They walk the window. One by one, four mount The rod I level to the pane, Lift out the door. Two more resist. Afraid, enraged? They lift their...

Bog

And when they come at last to pull him from his throne of gold, what waits for them has neither name nor shape, is something huge, amorphous, all but still—until it moves, its sides begin to ooze like a spreading stain, but thick, gelatinous, a...

fall awake

fall awake we are walking to find the sunset children of the West need to watch the colors change to know we exist we braid the flags of our mothers into our locks we tie ourselves to our histories to keep from dissolving we sing the blues and print...

Runt

Soon there will be an eclipse ploughing a dark swath across the country from Portland to Charleston, everyone is waiting to see what kind of hole will be punched in their universe, everyone is buying smoky glasses from Walmart to hide squints and...

Two Poems by Peycho Kanev

__________ Creating in Reverse This world is created by language and everlasting light of nouns and gerunds coexisting within the shell of silence. Even the tiniest miracles can happen under a snowflake— If anyone asks if you lost your faith tell...

Waiting for Them To March on Us

As we link arms (mine far from steady) she tells me, before sunrise every morning her grandfather would gather twigs, and slowly he would begin to spin and as he spun, his arms would rise, head lifting, back arching, all spiraling up while he began...

Poems By Reginald Dwayne Betts

Secrets At two a.m., without enough spirits Spilling into my liver to know enough To call my tongue to silence, Miles learned Of the years I spent inside a box: a spell, A kind of incantation I was under; not whisky, But History: I robbed a man...

Two Poems By Tony Hoagland

DINNER GUEST The dinner guest goes upstairs to use the ladies room, and after she has washed her hands, just out of curiosity takes a peek in the medicine cabinet- where among the Nyquil and Ativan and dental floss she sees a bottle labeled Male...

Two Poems by Martha Zweig

Beauty Sleep  Kwitcher bitchin, dad snorted. Shut yer yap up. I hated the salt stinging my cheeks, it curdled my sass. Little blue gas flames itched in the kitchen. A pudding seethed, the better to set. Pulpy crushed gripes folded in. Bard: the...

Gwine Dig a Hole (A Blues Opera): Scene I

  GWINE DIG A HOLE is dedicated to the life, memory, family, and friends of Philando Castile. I have no eloquent, clever statement to make in the dedication. The libretto says what I think. -Ozzie Jones __________ Characters Old Man Old Woman...

Thoughts & Prayers

  This poem is composed of the public language around mourning over school shootings, all of it verbatim from political leaders or shopping and news sites.   Hashtag PrayFor   Thoughts and   No child, teacher; there’s just no other...

Alien

Hi friend. The Arcadia Machine and Tool .22 fired into your left temporal lobe and now lies buried in your parent’s yard next to the yellow poppies. Strange what we bury in language. The root of temporal is tempus meaning time, or temporalis meaning...

Protégé

(1) The street between the subway station and the church is narrow, cars beaded along both sides like rosaries God in His hurry to the rain’s press conference had forgotten on top of the sock drawer. Sidewalks like teeth crammed into too-small gums...

A Safe Trip to Your Final Destination

We have stowed our carrion items, as instructed, in the overhead compartments. The roadkill squirrels stacked nicely, not so the feral goat, souvenir of a mountain holiday. In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, we will activate our own...

Portfolio: Poems by Fady Joudah

Declaration of Independence I am the one I think you are. Could it be that when the body ended, history started and when the body persevered it was rediscovered? I am the one you think I am. In a show of hands the captain asks for a Cave of Hands...

Six Questions for Fady Joudah

Interview by Christine Mallon Scoundrel Time: Can you talk about how or why poetry has stayed with you throughout your time as a physician? Is the practice of each tied to the other?  Could you also talk about being an Arab-American poet in America...

How It Ends: The Donald’s Going

The Donald’s Going (With apologies to W.B. Yeats) Rooting and rooting in the White House drain The plumber cannot hear the moving men; Things go in boxes; the hairspray takes up four; Marine One has lifted from the lawn, The orange-tinged...

Trumpoems

  Note: When he sent us these “Trumpoems,” Joshua Weiner noted that “They are made from the President’s own words, mostly. They are terrible, but are they terrible enough for these times?” Can’t Touch This If Ivanka weren’t my...

Poems by Paul Otremba

The Representatives   When they showed up at my ready door, it was their taste for flesh that misled me, and it was a picture produced later that confirmed what provisional and corrupt intelligence we’ll go on, and successfully. They were not...

The Beauty of the Ship

When, staunchly entering port,
After long ventures, hauling up, worn and old,
Battered by sea and wind, torn by many a fight,
With the original sails all gone, replaced, or mended,
I only saw, at last, the beauty of the Ship.
__________
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My Appointments

My appointments: Maple Syrup. Pertussin. Recusals. Refuseniks. Dutch aunts. Dachshunds. Irish setters. Nodules. Old oatmeal. Truffles. Bone density. Sebaceous cyst. Pain in the crown. The Neck. Rattle of the Time Machine. No Back Ups for Ninety Days...

A Daybook for Late Summer, 2017

Antifascists say the time for waiting is over, or rather that fascism will only grow stronger if we wait for it to grow stronger. I’m scared. ¨ Tonight’s sky was a foreboding beauty, the kind that makes the heart fold in like the...

Two Poems By Virginia Beards

Song for the Camo Girls and Boys “You know in Africa no woman ever misses her lion and no white man ever bolts.” -The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Ernest Hemingway   They grin from ear to ear In camo artfully splotched For grinning...

Poems By Erin Hoover

PR Opportunity at the Food Bank It’s Thanksgiving and I’m at a dinner service with a journalist, trying to wedge my fable about urban generosity into the newsroom’s mollusk heart. I stand next to mothers, their kids shouting Christmas carols, also...

The Peace Grant

No singing of any kind. All year the rooms dark. Then a week of lights. The owners have returned, their daughters haunt the balconies. One of them looks at me and doesn’t look away. A thousand years pass. Whatever happened in that moment, what...

Not Seeing the Friend of God

To get to the Old City of Hebron, al-Kahlil, medieval Ottoman city of white and lustered limestone and to the souk where chickens roasted on rotisseries, lambs and rabbits hung on meat hooks, wasps buzzed near bins of nuts and candies, and I bought...

My 6th Grade Teacher

Mr. Barren chose two boys each week to swim with him at the downtown Y back when it was male-only–to swim nude in the cool chlorinated waters amid schools of old men, their buoyant testicles and laps without end. One girl got to sit on his lap...

Girltrap

I This game is a machine involving bowling balls, sipping birds, boots, babies, bullets, pulleys, and rope. Begin at the beginning. Measure the natural waist with tape and a wandering eye. Correct with strings pulled tight, tug with a foot in the...

Toothpaste

Translated by David Keplinger I danced with virtuosity, swingingly, elegantly, with two gorgeous short-haired women, as if I were Gene Kelly dancing with a young Méret Oppenheim and her twin. But it was a trick, a grift, a con. The women were...

Penult

Almost at the end of his long journey, but not quite near the end of his troubles, Ulysses, inveterate veteran of the endless war to wipe a culture off the map–maybe not for the first time– landed alone, abandoned by his men’s...

The John Doe Poems

John Doe at the Funeral Not a mourner just a bass player backing up the family on Will the Circle Be Unbroken nodding my head in prayer like I mean it like I believe it and almost I do when I watch Chummy get up and Big Steve and A.J. all these old...

In the Dark Times

In the dark times Will there also be singing? Yes, there will be singing. About the dark times. —Bertolt Brecht There will be prayer, too, but to a different god, and dread will lurk in the songs we sing. Doom in the timpani no matter what the tune...

Four Poems By Amanda Newell

For Adam, my student, in Walter Reed “Take One!” says the sticky by the AFG decals, but I don’t, though I want to, because—really— I have no claim to sacrifice, no stump swinging like a wind-wild bell, no appled fist, no marbled skin. Quite possibly...

The History of Wrongs

will take a while, doodle all you want. Dot a pupil on each pearl stacked to distraction on the margin. Argus froth out a hundred eyes of which by turn did sleep always a couple and the rest… Scribble the obvious. Life, friends, is… I cross-hatch...

Casino in Coharie Nation

Around a hairpin turn, not quite hidden inside a forest that has been trampled for tourism, strip malls disguised as native villages, façades of man-made wood, green confetti like grass littering the parking lot, wind catchers and arrows, tiny...

Eve Speaks

“ . ..and when they were in the field, Cain set upon his brother Abel and killed him.” –Genesis 4:8 Not the exile, nor the ceaseless toil, nor the pain of childbirth or the shame of nakedness; not the withering of blossoms, or the slow...

Comey: Cut-up

And then the nature of the person To lift the cloud Criminal in nature Turning Grandfather clock A whole lot of personal pain Lifting the cloud Being somebody who loves this country These were lies The nature of its work As a cloud Grandfather clock...

The Beginnings of Sorrows

In my country, number one for billionaires, prisoners, franchises offer menu consistency. What lies dormant today in the collective unconscious? Akin to tintype, sun prints itself on structures and skin. As we age our vocabularies expand with names...

The Well

Of the two men at the well, one is the bucket the other is lowering, hand over hand, into the well, a rope strung around the bucket man’s shoulders, beneath his arms, between his genitals and thighs. The weight of the bucket man is making the rope...

James Franco Private Event

It is snowing outside in the woods of New Hampshire, each flake unique and crafted by James Franco. The radish in my wax paper bag of carrots and celery—it is the face of James Franco shaking up my lunch. James Franco has designed a line of...

Next Election

Maybe inject chlorophyll beneath skin to grow own food as we go. Maybe clutch in each palm handfuls of fat as hedge against vanishing animals. Maybe class up cursing with smattering of Latin. Maybe drive to supermarket stunned by afternoon sun faint...

Against All Evidence

Because we cannot believe in God the Monster entirely but believe in God the Monster a little, we’ll never be elected. We own these souls. Won’t someone fix them, uncover and preserve forever patches of sidewalk sun to sit in? In this game we walk...

Things We Say

After latest tragedy, let’s drift asleep listing words for what fish oblivious in waters do: plunge, glide, dive, sway. Our daily allowance of banalities includes again that strange phrase, “realistic fiction.” Among many nevers: Billionaire or...

Final Animal

Translucent amphibian or molecular invertebrate, scavenging rodent or stubborn ungulate, whatever it is endures all manner of onslaught for that imaginable unimaginable forthcoming moment it’s the last thing blinking and breathing in landscape...

How to Build a Monument

Carving out the walls of Zion A desert river called The Virgin Urged us to sit that night. You know. The night my head caught fire And the stars kept falling And the splash of moon on the water made it certain That earth and sky go on and on and on...

It Will Rain

At the salty rim we long for raindrops, umbrella-shaped dancing on a picnic plate, settling down the dust in their hurry to spill old water into rusty tanks, surprising clover from ceded ground. The same precious well will mount on the same well...

Wing Banger

I have heard a cicada crawled out of the dark silences of the mountain after years eating its heart out, to join its luck its wet green wings clicking to the mountain choir dewdrop blackbird twig-snap stone-throw and the wind playing on things...

Greeting

New white folks
in the neighborhood
don’t know to greet
a stranger on the street.
They don’t mean
to be rude.
How long will it last, then –
How ya doing?
Eye to open eye.

Pox Americana: A Roll Call: 5/4/17

(@ the 217 Congressional Representatives who voted to “repeal & replace” the ACA, each one up for reelection in 18 months) You will someday sicken and someday, sure as taxes, vote no more. You will someday sicken and someday, sure as taxes, vote...

Words Fail Me

And it’s not one of these old-age lapses caused by blinking brain synapses. And it’s not a matter of speechless awe at something I just saw on YouTube—a toilet-flushing cat, or commensurately gifted brat. Sometimes, it’s true, I lose a noun or two...

Porcelain and Glass

Summer halfway trundled up, the July rain rasps down our nighttime roof and window glass, the road out front rivering to ruts of pebbled sand, where soil bleeds veins between clumps of grass. At dawn the cat stands stunned at doorway’s edge, tail...

Incident at the Western Border

She vanished before they could shoot her: left only an atmosphere of mist, brume of body which blew inland in a myriad of droplets, a haze of nard and cinnamon touched softly with myrrh and cassia, floating like pamphlets scribbled in a foreign...

swell

  I have never had a mother, or, no longer have or, once did, briefly, for a day or two. Perhaps she was only mine   during the wet crown of hours I spun my skull through her ripe & widening cunt, then fastened to her nipple—   a...

the last time

I did it alone. Not in bed where I’d willed myself dead for so many years I became apparition not in the bathroom where I fed my body to a hungry blade & cut down my hair with a match. It was not in the arms of the man I tried over & over to...

fusillade for my mother’s brain

  You spoiled mound complicated by static you skull-born satellite launched from a splintered mirror you doom-hatched agony steady as piss you childless guilt scorched in fog you blazing delirium un-teaching my name you sideshow daydreamer...

dead radio apostle

Heels in stirrups, knees pitched above my hips, I am blinded by every measured breath required before each push— a cold, unnatural discipline. I was taught to focus on something in the room, to distract from the hell-rigged pain knifing me from the...

glutton

you write poems to understand what you cannot understand. name the beast you’ve been trying to outrun your entire life. you’re forty & it’s time to stop avoiding. halt the fogged spin of language that redirects the eye. say what you mean...

Dura Mater

I carried death inside me for several days, waiting That man had no ticket to the concert; he pressed his ear to the wall, but no song found him Bees were swarming; they made sleeves and a hood around me when I stood still All winter a deep booming...

Vanishing Point

For as far as we can see, they trudge across swirling sand toward us At the gate, one child’s blinks, such a uniform degree of metronomic motion with inky lashes—they seem to make an audible click, the second hand of memory, calligraphic Tropics of...

“Appropriate and Just”

 

Diplomacy? A bother and a bore.
In fact, who needs a diplomatic corps?
Who needs cables and epistles?
When you launch a bunch of missiles,
you can lift your polling numbers from the floor.

Greens

The city built a retaining wall at the edge of the cemetery to prevent old bodies from sliding out onto the street. Take the civic hand and walk in the sun. Whether or not you have lost everything, there is nothing to lose in finding yourself on the...

Colony

A splash of gasoline, a match, my brother poking it with a shovel. I was too young to have an opinion yet knew it was wrong. Even if the haystack pile of it grew each day more troubling beside the swingset, beside the prim lines of carrots in the...

Election

Schoolchildren wait in seven, six, five, four straight lines that sway and shimmer as they’re led away until a winged V arrows south, and they see the pointed shape of flight from home, an escape— though they read liberty in motion, not need for...

Flamboyan (Royal Poinciana)

  I always wanted to be that woman That brazen hussy clothed in red The color of a torch singer’s lips or a rooster’s wattle Fecund, inflamed, unashamed My trembling limbs spread wide In rampant, ecstatic bloom Defying you and your mortal fears...

This Is Us (Oxycodone Song)

  What was it Mavis said about the marble, re: Da Vinci, or was it Michelangelo, you know, that the job is, some- how, the careful removal of what isn’t needed—of what’s getting in the way? Something like that? Google it, I said. She’d been the...

The Mothers on the Wall

Stant pavidae in muris matres oculisque sequuntur Pulveream nubem et fulgentes aere catervas. -AENEID VIII 590-1 The fearful mothers standing on the wall, the cloud of dust they follow with their eyes: millennia pass, and nothing’s changed at all of...

American Patriot: A Portfolio

Poems by Jim Daniels, Photographs by Charlee Brodsky   Size Matters Imagine singing “Oh, say, can you see” to a flag you can’t see. That’s what graduate students at the University of Texas at Dallas had in mind when they...