The Myna Birds of 2017 are here!

13.

Fear at the Imagined Loss Shakes
 a Moment then Sneezes

Imagine: a shot in the skull, spending a last breath,
stirring birds into sudden circles of song,
darkness growing white,

the red, wet mange hunger leaves, bitten tongue,

heat spilling over (vomit & fear),
arms yawning until movement & stillness are one,

God stroking fish down the throat

while hearing everything He can’t forget,
until it’s possible to draw a line

across the water using wings for a broom.


(within the chapbook Cutting Eyes from Ghosts, now available for pre-order from Blood Pudding Press, HERE - https://www.etsy.com/listing/494588398/pre-order-cutting-eyes-from-ghosts-by?ref=shop_home_feat_1!)

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12.

Below Black Skies, Heavy Clouds Follow
 as Though with Legs

Stop & think of something
beautiful. The world is flipping over

itself & we can’t call this home. Look up
into the rain. Feel it burn, fill our lungs, fill the awful

wreckage behind us.
Step forward for baptism

until suddenly you are Peter Pan;
Touch me; we can fly.


(within the chapbook Cutting Eyes from Ghosts, now available for pre-order from Blood Pudding Press, HERE - https://www.etsy.com/listing/494588398/pre-order-cutting-eyes-from-ghosts-by?ref=shop_home_feat_1!)

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11.

To Live in the Body like a Room

If we’re quiet & listen, we can hear the dead

who’ve died hungry breathe.
Their bodies grow deep, crack earth, reach

for the white-hot eye of sun—

hands speaking, bones breaking, grips slackening.
The silence, a home; body, a room

we prop crosses upright in,

witness the smoldering candles slough, clot, taper
into torso, thighs, calves, feet, embed nails into palms,

scrape blood, feel the coming down—

death before resurrection; darkness before dawn.
This blood is ours—

Feel the grasp of hand,

the tongue, maw, the long kiss goodnight.
Clean the dirt & hide the smell.


(within the chapbook Cutting Eyes from Ghosts, now available for pre-order from Blood Pudding Press, HERE - https://www.etsy.com/listing/494588398/pre-order-cutting-eyes-from-ghosts-by?ref=shop_home_feat_1!)

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10.

non-new world heart of a girl from the new world 

            there’s a green skeleton underneath my bed
if you don’t believe me
have a look for yourself
but only at night, only with the lights off, and only
            with your hands covering your face
press real hard, harder, i say

the skeleton favors wednesdays over any other day
but mostly comes on saturday nights
            to which my mother says, he must
            like to stay up late because of the weekend
sometimes i think we’re peas in a pod in there
            in my room that’s full of fantastical creatures
            hand-sewn dolls, silky blankets, and scatch ‘n sniff stickers
the skeleton is a he
            but i’ve yet to give him a name

i lie when i sandwich between my parents, i say
he glows green, but he’s more like neon than florescent
he’s a green bubble around his bones, but he tells me like this, it’s not flesh
            don’t be fooled by the illusion, little girl
& i giggle because he’s got a british accent
he asks me, what do you know about the queens english?
            he gets all mad and says i’m midwestern
sleep-talk is what my cousin calls it
            she says i do it all the time even when i’m not sleeping

            he stares at me while digging in his ear, my brother does
he suffers from infections easily
he’s probably got the plague, i say to mom, who slips a casserole in the oven
i say things like, i was born in europe, yes
            i’m far, far away from home
no one disagrees or looks at me, if anything
            they huff a puff, suck a tooth or two
& i say it all in the queens english but
            no one even notices, blokes, i murmur
further confirming my little peasant non-new world heart

            the skeleton clanks his bones together
his ribs and thigh bones are the easiest to remove
he does this to get a fright out of me, i know
            and he’s all ready to make me a mockery or something
so before he speaks, before he cries
i yell from behind my pillow, piss off
            and his laughter sends me off to sleep

~Jacklyn Janeksela~

*

9.

if bones could sing through loose dirt or harsh winters. 

when i did my first burial it was only a plastic doll, but it still counts
when i spilled my sister’s blood twice, i had already been prepared for the third time
those are not prayers, but rather incantations of a bantam girl boiling with rage

the killer in the woods a trial of witch proportions
potent enough to induce at least a few tears

children doubled and doubling, all against the single
breast of ms. lilac, whose blouse wet with tears and slobber

reveals a lacey beige bra that i study at length
adults cast me into brimstone, i carve the words death candy in a pole

nothing in class provokes me enough to look up much, but
it will be the nude lace that ribbons my dreams full of plump women climbing

trees, eating shrubs, seething, and it’s any patch of woodedness that feels both
foreign and familiar, even a little furry, all the rubbing of trees like stimulation

like the vaginas of so many beasts, and her breasts spilling
out into the classroom for feeding, ducklings splash cloudy puddles

and while most kids make bees their enemies, i fancy
a more passive approach and let them suck the flower

that ghost in the graveyard game is for babies
at night i move dolls with my mind, make monsters of dust bunnies

after church, i talk to bones buried in the backyard
under the watchful eye of church girls, blonde bombshells

something wicked this way comes, they whisper when i enter the chapel
but they don’t know it’s me who makes love to jesus, their lover boy

wickedness a synonym for decadent or little girls
who drop panties, tongue a frog, chase the egg

rolling marbles between fingers like miniature crystal ball
it is their names that are written in the book of revelation,

it is their names sewn into the ears of dolls like a stitched heart or an innocent spell
the bones crack when they speak, they crack if i speak
of them, the stories i’ve yet to tell anyone


*

8.

like a star dangling or pre-blackout

lined up, just above our heads
wine and whiskey glasses that we never

ever use because dad’s trying to quit
the bottle, but still does cans

the glass rack hangs from the ceiling like i
think my dead cousin wanted to, but

she swallowed a shotgun bullet
instead, her dad doesn’t hide in

his garage like my dad does, so
i wonder why dad pulls away from

us, corkscrewed, screwy, looney or
a gene twisted up like my mother’s hand

when she can’t open the pickle
jar, dad too dizzy to help, so i climb up

on the counter and spin around and around and
around, holding fast to the lid, anticipating

the brine, that vinegar slosh, to make her
smile, maybe even to feel what it feels like

when dad’s had a few too many
or like mom says, he’s seeing stars 


*

7.

Stronger Than Superman

1.
Dreaming of the superhero I once was.
As a child I would put on superman pajamas,
pin a towel on my back.
I'd pretend it's a red cape,
wishing it were soaring through the sky
like riding on a magic carpet.
I'd run around the house jumping off furniture,
gliding as if I were a kite
with the cape flowing behind me fluidly.
I was a superhero with super powers
and in my mind I was truly free.
Months later things had changed.
My ankles began to hurt and turn in
and my neck ached.
Then my neck, arms and legs stiffened.
I was only four and my life began to change.
This Superman found his kryptonite
and it was ravaging his body.

2.
Leukemia! They screamed.
The Luthor like doctors were eager 
to name my kryptonite.
They didn't know what it was and, to be honest,
most of the time they didn't seem to care.
Time passed and my kryptonite was found.
It was juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
My body was attacking itself.
I was given chemicals, 
almost every type of medication.
Even gold filled my veins.
But no matter the treatment 
the outcome was always the same:
I was no longer Superman 
and never would be again.
From then on I was forever human 
feeling pain and misery and sometimes 
even the glimmering of hope 
would cross my mind.
Every day I have fought.
Scars now cross my skin
and titanium has become a part of me,
but I have become stronger 
than I ever thought possible...
Stronger than a superhero.
Stronger than Superman.


*

6.

More Than A Disability

Behind these blue, 
green, 
hazel, 
brown, 
dull, 
glossy, 
bright eyes 
and wheelchair bound 
broken down flesh 
burns a fire. 
You will never see it 
because you will never look at me 
or give me a chance to show you 
a passion to create 
and develop a better way to live. 
A better way to understand.

We want to be a factor 
in this world, 
not a burden.
We want to be heard.
We speak with our hands,
our keyboards, our pens,
our paint, our clay...
Our words.
We wish to speak as equals.

We are people with hopes,
dreams,
fears,
and knowledge.
We are alive.

See us as a part of the human race 
and not just another number 
you write in your reports
or another file,
organized and filed away.

See us as people, 
as the future, 
as more than a disability.

*

5.

It's All Stagnation Anyway

Three days in the hospital
I have been humbled
I have seen death
& he doesn't give a fuck who you are
Colder than any human could imagine
& I do realize that is quite cold

So now I am ready to
Buy a one way ticket to margaritaville
& waste away
This place that I was born
This place that seems so foreign
It's all stagnation anyway

President Elect Trump is in the area
Huge neon billboards
“God has saved America”

~Michael D. Grover~

*

4.

A Message For President Trump #6

I don't pay much attention to the news
It's been hard enough to get through the day
Trying not to get stressed out is hard work
I watch it from my own delusion
Better than the delusion you're watching from
I go to see the weed dealer once a week
His son is obsessed with you
Right after the election he was scared
Now he imitates you all the time
Telling his sister she is Mexican
And he is going to send her back
We all laugh like it's a joke
I wonder what the children are learning

~Michael D. Grover~

*

3.

The Angry Little King Of Nothing

These modern day outlaws
The angry little king of nothing
Sitting high up on his pedestal
That he has built on the backs of others
Screaming Poems down to his subjects
Hoping the screaming would make them better
Or maybe even good

The angry little king of nothing
Self appointed king of course
Like any other politician
That feels the need to tell you what to do
So full of rage & bravado
Wears his hair and beard long
Like he's the king of this jungle
But if you ever really look
And see him naked
You will see the emperor has no clothes
You will see nothing but fear & insecurity

These modern day outlaws
The angry little king of nothing
Talks but doesn't walk
Yes men they thank him
For allowing them to read in his presence
He roars out a Poem
The underdogs are still under
He roars out a Poem
& the best minds of our generation die unheard
& there's the little angry king of nothing
He's pissing on his grave
Maybe the little angry king
Just hated the fact that he could write
Maybe the little angry king
Hated that he wasn't a yes man
And did not thank the king for his presence on this planet
In fact if I remember correctly
He preferred not to be in the presence
Of self appointed kings

These modern day outlaws
The little angry king of nothing
Looks over his kingdom of poverty
He tries to keep everyone in line
If you step out of line, or think for yourself
You might see him smile to your face
But you will feel his little teeth at your back

~Michael D. Grover~

*

2.

Rabbit Haikus

Barb got high that day
And brought home a pet rabbit
It was her first joint

Thought he was a girl
So we decided Jhumpa
After Lahiri

Found out he wasn’t
But by then it was too late
He remained Jhumpa

Jhumpa my Jhumpa
Black and white with floppy ears
I like your big feet

Jhumpa was the first
But he would not be the last 
Soon two more hoppers

Chloe rabbit ruled
Black velvet and floppy ears
Chloe I heart you

Scout was just okay
Small and grey and pointy ears
Was kind of skittish

Had the suspicion
That she actually loved them
More than she loved me

We got KFC
Chowed down and watched Wererabbit
With our wererabbits

All things end or die
She took the rabbits with her
Empty lonely home

*
1.
Safekeeping the Damned
A prophecy drawn by four horses
in the sky
you’ll                see a carnival of colors; gold, emerald, and red,
you’ll                see moons waxing and waning, burnished with gold leaf
in the bracken of autumn. She’ll be seen
in a fury of clocks’ pendulums across
the glistened sky. A bundled prayer
sprawled in blankets of rosewater
and fairy dew made
in this tender hour;
it’s your first job, trespasser,
drag her in, question
how to bury judgment painted 
in the shadows
in a treeless graveyard
among trinkets and treasures.

(Remix culled from Gregory Magurie’s Wicked, HaperCollins (1995). Pages 24-35.)


*

extra 1.

August Fa├žade

At last, home
they sat
softly on velvet cushions
drowned
            in hazy blue jewel tones,
together
           in a realm of summer
brilliance with a prehensile grip;
a clasped profile in the silver mirror:
              she encircled her, kissed her
little, by little, by little
the illustration gathered in patches; the narrative strains . . .
a little sweet
              a little charming
a little maddening
             a little habit-forming

(Remix culled from Gregory Magurie’s Wicked, HarperCollins (1995). 216-219.)


extra 1.

Everyone Picks the Bird

The first time I had to crack the little bird’s spine was difficult. One wing was broken and it was cheeping pitifully, so I caught it easily.
   I’ve gotten better at catching them. The trick is stillness and to work with city birds, because they are less wild to begin with. Maybe they taste better.
   It doesn’t feel weird anymore to put the little package in a bag and hand it off to Derek. But I need to be quick, so the bird is still hurting.
   Sparrows are a calculated risk. Not as likely as rodents to carry disease, but as plentiful and able to reproduce quickly. They feel enough pain to feed Derek. The bodies are easy to dispose of.
   The cruelty is worth it. If it wasn’t sparrows the best options would be something problematic like dogs or people. Certain dogs work more easily, like the ones that feel pain when their owners leave during the day. Standing near the house of a howling dog can be a full meal for Derek, but it takes a long time.
   People are a different story. There are the physical aches and pains, but there's more food in emotional pain. It is so easy to find and create that the temptation to rely on it is oppressive. But is that not more cruel than snapping a sparrow’s spine?
   We like to pretend, maybe some sort of noblesse oblige, that all animals are entitled to the same consideration and dignity that humans are. Some people even advocate for it in the abstract, and are extremely persuasive. But when the tangible choice is to crack a bird’s spine or to make a mother think her infant was kidnapped, somehow everyone picks the bird.
   I do.


*

extra 1.

The Taker Under

I shut off the valve filling Mother’s lungs with vinyl. I hadn’t had a client float yet, and she was not going to be the first.
   “Pull the tube out, Lailah. Gently.”
   My little sister tugged on the tubing leading down Mother’s throat. It didn’t come free. She jiggled it a little, working it out slowly.
   “This feels so weird, Erez. You like doing this?”
   I bandaged up the slits I had made so air could be pushed out while the vinyl flowed in. “Nobody else does it, not for a week’s travel,” I said. “Thanks for helping.”
   “Of course. It’s Mother,” she said, coiling up the hose like I showed her and hanging it on the compressor. “Is that it?”
   “That’s the last of it. Time to put the blouse on and get her ready.”
   Lailah had brought a severe blouse, white with only a light blue grid on it. It looked like the paper Mother always drew her plans on. I held her body up while Lailah gently pulled each sleeve over her arm and buttoned the front. It looked like she was dressing a giant doll. When Mother was dressed, we lifted her off the table and into the coffin.
   I kicked off the brakes I nodded toward the cantilevered balcony. We weren’t rich enough to have bathic rooms sealed against the water. When the water rose we just kept building up, which annoyed Mother. I remembered the day she told the family she was going to add the balcony because she couldn’t stand that each new floor was smaller than the last. “It doesn’t have to be that way,” she insisted, and designed a balcony that extended off the living room like a lolling tongue.
   We rolled the coffin out through the sliding door. The balcony was only a foot over the water level now.
   “Do you remember when this was the top floor?” I asked Lailah. She nodded and went to the railing, holding on tightly and looking over the edge.
   “Is this where they all go? The bodies?”
   “My clients—yeah. If you look down you can see them, when the water’s clear.”
   She peered over the edge, then jerked back, shaking her head. “No, we can’t do that. We don’t know what’s down there.”
   “Just other boxes with people in them,” I said. I guess I had gotten used to looking over into the emerald green waters.
   “Can we put her downstairs? Isn’t that where Dad is?”
   I tried to remember, but I had been very young, Lailah even younger. “I think so. But that was a long time ago.”
   “Can I at least look and see?” she said. She was already going inside and lifting the trapdoor leading to the stairway. It creaked and slammed against the floor. Daylight streamed through the windows, lighting up a sliver of the room below. The wallpaper was beginning to peel, and I could see where I drew on the wall with a crayon—the water must have loosened the paper over it. There was the vent I heard Lailah’s cries through before we had to leave.
   I brought a flashlight over and pointed it into the corners. We could see more. Father’s coffin, door open and waving slightly in the underwater currents. A shoe. A school of fish nibbling at something on the newel post at the bottom of the stairs.
   “This was her home, Erez. She has to stay here.”
   “You think she wants to stay with Father?”
   Lailah looked at me, her serious eyes showing weariness. “I’m too tired to figure out the things she wants right now. I’m sure having her lungs filled was not one of them.”
   “Okay. I guess it makes sense. Let’s bring her back in.”
   Outside, the wind had picked up. “Why did we stop using the balcony, Erez? Do you remember?”
   “I liked it better than you all did. Once you moved out and it was just Mother and me, I started using it for my clients. That way I didn’t have to think about it much.” We wheeled the cart to the edge of the stairs and I kicked the brakes on.
   “Ready?” I asked. She nodded, and we pushed the coffin off the cart. The front splashed and gravity took over. It slid down the stairs into the room below. After the initial turbulence settled, I watched the trailing columns of bubbles carefully. The box slid to a stop at the bottom of the stairs, still bubbling.
   “It’s the right thing, Erez. She needs to stay here.”
   The bubbles slowed and eventually stopped. I still didn’t like that she was there with Father again, but I didn’t bring it up with Lailah.
   “Thanks for helping,” I said to her with a hug.
   My feet swung off the bed the next morning and landed in a puddle of water. The water must have surged last night, sooner than I expected. I would have to start evacuating this level, but the next level wasn’t finished yet.
   The water was coming in around and under the sliding door to the balcony, and under the front door. The floating dock attached there was now a step up. The nineteen boats moored there banged against each other, thumping hollowly. They had collected over the last years as people who were ready to die rowed from their house to mine. Some of them didn’t make it, and I don’t know where those boats went.
   I put my stock of sandbags against the doorjamb, but I knew that would only be temporary. I started taking all of the light furniture up to the next level, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the empty room below, where Mother and Father lived now. I ran through that room, and played there. I ran up here when Mother and Father began fighting, but I always thought of them down below. I imagined it was a sad and angry place, and I never enjoyed going down there.
   I would need some help with the heavier furniture. I would have to row over to Ari’s to get him to help. I started on the bookshelves next when I heard the banging from downstairs.
   I stopped to see if it happened again. When it didn’t, I lifted the trapdoor and shone the flashlight downstairs. Mother’s coffin had floated away. I swung the beam around.
   Both of the coffins were gone, and there were black streaks on the walls, as if they had burned. The shoe and the fish were all gone, and the room was barren.
   I let the trapdoor slam shut. The surge must have pushed the coffins out a window.
   The banging began again in the middle of the night. This time it did not stop quickly. I splashed over to the trapdoor and pulled on the handle.
   It would not budge. I pulled again, with no effect.
   I knelt and gathered my strength so I could use my legs as well as my back. With a sharp jerk I pulled.
   The door began to open, but then slammed shut, as if pulled from the other side. My fingers slipped and I fell backward.
   I rowed out to Lailah’s the next morning. I caught her feeding the kids. Her husband Ohel had already gone off to work, and I knew she was angry.
   “Do you remember noises from downstairs?”
   “No, never. Not once we moved up.”
   “I’m hearing noises. And I couldn’t pull open the trapdoor last night.”
   She tilted her head, a spoonful of oatmeal poised near a child’s face. “Must have rusted. Or the last surge is holding it shut somehow.”
   “It’s not that deep. I have to go move books. Can you come by later?”
   “Sure, as soon as I can.”
   I rowed back home and focused on moving books and other small items onto the shelves upstairs. They weren’t all finished, and the plumbing wasn’t done. Lailah came by that afternoon.
   “You’re going to need help, Erez.”
   “I know. I’m going to ask Ari later. Help me open the trap?”
   We both wrapped our hands around the handle and counted down. We yanked hard, and again the door resisted as if pulled—but then something snapped and it flew open, spraying water everywhere.
   Something flowed down the stairs away from the opening, like a heavier liquid sliding down through the water. It covered the whole floor of the room below.
   “What is it?” Lailah asked.
   “I don’t like this.”
   I slammed the trapdoor shut. I wished I had a lock for it.
   Ari rowed back with me the next day. He jumped out onto the dock, making it bounce in the water. I saw the waves sloshing over the sandbags at the front door.
   “Sorry,” he rumbled. I led him inside. The water was several inches deep now. “The surge is hitting you hard,” he said.
   “Yeah, it is this time. Help me with the couch?”
   We lifted up the couch and carried it upstairs. I looked at the trapdoor and resolved to get a lock from Zahav’s general store boat when it came around again. We took up the rest of the heavy furniture, leaving it scattered all over the upper floor. I could arrange it later.
   “What’s out here?” Ari asked. The drinks were still downstairs, and he pointed at the cantilevered balcony with the bottle.
   “Just an old balcony our mother designed. It looked out over the water.” Now the water sloshed up over the edge, carrying seaweed and detritus with it.
   “It must have been really neat when there was nothing down below.”
   “I don’t remember that. We used to live on the floor below. That’s all that was under it.”
   “There’s always something deeper,” Ari said. “I was in Zahav’s house. He has bathic rooms way down deep. I only saw three, but he said they went all the way down to the bottom.”
   “That’s stupid, Ari. Nobody’s seen the bottom.”
   “Zahav has.”
   “Zahav tells all sorts of stories.”
   “Doesn’t mean he’s lying.” Ari looked down over the edge of the balcony. “What’s that?” He pointed down into the water where I let my clients sink.
   I looked where he was pointing, at the slanting pile of pine boxes I had put in there. “That’s where the bodies go. My clients.”
   “No, that.”
   An arm of dark liquid coiled around the pile of boxes. They were stacked, one on top of the other, and I know I hadn’t left them that way.
   “Let’s go inside. I don’t want to look out there anymore.”
   There wasn’t much left to get from the flooding level. I moved my bed upstairs, so at least I woke up with dry feet.
   The water was several feet deep now. I had moved my embalming apparatus upstairs the day before, with Ari’s help, and just had the last implements to retrieve. Then it was just a last look through to see what remained and if I cared about it.
   I kicked through the water and picked up the boxes of tools, wading back toward the stairs.
   A slick, cold feeling wrapped around my ankle and tightened. I tried to pull loose but it held firmly.
   I put the box onto the countertop so I didn’t drop it. I couldn’t avoid this anymore.
   “Don’t worry. There will be more. I just have to move upward.” I looked out at the balcony. “I’ll find another way to get them down to you.”
   The feeling around my ankle pulsed, then slowly unwrapped, sliding over my skin.
   Only I had ever looked down. Only I knew what swam underneath, and I made sure I fed it. But it wasn’t supposed to be inside. Mother must have drawn it in.