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Poetry

Summer Fiction Poetry

Photo: Michael Bielik
SEE ALSO
More Poetry Stories

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More from Summer Fiction Author

Some Tomatoes Please (7/26/2006)

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The Fifth of May (7/26/2006)

 

Published 7/14/1999

the african american experience
by Ella N. Singer

1

the african american experience is thick

like molasses

brown and bitter sweet

sticks to the roof of your mouth

like peanut butter

grows tall like a stalk of corn reaching for the delta sun

is multilayered woven together in strips like kente cloth

is a hodge podge of patterns pieced together lovingly

like grandma’s crazy quilts

the african american experience is tight

like the noose around the neck of a fifteen year old boy

carefree and happy like a field full of singing slaves

a two for one mother and child sale on the auction block

sometimes confusing like affirmative action and clarence thomas

dreadful like a head full of nappy locks

the african american experience is strong

like steel girders and railroad ties

moves like a new car off the assembly line

is in need of renewal like denver dc and detroit

is free form like dizzy

runs fast as flo jo

jumps tall like mike

gets angry as aretha

blue as bessie

and rhythmic straight ahead

the african american experience is thick like molasses

brown and bittersweet

2

she never liked to talk about the plantation

she thought they could not remember

she thought they were too young

too young

to remember the hellish feel of the midday sun burning down so hot it made

the wide brimmed straw hat smolder and smell of sulfur

the feel of nauseating waves of humidity engulfing and suffocating

like some invisible plasticine sheet

too young

to remember the scarring tug of the canvas strap as it rubbed raw against bony shoulders

burning brown stripes into unemancipated flesh

the trapezoidal tilt of the body as it folded over on itself straining against the weight

of cotton being pulled across faithless southern soil

too young

to remember the sting from scratches of thorns that carved into

flesh the initials of each wad of cotton stolen from its bowl

the moldy smell of sweaty earth as it yielded up its crop of sacred human toil

the silent seeds of sorrow planted covertly with corn

she never liked to talk about the plantation

she did not want to remember

they called her grandma a slave

they called her everything but a daughter of God

she did not want to remember

the pitch black smell of the old kettle burning

the acrid smell of lye boiling for making soap

the melancholy smell of clean laundry drying in the white hot Mississippi sun

she did not want to remember

100 uses for sweet potatoes

1000 uses for peanuts

10000 ways to wring a chicken’s neck

or the 1 millionth time she would have to rise before the sun

she did not want to remember the mournful sound of slaughtered hogs

waiting their turn to line the walls of the smoke house

waiting their turn to become the fabled country breakfast

remember?

the green smell of cow dung emanating from the barn

the sticky feel of warm rain quenching thirsty red soil

the saline taste of sweat staining brown brow

the scorched scream of blood clotting the road to freedom

she did not want to remember pitiful prayers of release to become one

with godforsaken earth

the dark hulking father cloud that blocked out

first blooming rays of childhood

remember when cotton was king?

No she did not want to remember

 

Trails
by John Freeman

pristine clearings where

pans of water collect

dirty bugs hum like

tired engines

as our horses hesitate

only to burst through the

water

and churn it

like the carousel shaped

rudder on a ferry

we’ve ridden these worn

trails where the grass

is either dead or overgrown

our horses’ bodies

caked in sweat,

thicker than motor oil

smelling like an outhouse

and now your father talks

of selling this land

so houses can be built

but riding home when evening’s frogs

are croaking like

rusty gate hinges

horses hang their heads low

and bat insects with lifeless tails

this is not for sale.

 

Soo Joo
by Yun-Sook Kim Navarre

A diet of shattered silence seeps beside me, sinks within me

The controlled chaotic calm,
floating like a dollar in the wind
unable to grasp
unable to attain.
Maybe mother is a friend of this silence
Maybe mother is the source of this silence

Sent through red roaming our flesh,
the shade of good fortune
flowing.
Her rich vessels full of
turmoil tear drops and
centuries of gasping orgasms
once frozen
now melted.

Is she yet another
yellow unit
within a den of thick machines under false lights and no windows?
Is it here
and only here
our shared, shattered silence
is muffled
is Silent?

When night takes its turn
does she mix Soojoo with lemon or
mango and sip
to ease the calluses and aches of herself
then apply heat and balm to treat the petals of her body?

When warmth surrounds her mind,
a pink hue marbles her yellow-olive cheeks and brow as the 1L absorbs.
Her internal picture book fades–
The treble of the baby’s tremble withers–

The short walk from the baby home begins to stretch into
a frail,
thin leaf
leaving

When day takes its turn
Does she mix powder with base
or cream
to stage youth?
Does she glance at
her hidden pockets of
untouched milk?
Does she spin a sash around her middle to keep her creases covered?

Once again, slices of a random buzz
flash within me.
When I’m alone she flirts with my shadows of beings who have passed this plane
When I’m in a crowd or intimate circle
she melts among the green ground
now cement
She is the gut and drive within
shielding me
from those traveling on the first or second trip to life
She is the matter
She is the air
that preserves
my body,
crisp.

Yesterday, I unwrapped the gift of
Eye-Sense and
Nose-Sense
From: Her.
–the ability to smell the scents cast from the soul
–the ability to sense beyond the struggle within the surface

Today, as I walk a
"Made In Korea" flap
dangles
from the nape of a crackhead,
the shattered silence alongside of me.
The chung (attachment) smothering myself
my
soul
like a stigma.
Somewhere in Seoul
She is still.
Still in
Seoul
unable to attain.

 

Bodies in Winter
by Anne Marie Hacht

In winter, clouds lock over bodies
of water and stand like gritted
teeth against the shore. Still,
we approach in this thin, metal shell.
We tongue the edge, we search
that gap that permits us through.

The cleaving, the splicing, the womb
split and again made whole.
What remains but that moment,
our instant there, entered and closed.

Who noticed, who marked our pass?
Man in the scarlet car so far below,
he only follows the road,
cut like a vein through the woods.
It is the road home, one house
swallowed in snow, one light at the door,
one woman in one sheltered room.

What does he know beyond that light,
that door, that covered room.
The man unaware what lies beyond
the road, width of my thumb;
how it curves just above the lake,
children spread like colored lights
across its white tremulous mouth.

Who will say how they stretched,
trusting the strength of ice,
hands linked, farther, so farther out;
trusted those who would follow
like this was the rim of the world.

Who will write their story, this man
his wife, when they read broken ice
and they slipped down like popped balloons
torn ice closing over their heads.

That moment he was a finger's notch
away, sliding across that dim room,
pressing his lips to that well, her stomach
her pale white ribs like cool white stones.

That moment you and I, oblivious,
flew over, and you crossed
not so accidentally our boundary.
Your arm against my wrist's fine skin
flushed red, a slow-breath blush.

the present rolls by at the speed of sound
by Anna Vitale

the present rolls by at the speed of sound
I don’t know what I see

I can’t feel that fast

the rides at Cedarpoint look small
Dairy Queen’s not much fun
cute boys squint their eyes
but
keep
on
walkin

We usta play truth or dare
made Toni Tuminello kiss the front door
her hot pink lipstick stuck for months
below the screen
near the handle
on dirt
white
aluminum

I’m not afraid in Detroit

my Fat Hoop earrings
Tight Half Pony Tail
Blue & Black Beads
around my neck
2
then 4
then
2 more
my hands form a five point star

Family Love
Latin Counts
Flow Love
my arms spellin CFP
cash flow posse
2400 St. Mary
& there’s no door
a house
but no door

just an open rectangle
& shreds of mattress on the lawn

I sit on the porch
I listen for
the too-loud-bass
of a drop-down-low
white tempo
to drive by I
sleep with my window open

Keith beats Linda next door
cats fight in our driveway
morning comes
house smells like piss

Me & my girls make up routines
in the backyard
grass too long
I want to cut
I want to cut it
so we can do the splits
Boom
I got your boyfriend
ah ah I got your man
I got him

police roll up
unmarked 5 0
slow
like a worm

Frank runs through the bushes
Ricky runs through the alley
& I don’t move

I don’t move

Big white man in blue
struts up my walk
like he lives here too
broad shoulders
& a bald head

hot Sunday afternoon
wrestlin in the grass
only 3 got arrested
slammed into concrete

their wrists writhing in metal "o"s
a street lamp still broken

I sit on the porch
wait for my parents

we’re movin now
to the suburbs

to meet
junky after junky after junky
and fifteen more
my age
richer than me
cleaner than me
I’m fine
in line
w/ Sandy
at the abortion clinic
Chris
at the methadone clinic
I’m so fine
I take absinthe
eat old food
run miles away at the speed of sound
toget away from
cash flow ing in to needles
cash flow ing in to blood in to shakes
probation
prostitution

I can go to the moon
I can go to New Mexico
I can go to school
get an education
& still live next door to
Keith who beats Linda
Frank who runs
Ricky who runs
Chris who gets paid to fuck
so he can fix
& sits freezin
in a sweat

afraid to go back to the suburbs
I’m lost
in the shuffle
of the young
goin down
you got money
you buy heroin
you don’t
you steal
you sell $5 hits to kids
cops hunt you down
for walkin in a group larger than 3

and I’m waitin

I’m waitin to slow down.

 

Ben
by Terry Cemma

like a grandfather of sorts he'd
shift his body on the curb
and pour a million miles
of America down his throat

 

creatures of the post-post modern age
by John Jakary

ostriches bend in headphones
and listen to the swinging sands
of timeless uranium clocks.
lemmings confound the nordic
shipping industry
with oscillating migration patterns
and their virtual reality coastlines.
grizzlies sip port and bellow
multi-conglomerate stock swaps
conducting rape with padded paws
for world tirade organizations.
gazelles board serengeti airplanes
brown snoots bound
for the businessman’s lunch
counters of ulan bator.
bugs sporting zip guns and briefcases
run armaments and black and blueprints
for the few remnants of civilization,
eyeing the bottom line
hoping for the best.
pigeons shoot clay and asphalt
cocktails beneath the black disc buttons
of their eyes.
homo sapiens silently burrow,
the continental shelf
home for their hibernation
as they await the oracle of rebirth
and the promised return of the piscine age.
duck-billed visionaries
surf evolutionary web-sites
and the back waters of today’s free press
seeking tomorrow’s next of kin.

 

The Plan: Decoding Attempt #19
by Aaron Jentzen

setting: the future – the world is her feelings, since his suffering from overpopulation – small of her involvement – she fearing to tell him of unperturbed by the invasion of the aliens, etc. timeline

scene 1: living room – government is attempting to use houses, economy, food shortages – the apocalyptic alien invasion war of the wife watching television the night of the end of the world – begins with worldesque propaganda footage to promote mass hysteria and paranoia – at the footage, flipping through pamphlets like the same time, the government has formed end of the world & the book of attempting to attract people whipped when her husband walks in, several cults of various nature, but all revelations, etc. she is nervous, distraught into hysterics by the reports on the television hides the stuff – discussion of the issue – he and radio – these are suicide attempts to calm her, but she cults, in the vein of heaven's gate – the idea population by having the less desirable and not be calmed – increasing frenzy – wife with all that will change tomorrow – he decides to control the earth's excitable parties kill themselves regrets toward having no children, to call the office, requesting the character: dr. guy: a department – he is voluntarily – this is a type of social darwinism high-ranking official in the population control to pull her back together – he is sorry – while he's on the phone she right to tell his wife about the p.s. plan. refused – but, goddamnit, she's my wife! matter begins to strike home, in doubts as to the nature of his enthusiastic and militant worker – until the person of his wife – he then experiences doesn't come back for a while, he lays her on the couch, goes into the bedroom to lie down – after she goes to find her – dead – she poisoned herself – beliefs, he loses his mind at the work – unable to resolve his feelings and his cushion and finds the heaven's gate literature he makes another call – my end of the play – in trying to save his wife, of the sort who follows the inspirational he is impotent – wife: a christian channel, mixed in with a lot of wife, she's dead! she wasn't supposed to point

scene 2: the office next morning – die – of course she was – that was he is wearing the same clothes and is superstitions and strong emotions – she is unaware of her husband's work. except on the project: highly successful – not looking too good – stoned – gets report division – because of his work, that he works in the population solutions some statistics, etc. he replies good – good for us – listens to war of the house, gets the answering machine, have decided not to have any children, worlds radio broadcasts – he calls his which may contribute to his wife's suggestibility and the husband's eventual over the phone: you'll be buried in a craziness – she becomes involved with leaves a message – monologue to his wife have babies again – if their number an evangelical last days cult of course, mass grave and cremated – now, people can run by the government – through sooner of later will have to do the husband is unaware of the extent comes up in the lottery – plentiful food – this, she is distributed cyanide tablets – he same thing again – all we've done is bought extinctional judgment – some more time in the race

 

Before the drop
by Terry Cemma

Ceiling fan whirl please a wheel swirl wobble
comes for air through a fog knife staked
leaf baked skin as a fist thrust backward
sweet cupped lids saw her round belly quake

tight winked sun on her side gone rotten
spade moon squats in the stars gone low
ladies lay hollow in tub scald butter
rippled bath daughters in dark waters know

stinging eye deaf to brown thigh’s thunder
nerve boots kick on cobblestone tongue
tall pale arms stack the hot tar mummies
pink slippers creak through the dark moss rent

one peeled onion and the old woman wasted
one jack opens, raw lips leak teeth
furnace door swings and the voice now screaming
thin line thickens from the neck released

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