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Poetry Winter 2017    fiction    all issues

Cover of Poetry Winter 2017 issue


Cover Thought-Forms

Laura Apol
On My Fiftieth Birthday I Return
& other poems

Jihyun Yun
& other poems

Jamie Ross
Red Jetta
& other poems

Sarah Blanchard
Carolina Clay
& other poems

lauren a. boisvert
Save a Seat for Me in the Void
& other poems

Faith Shearin
A Pirate at Midlife
& other poems

Helen Yeoman-Shaw
Calling Long Distance
& other poems

Sarah B. Sullivan
& other poems

Timothy Walsh
Metro Messenger
& other poems

Gabriel Spera
& other poems

Zoë Harrison
Pattee Creek
& other poems

AJ Powell
& other poems

Alexa Poteet
The Man Who Got off the Train Between Madrid and Valencia
& other poems

Marcie McGuire
Still Birth
& other poems

Kim Drew Wright
Elephants Standing
& other poems

Michael Jenkins
The Garden Next Door
& other poems

Nicky Nicholson-Klingerman
& other poems

Doni Faber
Man Moth
& other poems

M. Underwood
In Other Words
& other poems

Carson Pynes
Diet Coke
& other poems

Bucky Ignatius
Something Old, . . .
& other poems

Violet Mitchell
Deleting Emails the Week After Kevin Died
& other poems

Sam Collier
Nocturne in an Empty Sea
& other poems

Meryl Natchez
Equivocal Activist
& other poems

William Godbey
A Corn Field in Los Angeles
& other poems

Don Hogle
Austin Wallson Confesses
& other poems

Meryl Natchez

Equivocal Activist

It’s Friday. We pull out of the Paris climate accord

and I get my hair cut while Aretha bridges

troubled water. I could lay me down,

but I doubt that would accomplish anything.

Would anything accomplish anything?

Still, I’m uncomfortable doing nothing,

an equivocal activist, pretty sure

I can’t count on my teammates,

jumpy as a handful of BBs

dropped on stone.

I can see how restful it would be

to believe in the simple solution.

Instead, heavy-footed,

I tread the Earth, while the sun rises

and sets without comment,

and the chickens, remorseless,

search out any protein around,

even if it’s the last Doloff cave spider,

as dragonflies ricochet above us

endlessly stitching

the tattered sky

and I do what passes for the best I can.

Beginning of an incomplete list

Worry prevents harm. You have to worry x7 minutes to prevent each bad thing from happening.

Thinking it will happen will jinx it. Thinking it won’t happen will make it happen. If you tell another person it will happen, it definitely won’t happen.

If you tell someone how much money you have, you will lose it all immediately.

You can’t play the car radio when you’re driving around looking for your lost kid.

If the sticky, erratic key turns easily, you’re going to have a good day.

If you change the sheets, you get well faster.

If you have two flashlights, you’ll have them forever. If you have one, it will lost constantly. (This also applies to scissors.)

Cancellation of insurance causes disaster specific to your policy.

Yelling makes the cake fall.

It’s lucky to see a snake.

There is a complicated and ever changing set of items you shouldn’t eat. Eating them causes cancer to start growing in your body. This can be stopped by not eating them.

Breast examination causes lumps.

It’s a sin to eat super expensive food in a restaurant.

You have to change your earrings after something bad happens.

Right thinking makes seeds grow. Seeds know what right thinking is.

Seeing a beautiful bird is a good omen.

Visual contact with loved ones prevents harm.

The earthquake will happen when your loved ones are on the other side of the bridge.

You have to wash new clothes before you wear them.

If someone’s dog rejects you it’s because you are a fundamentally bad person.

Leaving home is fraught with insurmountable obstacles.

If God exists, he is not a woman.

Cheese Ball

Whole factories are dedicated to this,

pillars of cheddar large enough

to bear a second story, and wire

that cuts the slabs. Machines

add the precise measure of port wine,

according to Michele Bean, Cheese Ball Expert.

The process takes a long time.

Great steel vats churn and burble,

a conveyer trundles nuts, paddles

spin the balls along till not a scintilla of cheese shows,

all glossed with nutty skin. This must

be a metaphor for something: children

moving through the school system,

or what happens when primitive tribes

encounter matches and carbon steel.

Maybe we’re all just cheese balls,

starting from something simple, like milk,

pummeled and slashed

and adulterated and finally extruded

in a shape of use to someone

with a sense of humor

and an insatiable appetite.


Each night sleep asserts its mysterious imperative

as the mind ceases to brace itself

against its own undoing, against what lurks in the back

of the dark, the bad luck

and cryptic privilege

of human being: water protein marrow fat, those

convolutes of DNA that say

bleary blue bright brown iris

say barrel legs willow stalks, hair that never grays

or drifts off, the dickey or unflappable heart,

the canny fingers and tricky intelligence

I rely on

because what else have I got?

And even though it doesn’t feel like I am merely plasma

in a permeable membrane interacting with air and water

and prejudice and language into which mist

I find myself plunked,

occasionally I glimpse

that it’s true, everything fluid,

everything affecting everything else

so that the racist rants of the attacker in Portland

infuse a gritty particulate into the common air,

cold bone fragments make it hard to breathe,

many small knives press against the very flesh of my very neck,

and everywhere clamor, the scrabble for or against

and I am smack in the middle of it:

rage, righteousness, acts later analyzed and repudiated,

but here and now

before sleep comes to claim me

with its car wrecks and crumbling teeth, I acknowledge

that I understand nothing,

not on any team

and on every team at once, connected,

for better and worse

to everything.

Meryl Natchez’ books of translations include: Poems From the Stray Dog Café: Akhmatova, Mandelstam and Gumilev, and Tadeusz Borowski: Selected Poems. Her poetry collection, Jade Suit, appeared in 2001. Her work has appeared in American Journal of Poetry, ZYZZYVA, Comstock Review, Pinch Literary Review, Lyric and others. She is on the board of Marin Poetry Center and blogs at

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