Poetry Month Spotlight: Rita Feinstein

Poetry Month Spotlight: Rita Feinstein

The Poetics of Joy

I’m half-asleep in the Bishop’s Garden on the south side of the Washington National Cathedral. The 3 p.m. light bathes the limestone in gold, and the flowerbeds pulse with color. My husband and I sit on a bench in direct sunlight, our hound mix sprawled at our feet. I close my eyes and marvel at how good I feel—not thirsty, not hungry, not anxious to cross something off my to-do list.

I open my eyes again and see an elderly couple sitting on a nearby bench. I’m reminded of the healing garden I could see from my fourth-floor hospital room last June. I was never allowed to visit; the nurse said I didn’t have enough time, but it was another couple hours before the doctor discharged me.

These dark memories are mildly sickening. The garden has its own powerful influence, though. It pours another wave of sunshine and flower-fragrance over my head, and now I wonder why I bother dwelling on negative thoughts at all.

Because I’m a poet, that’s why. On some level, I’ve always believed that poetry is the alchemical practice of transmuting trauma into art. Once, when I was hallucinating from pain, I felt a small thrill at this new writing material. When I was sunken into my hospital bed, I typed rhyming phrases into my Notes app with the hand that wasn’t encumbered by an IV. Poetry has gotten me through an eating disorder and a toxic relationship, and at some point I started worrying that once the trauma dried up, the poetry would too.

I wonder why I bother dwelling on negative thoughts at all.Because I’m a poet, that’s why. On some level, I’ve always believed that poetry is the alchemical practice of transmuting trauma into art.

I finished processing my eating disorder when I was nineteen, but I kept writing about it for years afterward. There was no urgency, no catharsis, in these newer poems. I had convinced myself this is what my audience wanted, and yes, some of these poems were published, but at some point it felt disingenuous to continue writing them.

One night in grad school, in the name of pure escapism, I wrote something I had no intention of submitting to workshop. It was the stuff of YA fantasy novels—a selkie-hunting pirate king, a misanthropic bad boy, a star-crossed romance. The first draft was messy and overstuffed. “Is this more than one poem?” I asked my roommate. “Is this two poems? Is this forty poems?” Forty-eight, to be exact. It was the first poem in what would end up becoming my thesis manuscript.

Writing my thesis was an exercise in pure joy. Instead of scrounging for trauma crumbs, I wrote a sprawling ode to everything I love—dragons and wolves, fairytales and mythology, Labyrinth and Outlander. After wasting so much time and emotional energy laboring over poems that didn’t want to be written, I had finally (re)discovered my voice.

Writing my thesis was an exercise in pure joy. Instead of scrounging for trauma crumbs, I wrote a sprawling ode to everything I love—dragons and wolves, fairytales and mythology, Labyrinth and Outlander.

Three years later, I got sick. First I lost my appetite, then I came down with a fever that wouldn’t break, and it was only when I passed out at the bus stop that I acknowledged something was wrong. Three hospital-bound days later, the something had a name. Crohn’s Disease. A very un-glamorous inflammation of the terminal ileum, a body part I didn’t even know I had.

It was a couple months before I was well enough to write again. Then, one day, the words started pouring out of me. I channeled all my frustration into a 2,000-word story, and I was done. The whole process was as straightforward as turning a faucet on and off.

Skeptical that I had done enough processing, I decided to write a poetry chapbook about my illness. The poems didn’t come easily. Recently, I gave one of them to my writing group. On a craft level, we had a very productive discussion. On an emotional level, I felt like I was back in the colonoscopy room.

It’s only now, in the Bishop’s Garden, that I remember what I somehow forgot—poems can be joyful. No one is forcing me to re-live painful memories every time I open my notebook. I don’t have to compromise my vision to please an imaginary audience.

No more hospital poems. From now on, it’s all dragons and goblin kings.

About Rita Feinstein

Rita Feinstein is a DC-based writer and teacher. Her work has appeared in Grist, Willow Springs, and Sugar House, among other publications, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best New Poets. She received her MFA from Oregon State University.

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National Poetry Month
National Poetry Month

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

For this year’s National Poetry Month at BMP Voices, we seek to celebrate the ways in which we’re interconnected — highlighting community, gratitude, and the ways in which creativity redounds upon itself, fed by collective energy and goodwill. Our fee-free contest is open to all styles and forms of poetry, with an eye toward our mission of discovering voices that are immediate, immersive, and urgent. Poems inspired by the work of others are welcome. We also welcome poems written to other poems or poets.

Animal Rescue

My position as liaison between the open-admissions city animal shelter and almost four hundred rescue partners skews mostly toward crisis management. An injured gannet arrives, stunned and unable to fly. A shedding python someone tried to mail to California, a neonate squirrel drinking Pedialyte from a syringe, a red dog with matted fur and a mammary tumor—my department rushes them to rehabbers or twenty-four-hour vet hospitals.

I do not think about poetry during my day job, unless coaxing moms away from their two-day-old kittens long enough to gently place the whole family in a crate counts as building a poem. I only write on my days off, in slices between laundry and the long walks I take to process the worst of what I’ve seen during the week. I struggled last year when it became impossible for writing to be my whole world, or even a large part of it. I thought in terms of survival and the next therapy session, the minutes when my ideation quieted as I led a dainty pit mix through the rain.

But reconnecting with animals, my first love, has driven me back to poetry. Caring about the survival of others helps me (most days) to see the value of my own.  

I wanted to share a few drafts from #NaPoWriMo that touch on those feelings:

Draft 1:

I watched a vet tech caress a swan down their neck, down the wing pulled tightly against his body. I watched a man caress a swan with a beak too cracked for panic. I tell him you make me that swan, cut my panic with tenderness. My co-worker sends an email titled “11 Rats, can you help?” with a photo of white rodents arranged in a loose braid of a nausea. Imagine they climb my shoulders, pepper my movements with their lozenge eyes. I’m so unlike the Black Swan I saw last Halloween, cloaked in enough tulle to choke a bigot politely. My rats will make me that polite, crown my body with their tails in the air.

Draft 2 (Radical Revision):

I watch a vet tech caress a swan down their neck, down the wing pulled tightly against his body.

I watch my friend hold a python   as close as she can to her chest, his shed flaking on her gloves.

The only children I love  stray far from what I could make: pinkie squirrels with dark nails,

small lizards in a cricket frenzy. I watch the accolades pile up  when a straight friend posts 

ultrasound pictures. Her fetus somersaults away from the camera.  My own uterus contracts,

the pain elegant and ribbed,  like the ribbon crack in that swan’s beak that made eating impossible.

Draft 3:

The further I get I am a gulper eel, I hope, a mouth like the black box in Are You Afraid of the Dark? I open this mouth and you fall inside. The further I get I am the Black Lodge, a row of tiles that kiss muddy feet, a thick curtain grazing your neck. I speak rewinding cassette, I speak marine snow as my eel body ribbons between water zones. It is effortless to be such a horror, and your clues dissolve like shrimp in my stomach acid, like a face blurred by a net of ink.

The Rise of Genderqueer is available for purchase directly from Brain Mill Press and from print and ebook vendors everywhere.
The Rise of Genderqueer is available for purchase directly from Brain Mill Press and from print and ebook vendors everywhere.

Tender and brutal, luminous and dark, raucous and gutting, Hanks’s poems are so alive that you can almost hear their heartbeat.—Foglifter

A truly incomparable collection, The Rise of Genderqueer constructs a voice with unmitigated and authentic yearning. Its poems soak ink into page from margin to margin, pressing into the reader’s assumptions about gender unmercifully. These poems demand, carry authentic wisdom, deliver keen argument, and disarm with sly wit. Wren Hanks challenges the status quo as neatly as a flower slid into the barrel of a rifle. These are utterly convincing prose forms studded with rhetoric he’s deftly remastered and sampled from our culture and conversations right now.

I’ll never be denatured, // I am nature,” Hanks’s poems insist, as the reader bears witness to a bigger world, light flooding into every corner, revealing what has always been true, vigorous, and expansive.

“We are witnessing the birth of an extraordinary voice in these poems.”
—Roy G. Guzmán

The Ghost Incites a Genderqueer Pledge of Allegiance

Wren Hanks

Deny girl and the blood galaxies trailing it; there is a ghost in me who loves each egg, who won’t let me throw up when I’m seasick from my period.

There is a ghost in me riffing on fertility & chocolate almonds. We grow organs in pig ribs, ghost. Surely swelling and blossoming are not the same.

Swelling’s for an injured brain, a uterus drunk on the repetition of cells. I place my hand on my bound chest, pledge allegiance to the rashes and the scales, the fold and petal.

It’s a mess inside me, ghost.

Wren Hanks is the author of The Rise of Genderqueer, a 2018 selection for Brain Mill Press’s Mineral Point Poetry Series and a finalist for Gold Line Press’s chapbook contest. A 2016 Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Fellow, his poetry has been a finalist for Indiana Review‘s 1/2 K Prize and anthologized in Best New Poets. His recent work appears or is forthcoming in Indiana Review, Waxwing, Foglifter, and elsewhere. He is also the author of Prophet Fever (Hyacinth Girl Press), an Elgin Award finalist. He lives in Brooklyn, where he works as a liaison for Animal Care Center of NY’s New Hope program, a proactive community initiative that finds homes for pets (and wildlife) in need. He lives in Brooklyn and tweets @suitofscales.

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like… the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.

What’s Currently Shaping My Writing

1.    The Slumber Party Massacre (1982, directed by Amy Holden Jones)

2.    “lofi hip hop beats to relax/study to” playlist

3.    Barbara Creed’s film theory on “The Monstrous-Feminine,” what it is about woman “that is shocking, terrifying, horrific, abject.” Creed explores the way the female body is coded in the horror film as victim and as monster, as sexual and virginal, as spectacle and agent. And that’s what I am trying to do as well.

4.    Oculus by Sally Wen Mao (Graywolf, 2019)

5.    Shiny Insect Sex by Stephanie Lane Sutton (Bully City Press, 2019)

6.    The Criterion Channel

7.    Glitter, specifically glitter paste

8.    I’ve become nocturnal lately. My partner works at night and I’ve been adopting his schedule a bit. Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I got in my car and headed west. I was aimless, just kept driving until I felt moved to stop. There’s this cemetery on the other side of town, and I found myself driving past its gate. My headlights passed over the red tulips sprouting at the low stone wall. I felt drawn to them—the tulips—and decided to park. There was moonlight, and I wandered down the gravel path, my eyes passing over the headstones and shadow.

9.    Agnès Varda, French New Wave and documentary filmmaker who passed at the end of last month.

10.  Taking the bus every day for work. It demands that I observe and take stock of my surroundings, inside and outside the bus. Looking at my phone makes me motion-sick, so I just look up instead. I get to see what people are wearing, what the traffic and weather is like; I get to say good-bye to this town.

11.  Daughter-Seed by Arielle Tipa (Empty Set Press, 2019)

12.  Ingmar Bergman’s spooky Swedish films

13.  The flowering trees at night—the redbud and dogwood. I went for a night-walk recently. The air was warm as bath water, and I just had to slip out the door and try it on. I walked two miles toward the empty cornfield, intending to visit my favorite tree. But I heard this loud, reverberating noise coming from the nearby neighborhood. So I veered left and followed the sound. It was birds—hundreds of them—in this little copse at the end of the drive. The noise was overpowering and ethereal.

14.  Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens (the 22 pack is very good)

15.  This color-wheel tote bag

My Tall Handsome is available for purchase directly from Brain Mill Press and from print and ebook vendors everywhere.
My Tall Handsome is available for purchase directly from Brain Mill Press and from print and ebook vendors everywhere.

“The twenty-first-century witchery that sprinkles glitter everywhere in My Tall Handsome allows for us to cheer on the speaker in her quest for finding love, seeking revenge—or even raising the dead.”—Ploughshares

The fanged fairy of Emily Corwin’s forest-mud-stained collection asserts and sings with short rhymes and glitter-spells, and just as you’ve followed her into the deepest and darkest part of the woods, terrified, you’re asked to run away together / and promise to never / do this heart-skipping thing / with anyone else.

Don’t be surprised when you find yourself answering yes, yes, yes.

Confronting and darling, every word a perfect warm circlet of pink blood, My Tall Handsome raids every crystal jar on the lace-topped vanity for truth, poison, and song until you can’t remember why you ever thought pretty was better than powerful, sugar was better than bitter medicine, or dancing needed more music than your own voice.

I sip the goblet down, tip it upside down / wear it as / a hat / I am a new shiny thing / and I steal you away from the hoopla hullabaloo rumpus

You won’t resist this kidnapping into the orchard, into the crabapple abracadabra—it is too crystalline a taking, and there are too many delicious chants to chant along the way.

“When the cutie-pie was opened, the birds began to sing, and what they sang was glittery and savage and fearless and dangerous—be careful with this book.”—Catherine Wagner, author of Nervous Device

A Selection from My Tall Handsome

Emily Corwin

my tall handsome, you are always

hydrangea in my rib, popped open

always dazzle of salt on my punched lip

love of life

the he & me I will devour

we beneath black cherry tree

all fruits and crystals on your chest

you were my first body—now and always

forever and ever, in the pink bed rippling

amen.

Emily Corwin is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Indiana University-Bloomington and the former Poetry Editor for Indiana Review. Her writing has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, Gigantic Sequins, New South, Yemassee, THRUSH, and elsewhere. She has two chapbooks, My Tall Handsome (Brain Mill Press) and darkling (Platypus Press), which were published in 2016. Her first full-length collection, tenderling, was released from Stalking Horse Press in 2018, and she was a finalist for the 2018 Pleiades Press Editors Prize. Her manuscript Sensorium was chosen as an Editor’s Choice selection for the 2018 Akron Poetry Prize and is forthcoming with the University of Akron Press.

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like… the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.

Poetry Month Spotlight

The Bare Lit Anthology is available for purchase directly from Brain Mill Press and from print and ebook vendors everywhere.
The Bare Lit Anthology is available for purchase directly from Brain Mill Press and from print and ebook vendors everywhere.

About The Bare Lit 2016 Anthology

Literature by writers of colour published in the UK remains overburdened by a bulk of constraints. Often it fixes complicated narratives to personal struggles, consigning them to domains of the confessionnal, inner moral clashes, and the impossibly tragic.

The inauguration of the Bare Lit Festival in February 2016 marked a significant turning point. Rather than centring writers’ work around prescriptive themes, the festival looked to open possibilities beyond them. Through readings, conversations, panels, and performances, we were adamant to overcome the anachronism that exists between the vast spectrum of work produced by writers of colour and the kind of exposure they receive. With the generous help of our audiences and supporters, Bare Lit was able to honour their work both artistically and financially.

The accompanying anthology builds upon this achievement. Calling on participants and writers of colour UK-wide, we asked contributors to submit their writing in line with the aims and ethos of Bare Lit. The response was overwhelming—thank you to everyone who contributed.

We received over a hundred submissions of prose and poetry covering an impressive range. Writers took us on flights of fancy, pandering to multiple worlds while engaging us in their literary imaginations. Every submission was carefully discussed and considered on the premise of originality, relevance, and often a certain kind of gut feeling.

The selection presented here brings together original, previously unpublished works of contemporary prose and poetry by established as well as lesser known writers, giving both the opportunity to work with this volume’s brilliant editors, Kavita Bhanot and Courttia Newland, who have honed each piece to its utmost and without whom the anthology would not have been possible. The final pieces cover an unimaginably vast scope, reflecting the wide, and at times irreconcilable and contradictory, range of themes and the political élan present in the work of writers of colour in this particular period. In this sense, they are not canonical but anticanonical, and vested in the many global and diasporic vernaculars.

—From the foreword by Bare Lit co-founder and anthology co-editor Mend Mariwany

A fiction and poetry anthology in support of the Bare Lit Festival, showcasing award-winning British authors of color.

In 2016, a group of UK authors of color founded the Bare Lit Festival: the first ever literary and author festival featuring only UK writers of color. Bare Lit collects short stories and poetry by literary luminaries whose work represents the values and mission of the festival. Edited by Kavita Bhanot, editor of Too Asian, Not Asian Enough, Courttia Newland, author of The Gospel According to Cane, and Bare Lit Festival cofounder Mend Mariwany, all proceeds of this anthology go toward direct support of the Bare Lit Festival for authors of color.

The Bare Lit Anthology is an excellent way to read and discover talented BAME poets working in the UK.

A selection from “A Year from Home” by Hibaq Osman

I packed four necklaces that ward off evil, Drooping eyelids, batteries and bags of air in case I missed home

A selection from “Two Days and Two Nights in Kisumu” by Raymond Antrobus

I wonder what if no European discovered anything in Kenya? What if there was no brutal history to speaking and writing English? Would they still have colonized the classroom?

A selection from “Mother” by Yomi Sode

At night I hear you. Deep muse of lonely. Your heart left beating on the strewed roads of Ibadan,

the day you packed. Leaving a man not worth fighting for.

About the 2019 Bare Lit Festival

May 4-5, 2019

More information: barelitfestival.com

Current program, updated daily:

Are We Body Positive?

Poetry Presente: The British LatinX

Readings from the Lives of Women

Fighting for Independence

Skin Deep Sonic Transmissions: Hear Me Now

Building Stories, a Live Podcast

Making Space for Music

Follow the Festival on Twitter – @barelit

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like… the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.

Poems by Wren Hanks and Tracy Mishkin

We are excited to share poetry by Wren Hanks and Tracy Mishkin, whose chapbooks have been selected by editor Kiki Petrosino for inclusion in the Mineral Point Poetry Series this fall. Wren Hanks’s The Rise of Genderqueer will be available August 14, and Tracy Mishkin’s This Is Still Life releases September 18.

Poems by Wren Hanks

from The Rise of Genderqueer

Dear Daddy Pence, A List of My Luminous Indiscretions

It’s her mouth on my cock in a unisex bar stall / my hand squeezing his cock under the greasy table / it’s my girlfriend on the marble countertop / while I’m breaking a wooden spoon / against her ass / Daddy, it’s me in a car / at 16 / convincing a Catholic boy / to put his hands on my breasts / it’s that you think / I’m a dyke / when you see my shaved head / like definitions / will protect anyone / from me / Daddy, I’m coming / for your daughters / I’m coming for your sons / coming for the dog whistle genders / in between / perhaps I am / the dog whistle / in between / Daddy Pence / don’t wait up

Dear Daddy Pence, meet me at Olive Garden

We’ll compare notes on nuptial bliss / on nights staring at Seven of Nine’s tits / while our wives drink reasonable / thimbles of wine / on ironing shirts / (tomatoes off the vine, Daddy, / and garlic bread too) / on spitting our Crest into those sinks / rimmed / with cat hair / I’ll take your hand / and ask you how long it’s been / really / since one look / at a man’s / brought your pulse up / I know the answer, already, Daddy / It’s the camera-ready red / this soldier’s aiming for

Daddy Pence, when you kiss your wife is it like

stars and stripes / your tongue an eagle’s wing / no wait a talon / do you make her mute, daddy / the way you wanna make me / a silent statistic / de-transitioned with those / chewable / bubblegums hips / Daddy, were you ever / the beauty / on someone’s bed / have you ever been / a fucking object

Wren Hanks is the author of Prophet Fever (Hyacinth Girl Press) and Ghost Skin (Porkbelly Press). A 2016 Lambda Emerging Writers Fellow, his recent work appears in Best New Poets 2016, Foglifter, Jellyfish Magazine, The Wanderer, and elsewhere. He is an associate editor for Sundress Publications and co-edited Curious Specimens, an anthology of the strange and uncanny. His third chapbook, gar child, is forthcoming from Tree Light Books. He lives in Brooklyn, and you can find him on twitter @suitofscales.

Poems by Tracy Mishkin

from This Is Still Life

The Deadweight Machine

As if a tectonic shift has dumped a mountain on his chest, my husband slumps in the easy chair. Five weeks until the homeowners insurance drops us, stacks of useful junk around the yard. The deadweight machine measures how you hold up against tension and compression.

When he begins to snore like Rip Van Winkle, I imagine an organic grocer’s typo has created a display of orgasmic blueberries. I eat them all without paying. A man in a green apron restocks the shelves with tender hands.

Before the war, people weighed beginning again in a new language against the coming storm. Every time I think of leaving, he catches a death rattle in my car, stops the house from flooding, sweet-talks a raccoon out the kitchen door.

This is Still Life

The house has a fresh coat of pain. Screwdriver and utility knife abandoned on the bed. Drawers choked with plastic forks. Receipts, seeds, and batteries. Needles, carpet tacks, an open blade. Red string streaming from cabinets—the battle flag of a man who throws nothing away.

I should have split when I first saw his apartment, crammed with power tools and old TVs. Barely space to sleep. But we weren’t sleeping, we were burning. Falling. More room in my heart for crazy than I knew.

My mother knows I’d rather get wet than wait. She warns me not to fight to reach the items on the highest shelf. Lightning isn’t fair, she says. Arugula doesn’t make it healthy. When you need a Phillips, all you find are flatheads. She calls my house memento mori: orchids, bonsai, sun-bleached boards.

Stumbling Through

After the yellow tape and the dark blood, after the wallet with our family photos is released, after three days of paid bereavement pass and the jar goes round at work for casket funds, after I dream of identifying the body, after the cops come back to question us again, after praise for the Lord and the embalmer’s skill, after whispers of revenge and today we do not mourn, then the first breath without a sob.

Tracy Mishkin is a call center veteran with a PhD and a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Butler University. She is the author of two previous chapbooks, I Almost Didn’t Make It to McDonald’s (Finishing Line Press, 2014) and The Night I Quit Flossing (Five Oaks Press, 2016). She been nominated twice for a Pushcart — both times by Parody — and published in Raleigh Review and Rat’s Ass Review.

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

Maybe you have lines living in you. Maybe you’ve been walking around like the speaker in Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones”: “This place could be beautiful, / right? You could make this place beautiful.” Maybe you’ve been inspired by Isobel O’Hare’s erasures, and have an urge to address some things. Maybe you’ve woken up in the spiked night, with a line swimming out of the deep. Maybe you have a story to tell. Or, maybe you memorized Jericho Brown’s “Colosseum” and have been repeating to yourself: “I cannot locate the origin / Of slaughter, but I know / How my own feels, that I live with it / And sometimes use it / To get the living done . . .”

These poetic efforts have touched me in the last few months, in that strange trigonometry of language, chance, and seeking, that we readers and writers do. Brown’s lines resonated with me, brought me low, and offered something – if not quite comfort, then a kind of recognition.

Poems by Rita Feinstein and Sarah McCartt-Jackson

We are excited to share poetry by Rita Feinstein and Sarah McCartt-Jackson, whose chapbooks have been selected by editor Kiki Petrosino for inclusion in the Mineral Point Poetry Series this fall. Rita Feinstein’s Life on Dodge will be available October 16, and Sarah McCartt-Jackson’s Calf Canyon releases November 13.

Poems by Rita Feinstein

from Life on Dodge

When you left, there was a sound like the scraping of a dagger being unsheathed from my heart, and in the left-behind hollow, a red bat came to roost. Good, I thought, because bats go where moths go and moths go where the light is, which means there’s still something like a streetlamp in me, however dusty and guttering. But where its corona bleeds to black, you can still hear it—the sleek shriek of steel against bone, the infinite echo of you pulling away.

You have gone, and so can I. I can go to a red planet with no name, no coordinates. There is no wind here, no dust, nowhere to stake a flag. No rotation, no view. No ocean under the crust and no ice at the poles. There is no gravity, no atmosphere, and no one to name its craters. There is not a robot to help repair the spaceship I don’t have. There are no giant worms in the sand. There is no sand. There is nothing here but not enough of it.

This planet is my home now— might as well name it. I name it Dodge, in the hope that someday I will get the hell out of it. Or that it will get out of me. It lodges deeply in my hips, constricting its fist. It’s a hard round ache in my breasts. I can taste it on the back of my tongue, sour like beef blood. The last time I hurt this much, we were too poor even for a bath plug, so you filled a plastic bag with sand and let the drain suck it into place. It was the best you could do. The iron-orange water held, but so did the pain.

Rita Feinstein is a graduate of Oregon State University’s MFA program. Her work has appeared in The Cossack Review, Permafrost, Grist, and Spry Literary Journal, among other publications. She lives with her husband, who is a lawyer, and her dog, who is not.

Poems by Sarah McCartt-Jackson

from Calf Canyon

Drought

It begins with drink. Our eyes drink color and reflect it back to our brains, which drink shape. Shape drinks shade, leafshadows scrambling on their stems like starlings stuck to wire. Wire drinks voices, spliced threads chopped apart and ribosomed back together in a winding ladder propped against our earlobes. Our earbones drink the wet sounds of leaves unfolding newborn fists, the desperate sound of fish gills in a boat bucket. Our hands drink the wormblood and hook. Our foreheads drink sweat, our forearms hair and knuckle. Our ankles the mosquito tongue, dry of our neighbor’s blood. Boatplanks drink scales and shoe soles and cigarette ash and ocean fog and the heat of sunlogged turtles, which drink the cloverstem milk, which drinks the roothairs, which drink the cavelight, which drinks the batwing, drinks the limestone, drinks the fossilbone slipped between a moltenstone harvest. The inner core drinks iron-tasting pennies, nickel. Not enough liquid in the world to fill its iron core. And this is how in drought I learn a rogue billet does not raise a doe’s eye, how a doe does not lift from drinking.

Wildfire

We watched the fires spread.

Neighbors set up their lawn chairs

to watch their neighbors’ houses burn.

Which is how I caught a bottle

to the face when I threw a cigarette

butt out the window. And how

the bottle shattered and fractured

the windshield after my jaw and how later

he didn’t remember (or said he didn’t)

how the windshield cracked,

and I told him,

and he said that wasn’t true.

And so it wasn’t true.

Creston

I did not see the moonwashed lake behind our trailer or the yellow finch in the avocado tree. I did not see the fire, the smoke of which we watched from the mustard thistle lawn. I did not see the coyotes eating the dead cattle or the California mouse while it was still alive. I did not see old Tim (all thirty-three and married) wreck on Shell Creek Road with a nineteen-year-old passenger in lipgloss and cutoffs, when it was not just ten days before he took me to a baby’s grave on our way back from buying a pack of cigarettes, and me seventeen. The freeze on the vineyard edges. The lizard drinking from the wild pig bleed. The shotgun slug through the throat of a barn owl, hanging by awing from its owl house.

I saw what happens when girls—who are not supposed to—witness their babies’ faces. I saw the helicopters circling like released seeds, their gondola buckets of water dangling. I saw the cattle troughs dry as the Camatta creekbed and cow bodies bulked in the live oak shade. I saw a peregrine falcon tearing the mouse bones, beak to skull, hunger coagulated in its nares. A flatbed truck with whiskey and paper cups, an empty graveyard with a moon big as a belly. Reservoirs turned to sulfur. Pig hooves charred in the barbecue pit. A fifty-three-year-old owl perched in the left ventricle of my heart.

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

Maybe you have lines living in you. Maybe you’ve been walking around like the speaker in Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones”: “This place could be beautiful, / right? You could make this place beautiful.” Maybe you’ve been inspired by Isobel O’Hare’s erasures, and have an urge to address some things. Maybe you’ve woken up in the spiked night, with a line swimming out of the deep. Maybe you have a story to tell. Or, maybe you memorized Jericho Brown’s “Colosseum” and have been repeating to yourself: “I cannot locate the origin / Of slaughter, but I know / How my own feels, that I live with it / And sometimes use it / To get the living done . . .”

These poetic efforts have touched me in the last few months, in that strange trigonometry of language, chance, and seeking, that we readers and writers do. Brown’s lines resonated with me, brought me low, and offered something – if not quite comfort, then a kind of recognition.