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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

M. Underwood

My Small Song to Your Great Heart

(Chinese Dissident Who Won Nobel While Jailed, Dies at 61. “New York Times,” July 13, 2017)

You’re going somewhere new. Don’t be afraid of getting lost. . . . The dark is something to sound out too.
—Colum McCann

You have gone somewhere new, Liu Xiaobo,

though we still need you, with your rare

courage, in these dark times. Your prison cell

and your hospital bed, where your cancer’s care

came too late to pretend to make you well,

are now as empty as your Nobel chair.

(And we, unprisoned as we are, face that fate

bestowed by senators who have said—to our faces—

that “no one’s died for lack of healthcare.”)

To that end they bound your mouth

and your body in medical parole—

kept from speaking and in pain—

in a hospital in Shenyang,

a shoddy pretense meant to fool

the world now watching, which also heard

your wife’s video to a friend:

there is nothing left to do. Your wife, who was kept

an imprisoned cricket in a bamboo cage,

in the home you’d shared, and there she wept,

the wedding photo in her hands, your smiles with no end.

You wrote to her, when allowed, and without rage:

Even if I am crushed into powder,

I will embrace you with ashes.

And so it is and you are gone,

but your name and face are known

to the world, another martyr to the cause of peace,

who vowed to stay in place, to earn the right to speak,

and shared the terror of staring down tanks—

with matching flags unfurled—with young idealists from whose ranks

was written the charter which showed the way

toward democracy and change.

Thank you, Liu Xiaobo,

for your courage and your light,

and the model to try our own,

to honor you by standing firm,

in the face of fear, for what is right,

and to vow to keep the voice of hate

from poisoning the very fight.

Whistle and Rasp

For Sally, in gratitude

Don’t waste a moment in dread,

Feeling the burn of the rope

As it passes through your palms

As you grip it tight to hold

The ship fast, the whole tipping world

From slipping on its axis. You know

What to do: Stop. Listen to the whistle

Of your breath as it enters your body

And the rasp of it as it leaves. Then hear

The sound of fledging sparrows—

Think how hard it is to learn to fly!

Sit outside—it is only July,

Though your mind leaps ahead

To what is coming. Right now, it is July.

And look: there are hummingbirds, two,

So tiny, they are minute

Because they are new

And even they are learning how

To deftly maneuver in time and space

And in all directions. But they are trapped,

Having mistaken porch blue for sky

And the light for sun—grasp each one

Loosely in your opened fists—

Then release, into true sky.

The Seal on the Sardine Tin

The word stench—

think canning factory,

conveyor belt of sardines,

a steadily rolling mercury

silver on matte black, flashing slivers

of former life with bones too thin to ossify—

stench is like the clinch

of an unwanted hug—there is music,

but not the music you like; it is work

to be here now, to grip

the slippery fish with thin-gloved fingers

and tip them head to tail into the tin

which, sealed, vanishes, a kind of magic,

into the empty next, which is where

you want to be, want to know,

to scissor a paper square of blue and white

and carefully wrap each tin,

your life within it, the gift,

and on it the small seal centered,

silently barking in the snow.

In Other Words

It’s opening mail with either industry

or indifference that distracts from the danger—

not of heartache or news

of debt or sudden and unexpected loss

that serves to sucker punch the thoughtless breath—

but that other danger that with as swift a kick

aligns our past and future with now

the way pain and fear can do with ease.

Either way we are distracted when it happens—

in a flash, as sharp as a shard of broken glass,

followed by a disbelieving pause . . .

Then pain that briefly sears like flame.

A tree can kill or maim with falling limbs

or crushing trunks, with massive splinters and with fire,

but this, this thin edge of pulp refined to fiber,

cut from starched white rolls,

folded, gummed, and sealed

with the stuff of life: bills

for phone, heat, house, and health,

a condolence note or birthday card.

It’s these we nick our fingers on,

under the nail or along the length

of the thumb’s soft pad.

And though it happens again

and again the ebony giraffe

stands unused and penned

in the chipped ceramic corral of pens,

leans long neck forward,

legs and ears canted back

against an invisible sirocco,

its soft blade ready to pierce or bless,

or simply bear the role of witness.

Litany: And We Will

For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost,

something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes, indeed.

—Mary Oliver

We are an army of poets

with holes in our socks

and sorrow in our hearts

and we will take you on

and we will match you

and like samurai use syllables

to slice through deception;

the volume of our outcry

will be like bagpipes

on the clifftops,

keening for the fallen

and reminding the standing

of the meaning of fortitude;

and we will march forth

emerging from solitude

bearing banners and pennants

and we will not be daunted

by sly stratagems or guns;

we will not cower or cover

our words with our hands

but proclaim them with courage

and hear each other out

and have each other’s backs

and persevere in the darkness

lighting our way with our words.

M. Underwood According to great aunt Eleanor, who smoked when it was forbidden to women and wrote poetry on the sly, M. Underwood’s ancestors were all preachers, teachers, and horse thieves. M. Underwood is only one of those things but also writes poetry on the sly while living in Vermont in the company of several furry and winged creatures.

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