A figure laid to rest with symbols
Altar collapsing wax — no longer shaped like altar
invokes wet passages invoking moss
For those that doubt the existence of green
underground, I’ve witnessed the emeralds
in roots and longed costume jewelry, for acquittal
In the confessional booth, a priestess feeds me a fever dream
Hen of the woods, black trumpets, indigo milk caps
Never trust a veiled woman
Room # 120
A grave within the walls, the supreme
I stack bones on bones on ivories on creams
Pretend they’re still warm
I absorb their histories, a quickening of hearts
visited in the void, a reversal to coax them
into their silence loops
The vanishing point of two walls of skulls
coordinates a sublime geometry that keeps me going
Above, a procession of black horses, a storming
A black train cloaked in black lingerie, I’m delivered
a dish, cerebral, deletion (so release)
I go tart in a corsage
Forget the actual river while in it, a glitch
Forget that I’m living — good
All I ever wanted was to stay in bed
All is a shitty simulacra of bed
except for bread which comes pretty close
Soft boiled and nonviolent in the melt
What looks like air, isn’t, it’s just one water
stacked on another water — what a lark
moving through water that looks like air
I fish with a silk line, made by my spit
Catch the worst white creatures, they even bleed white
They used to have eyes and now they want mine
It takes thousands of generations for a species’ eyes to be lost
I’m quick to adapt, annihilate my eyes to glass
The cell death of a lens in the dark
A crane collapses in the foreground, a fallout
cues the paranoia loop forever under the ticker
in neoclassical temple
Here numbers are a thickener, a swimmable atmosphere
A sludge nearly a mile long seeks a steel vault as
algorithms communicate with broker stations
I am viscous, I am liquid, I am honey
Even very glasseyed, I know how to make money
the American way
Christine Bettis was born in Detroit. She writes and lives in Las Vegas where she is pursuing her MFA in Poetry at UNLV. Her chapbook Burnout Paradise (Horse Less Press) will be released in 2016.
I got up
& when I woke up the blinds were shut
the light made bars across the floor
I heard you were gone when I woke up
when I heard you were gone I returned
when I woke up I came back to the homestead five years later
I stood in your yard, your parents had moved
our ramp was dismantled & in a pile
the wood was warped from winter thaw
& spring rot with carpenter ants crawling
in cracks, I crossed the clearing
where we once camped, there was a thunderhead
with thick swelling air & deer & packs of wild dogs
I walked round your house
I jimmied open a window near the ground
I climbed in your cellar, held my hands up
& walked through the room until I felt a cord
the bulb buzzed on, I watched the room flood
a sea of roaches scurried in from walls
like warriors storming out from trenches
& they swarmed around me like I was steaming meat
they crawled up my forearms, covered my neck
sweet Jesus I was wearing cockroach armor
Did they help you weather the threat of death?
Doc Jenny asked, she was scribbling notes
I saw cities collapsing when I looked in her eyes
Tell me about your dreams, she said
I said, Well, I keep dreaming I’m writing a poem
& the poem is mostly about dreams I’m having
Doc Jenny squinted, she slowly cocked her head
I said, It’s also about my friend who died
a droplet ran down her office wall
Let me see it, she said, I gave her the draft
she read it quickly, she furrowed her brow
& tapped her foot on the floor
There are some problems in here, she said
she was pointing a finger
I wasn’t sure if she was pointing at me
or at the poem
she said all my characters were unlikable
that I fetishized the feminine but there weren’t even any women in the poem
she said, You’re doing a disfavor to your friend who died
she said he was a proxy, she said the body represented nothing
she said, I have something for you
she opened up a drawer & brandished a handkerchief
she fastened it round my face, she corded my wrists
& gripped my shoulders, spun me in a circle & took my hand
& led me out of the office, outside to nowhere I’d ever been
I heard machinery humming as she led me along
I felt the earth sink with each of my steps
there was a rumble like the world was running aground
Where we headed, I said
Inside your skull, she said
But I’m already there, I said
I saw outlines of faces flying towards me
Are you sure, she said
I am always unsure as a one-leggèd frog
Look through that blindfold, she said, Open your eyes
Are you a real doctor, I said
Shut up, she said
I thought of Luke with the blast shield down
I saw lightpricks flicker through the black
I saw thousands of teeth & puckered lips
I saw a comet spiraling round
I saw red & yellow, I saw fabric puffing
I saw the giant parachute we used in P.E.
how it breathed in heavy like a giant’s belly
how it went from nothing to raise up dome-like
when the whistle screeched & we sat inside it
on warm linoleum facing each other
we were safe & cross-leggèd, there was Arcadian air
there was sepia light, life was strange
but not horrific, there were forty-four eyes & it was dark
with bright edges like a kind of homestead, fingers crept inside
I slept in there / I saw the apex
I stared where colors morphed & saw them turn
I shut my eyes
I saw a ramshackle circus tent’s swaying roof
& someone cycling diagonal wire like a knifeslash running through the air
I was the one in the stands
popcorn crunched beneath my sneakers
I took a cloud of cotton candy
& felt it turn fluid in my mouth
I felt sugar crusting on my teeth
I felt them rapidly decay
there were three rings
in the first was a lioness leaping through a fiery hoop
with a man whipping her as she went
she was roaring with saliva & a half-gone voice
and the man raised the hoop up every time
& every time a voice rumbled round me
She who jumpeth must jumpeth higher
the speakers echoed
the lioness stumbled & her ears sparked
& burned & the line of fire cloaked her body
& her tail was a torch now flicking in air
the lion hollered, she writhed on her back
frantically kicking, engulfed in flames
& the man grabbed a water basin
he smirked & poured it over her
smoke rose, she quivered, she looked naked
then, whiskers twitching, her mane plastered
with liquid dripping from her sallow breast
she was shaking but there was something alive inside her
our eyes met & I felt an ache in my belly
I felt my insides turn over fire
I felt the oracular scream from space
in the second ring was a unicycling bear
it was wearing a skirt & making circles
a small boy was at the edge & tossing twigs in the spokes
& throwing pebbles, & when they hit the bear
it would fumble & continue pedaling
the boy met my eyes, his teeth were shining
That bear is a goddamn boy, he said
the boy opened the gate, the dogs came running
they bit the bear’s ankles as it made giant circles
it wobbled one second & then kept moving
it was trailing blood, the dogs were howling
it was a red ring like the void of a sacrificial ritual
or the circle you paint with a finger on the maiden’s chest
as her pupils disappear & the spirit enters
& the boy beat the dogs with a heavy stick
their eyes went black, their lips were like levees with foam of saliva
they were born to raise young but the men made them killers
they were born to sleep in packs in the pineneedle clearing
with their bodies piled & every belly rising up in a single second
but the men made them killers
& then there was the ringmaster in the center ring
he said, We need a participant
I tried to look small, I didn’t say nothing
the spotlight hovered slowly through the stands
it landed on my face, for I was blinded
This kid, the ringmaster said, Now come on down
I stood up & stumbled to the center ring
there was no crowd, there were empty seats
& dim blue light, a dark wind entered town like a knight on a horse
the air smelled like meat & the tent was swaying
the ringmaster cracked his whip in the air
Who’s ready to begin the game? he said
a roar erupted from the mouths of no one
& he strapped metal bands around my wrist
they were linked to wire, the wires ran to a giant switch
& I sweated like a condo wall in June
Okay, he said, You know the rules
you know your lifelines, you know your basic
bodily functions, you know the melancholy feeling
of an endless summer, so here’s the first question:
why did Moeris go to town?
Marty Cain is the author of the forthcoming book Kids of the Black Hole (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017). He holds degrees from Hamilton College and the University of Mississippi, and is currently a PhD student in English Language & Literature at Cornell University. His writing has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Fence, Jacket2, Gigantic Sequins, The Pinch, Deluge, Tarpaulin Sky, and elsewhere.
Jos Charles is a trans poet and author of Safe Space, forthcoming from Ahsahta Press. They are founding-editor of THEM: a trans literary journal. They have writing published (and/or publications forthcoming) with Denver Quarterly, Washington Square Review, Capilano Review, The Feminist Wire, BitchMedia, Entropy, GLAAD, LAMBDA Literary, and elsewhere. Jos Charles received their MFA from the University of Arizona in Tucson where they currently reside.
Translated by Ron Paul Salutsky
conjugation of metaphysics
Being is a gerund
moving itself in the always
though it moves it cannot always
All that exists has weight
Dancing in existence
stepping on nausea
but make you
a lithe and durable body
It is an unknown
is an unknown
when yet to know
but not knowing or making sense
and that may still have meaning
knowing my bridges
say no to this no to that
but if near you
antagonize this with that
with all the others
tell them no
what they do not want
an even fight with the egos
with them all
with their own consciences
with genre and what else
with the poetic I
with the tiniest of the phenomenological
and with the negations and the negations of those
that contradict to the core and expel
a gray or white jet
“abuse of conscience” I read just now
this same fight
with this above all
conjugation of metaphysics
They say one time a world
in which there are places where a world
does not matter whether fiction or real
they speak of a world
I felt scraps, fragments
that is my greater notion
when I felt it was sufficient
did not matter if it was a world or not
certain it wasn’t god
I say once I felt that a world
I say it happened to me more than once
I say I would still like to do it
Still. Today it is my adverb
while I myself adverb me myself
and I am. Today I am that. It is so clear
it must be a lie
I am looked at with enormous eyes, tearful, bulging
with zeal, with desire
climbs and overwhelms me, which I was a wall
enjoyable because it is known I am not, nor want
I think cruelty
does not think
I’m going to be opened to my temples
There is where it rests
I have other parts. They are stirred
but confusing in the fight will not be able to say
if there are sides, zones. I have temples
in my guts, and guts in the neck
sometimes. Others all there, mixed
but shortish, feel remorse and weep. A good night’s
sleep may resolve it. Well, that does not happen
sometimes I feel like it does not matter
I cannot throw myself on you
thus surrender, annul me
Nor can I stay in myself
being me for the sake of me
So long ago I would
I need you
Still don’t know how
Karen Wild Díaz was born in Montevideo, Uruguay. She studied philosophy at the University of Paris 8-Vincennes-Saint Denis, and is now an assistant professor at the University of the Republic. Her first book in English, Anti-Ferule (Toad Press, 2015) was originally published as Anti-Férula (2013, Buenos Aires: Editorial Itinerante; 2014, Niñobúho cartonera). Her poems have appeared in the Argentine anthology Hijas de diablo, Hijas de santo (2014: Niñobúho cartonera) and in English translation in Blue Lyra Review, Copper Nickel, and América Invertida: An Anthology of Emerging Uruguayan Poets. Karen practices contemporary dance and incorporates performance into her poetry presentations, and she blogs at www.amapurea.blogspot.com.
Ron Paul Salutsky, a native of Somerset, Kentucky, is the author of the poetry collection Romeo Bones (Steel Toe Books, 2013), and translator for Anti-Ferule (Toad Press, 2015), from the Spanish of Karen Wild Díaz. His poetry, translations, fiction, and scholarship have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Colorado Review, Interim, Tupelo Quarterly, Narrative, Juked, John Clare Society Journal, Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Copper Nickel, and América Invertida: An Anthology of Emerging Uruguayan Poets. Ron lives in Ochlocknee, Georgia, and teaches at Southern Regional Technical College. Read more at www.salutsky.com.
from Clavel y tenebrario (Carnation and Tenebrae Candle, 1979)
Translated by Jeannine Marie Pitas
___When they realized what was happening, the
tragedy had already begun. A cloud came, fast, from the
South, and it hovered over the house, black, gray, a
chilling white, filled with hail and whistling, and every
few moments it sprouted a terrible grape.
___And the birds, at death’s door, were
collapsing over the courtyard. The trickster doves, falling
like paper, like memories; and the gold-winged parrots
who’d once made great speeches, on foot, over the orange
tree, were landing far off – without rhyme or reason –
like bunches of multicolored flowers.
___It seemed as if it were the end of
___The souls were afraid and searched for a crack,
the broken eternity.
___I’d like to tell you how things were born.
___When we lived in that house that had nothing in
particular. Almost nothing. With its many bedrooms in which
we put on plays, and the neighbors spied on us through all
the doors and windows. In one of these spaces – but, one
with neither ceiling nor floor – from the earth,
sometimes, from the night until dawn, things were born:
cutlery, graters, plates, pans, cups. Everything there,
meticulous, tender and nearly trembling. We brought these
things into the kitchen in order to use them, and it never
occurred to us to make a business of them.
___And when we moved away to another place no one
spoke about this.
___I tell it to you now, because now it sounds like
___Walking through that field, there appeared, all
of a sudden, those strange things. The people of that place
called them virtues or spirits. But, in truth it was a whole
show of sad beings, nearly immobile, never moving from that
___Substances that seemed from another world,
almost eternal, because the wind and the rain washed them
and polished them again and again. To see those snowflakes,
those drops of cream, those purest mushrooms. Those dews,
those eggs, those mirrors.
___Sculpture, or painting, or writing, never before
seen, but easily deciphered.
___Reading between the lines, the previous day came
back completely, and the future became clear.
___The great, old poets are there, where I have said.
___We put on shows in the gardens, at nightfall,
alongside the cedars and carob trees; the play was
improvised, there on the spot, and I was always afraid of
forgetting my lines, though such a thing never occurred. We
went from here to there among the cedars and orange trees,
and they came to spy on us, to listen to us, the residents
of all the neighboring mansions.
___We also had some animals in the cast; they had
learned to move on stage, to dress up, to put on shoes, and
they even said a few words.
___Throughout my teenage years, I performed in all
___But then, it all fell apart.
___And the animals returned to the forest to resume
their silent lives.
Born in Salto, Uruguay, and raised on her family’s farm, Marosa di Giorgio (1932-2004) is one of the most prominent Uruguayan poets of the twentieth century. Di Giorgio began writing in her childhood and published her first book of poems at the age of twenty-two. She then went on to publish a total of fourteen books of poetry, three collections of short stories, and one novel. While some critics have categorized her as a surrealist, she herself denied membership in any literary movement or school. Although she was relatively unknown outside the Southern Cone during her lifetime, she is now becoming more and more widely read throughout Latin America and Europe. Thanks to the efforts of various translators, she is also becoming more known in the English-speaking world.
Jeannine Marie Pitas is a poet, teacher, and Spanish-English literary translator. She is the translator of Marosa di Giorgio’s The History of Violets (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010) and I Remember Nightfall, a compilation of five books by di Giorgio forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse in Spring 2017. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, and her first full-length poetry book, Things Seen and Unseen, will be published by Quattro Books in Fall 2017. She is currently Assistant Professor of Global Literature at University of Dubuque.
TO DECENCY, OR, TO DE-SENSE SEEING
(upon Rodin’s Adam)
Lump under wait
for the human
in bronze sans
(pulsebeat, ore, arousal)
bud i lick suck
kiss pure how
a self unreflected
(dull, vulgar, gross)
in his striated abdomen
shielded from ridicule
(the reticulation of sin)
by the sinew
of an overwrought arm
the right is if
by accident by
incitement a riot of
saliva coats when
statuary feigns a frozen
wriggle still the bud
so wondrously unalive
& dark bronze pulls
at my premolar
my frenulum linguae
raw from overuse
(hemoglobin taste, too, afterward)
whilst i persist
to draft enraptured
by the cold metallurgy:
how unreal these
flicks & strokes to extract
to purify kneeling
gazing up at truthbeauty
until he descends:
flesh to dissolve
pills to stave angina to
melt but never swallow
desire that arrests
the bloom of eye
amid the thick
of pouring heat
(((MASS))) CULINITY: all
the men me-
& breathe die-
rough hospital t-
s into o-
the trajectory (((tragic di-
of their vis-
saliva is unmappable,
as are its splats,
just as the die-
cell cloud shi(((f)))ts CO2
on the wind’s wh-
whelm the gears
come the years, n-
odd to Hippocrates &
of these ma-
who daily th-
rust a metal-
lic grin into the mall-
th to shape it into a sing-
lar vision, intert-
odes leading an-
now, their liga-
are torn & beg surge-
ry & reco-
very’s long labors
& the joy-
nts ache unlubric-
ated, unused, rusted o-
ut & weakened w/ minute
fissures & distress & fat-
(((new since, séance)))
plants taking over
paths their metal t-
racks once con-
now, the men
ink where to go
jury by repe-
ive use, the meta-
static men k-
now the lamps
of home are a sun
(((asunder. us, under, dunder.)))
that never rises, ex-
cept to charge the skin
amid their flickering
mend this bi-
these men have over-
run the grid w/ t-
urging & when
out comes, jit-
t in a cold sweat
chainsmokes & pain-
ts, ever ar-
tisk-tisk, a flatline
running across h-
ours like a fabric-
bought on s-
ale for half
the work is
worth, less even than ba-
sick need, & nigh-
t buries their meta-
static faces like a bill-
ion irradiated moons
i cannot love
in need of proph-
the dirt, wit-
ch is night’s own reflection,
answers every query,
softly & often,
no matter how vain or fool-
ish, hiding the luminary st-
ill lives, like compul-
sieve hoaders, until the w-
hole earth b-
looms carcinogenic Hepatica
nobilis absented of s-
cent or shade, amid the cross-
remains to block.
& the end-
ages: a test pattern, pat-
of bagged filth for-
gone & for-
gotten in putrid st-
ages of bio-
Steve Halle lives and writes in Normal, IL, where he is Director of the English Department’s Publications Unit at Illinois State University. He is the author of Map of the Hydrogen World and the chapbooks The Collectors and Cessation Covers. Recent publications can be found in Another Chicago Magazine, Cordite Poetry Review, Deluge, Luna Luna, smoking glue gun, and the Dirty : Dirty anthology, among others. He is the publisher of the micropress co•im•press, editor of the online poetry journal Seven Corners (7C) and the chapbook press and workshop PRESS 254, and host of the Re:Verse reading series in Bloomington-Normal, IL.
Translated by Jake Levine
A CITY OF SADNESS
since I can’t be buried with everyone side by side, here I record the rule of my death
Have you ever whistled at a girl on a rainy street?
No matter how good you whistle, a human is a type of sheep that won’t come. Speaking from experience, you shouldn’t whistle at your mom. Don’t whistle at the battalion commander. Never whistle at the nurse to stop. These are the details of how I arrived here. The feeling of slowly becoming music is something nobody else can know. It’s a lonely thing. Lonely people whistle lots. If the sun rises and the book shuts, I go to the corner of the garden filled with trees and, like a milk cow, I slowly munch the grass of thought.
I am in exile. Whether in a memory or the distant future, I am in exile.
If you are exiled from humanity, you can easily become diseased. I know my death will be accompanied by severe agony. I will die here writhing in pain. Huns, Scythians, Magyars, Gokturks, Uyghurs, or Mongols like Turkmen are all nomadic people. All their lives they live in exile. The main principle of their life is to go where they please. Part of the order of their life is to remember the light that fades in the eyes of the beasts they raise. At daybreak many were born. At dawn many died.
In my previously life I was not human. I was music. My favorite music is composed of the man who composed me. In his past life he was a man, but he was reborn as music. Whenever I listen to the sound of that music, I repeat my previous life like I am living this life in the past. So again I slowly become music. This is my story.
Music is also a premonition. The alchemy that composes the self is made of a music you haven’t yet heard. However, that music is also the thing that is closest to your being. Just now I had a premonition of a time that flew past my side. Whenever I think these kind of thoughts my mind becomes music, and while I drink the music that is called water in a cup, in a far Spanish field my thought grazes on the hair of a herd of sheep.
Will the moment ever arrive when I can acknowledge my entire being? I said I’m thirsty. While living with you I spoke just 8 times.
The sandfly born on a rainy day only knows a world filled with rain. Then it dies. On a rainy day, as soon as the fetus is born, it is thrown in the sewer thinking to itself that the world is a sewer of death. That’s only human. On the side of a hill the mother of the fetus looks into the sky while she washes the blood out her womb in the rain. The sun rises. Ants take the umbilical cord that stretched between the mom and the fetus and haul it into the ground. I pull out my binoculars and closely observe. After the rain, if you put your ear to the moist ground you can hear the Gospel of Luke. I listen to the evening worship of the ants. I skip dinner.
The thing that allowed me to endure this long is a thing I can no longer endure. To not understand these things, an announcement: there is no intimacy between the time I lived and me.
The time I lived was a secret alcohol no one has ever tasted. Easily, I got wasted on that milieu’s name.
Childhood is the renaissance of life. If I were a muslim, I would bow to the Mecca called childhood six times a day. When I was a child I almost drowned in the reservoir. In that moment of almost death I experienced many feelings at the same time. Drowning in the middle of the water, I saw the light distancing itself from me. Can you imagine? Afterward, I stopped going to school. Instead I went to the middle of the water and spread out my palms and picked up dead birds and recollected that moment of pleasure, feeling close to death. When I entered middle school I couldn’t remember the taste of my mother’s milk. At daybreak, to remember, I bit my mother’s tits.
My pain doesn’t have subtitles. Unreadable.
In all pictures there remains a bit of the air leftover from the time each person lived. Like in any warm greeting a cheerful mold blooms, the facial expression flowing into the photo used for your obituary is the same air you are breathing now. While looking at someone’s obituary photo, if you feel remote, it is not because you are feeling the person in the picture, but that the pictured person is feeling you, trying to remember this place. And so this is the place where his effort is delivered, but I wonder, what kind of air will flow in the photo of my obit? With this thought, my two eyes become red air.
From inside the picture I get dizzy looking at myself on the outside.
Time difference. Time lag.
The moment I think I am dead, it is like I can’t even remember my face.
Because we need a lot of death, I am walking into an order that even you cannot see.
The candle in my room burns up all the air in my eyes.
A candle light can’t stand in another light. This is why candle light burns only at night.
I believe there is a planet that shares my birth and death, a planet that shares the same lifeforce as me. 1976—? That is my ether.
While I masturbate, I age thousands of years.
While I masturbate, I am a sad civilization called myself.
If we warmly embrace and suddenly die, thousands of years will pass and we’ll be fossilized. Our descendants will touch us and feel strange. In its rough and hard texture the sadness of the fossil cannot be expressed. This is my wrath. After thousands of years, when people touch us, I will be a stone flowing with tears. That’s the savage custom that exists between us.
The speed of memory is faster than the speed of light.
Breaking up with a lover is like suicide. Like being ripped apart from everything you were accustomed to. The reason you fear the afterlife is that it is absent from everything I love. In a strange place, sleep won’t come. Sleeping in a strange place is like one night in hell. Because a person is not different than the life he lived, breaking up is like an act of suicide. My friend Kahn said it like this, sometimes that moment arrives faster than the speed of light.
Wind passes the face of a page and leaves. The eastern wind is reticent. Anxiety is a straightforward expression for the self. Daily I receive an injection like eastbound wind.
Last night I came out the base to exhume a grave with my military friends. When the shovel touched the skull, it reminded me of a camel—a camel that collapsed like sand across the desert. After about 4 kilometers it began to smell human. We grilled a bone we found in the grave and told fortunes. The body belonged to the age of the empire of Un. The body wrote poems. The body was a painter who wandered the world painting cliffs. Nowhere can be found a map that expresses the exile of a dream.
If grave robbing our inner self is what we call a dream, then it is possible that everyone is sentenced to a prison called their dreams. Even though they know it is dangerous, everytime people visit their dreams they erect a tombstone. They bring with them an epitaph called memory, place it in the ground, and it becomes history.
Memory is the second life of humans. Because all memory is handicapped, we must wait. Memory is a thing we cannot possess.
Right now the sky is a pink stream. Like Sunday worship, every evening people in the hospital open their windows and dump a sunset in their heart. Written while staring at sunsets through the bars of the penitentiary window, no poetry is more beautiful than the death row inmate’s memoir. That’s because it is the music of human death. I once confessed that Beethoven is the sound of music that plays out of the dead. Beethoven didn’t compose music. Beethoven was music. What he recorded was only his desperation.
Humans are either born and become ghosts or are born as ghosts who don’t know they are dead already. This I believe. The ghost that doesn’t know it’s a ghost disappears without knowing that it disappeared.
I dedicate my primitivism to music. I want to write a poem that begins like that.
Before their death, a vampire couple whose fate was that they couldn’t see the light of day crawled and embraced underneath the sun, shattering to pieces. To see just one fragment of light, all that blood was necessary.
No matter what they say, I’ve lived thousands of nights.
I was born at night (True) and I was raised at night (True) and I wrote poetry at night (True) so from just this fact, from the earth I must be remote (False) A=A-
You can’t see the poet’s star from earth. However, you can watch the earth from the poet’s star.
My mother’s brother stuck a handful of earthworms in his Sprite and chugged it down and said “I’m from Jupiter.” Even today, if we go to Baek Hospital in Naju my uncle is still throwing the individually wrapped packets of Asian medicine my great aunt gave him in the sewer saying “These are going to kill me.” As soon as my uncle turned 40 he scarily became the kind of person that only devours food. He told me the only thing he learned after he came to earth is whistling. My uncle, who entered Chonnam University’s astronomy department ranked #1, was a person that whistled well. When I was a kid, after we watched Robocop 2, I have a memory of us in the bathroom side-by-side peeing together like Robocop.
Every morning when I open my eyes I grab my dry crotch in pain. If I get rid of the suspicion called my dreams, then, in a general sense, I am innocent. There’s no reason why I have to be here. While I am having this thought, I walk around the corridor and it’s like the end of my life. “Sonuvabitch, did you call your mom?” In my military unit, my beautiful junior # 99-71002665 got his ear exploded after he called his mom to request a visitation. Ever since that day, no matter who he’s talking to, he lies.
On a moonlit night while I was sitting on the sill of the dormitory window, an unfathomably beautiful girl who nibbled and ate soap was delivered to the room beside me. That girl turns into a rat every night. When she was discovered in the sewer like a rat no one gave her mouth-to-mouth. Between the white of her revealed waist and the white ankle, a jungle of black hair. Her pants, now soaked, could no longer conceal that atrocity. Her face was egg white and she was shi-shi-shivering. Like a rumor, even the power of her beauty could not overshadow the color and texture of the thick hair on her thighs.
My room is too small to call for more flocks of lamb. My drawers and wardrobe are stuffed with sheep. All my sheep have webbed feet.
I believe that one day if I pop my retina like a cork, thousands of canisters of film will roll out my eyes. Because no light enters the inside of my eyes, this is where the film is alive. Because they are a deep, dark castle, light pains the eyes. In the morning I don’t open the curtains. My room is always dark.
I have never played with those who don’t fly kites in a sky frozen stiff.
I don’t sing with people that know more than 100 religious hymns.
I don’t do business with those who have memorized their parent’s national registration number.
They are the kind of people that won’t fulfill their filial piety.
A person who has masturbated to the fiery prologue of Rilke knows this
love is entering the castle of your lover and writing there for your entire life. It’s true—I have never tried to live that way.
As far as I know, my friend Kahn said that in his novel he would use sorcery in order to save his lover. Every day Kahn lived his life like a scream. Poetry is what we called the mistakes we made in our lives spoiled with desperation. It’s been a long time since I visited Kahn’s yurt. There have been several times after waking in the same room as Kahn that I’ve wanted to strangle him. Proof of our lives was that we could feel pain, however, pain was not something that could exonerate us. After we admitted this fact, we felt wonderful. Kahn and I have a habit of sleeping crouched like hermaphrodites. If we wake up under the blanket like the leaf of a cabbage, then together we become SAM. Without crime, reality is a police report we live by writing everyday. Stuck together, side by side, we crouch our heads and file the report. If I say it like this I feel guilty.
Maktoob! Memory of the pyramid, stand firm!! Whatever I am, if I dig wrecklessly I am sure to be buried. If you decipher the entirety of your memory, immediately, you have to escape. Immediately after, the stone will crack. The wall will fall. Because everything will collapse, my spiritual station scares me.
The people exiled inside a time I cannot know send me a floating letter made of wind. On nights when sleep won’t come I open the window and under the bed I read the letter that arrives. In the lobby the girl would like to see the calendar. The wind that is the letter that flies inside and inflates the girl’s gown, from where does it originate?
Whenthemoonwasfull,alone,thegirldeliveredababyattheentranceofthestairs.WhenIquietlyapproachedthe girl,shewassoexhaustedshecouldn’tmove.Becauseitwassodark,shecouldn’trecognizemyface.Limplyinherhandhungafruitknifethatshecutherumbilicalcordwith.Iwasashadowthatapproached,andsheliedholdingashadowIhaveneverseen.Thebabydidn’tcry.Embracingthebabyinmyarms,Islowlywalkedtowardmyroom.ForaminuteshestretchedherhandouttowardsomethingIcouldn’tsee,andmumbledsomethingintheAltaic language,thenshequietlybegantotouchmyshadowhanginginthereflectiononthewall.Insteadofhermother’smilk,Ifedthebabyitsmother’sblood.Atdawn,thecow’steet.Andfromthebaby’sbodyradiatedthescentof lilac.Toavoidtheeyesofothers,inthemorningIswallowthebabybyitshead,atnightIvomitthebabyup.Atnight Ifeedthebabywiththeteetofarat.Inthedaytimethebabysleepsinsidethecaveofmybodyhangingupsidedownlikeabat.AtnightIrecitemypoetrytothebaby.Mybaby’seyesgoblind.WhenmybabygrewupIgivemybabythesoulofaseagullandmybabyborrowsthebodyofahorseandrunstothegreenpastureinsidethecalendar.Beforemybabyleftme,itsaidmypoetrywasbelowfreezing.IwassadsoItriedtolearnMongolaftermybabyleft,butsoongaveupaftersnowthatfelloutthecalendarfrozetheroom.
Like a sword that leaves a flash while finding the direct path to the bone, tears are what melt from the glacier of the self. If you want to be cold, first you have to learn to be warm when you swim. Because the sword is both hot and cold, it can glide to a far place. Although the tears that flow out from my body are warm enough to the cut the mind of a stranger, because the tears that flow inside my self cut within me, they are cold. Tears are a species of fish rotting inside the self.
The sky flows like Scholasticism. All clouds are the third wave. The wind is as strong as Bacardi 151. Trees are as quiet as a Romanian legend. The forest is as silent as an out-of-date gynecologist. The fog is illogical, the sun is praxis and the lake is cynical. The pill I have to swallow is Francis Baconish And the existence I haven’t experienced is still equal to my future And I pray better better than Hegel And my prayer is more metaphysical than Hegel’s prayer And the stone staircase is colder than sergeant Lee who was electrocuted to death in Jinhae harbor in June 1999. God is not allowed to embrace concepts And even though I wasn’t born in Copenhagen While listening to music called Copenhagen I am Copenhagen And because I am irrational I can’t explain anything I believe in And because I can’t explain I write And in order not to explain I cry And what I can’t explain will be my inheritance. I am a foreign tongue nobody knows, so those who say they can properly say my name and communicate with me are only deceiving themselves. I was wounded by sorrow and I was tortured by poverty and I was assassinated by religion and I survived by touching sergeant Rim’s penis every night. Instead of continuing my life like that, everday I committed suicide by poetry, and I seduced beauty with poetry.
I cut the throat of another mosquito that spispispit in my room. There is a Chinese legend of achieving longevity by eating the brain of a mosquito that I believe in, so I collected the heads of mosquitos inside a bottle and placed it in front of the girl’s door. Through the keyhole, I had the feeling that the girl watched my back.
If I die, make sure you dissect my body. As is hearsay, if you cut open my chest, there are millions of people floating in blood.
There are several poems I want to kill.
Because I wrote a very beautiful poem, I want to kill a poem and because all poetry is so beautiful, there is a poem I want to kill. The life of a poet who is sympathetic to shame must become a book and the book, a hospital made of the self.
That is my poem.
All poets are prisoners of war lost by God. However, all prisoners of war are professional prisoners.
The only ability I have is the ability to be different than you. The reason I write “I lost!” is not only because I can’t win. The reason I live here is because I am different than you. This is a thing that seems very important to you.
I know that while I sleep, from outside the window thousands of red eyeballs look down at me.
In the night I slept after I exhausted my fingers I understood that the self that completely escaped my body mounted my belly and plucked out my eyes. In order not to be robbed, I developed a habit of not opening my eyes until late in the morning. When the self that completely escaped the body goes back inside, when I feel a river of blue blood flow between the floor and my back, at that exact moment, I open my eyes just barely.
I am a soldier fighting in a war without countries. I know the climax is in July.
Because I was born in July, while I listen to the music of July I will die. My will consists of a single line of poetry called “myself” that I wrote on the surface of July. If I die, all the Julys of the world will be buried at sea.
This is how I feel.
Hundreds of miles away, tears flow from the statue of Maria.
Hundreds of miles away, a man hit by a car on the ground slowly closes his eyes.
Hundreds of miles away, air shoots out the tires of a hearse.
In a swamp hundreds of miles away, a zebra slowly enters the alligator’s mouth.
On a power line hundreds of miles away, in between the birds, one person sits, burying his head into his wings.
Inside a window hundreds of miles away, at the moment the writer finished writing his book, he let out his final breath.
Hundreds of miles away, the angel of death rides here on the subway and hundreds of miles away, nervously pacing back and forth in the living room, a mom wants to get rid of a visiting son who figured out the truth of his birth.
In front of the gate of an alley hundreds of miles away someone like myself hangs about
and today, music is like a play.
One night I dreamt a dream.
In the dream, from a distance, a group carrying a coffin came toward me while I sat next to some lake. However, strange enough, the people carrying the coffin began to enter the cold, blue water of the lake. For sure, if they entered the lake, they would all die. I, while feeling inexplicable horror, shouted “Don’t do it!” However, they couldn’t hear me. No matter how hard I screamed, my voice could not pierce through the music that spread out from them like a smell. One by one while they were buried in the water, I suddenly had a realization: the people entering the water that were carrying the coffin all had same face as my own. Well, almost the same. They had my face, but all the eyes were missing pupils. But then, I wondered, in the coffin whose body was laid? I ran and ripped away the flowers covering the coffin. I pulled up the lid. There, laid to rest, was my mom. Like the root of a single tree she lay stiff without voice. Instead of her head, my head rest in the arms of my decapitated mother’s corpse. My face had my mother’s smile. Outside the lake, a group of people were crying. For the first time in my life I heard myself cry out of a stranger’s mouth.
Kim Kyung Ju is one of the most decorated and popular younger writers in South Korea. He writes poetry, poetic dramas, plays, essays, and translates poetry and fiction from English into Korean. He opened up an independent school for aspiring word artists. It is called Penguin Rhyme. His first book of poems I AM A SEASON THAT DOES NOT EXIST IN THE WORLD was translated into English and just came out with Black Ocean.
Jake Levine is working on his PhD in comparative literature at Seoul National University (but will he ever finish?). He is the foreign correspondent for Spork Press. He dabbles in translation theory.
Unguent bliss exit
suspended gold noise
lidded eye dribble
o, cocoon molting bread
soft ebbed gossamer stutter
drift anoint wave
air edge end
muffled stroke long-span
depth mum wash slow-mo
pliant dive glassine yolk
meld limpid canopy
Hermes in Oakland
In another metal universe
I savor the oil-coated lily
divine numbers with a scrap of sun
regenerate tissue faster
than my body withers
bursts it bubble
and fills the air with gas
I try to eat the planet slowly
so as to sense every crag
every head and its spark
my mouth on every tree
my hand on your mound
In the meantime I’ll prune your elders
with the sharp side of the sea
calculate the bottomfeeders in your feeder
fending for one’s meal when it comes time
Your gate hung with garlands of skulls
& dried curd
outerfields where metal mountains sprung
where I encountered giant lice
& a map of Uranus
When the time comes I’ll come
on a nest of spiders
squeeze a serotonin bubble on my gash
It all depends on how much
I want to be lost
in a den of twisted plasma
spoiling the reserves with my steam
Wrecked on the wheel
swooning for blubber
our world won’t come into being
without the necessary glands
I will staunch the ogre flow
melt mammal reactor’s wick
Concentric signals radio in
to my informant brain
insomnia tatters the lining of time
equinox’s bare promise
forgotten heads loll in the road
I light a torch to see yesterday’s
addiction to becoming today
where it went wrong
and why the sore won’t heal
This Luxuriant Castle
Plugged in and knee-deep
someone figured out what I wasn’t
burnt beyond falsification
the sun and I fused into piles of bones
Not a figment of lamekind’s imagination
or crumpled plankton spume
one last breath to hold me to it
simmering in a nucleon stew
black with anthrax
looking toward stun-sun corolla
the words I burst sank
growled a star into being
Heart’s empire bloodshare
held me accountable for false psychic wounds
gross violation of the interplanetary clause
in wrinkled nova batter
The fish kiss at the bottom of the rio
plant clowns instead of corn
gargle the remnants of a canyon
as it succumbs to extinction
happy days are here again
Brian Lucas’s books include Eclipse Babel (2015, Ensemble Editions), Circles Matter (2012, BlazeVox Books), Light House (2006, Meetings Eyes Bindery), and Force Fields (2010, Hooke Press), a drawing/poetry collaboration with Andrew Joron. His paintings have recently been included in the shows Dark Star: Abstraction and Cosmos (Planthouse, NYC) and Divine Invasions (Krowswork, Oakland, CA). He plays bass in Dire Wolves and resides in Oakland, CA.