Poetry Archive

Via Lactea

Puerto Maldonado, Peru 2003

There are more stars in the southern hemisphere, I’m convinced.
All the grand small things of the night hum and whir with life,
a bat streaks past my blind face and the river swells after nine hours of rain.
Javier raises his arm in the dark and traces the Milky Way with his finger.
“Via Lactea” he says, and it pulses as though purring.
Night glows brighter when the electricity cuts out at 10 o’clock,
cranky generator lumbering to a loud and sudden silence.

I have no faith except where this candle shines through mosquito net,
Javier’s eyes liquid beneath me, blinded
by quadriceps and breast and hands feeling a range of soft
or dangerous landscapes, mud outside sucking at our knee-high galoshes,
ants marching and holding green leaves like flags,
how we climbed onto the lipped roots of an enormous ficus
tree to see what creatures nested in its dark cunt.

The world has come alive in this slim
rise of waist, all logic resting in a light
scar across the nose, his thighs showing lighter flesh
where sunlight could not reach as he skimmed the lake.

Climb down where I can help you, throw that machete down
on the packed dirt or lean it carefully upright on its sharp tip,
it doesn’t matter, just move a bit to the left, press
that universe of nerve endings joining up with yours
remember only this moment, the space where I begin, you begin,
no ending in sight for now, inhabit you like I did
on a table in Istanbul, a dance floor in Krakow,
a stranger’s bed in Melbourne, an ice skating rink in Missouri.

Tell me your name again, not mine – I know who I am now – lodge it
into my ear so I don’t lose it like a coin slipped into the river,
say it so I’ll remember when I lift the mosquito net
and reach my toes for the muggy floor to blow the candle out.

Aidan Lee’s poems have been published in Salamander, Bayou, Memoir, J Journal, Snapdragon, Paper Nautilus and Aunt Chloe. She was a semi-finalist in both the 2016 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open and First Book Award Competition. She has an MFA from Hunter College where she won the Academy of American Poets prize.

Almost After Appearance

Between a bay and a beach,
a gale built from gray to gray:
an evident, flatiron figure.

Eastern, experimental frames,
carrying a conventional crew
of chance, developed during

dead-rise displacement, furling
forward, from a frolic to
an extraordinary, almost forgotten

example of exaggeration.
Courtesy adrift, distance depressed
and all distinctive finesse

finished, boats at capacity capsized,
devolved from favor.
And any feet accounted for

ended giving evidence for
amidships’ confidence becoming
a father for circumstantial

gravity, figs easily carried
down a centerline—an efficient,
fish-bottomed chain.

Jen Karetnick is the author of seven poetry collections, including American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016), finalist for the 2017 Julie Suk Award, and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016), finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of Virginia Book Award. She is co-director for SWWIM reading series.

Captive Raptor

for Anna-Lisa Hillenburg

The kestrel clutched our ranger’s padded fist,
its rust-streaked cheeks jerking quizzically
from girl to girl. We listened drowsily in mist
before the thunder broke, before we leaned
beneath that tiny canopy to keep
at least our shirtfronts dry. ‘Imprinted’ means
she can’t survive outside captivity,
the ranger sighed, then continued streaming
through camp. That night I dreamed inside the storm
both girls cawed to help a beak rip out
its handler’s eyes, swallowing his warm
and tendriled nerves. Like Oedipus without
a trail to stagger bleeding on the loam
they flew into the dark to speak with stones.

Adam Tavel is the author of The Fawn Abyss (Salmon Poetry, 2017) and Plash & Levitation (University of Alaska Press, 2015), winner of the Permafrost Book Prize in Poetry. You can find him online at https://adamtavel.com/.

Falling Sky, Hope Smoldering

Initial reports claim a white scar
streaking the desert sky, sonic boom
and wind, broken glass in Vegas over

300 miles away, a shockwave so sudden
gamblers drop their drinks and remorseful
addicts repent on Flamingo Ave. Star-

watcher websites crash from the volume

of amateur photos uploaded, a crater
punishing the wastelands of Sonora, smoking

chunk of sky in the center. NASA reps dispel
rumors of alien convoys, Korean ballistics, or
the extinction of man. Just a satellite blown

off course—of course—but Spaceboy’s
wife is there when they pry open

the burning metal, stunned

by a hiss of oxygen, the fuselage frigid,
years untouched by starlight.
Dashboard instruments blink feebly, a capsule

predating microchips, fashioned with slide rules
and pencils. Strapped in the passenger’s seat,
she touches America’s first astronaut,

a Rhesus monkey, circa 1952,
skinny, frozen,
but still breathing.

Armin Tolentino received his MFA at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ and his poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Arsenic Lobster, Common Knowledge, and The Raven Chronicles. He is an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship recipient and works in anti-poverty and education programming in Portland.


in the interests of overthrowing monopolised assets like male, God & I
this poem would like to begin at the end

there is no guarantee that the beginning will be there when you finish
so if you can entrain odd sympathy and stop the clock while reading you will be
‘in phase’

but you may also enter a ‘death state’ so I have inserted the failsafe of
a pre-programmed frequency of 0Hz contained in parentheses here – (_)

which you will need to wear for the duration of this hearing
this acts as a shield and doubles as a false enlightenment generator

if this fails the parentheses will invert, replacing your ears, amplifying )thought(
to revert, click this hyperlink C:user/reset/recall/new documents

you are the sole witness to the act of silence murdering sound and getting away with it
unless you are reading this aloud which makes you an accomplice

if you cease to desire reading on then the poem will automatically self-destruct
if you leave before the present detects you the future will embed you into an echo

if a sense of deja vu leads you to believe you’ve ghost-written this
enrol in a course for seers at the academy of supernatural arts

at any point if I lead you to the edge where you feel marginalised
fold this page into an origami dove, embark and send it air mail c/o A.bort

by handing down this sentence I commit myself to starting a new chapter
confessing to all the manifestos I scrawled on innocent bystanders’ eyes

the terms negotiated having saved orphaned characters from
scratching around waste dumps for morsels in scraps of drafts

if at any point you feel discomfort
insert yourself into this symbol to be healed ∆

there is a dictatorship operating from this tower – I –
it is the vantage point from where the ego shall blow itself up

these lines aim to lead you down an unlit lane of your mind to rob you of
your so-called valuable notions, leave you for dead then call 911

to spell ‘it’ out would mean putting a spell on itself
thereby killing off etymology so only talking in tongues will do

*(this footnote is appearing ahead of itself to ensure an ontological backfire occurs
and presuppositionless flattens the sheer psychic cliff that drops off here______)

• load these .12-calibre bullet points into a *philosophical gun

• make a presentation on the absurdity of ‘presentations’

there is no evidence to suggest there is anything beyond evidence
or that you have reached the beginning (insert subjective surface interface here)

writer / musician / theorist from Melbourne Australia currently studying how to escape mind / body / country without leaving

Pit Stop

“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure,
but I don’t know any of them.” -Sylvia Plath

In Kootenay County, B.C. at the Halcyon Hot Springs,
we pillage our backpacks in search of swimsuits

and towels. Our blanched Alaskan skin glows pale halibut
under pyred sun. Giggling we bound like white-tailed

deer to the pool’s edge, plunge foot, leg, body into beryl
water. We slide into the tonic unaffected by afternoon

temperatures. Rie, our daughter, is frosted with sunscreen,
trussed with enough flotation to shoot like a champagne

cork around the jetted swim channel, nothing but giggles
and wind; skylarking and shenanigans. Later, elbows

propped upon pool’s deck, road tripped muscles warmed,
limber, I watch the waves joggle Upper Arrow Lake.

Daughter in the spray park, husband in the mineral
soak; if I could sleep in water, I would.

Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing Alaskan. When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon, she lives in Sitka, Alaska. She completed her MFA through the University of Alaska Anchorage (2016).   Her book of poetry Something Yet to Be Named is forthcoming (Aldrich Press, 2017).


my cousin’s neck is craned into the shape of a decade
his open mouth spread wide enough for his laughter to

spill out & stretch its fingers into the fog of summer
he is choking on the same story of me & my skin

that he enjoys spinning to remind us of our better days
& i have no defense for my adolescence other than

father mike & the way he freed himself of whatever sins
of the week still had a hold of him & he sang praise

until the altar was dripping with his sweat & he had
nothing left but the spirit knocking around in his ribs

as he stretched his tired palms in front of the congregation
& we all rose out of our seats & left our worldly possessions

behind while the hand of god passed through our
unworthy bones & we been trifling all week

but now the slate was clean & we knew it when pastor said
breathe easy & we did & now my cousin is finally coughing out

more of the story & brings the old nissan back to life
& mummy’s hands are at ten & two & the backseat is

a chorus of arms & young laughter & a man on the radio
is trying to make a lover out of anyone listening

& asks that we all take off our shirts & our shoes
& whatever else was keeping us bound & i couldn’t

tell the difference between catching the spirit & having
the night take hold of you & perhaps this is why

i am the only one taking him seriously & slipping out
of all the heavy hanging from my skin as the rest of

my cousins twirl & sweat themselves slick with sugar
& the hymn dies just as my fingers fling whatever is left

of my shackles out the window to live with the stars
& i am a kind of reborn & i too am a type of slick

& the brief silence & this new & free abundance
fill the car at the same time & bring it to a full stop

on the winding tungsten lit street & mummy’s smile
is twirling up into her cheeks & my cousins’ laughter

is the new song in the air & they too have their mouths agape
& are showing off the few teeth that made the journey

through the midnight lurking in their jaws
& i suppose
we are all worshiping as best we can while the evening falls

pitch black around us & coats me invisible & i am a night sky wrapped
around another night sky & i am a shoreline with two moons & i am

a litany without sin & the backseat erupts into a million hallelujahs
& it is true that the foot of any smoke can be made into an altar

& it’s the work of either god or magic to pull the head back
& pry open the lips to let a deathless gold

pour from the lungs

Bernard Ferguson is a Bahamian immigrant that has work featured/upcoming in Mizna, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Third Point Press, and Button Poetry, among others.  You can find him holding down a local Starbucks while mouthing the lyrics to a Drake song and sipping a green tea latte.

The Basement

there was a painter who would paint
on a large canvas. and then when the
painting was finished the painter would
paint over it in grey, and in white and in white,
layer after layer in white, and every
painting was a storm, a story of how time
changes things and you must start over.

Oscar Montes is a poet living in San Antonio, TX and is a student at San Antonio Community College. His Poetry has appeared in Bitterzoet and Voices de la Luna.

January Storm

In my sleep, my throat was cut again,
in that sleep my skin was whiter
than our walls, when in waking
it is more red, a constant blush
of shame. When I woke

it was to my daughter’s cries.
She has words now. Spaced throughout
the screams is the name she calls me,

yet I send her father in. She will let him leave,
but from me she only wants more.
even though my breasts are poor
pillows, my ribs a hard mattress, she finds
peace there, my knife elbow pointed out.

When I close my eyes again, my throat is
slit, and I wake to the sound of my husband’s
heavy breath, to the sound of the wind
around our house, the Japanese Maple
clawing the siding with untrimmed branches.

Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson is preoccupied with absence. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals including: Tar River Poetry Review, Literary Mama, Adroit Journal, and Foilet & Wing. You can learn more about her writing at www.caitlinthomson.com.

Study #1: Saturday Morning

It is hard for me to remember that we are on the same side.
A girl brought up to understand love as a negotiation between
have and want, a woman molded as an empire fighting to keep itself
from decline, learns that even sneaking a breath is a transaction first.
I confront myself with this geometric riddle: how many sides does a sphere have?
Infinite, or one. And if the latter, we could stand on this globe directly
opposite, each of us pulled to the other’s footprints through a diameter
of solid iron and molten ore, and still we would be on the same side.

It will be hard for you to remember that we are on the same side
when you trudge through the clotted ravine of growing up into
the realization that you will not live the life you thought you might.
What descends belies the wisdom of this mantra you taught me. But if you look
into darkness you will still see, after some delay, pixels of light, and in
that gray, me beside you. You only have to wait for your eyes to adjust.

Mingpei Li was born in China and lives in New York City. She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.

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