Category Archives: HOW NOW

Five Sonnets by John Reed

FIVE SONNETS BY JOHN REED   82   Twenty years, knock knock, and I’m without strings, while you, too, rattle your knobs down hallways. If hawseholes still linger, I don’t look for them. I don’t wonder, darling, about the hand,   which waits, without a palm, without an other— no valence of clouds or eyes in the blue— mantled above what we can remember, above the dead side and our varnished pupils. But what if, what-if we, our cords untangled, quivered by our fetters, ensnared again? And the footlights kindled our wooden faces, and we tossed embraces to jointed limbs, suspended, while we clattered painted lips.   80   I knew we’d be seeing each other again. It looks like everyone else is here, too. All of us, once angels, who finally finished falling. We were so crazy about here and there, when the little difference was “always,” or the other eternity, “never.” Just listen to all of this childless laughter. Now we are gone, and here we can stay, you and I, who are you and I no more, who tore apart our daughters for the bears, who offered our sons to God, LOL, who are, we know, we’ve forgotten who, who are now outside of ourselves, without when.   78 (valentine)   Momma, are there other wooden children? Momma, am I your only wooden child? The others, momma, are they more alive? Do the meat children offer you their hearts? Momma, you know I have no heart to give, but I have given you axes, and chainsaws, and I’ve said you could cut off my limbs,  you could take me down to timbers, momma. Chop me down, momma, and I’ll give you my stars. Why momma, why, do I still have my sky? Oh momma cut me down, or I’ll grow wild. Momma cut me down, if you won’t come again, I have no love, I have no love for the wren.   9 (seventy)   Seventy-seven ladies of sorrow, dear hearts, cruel hearts, broken hearts and true hearts, none of us saints, all of us hallowed, for all that we teased, and picked life apart, for all of our dreams, like flashes of dark, for all of our heaving, gone with a puff, for lipstick-rimmed crystal, greasy and stark, for ashtrays of filtered cigarettes, snuffed, for the little we took for far too much, we shall be inurned in chambers of want. For the youth we lost: be mingled in dust. Be one dying breath in a shell of conch. Seventy-seven, ladies of sorrow, farewell my loves, and wake me tomorrow.    6   Come to me like tomorrow to a child. Like the day is cradle, blue world below, to the misty, tussled dreams, half wild, of cherished seraphs in cloudy furrows. Like the dawn will wake us to memories yet unknown, waiting in our baby brows. Our lives of snow to fall upon the sea. Our little losses just the cheer of crows. Wake me, my sweet, to our pinky bodies, like newborn pigs in sacks of spiky wheat. Like she is, she is, she is she: a tease, / an angel, and a laughing whiskey neat. Wake me, baby, from this too too solid dream. / Exit the woman, and enter, the steam.  

Read More »

Nine Women, or How to Get the Whorehouse Back Together One More Time

Nine women or How to get the whorehouse back together one more time by Kathryn Stockett   First, dial Everest-6840 on your mother’s old yellow phone, the one she used to beat a burglar bloody once without even putting her cigarette down.  Move the phone back when Ruby answers in her Brooklyn-come-south accent: ‘Where the fuck a you been, I don’t do that shit no more, ain’t you heard? I’m working hosiery and intimates eight years now at the Kress.’ ‘Come on Ruby. Just one more night,’ you say. ‘And stop calling me Ruby, I go by Mary Evelyn now. I been Mary Evelyn since—Jesus—it’s ten years now.’ ‘Look I really need the money,’ you say and try to sound desperate. Think about all the middle of the nights you’ve woken up dreaming about Ruby and the rest of them. ‘Don’t forget you’re the one left us, when was that, in ’52? God bless America I was still in my three-ohs. And you still owe me five bucks.’ ‘See you tonight then?’ you say. ‘My mother’s house.’ ‘You’re a pain in my ass.’ Click goes the dial. Afterwards, let yourself look around the old house. Flip through last week’s mail, pour out the sour milk on the back porch, stuff your funeral dress in the garbage pail. Go upstairs and pull out the white one with black polka dots—it’s all still here. Her things and your things just like in the dream. And don’t forget the long-distance call: ‘I’m staying one more night.’ Hang up before you have to hear it. Finally, go to the old garden out back, pick your mother’s last tomato. It’s still green but heavy as a baby’s head in your hand. Don’t bother washing the last eleven years of Memphis off. Just eat it, standing there, like an apple. Then wonder if anybody’ll come.  ___________________     Pinky and Rhonda are the first to walk in. Say, ‘Jesus you look the same, Pink,’ because she does to you except she’s shaking a little. ‘Now that’s some horseshit if I ever heard it,’ Pinky says. ‘I ain’t seen you in Lord—I don’t know how many years.’ Don’t tell her it’s been eleven or she’ll know you’ve been counting. ‘I swear we just looked up one day and you was gone,’ Pinky says. ‘Yeah, after you left, the whole thing just fell apart. I’m telling ya, things got bad, I don’t know why,’ Rhonda says and scratches the needle marks on her arm. Next in is Jenny—her blonde wig crooked. The syph took her hair back in ’51. Mary’s next, still wearing the same false teeth. Her trick was to pop them out before she got down on her knees. ‘Was it a fella why you left?’ Mary says, ‘or did you get the clap? It was the clap wasn’t it?’ Just shrug and say nothing. It wasn’t, but don’t ever deny the clap to another whore, it sounds uppity, especially if she happens to have it. ‘Where’s Ruby? She coming?’ Jenny says. But Ruby’s not here yet. She was always the leader, but Ruby’s not here. Roxy’s got tattoos chattering up and down her arm now: I love Mitch. Ten in the Pen-Shelby County Jail. Patsy claps you on the back and says, ‘I thought you was dead, you old hooker you.’ Patsy, who couldn’t shake the crabs, so she just shaved it off and got a merkin…

Read More »

Nine Women, or How to Get the Whorehouse Back Together One More Time (by Kathryn Stockett)

  Nine Women or How to Get the Whorehouse Back Together One More Time by Kathryn Stockett First, dial Everest-6840 on your mother’s old yellow phone, the one she used to beat a burglar bloody once without even putting her cigarette down.  Move the phone back when Ruby answers in her Brooklyn-come-south accent: ‘Where the fuck a you been, I don’t do that shit no more, ain’t you heard? I’m working hosiery and intimates eight years now at the Kress.’ ‘Come on Ruby. Just one more night,’ you say. ‘And stop calling me Ruby, I go by Mary Evelyn now. I been Mary Evelyn since—Jesus—it’s ten years now.’ ‘Look I really need the money,’ you say and try to sound desperate. Think about all the middle of the nights you’ve woken up dreaming about Ruby and the rest of them. ‘Don’t forget you’re the one left us, when was that, in ’52? God bless America I was still in my three-ohs. And you still owe me five bucks.’ ‘See you tonight then?’ you say. ‘My mother’s house.’ ‘You’re a pain in my ass.’ Click goes the dial. Afterwards, let yourself look around the old house. Flip through last week’s mail, pour out the sour milk on the back porch, stuff your funeral dress in the garbage pail. Go upstairs and pull out the white one with black polka dots—it’s all still here. Her things and your things just like in the dream. And don’t forget the long-distance call: ‘I’m staying one more night.’ Hang up before you have to hear it. Finally, go to the old garden out back, pick your mother’s last tomato. It’s still green but heavy as a baby’s head in your hand. Don’t bother washing the last eleven years of Memphis off. Just eat it, standing there, like an apple. Then wonder if anybody’ll come.  ___________________     Pinky and Rhonda are the first to walk in. Say, ‘Jesus you look the same, Pink,’ because she does to you except she’s shaking a little. ‘Now that’s some horseshit if I ever heard it,’ Pinky says. ‘I ain’t seen you in Lord—I don’t know how many years.’ Don’t tell her it’s been eleven or she’ll know you’ve been counting. ‘I swear we just looked up one day and you was gone,’ Pinky says. ‘Yeah, after you left, the whole thing just fell apart. I’m telling ya, things got bad, I don’t know why,’ Rhonda says and scratches the needle marks on her arm. Next in is Jenny—her blonde wig crooked. The syph took her hair back in ’51. Mary’s next, still wearing the same false teeth. Her trick was to pop them out before she got down on her knees. ‘Was it a fella why you left?’ Mary says, ‘or did you get the clap? It was the clap wasn’t it?’ Just shrug and say nothing. It wasn’t, but don’t ever deny the clap to another whore, it sounds uppity, especially if she happens to have it. ‘Where’s Ruby? She coming?’ Jenny says. But Ruby’s not here yet. She was always the leader, but Ruby’s not here. Roxy’s got tattoos chattering up and down her arm now: I love Mitch. Ten in the Pen-Shelby County Jail. Patsy claps you on the back and says, ‘I thought you was dead, you old hooker you.’ Patsy, who couldn’t shake the crabs, so she just shaved it off and got a merkin…

Read More »

Worm, Rising | by Nora Brooks

Worm, Rising by Nora Brooks The first time I left Portland, I went to Transylvania. I got a job at a private language school near the center of a small city. Along the cobblestone street near the school was a raven that would hop down in front of pedestrians to scare them. All the students rose when I entered the room, their blazers a mass of maroon, winners of an application lottery. The students made up plays about corrupt traffic cops and suicide attempts, and we went to theater festivals to perform. At the break each day, some of the kids went to a café with me and sipped tiny cups of coffee. One of them told me I was brave, but I didn’t think so. It was only that I didn’t know of anything else I could do. I was reading a lot then, furiously. Ann Carson said: I like to open my bedroom drapes as wide as possible at night. I like to see everything. My boyfriend in that city had another woman who lived across town. Sometimes we all got beers together. I walked up to the wall along the school and waited for the raven to hop down. He just stood there, eyeing me, his giant black beak a razor at its tip. I came back home and got a teaching certificate. The easiest part about that year had been the walk to school, dreaming of what we would do in class. A year later, I was driving up and down the interstate to a farm town named Canby, a house and a man waiting each day back in Portland. * I pushed the chalk stub along the green board. The scratch of pencils behind me grew quiet and then stopped. “Pinche lombriz,” Jorge yelled. Juan’s thin face showed no reaction. He had three teardrops under his left eye. I had never heard of this particular tattoo before, one teardrop for each person you had killed. This was my first year at Canby High. All I knew was that at a minimum, I didn’t want to harm anybody. “No swearing,” I said. Juan’s arms lay loose across his orange desk. All the kids were sitting in a half-circle, my attempt at discourse and cooperation. There was no way to move without everyone seeing. “I ain’t swearing,” Jorge said. Juan turned his shaved head. Through the wide windows were visible the alfalfa fields along the edge of the high school. The building was like a ranch house, long and low. Outside there were the kids’ parents, working somewhere off in the long green grass. “We’re just joking, maestra,” Federico said. He flipped his hair off his face. “We always call each other like this.” “That doesn’t sound like joking,” I said. “Look, Jorge is a pinche burro, Lupe is a loca,” Federico said. “That’s how we talk.” “Maestra, lombriz just means worm.” Lupe tried to save me. She was my teaching assistant. We had shared a few afternoons of cutting apart sentence strips. “That’s not any more okay than swearing. Look, if you don’t all agree to stop, we will all have to sit here until you do,” I said. “Ay Federico, calmate tu boca.” Xochitl slammed her pen down. “I’m not trying to stay after school.” I hadn’t thought of that. Seventh was the last period of the day. “What did I have to do with this?” Federico…

Read More »

Tiphanie Yanique | Dangerous Things

    Dangerous Things   This is the island. It is small and vulnerable, it is a woman, calling. You love her until you are a part of her and then, just like that you make her less than she was before—the space that you take up is a space where she cannot exist It is something in her history that does this Don’t mind her name The island is a woman Therefore, dangerous things live below Beautiful things, also—which can be the most dangerous. True, we will never be beyond our histories. And so I am the island. And so this is a warning.

Read More »

Mark Doty | from What Is The Grass

  Mark Doty From What Is the Grass     Poetry tends toward the unsayable as a compass needle loves the north; the poem wants to give words to longing, to desolation, to the persistence of hope. It wants to enter into the awareness of animals and of small children, and of the dead; it wants to strip away false appearances, and to address the divine, and light up the unseen movements of those forces which turn the seasons and move forward life.  A beautiful Robert Louis Stevenson poem, written for children,  begins   Who has seen the wind, neither you nor I, but when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.”   Poetry is a wind we shape; it lights up our mortal dimensions and the deep strangeness of things by showing us the evidence of invisibles, by showing us, as clearly as it can, the beautiful supplication of the trees, which have no choice but to yield.   _____________   When you love a great poet’s work, it can become a center to which all of experience may be referred, a locus of meaning that can spill out into many dimensions of a life. Indeed, I have had to check myself a bit in referring in conversation to Walt Whitman. “A bit eccentric” is a reputation I can readily accept, but I’ve seen that look on friend’s faces when they think I’ve once again dragged someone from another century into a conversation where he doesn’t belong. I know better; when it comes to a grand and encyclopedic poet, there really are no unrelated conversations. I don’t always say so. And of course there’s that thing that lovers do, mentally addressing the other when the beloved is absent. If I’ve seen something I think would interest Alex when I’m traveling alone, I may tell him about it in my head, and imagine his response; it’s a way of feeling connected, of spending time in relation to him. I’m writing now in early September, in the small square studio I love behind our place in the country. The door’s open, and at the bottom of the view Ned – my golden shadow – is sleeping on the diamonds of slate tiles, and at the top of the doorway I can see a slice of the pale blue portico Alex has just primed and painted for me, the color you’d get if you could dilute a morning glory with milk. He’s somewhere in the garden now, half-mending and half-creating a gate. He makes things with the focus and intensity I bring to this, and though I only see him moving from one part of the garden to another now and then, or hear the occasional burr of a power tool or a bit of that private muttering that goes along with seeking a solution to a puzzle, his presence is a part of this work. When I’m away, that relation is less constant, but it does go on. When you’re away, how many times a day do you think of the person you live with? It’s the same with the poets whose words and presence I have internalized, the ones most near to me. They seem to stand up and come forward when something that resonates with my sense of them occurs. In Key West last winter for a seminar, how could I not keep company with Elizabeth Bishop,…

Read More »

Baptism | by Gilmarie Brioso

Baptism by Gilmarie Brioso It’s cold in this box of dark, carved wood. The incense guides my breathing, and I focus as each breath peppers my throat. Spiced air flows through my body and calms the trembles that run along my arms. Confessionals are always cold. “They’re kept this way for the confessor; it keeps him alert. The dimmed lights let him look into his soul, directly at his sins.” Sister Cera told me this as we walked through the empty nave one evening. Accustomed to her thin, pale lips in a straight line, I noticed a quirk then, as if she were amused with the idea. The cold is fierce and prickles at my skin, but I know it’s not the sole reason for the shivers that take over. I search my mind for any sins left unsaid. Look through every mistake— the pointless lies I told just because I could. God’s name, spoken in vain. That time I stole chalk from my elementary school to play with back home. When I cursed Doña Blanca for gossiping about Mamá. I was 12 then, but I’ve felt agony over it since, even more after la Doña’s death, as if I were the cause. Then there was the time I saw Don Antonio have sex with Emily, his 19-year-old cleaning lady, and enjoyed the thrill of the scene. I had watched from the kitchen window as I washed the day’s first dishes. The white cotton curtain moved gently with the morning breeze, but did not do much to obstruct the view—el Don’s knuckles pressing against his back, Emily’s knees kneading the floor. My hands did not stop scrubbing. I have revealed every evil thought: the exact way I wanted to hurt Papá for leaving Mamá. My hatred for Mamá after he left. I hated her weakness. I can still see her, clinging to Papá’s feet as he left for the last time. Hearing her choking cries, I could only think, You stupid, stupid woman. I vowed to never let a man have control over me. And then there was the day I brought a razor blade to the right side of my face, drove a clean incision to cup my cheek. The scar never faded; it rests gently across my face. My brown blunder, rosy and rounded. It was what Sister Cera first asked about. “A carnal sin,” she said, nodding her head, eyes closed. “That must be confessed before you continue.” But Sister Cera never asked me why I had done it. Would I have said it was for Sofia? Would I have shared the way Sofia whispered my name, with all the air in the room? “Marina,” she said as she touched my spoil. The hair on my arms rose up with my name, as if they were tiny feelers tuned to Sofia’s voice, capturing her sound, pulling her to me, making my heart pump faster. “You did it,” she said. “I did,” I told her, begging her to believe me since, just a day before, she wanted to end us. “You’ll leave me,” Sofia had explained. “Flacita and beautiful, you’ll leave me for some rich old man. I know it.” So I carved away at my own flesh, took the beautiful from it, and felt the warm blood on my hands. I had expected a flood, but when I looked down only three small pools had dripped to the floor.…

Read More »

An Excerpt from What Is The Grass | by Mark Doty

  Mark Doty From What Is the Grass     Poetry tends toward the unsayable as a compass needle loves the north; the poem wants to give words to longing, to desolation, to the persistence of hope. It wants to enter into the awareness of animals and of small children, and of the dead; it wants to strip away false appearances, and to address the divine, and light up the unseen movements of those forces which turn the seasons and move forward life.  A beautiful Robert Louis Stevenson poem, written for children,  begins   Who has seen the wind, neither you nor I, but when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.”   Poetry is a wind we shape; it lights up our mortal dimensions and the deep strangeness of things by showing us the evidence of invisibles, by showing us, as clearly as it can, the beautiful supplication of the trees, which have no choice but to yield.   _____________   When you love a great poet’s work, it can become a center to which all of experience may be referred, a locus of meaning that can spill out into many dimensions of a life. Indeed, I have had to check myself a bit in referring in conversation to Walt Whitman. “A bit eccentric” is a reputation I can readily accept, but I’ve seen that look on friend’s faces when they think I’ve once again dragged someone from another century into a conversation where he doesn’t belong. I know better; when it comes to a grand and encyclopedic poet, there really are no unrelated conversations. I don’t always say so. And of course there’s that thing that lovers do, mentally addressing the other when the beloved is absent. If I’ve seen something I think would interest Alex when I’m traveling alone, I may tell him about it in my head, and imagine his response; it’s a way of feeling connected, of spending time in relation to him. I’m writing now in early September, in the small square studio I love behind our place in the country. The door’s open, and at the bottom of the view Ned – my golden shadow – is sleeping on the diamonds of slate tiles, and at the top of the doorway I can see a slice of the pale blue portico Alex has just primed and painted for me, the color you’d get if you could dilute a morning glory with milk. He’s somewhere in the garden now, half-mending and half-creating a gate. He makes things with the focus and intensity I bring to this, and though I only see him moving from one part of the garden to another now and then, or hear the occasional burr of a power tool or a bit of that private muttering that goes along with seeking a solution to a puzzle, his presence is a part of this work. When I’m away, that relation is less constant, but it does go on. When you’re away, how many times a day do you think of the person you live with? It’s the same with the poets whose words and presence I have internalized, the ones most near to me. They seem to stand up and come forward when something that resonates with my sense of them occurs. In Key West last winter for a seminar, how could I not keep company with Elizabeth Bishop,…

Read More »

Issue 12 Featured Poetry | Victoria Redel

  Refugee     The brother I do not have is walking into the forest. I follow. Watch his half-hitch gait, the slipknot of his shoulders.   Always, at the path’s end, a woman, not our mother, waits. Between us a matchstick and the damp tinder.   Always this brother wastes the afternoon foraging, slipping his long fingers along the rough of fallen trees.   Do you remember the song our mother sang? he says. He pockets frills of lichen, drops wet bark into my hand.   Felled. There is something else. I unremember. When it gets dark, he tells me I loved best the song’s refrain.   And later, the woman, not our mother, empties his pockets. There is never enough. Never to feed all the children.           Careless Love   I am chaise-longued and slipcovered. Lacquered, distracted, give me   my grosgrain, my trim. Oh, to be scalloped, braided, blue silk valance and a tassled drape.   A sash tied back, a faux anything thrown. Wall to wall, Persianed, hardly.   Needle-pointed or shagged, what do you dream? I am fancy and apricot, Chinoisery and something stark.   Phillipe–ghost chaired, illumined– –are you ready for my modernity?   I can Louis it up, quatorze or otherwise, our excess, excessive, pounded, gold leafingly handled.   Queerly we love a sofa, but enough sectional, what about feet stretched on an ottoman?   There’s molding to consider. Eggshell? Gloss? Nothing overhead. How dire is the chandelier?   And oh, you look lovely. The effect in certain light. Love me, oh, love me. I’ve been consigned.            From The Dye Merchant   The Apprentice of Blue   …throw out the water and keep the blue. From Libri Colorum , 15th century                                                                         (Delemare &Guineau)       The last of the alum. The last of woad and logwood. Dutch smalt. Such blue. Like every band of ocean all at once.   Minded the smell of hands but, oh, the blue of my own hands, stained, stinker hands, the dyer’s mark. Woke up blue. Hands bluer than paper.   It’s almost my second winter at the papermill. Hauled my share of cow blood added as forbidden filler Metal in the steam rises from copper vats, I beat the rags harder with the beating stick. Time enough in long hours, the awful retting of pulp, to walk my crooked self back through the door of memory   Turned out I’d been traded, a final coin in some deal, A man’s chunk of Persian Blue. Not much to remember. I no longer look like anyone’s daughter. It isn’t bad to be a boy, a cap angled on my head. I’ve shaped my mind to the business of keeping fingers from lifting a thing too lightly.   I’d lived for two years in Venice, if this swamp can be called Venice. No ostrich plumes out here, no cabuchon of lapis-lazuli veined with gold. Among these slapped-up strung buildings it’s glass blowers and paper mills; the wool shop next door, a burned tatter of a building.   In the sticky heat of the swamp, in the boil of the works, ten fired cauldrons, the men strip down, cloth wrapped for bloomers. I wear my pants short, keep them knotted about my waist. I sleep in a reeking shack. Slip out mornings While the others twist closer to their dreams   Though it’s begun,…

Read More »