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13.

Paper Woman

She’s a processed tree
to be torn and thrown
towards garbage cans,
it’s nothing to be paper.

It’s July and the heat is fierce
on sidewalks, on roads,
on her paper white skin,
her vacant lines.

A grinning man is
ready to make her his paper
doll, new dresses with stiff tabs,
ready to fold—over and over.

She wants to be a love note.
Written on a whim with
memories of desire, folded
neatly, she waits for the surprise.


(this poem also appears in Sarah Lilius's new Blood Pudding Press poetry chapbook, "Thirsty Bones", available here - https://www.etsy.com/listing/522718674/new-thirsty-bones-by-sarah-lilius-2017?ref=shop_home_feat_2)

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12.

PUBLIC POOL

The public pool is the gaping socket
where a baby tooth has been extracted,
enamel sold to a higher power.

All the water has been drained,
along with swarms of splashing swimmers,
reveling in their youth.

There are black halos on the fences
left by the life preservers packed away,
protecting them from the dead of winter.

The deep end is filled with lost water wings
and piles of brittle leaves that crackle
like a thousand lost birth certificates.

Congealed dirt lies on the bottom,
like a thin crust of coagulated blood.

Everything about this scene makes
me shiver, makes me feel as if my bones,
are going to rip out of my skin,

join the water wings in their final 
resting place on the muddy bottom.

Until the full moon crests above the clouds
like a brand new tooth, poking through
a thin layer of flesh,

as if to say, this absence was made to be filled.
This is not a gravesite, my coffin isn’t needed.
Youth will return, my children will swim here.


I realize I don't have to renounce
everything I love—my heart
is a swimming pool filling with grace.

~Christian Sammartino~

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11.

AFTER THE RAPTURE

This is the kind of night we'd break
Into the mall parking garage and stargaze
Constellations from the rooftop,

Because they explode like fireworks,
Burning more brilliantly then our fear,
Even as they die light-years away.

I can smell the good weed on your jacket,
See you blowing smoke in the eyes of security
Cameras so guards can't see your face.

Witnessing our breath leave our bodies
Rapidly freezing and thawing, tempting
Impermanence, reminds us we are still alive.

You and I aren't all closed casket memories
And eulogies yet—we can see all the roads
Fanning out of town into the body of the world.

You watch the traffic lights flash green,
Swearing they will be more than quiet
Signals to your graveyard shift soul.

One day you will cruise beneath their spotlight,
Full tank of gas, heart pumping one-way wanderlust,
Flip off our hometown in the rear view mirror.

Where did you go after the gaslighting?
Did you shed your skin into a dumpster until
There was nothing left to collect?

You owned the shape of your disappearance,
Like fog evaporating from a windshield,
The most precious gift since your hospital blanket.

I'm talking to myself again, like this tin can
Telephone has the signal to reach your ears,
If only to say all the lights in town are green.

I miss you, my blood, my sister.
Drive with the wind in your hair, drive until
You are the stranger, until you are visible.


10.

Woman-crisp

Can we speak together over time and space
as if we swam naked of our names?

This is crazy
I am crossing the boundary of all propriety
I'm growing fins to swim out and meet you

Say yes: this is what writing is,
this is transformation, this is poetry
My skin is slipping away
Yesterday, I misplaced my Self

You have been given something
to give to me
I am ready
Can I come now?
Can I come yesterday?

Text me from your galaxy
Message me from inside the sun
in your apartment of fire

Hurry! answer me
I need a voice to jump toward
so I won’t break in two
from the middle of my spinal cord
and dangle in the sky, a broken crescent

Here I am now,
shaking off the lie
Blue sparks are flying from my hair
My fingernails are curling off
leaving my fingers spouting blood called poetry
This state I’m in may not repeat itself
You know about these states

I am sizzling
in the round black frying pan of space and time
Hurry! before I fry
into a burnt woman-crisp

There is not enough
blank paper in the world
for what I need to write
and all that needs to be written
is a single word

~Mohja Kahf~

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9.

Meditations on the White Cat

The white cat has come
to paw at my pantleg
She is pretty and my daughter fed her once
so she thinks she has license
to claw my porch chair
and complicate the cloth on my knees


That damned albino cat
is here again like desire,
unbidden and lovely


The white cat arrives like a queen
Ginger and calico cats
gather to hiss at her
but only from under the blue sedan


The white cat, when I ignore her,
settles her backside luxuriously
on my red porch chair


That white cat has settled
in some crease of my mind
and, for all my hissing and clapping,
won’t leave


The white cat
is making the neighborhood dogs
whimper and whine
You are the white cat
of my dog soul


I can tell the white cat has been here
See the white hairs on the dark blue
cushions of desire?


The white cat sniffs my cigarettes
experimentally
but decides she is expecting something
I do not have


The white cat is ruffled today
Which of my friends
did I offend last night?


The white cat startles easily this morning
My porch chimes make her jump
A war is beginning somewhere in the world


The white cat lies across the flagstone path
as if she owns the flagstone path
as if she has owned the flagstone path since time began


It is my flagstone path. I know this
but, for a minute, I doubt
and believe only
in the white cat

~Mohja Kahf~

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8.

My Head Lives #2

My head lives on the top floor of a casino overlooking
the Gulf of Mexico;
it looks like a whorehouse, all hot pink velvet and gold brocade, sticky smoke.
            My lungs live in a beehive
in back of the building. The bees sting my lungs on Sundays and holidays.
            For ages, my stomach and guts
lounged around the beach, sipping salt water and playing in the sand.
            Lately, they are hiding in deep
water, tangled in seaweed. They churn and twist.
            My hands have always hung out
at the mall. They grab shoppers, bundle them up, lug them home
for my head to interrogate.
My genitals and legs are buried deep under an abandoned sand castle—
only my feet are visible—they wiggle at passers-by—
And my heart—I can’t find my heart.
            My heart got stung by a bee, only once, but it was a bad bee. 

~Eileen Murphy~

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7.

Thing

At eight years old
I was lice infested,
dirty, full of mud
with big feet and
scarecrow legs.
The little boys
and girls called
me the ‘thing
beyond the door’
as I stood in my
doorway tear
streaked with
yellow stained
buck teeth and
lizard green eyes
and picked my
nose.

~Donna Dallas~

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6.

Loner

All the houses are connected on this block, a long spine of squares with flat rooftops.  They have infected each other with an STD of bugs and mice over the years. I park in front of the old German woman’s home.  She is still alive, at least 100 years old by now.  Sitting in her wheel chair at her front door she waves to me, a glimmer of memory lights up her face and she seems younger.  She speaks to me in German, holds a complete conversation on her own.  Perhaps she is speaking of when I was a child, or the many dogs I walked past her home over the decades.  Or the time she saw me laid out on the front stoop half naked, bug-eyed, crawling through a heroin implosion that left me half dead.  I walk up the cold cement steps into the eighty-something year old house. Like the rock of Gibraltar, it is endless, solid and aged.  Dark wood floors captured the nicks of cheap stilettos throughout the years.  The walls are stucco white and forbid you to lean against their sharp pointed tips. The house is an arc, it envelopes me in silence, I sit and stare at the fireplace that is empty and barren, same as my head.  I stare out the windows I peered into many times trying to pry open the frame and shimmy through in search of money or anything worth selling. I look at the top of the stairs where my lover hung himself and rocked there, sprouting death in its blackened glory while I laid incoherent nursing a very near overdose.  Comatose for perhaps a few days, I awoke to his rotting corpse while fermenting in my own shit. I become the old Victorian mirror, white flowers etched in circles around the frame.  I see the bones of myself, trapped again, still alone in the box of a house.

~Donna Dallas~

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5.

Generations

When you walk in the woods, it’s always best
to see everything, set your body to rewind,
in case you miss something. If you stay too long,
you might realise you are nowhere, the footprints
you deposit mean little to the tree’s arching body,
where nothing is off limits; is this what freedom is?

Held by four directions, form painted with earth
and held in its birth suit, the bone stag sees you,
every mark, every design, and trees reveal secrets
before we know them, the faceless year disappears,
like a once trusted friend, stealing away,
stuffing ideas into deep dark pockets.

When the sun wakes, you are older,
and count on things more, there is a new mother,
three flowers to the wind, and black skeleton branches
touch out for acceptance. The struck tree
sees years come and go like lightning,
the bone trumpet sounds the winter’s stretching
drum skin, and strips the body raw.

The stag waits in the thicket, knowing the ways
of wordless stories, dreaming to break ice again.


*

4.

Untitled

Autumn orchards are hysterical;
A scarlet alarm,
Where his hands scattered you like seed.
We shed our footprints with the thaw.
Now boned trees erupt
Through frost skins.

Clouds pile up like sullen beasts.
Our neighbours, locked in yellow houses,
Have a shrouded illness:
Blood and stone.

The night,
Evocative of dead leaves,
Seethes in torment,
Touched by a breeze
Without moisture or comfort.
Your arms form ribs around me.
They keep me.

~Natalie Crick~

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3.

a new orleans sadness

It was mardi gras in my mind.
It was mardi gras in the bras lined up on
clothes lines, up on close-line, close-view clothes lines where
my mother rested best in bras and underwear--
don’t care ‘bout Father!
Farther, farther,
receding farther, Father ran like Hell, he ran like
he could see the panties in our
shantytown express-dry on our clothes line where they
dried and fried in sunlight we would show him if he
tried to see it.
He was always one for humming tunes,
the blues were favorites.
The blues were shades of
bras and underwear we hung in rungs of Hell where
Mom and I resided.
Clothes lines were our shantytown express-dry,
and Mom cried her eyes out nightly but we lied together
side-by-side
on blankets in the darkness in the only bed we owned
we looked outside
and as the panties dried
on clothes lines as they swung like bodies
bodies hanging, not worth saving

Mom and I can’t sleep

~Sarah Valeika~

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2.

Uncle Vanya, Vanya (inspired by Chekhov)

Uncle Vanya, you look like Uncle Vanya.
You ask Mother if she has any wine in the house and
“no, I don’t want any casserole”
but
“you should eat something,
you should you should” Mother says but
“I don’t want any casserole” so you let the blood-red
twinkle along into your cup but the sight isn’t a novelty,
you do not like this wine because it has not aged enough but
Mother only just got it for her birthday.
Just got it for her birthday.
Did you remember her birthday?
yes
yes you remembered, you insist,
yes
and you look like Uncle Vanya when you say that because
your lips waggle a little but you didn’t remember,
so you slosh a little wine down your throat-choke-throat-choke
tubes up there in your throat-choke-throat-choke
coughing wine just a little little so you can remember your own mortality,
I guess,
you want to remember that wine could kill you but
won’t.  

~Sarah Valeika~

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1.

The Hernia Poem

My dad and I both have hernias
my dad’s is somewhere along his back
mine within my pelvic area- just above my cock
decades of warehouse work will get you there
both too stubborn to go to a doctor
avoiding surgery and mesh
one day- a disc shall rupture in my father’s back
he will yelp in pain- begging for aid
and somehow for some reason
my pelvis will substantially be involved
in my getting out of bed
only there shall be a rip and tear
with my genitals spilled on floor
what a mess- with no one to help