from Baalbeck

Sarah Riggs, translated from the French written by Etel Adnan

copyright ©2019 by Etel Adnan / English translation © 2019 by Sarah Riggs


I am not going to sing.
A temple existed for real,
its stairs are solid

the gods, unwilling to
let go of it,
then decided to die …

leaving behind
although barbaric,
a sun that we loved.

In the sealed obscurity of the brain
plants grow,
and fish swim,
while we think we’re seeing
landscapes, and looking
at the sea.

we will not know if life is reversible
but written in the pain
a joy that hurts

even more,
as in the heart’s desertion
memory’s fingerprint.

from alterity

Kaie Kellough

copyright ©2019 by Kaie Kellough

… a two-day bus ride to the northern border where the family crossed into Canada, suitcases in hand.”
CBC News, September 13, 2017

welcome turning selves in, selves traveling through space, turning being in to paper
flesh becomes white fiber for deliberation, legality in question, self a question mark
welcome signatures, boxes checked on forms welcome dossiers deconstructed
sequences of numbers queued up to be filed, sorted, detained, catalogued, welcome,
interrogated, archived, speculated upon in the news, counted, and either welcome,
accepted, rejected, re-counted, queued up again, filed into a different queue, chased,
fled, welcome, or stalked in limbo in borgesian bureacratic labyrinths, trash-talked
by pundits, welcome, whispered about in polite living rooms, opined on from the
middle class on down, welcome, debated in wood-paneled parliament encircled by
welcome, by words, invoked to stoke fear, vilified as terror, as other, welcome, now
tossing on narrow army cots chrome and canvas reality, minimal without aesthetic,
the furniture of state aid of newsflash

We Were Never Meant to Break Like This

Billy-Ray Belcourt

copyright ©2017 by Billy-Ray Belcourt

1. follow me out of the backdoor of the world.

2. how do you tell someone that they are helping you stay tuned into life?

3. what does it mean that her first breath was also her last?

4. i am so sad that i burrow into the absence of every boy who has held me.

5. i kiss him knowing that when i wake up i will be in a body differently.

6. the future is already over, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have anywhere else to go.

from Apparition of Objects

Robert Majzels and Erin Moure, translated from the French written by Nicole Brossard

copyright ©English translation copyright © Robert Majzels and Erin Moure, 2007

winter water blue melt backlit
life suddenly in thin chemise
in questions and old silences

in the puzzle of proper nouns
and barking city: February
slow eyelashes that beckon to love
and spinning tops

foliage of word for word
gentleness that evades meaning
plunge into the dark
with metronome

I’d have liked

Sarah Riggs, translated from the French by Etel Adnan

copyright ©2019 by Etel Adnan / English translation © 2019 by Sarah Riggs

I’d have liked to go to the corner
café, to watch the cold file by while I’m
in the warm, or even to make love …
but bombs are raining down on Baghdad

this evening, my friends, I’m going to bed
early because the dark is too thick. I’ll try,
contrary to what’s usual in dreams, not to let
myself be carried by waves, nor hunt
for my key. I’m going to try to sleep,
I believe, as children do

there’s a time in autumn when the
trees change their nature, and
wake up beyond
matter; then one sees them come back to
their ordinary selves

the truth?

Kaie Kellough

copyright ©2019 by Kaie Kellough

the truth?
is the white cursive issued from a brick chimney
is a skeleton in brown gabardine
wandering the underground city, an accent
adrift in its second language
over a b-side version of empire
i speak french. i am a sovereign state drifter
winter hinterlander with a mortgage
and expired aeroplan points, a vacation blazing
on the credit line
unnecessary to my history, my culture extracurricular
creole vernacular stutterer, i ride the metro
underground with my fur
collar tickling my chatter, metro shuttle station to station,
but i don’t matter, carapace of white earbuds contains my rude –
redemption, i go to work in the heart of a conquered
devotion, a thin mist descends over me
a blown surrender,
snow falls through me. it is always snowing inside me.
my hand is a blue fleur-de-lys torched by autumn
my sap is slow, it hardens glistening in its circuit,
the sharpness of pine and spruce tingles
on the yellow edge of my breath
i find refuge from winter in the hudson’s bay
boxing day sale. born in a corporation, i can’t pretend,
i was not born on the equator,
i died in the upholstered ease of a sedan, and here is my after, city blistered
gray by salt and winter, work in a tower, a payment plan carrying anonymous
class aspirations, and this
is my squalor, an abstract longing to cruise the foothills in a lincoln continental
hearse, bleached teeth chattering nonsense as the zero of winter ascends

She is à la Mode

Natalie Scenters-Zapico

copyright ©2019 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

A sheet cake soaked in milk & left suspended. She had no decorations, so she placed a sugar bowl on top. She placed her man at the head of the cake & told him to close his eyes & relax: Lean back, mi rey, you deserve comfort at the head of my cake. She wanted to capture the cake before it was consumed, so she called her brother-in-law & asked him to stand behind the cake for good balance. She jumped on top of the cake, folded her legs like Minnie Mouse & told everyone to be cool, this cake was going to be in a movie. She was going to call it À la Mode & this was to be the opening scene. But there’s no ice cream, her man said. No, my body is the ice cream, she said & pursed her lips for the camera until her mouth became a dark wound. Her man, who adored her again for a minute, said: You’re so dumb, clean up this kitchen already, da asco. She waited for the hot water to run & poured a cap full of bleach in the sink. She cried: All my movies are no movies. All my movies are not mine.

poem for your pocket

Doyali Islam

copyright ©2019 by Doyali Islam

what my pockets have kept over seasons:

coffee change. house keys. ttc tokens.

emptiness and silence and my ungloved

reticent hands. poems. thoughts of miklós

radnóti – he who hid in his pocket

a thin notebook on his forced march toward

death in some unallied forest.

beyond reason to one mass grave, one mass
silence. still, one silence his overcoat

pocket would not keep: eighteen months
passed before his wife unpacked that pocket

of earth – rifled through corpses, clothing – found
what remained. it was love. love rifled through

miklós’s silences – love gave his damp
last pages back to sunlight’s keep. oh yes

yes, it was love announcing in him, i
will find my way to you, i will come back.

When You Were First Visible

Sharon Olds

copyright ©2019 by Sharon Olds

When you were first visible to me,
you were upside down, not sound asleep but
before sleep, blue-gray,
tethered to the other world
which followed you out from inside me. Then you
opened your silent mouth, and the first
sound, a crackling of oxygen snapping
threads of mucus, broke the quiet,
and with that gasp you pulled your first
in, to your lungs which had been
waiting entirely compressed, the lining
touching itself all over, all inner – now each
lung became a working hollow, blown
partway full, then wholly full, the
birth day of your delicate bellows.
And then – first your face, small tragic
mask, then your slender body, flushed
a just-before-sunrise rose, and your folded,
crowded, apricot arms and legs
spring out,
in slow blossom.
And they washed you – her, you, her –
leaving the spring cheese vernix, and they wrapped her in a
clean, not new, blanket, a child of
New York City,
and the next morning, the milk came in,
it drove the fire yarn of its food through
passageways which had passed nothing
before, now lax, slack, gushing
when she sucked, or mewled. In a month’s time,
she was plump with butterfat, her wrists
invisible down somewhere inside
the richness of her flesh. My life as I had known it
had ended, my life was hers, now,
and I did not yet know her. And that was my new
life, to learn her, as much as I could,
each day, and slowly I have come to know her,
and thus myself, and all of us, and I will
not be done with my learning when I return to where she
       came from.

Find a place

Find a place you feel comfortable and do it.
Purse your lips together     teeth parted     tongue
holding the weight of the roof
of your mouth. Inhale


Find a place you feel comfortable with ghosts.


Rumor has it you might wake spirits
this way     this talking
how the dead talk     not in word

                                                         but sound.