Lake Michigan, Scene 18

by Daniel Borzutzky

copyright ©2018, Daniel Borzutzky

The beaches are filled with cages

And the cages are filled with bodies

And the bodies are filled with burdens

And the burdens consume the bodies

And the bodies do not know to whom they owe their life

I drop my body on the sand and someone tells me to pick it up

I drop to the sand to pick up my body and someone tells me to steal more hair     to steal more flesh     to steal more bones     to steal more fingers

I tell them I cannot risk contaminating the data

I tell them that if I steal more hair then the data will not be clean

I tell them I cannot touch my own body out of fear of contaminating the data

I have a virus     I say

I am contagious     I say

No salt in my body     I say     no heat in my blood

The sand is dying slowly

It turns into a wall and in the wall there is a nook and in the nook there is light and in light there is god and in god there is nothing and in nothing there is hope and in hope there is abandonment and in abandonment there is wound and in wound there is nation and in nation there are bones and in bones there is time and in time there is light and in light there are numbers and in numbers there are codes and in codes there are mountains and in mountains there are bodies searching for bones and in the mountains there are tunnels and in the tunnels there is so much festering garbage

The men in uniform take the garbage away but they have a hard time distinguishing the garbage from the people so they scoop it all up and carry us into the next morning

And in the next morning there is a confession

I have put my burdens in the wrong body

I have framed my burdens in the wrong language

I have staked my burdens to the wrong nation

I need medicine to sleep

I need medicine to stop the shrieking in my ears

I need medicine to make the Chicago corpses turn into hydrangeas

I need medicine to make the immigrants turn into butterflies

I need an injection to make the bureaucrats turn into terrorists

It is raining again on Lake Michigan

Some say it is raining bodies     but really it is raining trash

The trash they bomb us with explodes when it lands near our bodies

And our bodies are tornadoes

And the joke turns into a mystery novel about how god keeps his hands from shaking when he is about to destroy the universe

I need my burdens     sing the bodies on the beach

I fight for my burdens     scream the bodies on the beach

I know the blankness of my burdens is a battle for love and country

I know the blankness of my burdens is a coda to the death of the city

I don’t know why I can’t see the moon anymore

I can’t see the stars for the sky anymore

I don’t even bother to look up

We Were Never Meant to Break Like This

by 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.

An Enemy Comes Down the Hill

by Fady Joudah, translating from the Arabic written by Ghassan Zaqtan

copyright ©Translation copyright © 2012 by Fady Joudah

When he comes down
or is seen coming down
when he reveals to us that he is coming down.

The waiting and silence

his entire lack
when he hearkens before the plants.

His caution when he comes down
like one postponed by a hush,
and by his being not “us”
and not “here”
death begins.

He bought a flower
nothing more, a flower
that has no vase and leaves no will.

From the hill, he can spot the military checkpoint, the paratroopers,
he can spot the squatters, the mountain edges, and the only road
where their feet will leave a print in the rocks, mud, and water.

Losses also will appear from the hill
abandoned without effort.

And the fragility in shadow,
the Jewish man with a long mustache
who resembles the dead Arabs here.

From the mountain edges, all the caves will appear peaceful
and the road will seem as it were.

While he was coming down
the caves continued to stare
and blink in the cold.

Verso 40.6

by Dionne Brand

copyright ©2018 Dionne Brand

M sent me a photograph by Daguerre. It is of the first human being to be photographed. Someone is cleaning the shoes of someone. All descriptions of the photograph claim that the first human being to be photographed is the figure having his shoes cleaned. I see first the figure cleaning the shoes as the photograph’s subject. Secondly, the event of the shoe-cleaning. From this immediately I saw the state of the world.

The sight of the songbirds at dusk

by Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh, translated from the German written by Paul Celan

copyright ©2000 Paul Celan (translated by Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh)

The sight of the songbirds at dusk,
through a ring of
ungraphed space,

made me promise myself weapons.

The sight of weapons, hands;
the sight of hands, the line
long since described by a flat, sharp

– you, wave,
carried it here, sharpened it,
you, Un-
losable One, gave yourself to it,
you, beach sand, are the taker,
you, shore-grass, drift
your share –

the line, the line
we swim through, twice each
millennium, tied up
in each other,
and not even the sea,
sublime unfathomable sea
that runs alive through us,
can believe
all the singing in our fingers.

To Sweeten Bitter

by Raymond Antrobus

copyright ©Raymond Antrobus 2018

My father had four children
and three sugars in his coffee
and every birthday he bought me
a dictionary which got thicker
and thicker and because his word
is not dead I carry it like sugar

on silver spoons
up the Mobay hills in Jamaica
past the flaked white walls
of plantation houses
past the canefields and coconut trees
past the new crystal sugar factories.

I ask dictionary why we came here –
It said nourish so I sat with my aunt
on her balcony at the top
of Barnet Heights
and ate saltfish
and sweet potato

and watched women
leading their children
home from school.
As I ate I asked dictionary
what is difficult about love?
It opened on the word grasp

and I looked at the hand
holding this ivory knife
and thought about how hard it was
to accept my father
for who he was
and where he came from

how easy it is now to spill
sugar on the table before
it is poured into my cup.

The Novel As Manuscript

by Norman Dubie

copyright ©2015 by Norman Dubie

An ars poetica

I remember the death, in Russia,
of postage stamps
like immense museum masterpieces
wrapped in linen, tea stained,
with hemp for strapping…

these colored stamps designed for foreign places
were even printed during famine—
so when they vanished, so did the whole
Soviet system:
the Berlin Wall, tanks from Afghanistan,
and Ceausescu’s bride before a firing squad.

It had begun with the character of Yuri Zhivago
in a frozen wilderness, the summer house
of his dead in-laws, his
pregnant mistress asleep
before the fireplace
with flames dancing around a broken chair, piano keys,
and the gardener’s long black underwear.

Lara lying there. A vulgar fat businessman
coming by sleigh to collect her for the dangers
of a near arctic escape…

But for Yuri, not that long ago, he was
with celebrity,
a young doctor publishing a thin volume
of poems in France, he was writing
now at a cold desk
poems against all experience
and for love of a woman buried
in moth-eaten furs on the floor—

while he wrote
wolves out along the green tree line
howled at him. The author of this novel,
Boris Pasternak, arranged it all. Stalin would
have liked to have killed him. But superstition kept him from it.
So, the daughter of Pasternak’s mistress eventually
is walking with a candle
through a prison basement—
she is stepping over acres of twisted corpses
hoping to locate her vanished mother …
she thinks this reminds her of edging slowly
over the crust on a very deep snow, just a child who believes
she is about to be swallowed by the purity of it all,
like this write your new poems.

A five-year-old asks his mother …

by Eve Joseph

copyright ©2018 by Eve Joseph

A five-year-old asks his mother if the clouds are solid and wants to know why, when he looks up, he can’t see the old people and their old cats. I must have dozed off. The trees were bare when I fell asleep but now their leaves are that impossible newly minted green. Tom Waits is bellowing downstairs and any second now someone I love is going to walk through the door. I want to know why the clouds told the Serbian poet their names in the quiet of a summer afternoon. And why didn’t he share those names with the rest of us? Perhaps they did not translate into English. Perhaps the old want to stay hidden and keep their secrets all to themselves.

After You’re Gone / DAY SIX

by Don Mee Choi, translated from the Korean written by Kim Hyesoon

copyright ©2016 by Kim Hyesoon / 2018 by Don Mee Choi

After you’ve gone don’t go, don’t
After you’ve come don’t come, don’t

When you depart, they close your eyes, put your hands together and cry
        don’t go, don’t go
But when you say open the door, open the door, they say don’t come, don’t

They glue a paper doll onto a bamboo stick and say don’t come, don’t come
They throw your clothes into the fire and say don’t come, don’t come

That’s why you’re footless

yet all you do is fly
unable to land

You’re visible even when you hide
You know everything even without a brain

You feel so cold
even without a body

That’s why this morning the nightgown hiding under the bed
is sobbing quietly to itself

Water collects in your coffin
You’ve already left the coffin

Your head’s imprint on the moon pillow
Your body’s imprint on the cloud blanket

So after you’ve gone don’t go, don’t
So after you’ve come don’t come, don’t


by Sarah Tolmie

copyright ©Sarah Tolmie 2018

We are scared to death by the words for things.
Even yet, when we should know better.
I know my father’s teeth will chatter

If I say pneumonia about my son.
Suddenly it is World War One
And influenza, H 1 N 1

And doom and liver flukes.
It’s Bay of Pigs and waiting nukes.

And me? I am a heartless bitch
For saying he should get a grip.