Poetry Archive

“Corrosion”

It claimed a padlock yesterday, withered in my hand. In Denny Brovsky’s Ford this morning,
my foot pushed through the cab.
A coat of paint slows the spread; I’ll surely lose my fence. Anna sliced both legs on the
porch rail’s ragged edge.
With every rain stains like fat-bottomed girls edge down the factory walls. Gravity, the only
act of God seen in a mill town.
 
They sold stainless steel visions down on the docks—a promise per page boy hat—divided us
rats from the Balkans, half to Carnegie, half to Schwab.
 
Nightshift forged the modern Navy, one turret at a time. Dayshift bound this land to your
land with a ladder of railroad ties.
But then, the Empire’s glowing I-beam thrust into our ribs. We gathered in tin lean-tos
like flocks of iron pigs.
Rain, the color smokestacks cough, rolled off our oven-baked skin. It ran to the shiny Lehigh,
where even Baptists would not swim.
 
Now these powdered dreams dust my dungarees, keep washing from my hair. But the red
imprint of chain link is stubborn on my hands.

______________________________________________

D.E. Kern is an author and educator from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In 2011, he earned an MFA from San Jose State University. His poems have appeared in Mission at Tenth, Reed Magazine and online in Hypothetical: A Review of Everything Imaginable. He recently finished a novel examining the relationship between baseball and the American Civil War.

“Brett”

Route 22 has swallowed up

too many bodies before their time

swerving over medians, yellow lines

splashing through sleet.

against concrete

his body, ejected

like cassette tape

his tape, pulled out

and spilling, coloring

the white field with red

turned black in the night.

where ducks babbled

about the cold.

______________________________________________

Alyssabeth Knerr was born in New Jersey and raised in Pennsylvania. She enjoys writing poetry that is experimental in form, as well as fiction and creative non-fiction. She is currently in her first year of the MFA Poetry program at San Diego State University.

“Ozone”

The sky is the bright orange

of midnight, and it hangs like

salted dew on my tongue.

I inhale the filthy perfume with

a gasp in, a rattle out,

and Mom says not to huff

the ozone but it fills me with greedy

thoughts of soft seats and tiny pretzels,

international scents circulating through stale air.

I linger by the streaked windows

that show the planes falling out of the orange

to skid across a wet runway that’s fragrant

of fuel, charred rubber and cloud vapor.

And against the weathered glass that’s

cold to my nose and fingertips,

I dream of being a flight attendant

who starts the morning in a nameless terminal

and ends the night somewhere far away

from rusted water pipes and broken apartment stairs.

I will fly today and watch the cities spin below,

and I will fly when we return

from dusty Montana where Papa lives,

with musty horses and fields

of hazy yellow wildflowers,

back to LA and its orange midnight,

stopping at airy Denver this time

and dingy Salt Lake the next.

 

The doors to the plane open for me,

and while Mom wrinkles her nose and

complains about the dirty air,

I inhale through the plane doors

that seep of the star-stained stratosphere

a gasp in, a rattle out,

and I am home.

______________________________________________

Devyn Hamberlin is an undergraduate student at UC Riverside.

“Sea Song”

I’d sing you a better lullaby, babygirl, if these chipped walls

cradled soft notes right. They sag and give, the way

Mama’s voice does when she tries to sing the doxology.

 

Church never held no cradle for me, but you know how

She grew up in choir robes and hymnal dust.

Sunday afternoons, Papa’d sigh over to the piano bench and

Drop his fingers into the slots for middle C. I used to believe

Gershwin was a snake-charmer, and when he and her soared

I swear no serpent could have held out

 

The first time I saw your daddy in Blues I laughed.

Couldn’t help it, wouldn’t help him – that cap sheared off

Whatever the barracks barber hadn’t. Babygirl, if a man

Don’t sing, don’t follow. His boots snapped over streets in

Okinawa, France, some burgh in Germany, but his socks

Don’t got time to lose their pairs in our hamper.

 

You know the beaches here hiss different. Funny how

Grey mornings make the sound of water

Sneaking into the cracks between crushed up rocks and shells

Important. Girl of mine, we’ll find you a song that clings to

Salty fog and slabs of ocean. Maybe he’ll hear it.

______________________________________________

Alexandra Villamore is an undergraduate student at UC Riverside.

“To an Aokigahara Native (after Wislava Szymborska)”

Is it lonely up here, mountain ghost?

Perhaps the beauty makes up for it alone.

Perfect symmetry, an ocean of green

beneath the white powder snow.

It’s famous up here, a painting off

the coast of Kanagawa serving to show

how beautiful loneliness can be.

Can you hear the music down below, ghost?

Up here it’s koto sounds, bridges built on

the wires holding tradition together.

Up here it’s a demon’s quiet orchestra

The wind howls against the snowy slopes.

Ghost, down there it’s superflat.

It’s girls in mismatched petticoats

circle lenses and electronic souls.

Ghost, down there we have raves

the exceeder of everything foreign.

Ghost, it’s instant ramen and mochi ice cream

down there. It’s post modern haiku and manga

down there. It’s getting older and getting colder

down there. But it’s where I want to live

down there.

Ghost, they say a lot of people are in danger

when this mountain loses its perfection.

Did you learn what happens to a human body

choked on ash hotter than the sun?

Ghost, did you learn this in cram school

or did you instead learn how a body dies

all alone.

If you try hard enough you can hear

the endless lives buzz down below.

But I know you’ve heard this before, ghost.

The buzz hurts

and sometimes all anyone could want

is the quiet on this perfect summit

or in that sea of green below.

Ghost, is it lonely up here?

Are there shrines and shoppings malls here?

Have you found the truth here?

Can you scream to us the secret down there?

I’ll stay for a little while longer, and

cup the rising sun in these snow-frosted hands.

Maybe if I bow deeply enough over the edge

I can bring back the light to the deep green sea.

______________________________________________

Devyn Hamberlin is an undergraduate student at UC Riverside.

“Long Distance”

I get his text in the middle of the day

between ignoring looming paper deadlines

and watching my best friend rant. It’s the

first sign of life from him in over a month

and the messages reads a simple “Sup.”

S—soft and hissing, ice creaking in a glacier.

U—low in the tongue, a half melted Popsicle stick.

P—a pop of the lips, bubbles breaking under ice.

I don’t know how to respond, because what do you say

to someone who professes adoration yet

Forgets your birthday? A smiley face?

A rant, a screaming match boiling over

with tear-stained vowels and bitten consonants?

Maybe once upon a time ago, when we loved

with white-hot passion. Maybe once in another life

when the distance between us didn’t trigger an

ice age. But that’s not us anymore, we are

promised to this ice, and we blow annual kisses

over the icebergs growing between us

snowflakes buzzing with electronic tones.

I wonder for half a moment to just not reply

or to break the ice and break us apart.

He follows up with a “How are you today”.

No questions needed because in the end

my reply is always the same: “I’m fine”.

______________________________________________

Devyn Hamberlin is an undergraduate student at UC Riverside.

“The Silo”

Silo number nine looked like the Tin Man’s head, bearded with the shed that bristles

Management Only

The fog clung to the roof like a laurel, wreathed with six dollars more the next Friday.

Walking down the corn was a grown man’s job, and

Your brother’s thin ribs could use the padding. Yours too,

If you were careless enough to look down.

 

Hunched beneath the corrugated roof, nostrils stuffed up with the

Sweet stickiness of rotting corn crisped into milky sours,

You and your brother tossed picks by their worn handles into the sleeping mounds

Pitching them back to each other like boomerangs.

 

Grain shuddered, the silo groaned

The crusted patches beneath your feet

Ripped. Dropped you.

Shackled you to the triangled gridlock.

Your screams bounced off the sides of the silo

Gulped back by mechanical shushings of grain

Funneling into truck beds.

 

They didn’t tell you there were harnesses in the storage shed.

They didn’t tell you a body can drown in a solid.

They didn’t tell you how fast the mountain would swallow him.

 

You had to hug your brother’s body, or the rescue squad couldn’t jam

The grain tube around your shoulders. Couldn’t haul you out.

Six hours, and all you wanted was them to

Shove the plastic bucket over your head again so you couldn’t see

The pits in his face from kernels biting.

 

You’d think five hundred fifty thousand

Would be enough to pay for a headstone.

Hell, you’d think the two hundred grand would be enough for something

Better than those cockeyed red flowers you jabbed into his grave. Damn things

Flutter too much, thrash like his hand above the grain line.

He never got to make varsity.

 

At home your mother drags her fingers through popcorn kernels,

Listens to their dry rustle as they slip against each other.

Those men with soft hands tell you Haasbaech is closing,

Tell you that they’re educating workers, increasing safety awareness, and that they

Have mailed very strong letters.

Your mother’s room is littered with picket signs and sleeping pills.

You went to work the next week anyway.

______________________________________________

Alexandra Villamore is an undergraduate at UC Riverside.

“Kitchenette”

Missing you is easy when

The rim of my red plastic bowl

Chips gawkish fractures into the egg in my palm.

Maybe I miss the porcelain bowls you picked out

when I was seven. Maybe Inland Empire

Eggshells just crumple easier into my bowl-bound

Flour hills than I’m used to.

 

In summer I knew to clear out from the kitchen when you pulled

Our sputtering handmixer out from the cupboards.

You’d stand in the frame of the open window,

Dig measuring spoons into canisters.

You wouldn’t let me help.

 

Sometimes, here, I forget that the bottom rack roosts

Too close to the scorching curves of my oven coils.

This faded, butter-splattered recipe card, looped with your handwriting,

Promised me perfection in ten minutes. I pulled these charred lumps at eight.

They hiss in the trash can, spit singed sugar at my flimsy oven mitt.

 

You never baked in the first apartment. You were never in the mood.

Maybe the kitchen was too small to fit us both, to fit our hissing and

Raw silence. But now, though your new china nests among new cupboards,

I can only tiptoe back to memories when your churning spatula paused,

When you smiled at me.

 

My apartment is littered with boxes of craft projects and pictures and

Packs of books – anything you didn’t want room for.

Fledglings are pushed out of the nest with less, but I wish you’d at least

Sent me flapping with directions for meatloaf or

A roll of quarters for my mushrooming laundry basket.

 

When I was seventeen and wanted to prove I could make the better fudge,

I scorched the pot. Smooth chocolate wisped with marshmallow

Stuttered into clunky pebbles. You tried to rescue it for me. I just

Hovered, hands knotted in the same shapes my stomach forges when I think of

Calling you to ask if I can come home.

 

The slab of fluorescent lights above my head stays off. You preferred

Incandescents anyway. My hair sidles out of the clip I stole from you, frizzes

To the flipped rhythms of your old saxophone music. My hip clicks and these thirty-six

Sugar cookie pills aren’t worth the dish soap I’ll need to scrub up.

But they’re mine.

______________________________________________

Alexandra Villamore is an undergraduate at UC Riverside.

“I Was Afraid Of Dying”

After James Wright

 

Now,

at twilight, the grasses in the field are green enough

to smell.

White-tailed jackrabbits dodging to the tree line.

Their skittish ears remind us we are not alone.

Hiding in the shadows of fallen-branch shelters,

they are the most patient.

Perhaps now they fold their narrow ears down

because they know we are here.

When I die, hide me

in a bed of upturned oak leaves and the softest dirt

you can find.

 

______________________________________________

Taylor Collier lives in Syracuse, NY. Work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in The American Poetry Journal, Blue Mesa Review, DIAGRAM, the minnesota review, Southern Indiana Review, Washington Square, and Yemassee.

“Domestic Still Life”

We heard only

the shudder of a jet

approaching louder,

but it could have been

the end of the world,

and it wouldn’t have

mattered. I was in

the kitchen, washing

dishes, soaring through

the window, the light

that brilliance right

before the mist takes

over, speakers sounding

a kind of blue almost

remembered. You were

here but not, close

enough where I could

turn my head to see

you somewhere

else. No dog clattered

worn tags on the linoleum

floor, a swell of

piano and engine

converging at

the exact moment

where my hands slipped

under filmy water, the crash

of glass on enamel

so much quieter

than I ever imagined.

______________________________________________

Marci Vogel attends USC’s PhD Program in Literature and Creative Writing as a Provost Fellow. Her work has been published in FIELDPuerto del Sol, ZYZZYVA, Anti-, and the Seneca, Colorado, and Atlas reviews.

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