winter 2012

love like mad
mad like love
some people don’t like
poetry, it can all seem so very frivolous when the bodies stack
up, when the earthquake rumbles and decimates and
sighs its resignation, when chance or a hard-on has
left you with a bullet in your side, odes and sonnets just
aren’t hip let’s face it
they are the flowery enemies of the very market forces that forever seek out the hip
in dumpsters, in coffee shops, in your underpants
hip drains us all
of any kind of meaning
beyond our appeal
hip is the new currency that can elect and bankrupt
hip sells more cars than Henry Ford ever did
I am not hip and
neither are you
reading this poem has made
you less hip by 1/12 x 7 %
multiply that by √ 7 and you will have orgasms gushing out of your nose
and that is definitely not
hip, your city
would be a brilliant city if you
didn’t live there
I don’t mean that as an insult
I just mean
to say that if you could step
back and view it from the
kind of perspective one
only gets in Nebraska
in between the ears of corn you
could view your shimmering citadel,
spires gleaming beyond waste
disposal areas, your beloved skyscrapers
would glimmer all the greater from a country lawn strewn
with tires and old dolls, it may benefit you spiritually to
stare at your city on the horizon
with the smell of manure in your nostrils
inside a truck full of Mexicans telling bleary-eyed tales from the twelve hour workday
their laughter the worm
in the tequila of their pain, it may benefit you financially to
talk about the old neighborhood to a former minority resident
pushed onto some monotonous strip mall highway
while your urban friends paint frescoes all over his old walls
Gentrification, Oh Gentrification
please tell me of your splendid ramifications
are we young artists any better than Custer
when we invade and displace with every band member we can muster?
give me your mullets, your Budweiser, your slack-jawed meth-heads
your fundamentalists speaking in tongues performing exorcisms on chickens
your trailer park messiahs beaten down with nothing left but football to believe in
your teenage prostitutes looking to score drugs in the parking lots of fast food chains
your customer service sweethearts slingin’ fries and losing too many Friday nights they will never get back
I see the poetry in
you, the contemplative gasps in
dangerous places, the depths of
feeling on impoverished faces
I loathe the sterility of the hip
urban non-smoking Zen gardens of
the urbane, white-walled and white-populated
houses of the insane
all you forsaken children of the country
and spurned lovers of the ‘burbs
who now find yourselves held dearly in metropolitan hands;
your sheets are steamy like sewer grates at a one a.m. stop light
above which you make love in positions that rival architectural visions
staring into eyes as blue as cop’s uniforms and the frozen lips of the homeless they march out of town
arms and legs crossed like exit ramps as the traffic rushes, speeds, and honks through your heart,
you must love this city
do not treat her like a fling
for all those doomed to tread forever upon aisle three of the Wal-Mart
on some journey for towels that just never ended
passing the bullies and scoundrels, progenitors of their dysfunction
in that long row of bathroom accessories under torturous fluorescent lights
can you feel their gaze behind you
in the halls of the museum?
can you smell their unwashed feet
in the restaurant owned by the world famous chef?
can you hear them burping and laughing
by the watercooler of your office?
can you see them drinking six-packs
watching the joggers run by in the park?
so many dream of entering the vagina of a city
that sparkling womb where we all dance in amniotic fluid
in the hottest club where we all sweat beats
and you laying with such a rapturous beauty
releasing poetry between the steel girders of her loins
are you really too hip for enjoyment,
too hip for the carnal, too hip for the divine?

Benjamin Schmitt

She stormed into the dimly-lit study in her sleep shorts and baggy grey sweatshirt drenched in sweat, brandishing the intricately woven web of string, feather, and beads. She shook it violently above her head as if it had a neck that could be strangled. “You said this would work, Jay!” A single feather fell from the ornate piece as she glared at her husband’s tired face, careless of what she may have interrupted in the delicate thoughts of the under-paid scholar. There was nothing beyond the horrifying images that constantly streamed through her head, like a filmstrip she could not stop running. She did not notice his equally tired eyes and the worried look that was beginning to permanently crease the space between his eyebrows.

“Annie…Sweetheart, you have to believe in it for it to work for you. The man in the store said that if you do not trust the dream-catcher, it won’t be able to help. You have to force them away; visualize the release of those thoughts and let it carry that burden for you.”

Her arm fell. She was so incredibly exhausted. Her downcast eyes brimmed with tears and she slumped to the floor in a delirious sob of defeat. “I can’t do it. I cannot imagine him away. It’s like trying to force these scars to jump off my skin and sear into someone else’s! It’s been a month and they still hurt me! All I think about when I try to fall asleep is his face staring at me from each bead—twenty of his faces—all waiting to come alive and tear me apart.  I’ll just sit there, counting each bead and wondering when they will attack me.” 

Annie sat, whimpering like child whose parents had forgotten her at an amusement park and drove twenty miles away, clutching her head with both hands as if doing so was the only way of keeping sanity inside. She rocked back and forth, shaking.

“Honey…Dammit.” Getting up from his seat, Jay knocked over the mug of lukewarm black coffee that had been standing post next to his keyboard all through the night. The noise of shattering ceramic caused Annie to jump. Eyes red, she looked over at the source of the noise. Wiping off his desk and floor with the paper towel he had used to clean his monitor earlier, Jay rose back up with as many shards as he could grab at once and walked over to the wastepaper basket near a window behind his wife. It was a small study, with more scattered papers than books. The dark green wallpaper was torn in many places from age and a lack of funds to replace them. 

As he neared the window, he saw his own reflection against the black night. His pale face and dark baggy circles made him look skeletal. He felt the pain that had been growing in his chest over the past few weeks; a piercing discomfort he had yet to see a doctor for. There was something he did not want to face when questions were asked about where the tension could be coming from. He turned and kneeled next to his sobbing wife. 

“This man, he won’t ever be able to hurt you again. They have him locked away and he will never see you or anyone else outside those bars again.” 

He paused, and taking one hand away from her head, held it in his own. He wondered if it was his imagination or if it actually felt like holding his grandmother’s hand when he was a child—frail, and colder than was comfortable. He looked at the hand for a moment and a different look began to shadow the creases between his eyebrows. The tiniest muscle movement changed the worry lines to anger. 

“Even if he could walk free, he would die before he even looked in your direction. I would kill him.” 

He looked back into her swollen eyes and felt the pain in his chest intensify. Her eyes had not changed and no comfort had been drawn from his words. He knew the thought before she had even opened her mouth. It was that tension he did not want to face, that he had buried deep within his own guilty heart and tried to imagine away as he busied himself in his work. 

“But Jay, you were here when he came. You didn’t even know it was happening.” 

All he could do was hold her, trembling on the floor. He knew he did not need to go to a doctor to find out that guilt was the greatest cause of the searing in his chest. Her inability to be touched anymore, the scars all over her stomach and thighs would haunt their marriage forever because he could have stopped it and was oblivious. He cradled his sobbing, petrified wife and all he could see now was the beads of the dream catcher, scowling at him from the floor.

I hate and I love. Maybe you need to know why? 

I don’t know, but it happens. I feel it, ripping me apart. 

– Gaius Valerius Catullus (ca. 84 BC – ca. 54 BC) – trans. by James Esch

I think of you and tendrils of despair 
entwine my heart. It chokes and gasps for breath
and yet I know your cold chair remains bare – 
will stay that way. How personal is death?
It never knew you like I did and yet
it came. Attacked. Left stone that aged and cracked
and weeds that sprout, transcend, can’t pay the debt  
to bring you back and so they grown and smack
your grave. Ensnare my heart. Wind fiercely blows
as in a winter storm. Summer has fled
and buds no longer tinge, ceasing to grow.
I have to face the fact that you are dead.
Occasionally, chirping birds bring hope
and gnarled branches reach down toward your grave. 

Meredith Madigosky

leaves limply curl like hands in death
donut glazed with frosty tips

sleet patters tiny pin drops  
forcing limbs to kiss the ground
white crushed lungs
from avalanches never threshed

like amphibians our bloodstreams slow
bitter winds cover our entwined 
tracks with snow 
unmarked graves
surrender glints from glassy eyes