Category: Prose

Levertov

By | Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

I keep returning to that moment, that first Tuesday afternoon, the door with its frosted pane. It swings open suddenly, pulled back into the dusky hallway, and Denise sails in, salt and pepper curls wind-tossed. It reminds me of the course my life is about to take, a change from the routine academia I had …

Introduction

Prose

I was struck first by the ways this poet built his poems from the detritus of contemporary life: Cheetos, Hollywood trash, Vaseline.  As I read closer, though, I discovered it was not the things, but the people he meant to hold up to the light.  In nearly every poem you’ll find images of the body …

The Teacher’s Guide To Fuzzphraseology

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

At some point during the academic year, educators and administrators at all levels will be called upon for their quarterly cognitive meta- paradigm projection. Such folks will need all manner of fuzzphrase. “The Teacher’s Guide” transitionalizes this problematic function by facilitating the following referentials. Choose any three numbers between 0 and 9, say 3-8-5. From …

Issue 4 | Winter 2009

After Jumping Some Kids and Taking Their Money, 1988

By | Prose

We buy Cheetos and Fanta with the money we stole. Took it as they cried, pried it loose with kicks to stomach and stomps to the face. Fingers grow orange from the powder of our breakfast and stomachs pop out between ribs and belt buckles as the soda slides down. And Whooser laughs, cheese staining his teeth, his breath coming heavy through busted lips. I laugh also, lips stinging from salt, from blood, from smiles as we eat. This is what we are given, the children of the ghetto, this is what we inherit, a breakfast of chips, skin pocked with dirt and scabs, backs resting loosely against graffitied alleys as we laugh at fights, at money stolen, at the blood that drips loosely down my left arm and puddles.

Issue 4 | Winter 2009

Hollywood Trash

By | Prose

We pull monsters from the trash. Claws, teeth, the rubber foam of alien heads and demon bodies lying still among empty wrappers and rotten food.  Everything just waiting to be found. I am ten here, and my father jabs a mop handle into the pile, searching for glass and the looseness of garbage, so we don’t slip or fall too deep into it.  We collect monsters, throw them into black sacks slung over our shoulders.  From beyond the trash, a door slams, and someone shouts, “Fucking Mexicans, get out of the trash.”  And I am happy. Rotten milk pools around my left foot, and I forget about this werewolf as it drops from my hands, these hands that are white, not like my mother’s, not like my stepfather’s, as he lifts me up, and we run to the car, pieces of Hollywood over our shoulders.

Issue 4 | Winter 2009

Bones in the Grapevines

By | Prose

We pulled it from the earth, soil dripping from it, coloring more gray than white.  Long, crusted, tips broken off so we could see the gray honeycombs of marrow inside.  “Dog?” My cousin, Juan, shook his head, and stories we grew up on, things we heard, came back. Family said that white guy, the one who owned these fields before us, the one with the belt, the buckle with diamonds and bullhorns, would beat the field workers for being too slow, not filling boxes quickly enough, sometimes even to death. Our parents would scare us, make us clean rooms or go to bed with visions of belt buckles glinting, leaves slowly picked from thin branches, till they became a switch, to peel skin, peel back to blood and bone. There are workers in the field now, and we can hear a song coming from them, mixed motor of the tractor, black heads bobbing above green lines of the fields.  Juan, colors of his Raiders jersey soaking up so much sun the heat pours from him, his skin so brown, almost black now from too much summer, takes the bone, throwing it at the workers. “Fucking wetbacks!!”  The bone falls somewhere in vines and dirt, lost. Juan’s Raiders hat has fallen off, and his hair glistens from Vaseline used to keep his curls straight, plastered to his skin, his skull.

Issue 4 | Winter 2009

Neighbor Dies of an Overdose, 1997

By | Prose

It lays there, resting against the gray walls of the complex, its feet comfortable on this second floor walkway.  It no longer has a name.  We call it “the body.”  An empty bag of chips, trash, in its lap, the body maybe stealing a few bites, that tiny taste of crunch, before a scream tore through it, left its lips peeled back, an ache shivering through muscle, forcing eyes and teeth to reach out, pull from skin.  A child watches it, leans against her mother’s corduroyed legs, ice cream spilling from the edges of her lips, her fingers, sprinkling over sandaled feet. Something about the sun setting, the haze of red cast over puddles in the parking lot, over heads of all those looking up at the body, its hands almost open, arms wide, as if to take them in, all of them, in.  The mother flicks her cigarette, the haze of it rising, bitter in the air, gray in her mouth. She offers me a blowjob for ten bucks, and I almost say yes.

Issue 4 | Winter 2009

Ode to the Math Compass

By | Prose

North is the downward swing catching wrist, splitting skin, digging itself in between tendons, between muscle, fingers going numb, tingling, and like first love, you keep thinking, “this can’t be happening, this can’t be.” West is the shove against the bathroom sink, porcelain pressing air out of lungs, edges of it against back, against kidneys, the point of the compass coming out of you, sliding, and the point has so little blood, so much shine. East is the release, knee crunching into hollow of his groin, bastard crashing through stall as you push away, chase him through walls of chipped paint and phone numbers for good head, bring that bloodied fist over his neck, his skull, club until face and arm and wall meet, and that tightness of the body lets go, and he falls free, to a floor of piss and pine sol, and there are so many patterns now, blood making maps on tile and clothes. South is the compass in the good hand.  South is bringing the needle of it into his back, South is making him learn to never fuck with you, South is watching him reach for the new hole near his spine. South is the screams, letting you know something good has been found with that compass, something good.