With a Petroleum Coating

by Trace Peterson

The exoskeleton dries by the radiator. What is the usefulness of shells, as in putting them up to one’s ear to detect the poem? Isn’t it infringeable that we carry our mating rituals into teleology? Isn’t it lately that our mates don’t often insert parts? The problem, as if splashed onto canvas in a never-drying medium, isn’t it that we can be hurt from without as if by wifi, by rumor? By cell tower? By stork? Thanks for caring. The storks along the beach stand on one leg, and then slowly generously fly away, including me, like a teacher who warns against trying to make absent things present. What do all these little knobs on the console do? This one flies us straight into battle with a petroleum coating. This one parodies the last erotic feeling. This one entices us to have babies with the reader, sitting lax on a conveyor belt that suddenly falls off at the end into someplace decent. In your guest room, draped with necklaces, we feel thinner than a Mobius strip, real wolf fur rug inside and out, real antler chandelier. In your guest room we peel an alien tangerine.

Did Rise

by Jessica Rae Bergamino

Did tear along.
Did carry the sour heave
of memory. Did fold my body
upon the pillow’s curve,
did teach myself to pray.
Did pray. Did sleep. Did choir
an echo to swell through time.
Did pocket watch, did compass.
Did whisper a girl from the silence
of ghost. Did travel on the folded map
to the roaring inside. Did see myself
smaller, at least, stranger,
where the hinge of losing had not yet
become loss. Did vein, did hollow
in light, did hold my own chapped hand.
Did hair, did makeup, did press
the pigment on my broken lip.
Did stutter. Did slur. Did shush
my open mouth, the empty glove.
Did grace, did dare, did learn the way
forgiveness is the heaviest thing to bare.
Did grieve. Did grief. Did check the weather,
choose the sweater, did patch the jeans
worn out along the seam. Did purchase,
did pressure, did put the safety on the scissors.
Did shuttle myself away, did haunt, did swallow
a tongue of sweat formed on the belly
of a day-old glass. Did ice, did block,
did measure the doing. Did carry.
Did return. Did slumber, did speak.
Did wash blood from the bitten nail,
the thumb that bruised. Did wash
the dirt-stained face, the dirt-stained
sheets. Did take the pills. Did not
take the pills. Cut the knots
from my own matted hair.

Say the Word

by Sandra Beasley

To be apart, I’m told.
To be asunder.
To be a privative, negative, reversing force.
To be reached only by oaths and curses.
To have black sheep sacrificed in my name
because I’m a god, yes,
as we are all gods on occasion.
To be bodied as I am bodied.
To be rich of earth,
which is to be chronically chthonic.
To be where the gems are—
underground.
To be Dīs. To be Dīs. To be Dīs.
To reject any pickaxe disguised as love.

The Artist Signs Her Masterpiece, Immodestly

by Danielle DeTiberus

After Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (Uffizi, 1620)

Because I know what rough work it is to fight off
a man. And though, yes, I learned tenebroso from
Caravaggio, I found the dark on my own. Know too

well if Judith was alone, she’d never be able to claw
her way free. How she and Abra would have to muster
all their strength to keep him still long enough

to labor through muscle and bone. Look at the old
masters try their best to imagine a woman wielding
a sword. Plaited hair just so. She’s disinterested

or dainty, no heft or sweat. As if she were serving
tea—all model and pose. No, my Judith knows
to roll her sleeves up outside the tent. Clenches

a fistful of hair as anchor for what must be done.
Watch the blood arc its way to wrist and breast.
I have thought it all through, you see. The folds

of flesh gathered at each woman’s wrist, the shadows
on his left arm betraying the sword’s cold hilt.
To defeat a man, he must be removed from his body

by the candlelight he meant as seduction. She’s been
to his bed before and takes no pleasure in this.
Some say they know her thoughts by the meat of her

brow. Let them think what they want. I have but one job:
to keep you looking, though I’ve snatched the breath
from your throat. Even the lead white sheets want

to recoil. Forget the blood, forget poor dead Caravaggio.
He only signed one canvas. Lost himself in his own
carbon black backdrop. To call my work imperfect

would simply be a lie. So I drench my brush in
a palette of bone black—femur and horn transformed
by their own long burning—and make one last

insistence. Between this violence and the sleeping
enemies outside, my name rises. Some darknesses
refuse to fade. Ego Artemitia. I made this—I.

Probable Poem for the Furious Infant

by Jaswinder Bolina

Probably you’ll solve gravity, flesh 
out our microbiomics, split our God 
particles into their constituent bits 
of christs and antichrists probably, 
probably you’ll find life as we know it 
knitted into nooks of the chattering 
cosmos, quaint and bountiful as kismet 
and gunfights in the movies probably, 
probably, probably you have no patience
for the movies there in your eventual 
arrondissement where you have more
credible holography, more inspiring
actual events, your ghazals composed 
of crow racket, retrorockets, glaciers 
breaking, your discotheques wailing
probably, probably, probably, probably 
too late a sentient taxi airlifts you 
home over a refurbished riverbank, 
above the rebuilt cathedral, your head 
dozing easy in the crook of your arm,
emptied of any memory of these weeks 
we haven’t slept you’ve been erupting 
into that hereafter like a hydrant on fire, 
like your mother is an air raid, and I am 
an air raid, and you’re a born siren 
chasing us out of your airspace probably
we’ve caught 46 daybreaks in 39 days, 
little emissary arrived to instruct us,
we wake now you shriek us awake,
we sleep now you leave us to sleep.

Remember the Boys

by Rachel McKibbens

chucking rocks at the wasps’ nest,
their gathered hum then sudden sting
at the nape of my neck. Oh, how I paid—
still pay—for the recklessness
of boys. Little Bretts. Little Jeffs.
Little knives to my breast. 
How lucky they were to never 
be held down, to never see
their voices crawl the air like fire!

How desperately I yearned to be them,
to storm the halls in macho gospel:
matching blue jackets, blood-filled
posture and made-you-flinch. 
How different would I be, 
how much bigger, if I had been
given room enough to be 
a country’s golden terror? 

Amidah: On Our Feet We Speak To You

by Marge Piercy

We rise to speak
a web of bodies aligned like notes of music.

Bless what brought us through
the sea and the fire; we are caught
in history like whales in polar ice.

Yet you have taught us to push against the walls,
to reach out and pull each other along,
to strive to find the way through
if there is no way around, to go on.
To utter ourselves with every breath
against the constriction of fear,
to know ourselves as the body born from Abraham
and Sarah, born out of rock and desert.

We reach back through two hundred arches of hips
long dust, carrying their memories inside us
to live again in our life, Isaac and Rebecca,
Rachel, Jacob, and Leah. We say words shaped
by ancient use like steps worn into rock.

Bless the quiet of sleep
easing over the ravaged body, who quiets
the troubled waters of the mind to a pool
in which shines the placid broad face of the moon.

Bless the teaching of how to open
in love so all the doors and windows of the body
swing wide on their rusty hinges
and we give ourselves with both hands.

Bless what stirs in us compassion
for the hunger of the chickadee in the storm
starving for seeds we can carry out,
the wounded cat wailing in the alley,
what shows us our face in a stranger,
who teaches us what we clutch shrivels
but what we give goes off in the world
carrying bread to people not yet born.

Bless the gift of memory
that breaks unbidden, released
from a flower or a cup of tea
so the dead move like rain through the room.

Bless what forces us to invent
goodness every morning and what never frees
us from the cost of knowledge, which is
to act on what we know again and again.

All living are one and holy, let us remember
As we eat, as we work, as we walk and drive.
All living are one and holy, we must
make ourselves worthy.

We must act out justice and mercy and healing
as the sun rises and as the sun sets,
as the moon rises and the stars wheel above us,
we must repair goodness…

We will try to be holy,
We will try to repair the world given us to hand on.
Precious is this treasure of words and knowledge and deeds that moves inside us,
Holy is the hand that works for peace and for justice,
Holy is the mouth that speaks for goodness
holy is the foot that walks toward mercy.

Let us lift each other on our shoulders and carry each
other along.
Let holiness move in us.
Let us pay attention to its small voice,
Let us see the light in others and honor that light.

Remember the dead who paid our way here dearly, dearly
and remember the unborn for whom we build our houses.

Praise the light that shines before us, through us, after us, Amen.