Poem of the Week: January 26th, 2014

Alyse Knorr, the author of Annotated Glass, provides our poem of the week, “Alice and Jenny in Their Land.” She is the co-editor of Gazing Grain Press and serves as production director for the Fall for the Book literary festival. More of her work can be found in volume 1, issue 2 of burntdistrict.

By Alyse Knorr

In the thick-fingered January nights Alice and Jenny build
rooms of oceans and tall ships with oars miles long.
The intricate masts: firm birch braided with cedar,
resin-sealed and sewn with roots thicker than Jenny’s wrists.
Moonlight reflects white off the walls of the room and over
the sea. They walk the lengths of the oars, chewing mint leaves
Alice likes to taste on Jenny’s fingers and teeth. No sun to rise.
Soft waves grazing the ships. And when Alice builds a spar
high enough to skim the moon, Jenny touches her arm,
watches her lips, and says, enough.


Poem of the Week: January 20th, 2014

This week we’re reaching back to issue 1.1 of burntdistrict for our poem of the week. Candace Black is the author of The Volunteer and a chapbook, Casa Marina.

By Candace Black

Only the discerning ear can tell
it’s time to let go.
Tomatoes weigh heavy

in the garden. Hostas still extend
spires strung with small lilac
bells. But the light is changed, diminished,

and death settles on the neighborhood
trees that share secrets
and traveling birds. Greens

fade. Wind surrounds
every surface, kissing it
brittle. Abundance

tinged with loss is the human
condition. I like it more than potential,
more than promise, more than fruition.

The wind speaks a language
I understand—threat—and the wind
always delivers.

Poem of the Week: January 13th, 2014

Ryder Collins, author of our poem of the week, “Voyeur,” also has a novel, Homegirl!, available from Honest Publishing Press. More work from this Pushcart Prize nominated poet can be found in our Summer 2013 issue.

By Ryder Collins

there’s someone at my window, sometimes i loom through shuttered blinds
& superimpose myself on the shadow that improvises my outside. i have no
get away plan just small dogs that throw fits whenever i’m near. they want
goddamned kibble but i’m too busy rooting up your radishes.

if i had a wife, i’d say it was for her cravings.

if you stopped me in your yard, I’d give you my first born daughter.

then i could breathe, if you stopped me.

i do not know what compels me to pull radishes. to ignore my babies. to say i
have a wife and daughter.

you have a hidden tower in your back pocket.

you are waiting until the day you catch me. then you could breathe. then i could have your daughter.

Poem of the Week: January 6th, 2014

Brian Clifton is the author of our poem of the week, “A Prayer to Forget.” He’s nominated for a Pushcart Prize for this poem from our Summer 2013 issue. His work can also be found in Third Wednesday, Iodine, Plains Song Review, and other magazines.

By Brian Clifton

Because I do not walk in measured strides
because I do not stride
because my measurements are never exact
because I am exacting only in striation
because my striation is a striation of the heart

and not of the mind and not of the body,
the striation, noose and artery, dandelions and twine
-a loose-weaved crown to mark my memory-lapse-,
because I claim to know a man but forget his hands
because this lapse bands together the time
with my hands and the time without my hands
because these times stand as times that mark the hour

let time and my hands be coated in honey
let honey be golden, if golden honey wants
what gold can be years from years in isolation
and let me name this love the love of honey
and honeyed love, a prayer in honey, a mouthful
of honey’s forgetful viscous strings sucking
on fingers and licking bruises under nails

this love wax-paper-lantern-light, this love orange zest,
this love that honey-covers my hands in their creases.
Let my smothered arms acquiesce to honey
let my torso rejoice crystallized hallelujahs
let my voice hone its own ode to honey
and let honey sing itself a love song in my voice.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Because my voice can never remember its birth
because my birth was measured in moonlight
because moonlight can be honey in alleys
because alleys are never exactly alleys
because alleys are sometimes dead-ends

pulsating with voices like water-washed honey,
and these voices measure tongues with honey,
straining for an ear for their honeyed rounds
because these honeyed rounds drown
the sounds around their harmonies and howls

let my ears be mortared shut with thyme soaked in honey
let this thyme act as notation, as the signal for the coda
to honey’s love song, which is to say let thyme limit honey
and let honey quit its singing when honey realizes
solitariness is the cloud of honey’s golden lining
let that lining pierce the center of the honey song

-sharp and silent like a dead pheasant
wrapped in gauze, preserved in honey-

poured into a moonlit bottle, its reflection, its ghost,
let honey echo its own finale on teeth
and backs of tongues as it pours down throats.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

And although I do not measure my strides
and although my measurements are never true
and although honey striates my hands and arms
and although honey is a kiss, if honey begs for a kiss
and although I have honeyed from birth,
if birth becomes its own type of honey
as it grows to form a child that time drips from fingers
and although thyme sparks in honeyed trails
and although these trails float to heaven
and although heaven teems with thyme’s floating trails

let me pray to forget honey and honey’s song
let me forget honey’s beautiful and useless viscosity

Poem of the Week: January 3rd, 2014

“[Misreading] The Odyssey in Iraq” by Brandon Courtney is our poem of the week and another one of our Pushcart Prize nominations. His chapbook Improvised Devices was recently published by Thrush Press. More of his work can be found in Volume 2 Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

By Brandon Courtney

Years spent in weariness, shipwrecked on the Isle of Iraq.

       [I misread Nausikaa’s unholy movements—
       she of white arms—as drowning swanlings
       in glassine water, wave-wracked, spreading
       their blemish-rinsed feathers wing-tip-to-wing-tip
       on sandbanks.]

She sinks, instead, pale sails of linen, her strange body havocked as flight,
anointed with golden oil for softening girls, into the shattering river.

       [I mistake it for the lordly Tigris, undrinkable Euphrates.]

She is content, now, to gaze into its ambulate mirror,
to white, like capsized ships, the water
with sheeting.

Artemis gathers her arrows, thunderstroked
into the curving earth, into ghosting

       [I misread their skin as immaculate,
       albinal, and not as bone-wreathed bucks, haunting
       the underwood.]

Odysseus rises—a reed from silt—to kneel at Nausikaa’s
knees as if they were fire, altar.

Ramadi greens through night vision goggles.

       [I mistake a soldier for the mountain
       lion, Odysseus—brine-armored, wind-crippled,
       prowling door-to-door, M-116 laser-scoped
       on hijabed women suspected of veiling men
       and their suicide belts in spider holes.]

Baghdad has burned a year longer than Troy.
       [I mistake its ash, wide as a grown man’s palm, elephant’s
       ear, for Icarus, falling a thousand thousand times
       back to earth.]