ISSUE 39
CONTENTS

JUNE 2018


Candace Black
Jamie O'Connell
Petra Kuppers
Julie Hart
K Rodriguez
INTERVIEW: Minadora Macheret
Lana Pochiro
Nicolette Wong
Maia Carlson
Natasha Burge
Amy Watkins


CONTRIBUTORS

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Candace Black

SUMMER GHOST
 

The woman
whose face is the color of clotted blood.
Whose blood collects in the flaccid
chambers of her heart.  Whose heart receives

the incoming signal but can’t respond,
whose heart can’t follow the orders
encoded in its tissues.  The woman whose mouth
makes small circles of appeal

no one hears.  Whose mouth tries to inhale
summer’s sweetness:  wet dock, pine, lake breeze,
rose hips.  The woman who rolls on the lawn, trying
to escape pain.  The woman whose eyes

see a toddler stop at the lawn’s edge, see
his mother scoop him up and walk away.
The woman whose eyes see the grass blades,
see nothing.


Jamie O'Connell

MY SKULL STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

 

how termites
make
their way
to light
when trees
explode
masking
horizon
dripping dew
into you and
swallowing
my screams
draped in
duct tape
how liquids
inside
the trunk turn
to gas and
ignite the bark
forest folding in
on itself
some will die
instantly
the others
disposed
to disease
how my words
are fire pits
left behind
to whisper
embers


Petra Kuppers

WRITTEN ON THE MOON

 

This way to the dark side of the moon.
Call for the light.
Call for fullness, round, a vanishing.
Call for seasons, heave, beach sands that drift,
Call for silver by which to see new contours,
Openings, a delta flow that travels against the stream.
Dam this, break the old dike’s back, and I will run.

This is the dark side of the moon.
Close your eyes, too. We are gone.


Julie Hart

FALLING IN THE PRESENCE OF ANTS
“They’re more human than we are.” — Gary Soto

 

Do we live to some purpose?
I will dispute this with you later, Gary.
But first: in Java, we go to Bogor’s botanical garden,
among the buttressed canopy trees
--so tall I can’t tell what their leaves look like--
I stand looking up, head thrown back upon my neck,
shifting position in hope of identifying the leaf in my hand.
I feel a slight nip, and then discover my unlaced boots
aswarm with brick red ants.
The nips continue, now on my ankles,
up under my loose muslin pants.
I see I have stepped in their highway
and are they pissed!
I jump away from the antic red stream
but the nips keep coming.
I hotfoot it back to the bench where you,
Gary, sit unconcerned.
They’re on me! They’re on me!
I yell as I run in circles around you.
I kick off my boots and right there in the gardens of Bogor,
I strip off my pants and slap at the ants
still clinging by their mouth parts to my socks.
Are they more human than we are?
I can’t believe you posited this as a statement, Gary.
I heartily distrust the anthropomorphic,
but this surely proves they are just as tribal.
Several of them died just to get me to step
away from their highway, something
I would have done eventually anyway.
Are ants impatient or merely programmatic?
All the rest of that day, both real and phantom nips
plague me. The whole acreage of my skin crawls
with the setae of tiny feet.
Ants resist ambiguity.
I resist purpose.


K Rodriguez

DISSOCIATED

 

Let’s get this out of the way: I will lie to you.
            I just want to be honest.

I will leave in the night. You will be sleeping
            and I will put all the love inside a suitcase
                        and toss it into the sea.

I will not get attached to you
            or to your body.
You should not get attached to me
            or mine.

But you will.
I am very sweet.
I am a liar.
I will tell you I love you
            and it will sound like I mean it.
It will be your fault if you get hurt.
You should have known
            that meaning
                        never means what it means. 

I love you.

I will bury corpses in your navel
            and plant trees inside your mouth.
                        This is not a metaphor for fucking.

I love you.

I love you
            like the self is real.
I love you
            and I am abstracting.
I love you
            will you please concrete me?


Minadora Macheret talks about embodied poetry
and writing Love Me, Anyway

Please describe your journey toward writing poetry that reflects on the experience of living in the body. Have you always written this way, or did you come to it over time?

Growing up in a family full of doctors, it was hard to escape conversations about the body and its multiple functions. From this and a background in biology, I found myself looking for ways to reimagine, reclaim, and reexplain the body through my personal experiences. When I was properly diagnosed with PCOS and a couple of other diseases, I found myself reflecting on the ways in which disease is inherited and how that speaks within and through the body. I have only been seriously writing about the body for the last five years, but I came to it looking for ways in which my poems could offer a voice to people who often felt silenced by their disease or the lack of research done around their disease.

 

In Love Me, Anyway, you use both traditional and self-created mythologies to explore the bond between mother and child, the continuum between health and disease. How does investigating these subjects through the lens of mythos help you process their complexities?

It goes back to the act of reimagining and the idea that recentering disease through mythos allows you the distance to talk about the disease more truthfully and through imagery not normally associated with it.  It also allows for you to give it a lineage/geneology, to give it roots that help you to see it more clearly.

 
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Purchase Love Me, Anyway
from Porkbelly Press
.

 

I am drawn to the poem “Autogenesis.” It seems that the speaker in the poem is addressing a part of herself (“tell me about this little girl...”), is literally writing that part into being as she forms words on the page. Please say more about that particular poem—the process of writing it, what it means to you, anything you like.

That poem was written during a poetry workshop where we were using Dixit playing cards. We were using three cards each and the professor was calling out words we needed to use in the poem as we were writing. It was really about that creative space and where I was mentally. There’s a really good quote about sites of energy from Heidegger that explains it well: “Originally the word site suggests a place in which everything comes together, is concentrated… The site, the gathering power, gathers in and preserves all it has gathered, not like an encapsulating shell but rather by penetrating with its light all it has gathered, and only thus releasing it into its nature.” So, the exercise, the energy, the Dixit cards, the called out words, the emotional and mental space I was occupying, all leaked out from the site into this poem. Basically, I wanted to tell the story of this little girl who was existing in this alternative dimension. As she is existing or re-existing and writing herself onto the page, the body needs to be acknowledged—because what is she without a body?

 

AUTOGENESIS

 

But tell me about this little girl,
who holds a long, stretched-out balloon
on tied shoelace ends.
Tell me about the room she sits in,
its curve of pillars, those branches,
pretend to hold the body of the living.
Tell me about the white of her skin
how it makes angels swell,
open their mouths, teeth full,
an endless god-space. Tell me about
the dirge that holds her heart,
it is smoky, almost uninhabitable,
it tries to breathe in white light.
Tell me about the way she smiles—
forever running in place to conjure skin,
moans, and pain-memories dormant in her cells.
But, tell me what you want to remember,
the way the incubator displayed the crease of your arm,
plastic slats divided the little girl from her mother.
Did you hear how I told you, if you’re abiding
of the balloon, the heart, the checkered room
you will enter the mouth of a devil, and
come out breathing like god.
But tell me you are dreamless,
and I will remind you of capillaries
that push life through your body
forever spilling out onto envelopes
your dead mother forgot to sign.

 

Please share with our readers a list of 5-10 books you think we should read right now.

1. The Patient Admits by Avery M. Guess

2. Whereas by Layli Long Soldier

3.Four Reincarnations by Max Ritvo

4. Hands that Break and Scar by Sarah A. Chavez

5. Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness by Krista Radcliffe

6. The Bag of Broken Glass by Yerra Sugarman

7. The End of Pink by Kathryn Nuernberger

8. Saudade by Traci Brinhall


Some Rogue Agent fans are just beginning to explore what making art about the body would look like for them. What advice would you give to someone just starting down the path toward writing poetry that features the body?

Read as many books about the body, whether that’s poetry, nonfiction, biology textbooks, or research articles. Don’t be afraid to write about your experience regardless of how off the wall it may seem. Tell your story and respect the stories of others. Write as many drafts as you need to in order to write the story you need to write.

 
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Minadora Macheret is a Ph.D. student and Teaching Fellow at the University of North Texas. She is a Poetry Editor for Devilfish Review and the Co-Coordinator of Poets in Pajamas Reading Series. Her work has appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Red Paint Hill, ConnotationPress, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbook, Love Me Anyway, from Porkbelly Press, 2018. She likes to travel across the country with her beagle, Aki.


Lana Pochiro

"YOU DIDN'T GET OUR LETTER IN THE MAIL?

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Nicolette Wong

KNOTS

 

I have unravelled into threads
of water trespassing—
            between the setts, the chase
is a black piercing,
a weave of crevices burst
at departure—
the stones have wilted
in the dissolve of
you.


Maia Carlson

PRAYER TO THE MATERNAL MOVER

 

1. Gaunt mother,
ruler of an angry child,
make me a Hoatzin bird
that though I may be clawed
—hand and foot—in my youth
I’ll grow more downy
and feathered
and crowned with age.

2. Shadowless mother,
space between a tiger’s stripes,
make me a golden cage
that I may hold all of my
guilt inside gilt
—like a heart inside ribs—
until even the fissures are holy.

3. Bitter mother,
goddess of blood and unhewn things,
mold me into a bezoar,
abandon the ugly into the palm
of your hand until there’s but
a crushed godstone of me left behind.
Forgive me for the poisons
I cannot cleanse
from your cup.

4. Whiskey mother,
ruler from a lowly place,
let me be your daughter-hound,
a beast that bites and
burns and can only be tamed
with fire, burning off the alcohol of me.

5. Breathless mother,
weight of three rivers,
make me barracuda dangerous,
a bird of prey beneath whatever water
drowns me. Lend me the strength
of five oceans and
the brutal blue.

6. Ugly mother,
Butterfly-maker,
make me a vanda orchid
with my face all purple and
my veins splayed. I’ll forbear
the dirt of the earth
for you, for the naked air. 

7. War mother,
maker and breaker within one body,
make me a bagpipe’s scream
so that I won’t be welcome
in any holy place but yours.
I’ll howl across all the wide
open places until even the bones
shiver.


Natasha Burge

ON ACQUIRING THE MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER
after Kaveh Akbar’s ‘Supplication with Rabbit Skull and Bouquet’

 

ask me why I leave the light on at night

why I am nervous in every grocery store

please won’t you carry me from this burning house

where men thirst for the ocean between our legs

tell me why I can’t look at dead birds without Jesus filling my mouth

why money and the Bible feel the same in my hand

you are always all the space everywhere

and I have the endless freedom of the orphan

in a female body suffering is called equilibrium

a body in motion tends to stay in motion

a body can never be a home if it is still searching

your forgiveness was a desperate return to the flames

everything you say to me comes true in reverse

my first blood was a pale madness with no translation

I am eating my kin

the dialogue in my bones speaks with your tongue

how do I explain that calamity comes in the quietest moments

that everything is always forever until it is gone

find me again in another form and rest


Amy Watkins

LET'S GET LOST

 

We flew from the selfish wick, its flicker
meant to call us home like pigeons or bees
to nest, to hive, to roost, but we wandered,
wayward girls seeking honey, honey, honey.
My mama asked, “Where you girls been?” Just out.
Just walking.
 And sometimes I wondered if
she knew that every walk in moonlight led
to the same warm clearing where we first went
all the way. I wanted to get lost
like Chet Baker, to drift through counterfeit
snowflakes, white myrtle blossoms obscuring
our faces like blizzards or bridal veils.
I would have walked all night with you, the call
home far off and lost in your breath in my ear.


Issue 39 Contributors

 

Candace Black teaches creative writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her poems have been published in many journals, including (most recently) Poetry City USA, Hubbub, and December, and are forthcoming in Miramar. She has two books of poetry published—Whereabouts (Snake Nation Press, 2017) and The Volunteer (New Rivers Press, 2003)—and a chapbook, Casa Marina (RopeWalk Press, 2010).

Natasha Burge is a Pushcart Prize and Sundress Best of the Net nominated writer from the Arabian Gulf region where she is the writer-in-residence at the Qal'at al-Bahrain Museum. Her writing can be found in Pithead ChapelThe EstablishmentTinderbox Poetry, and TheSmart Set, among others. More can be found at www.natashaburge.com

Maia Carlson is a Kansas transplant from Canada, who joined her first poetry class in graduate school largely by accident.  Since then, she's enjoyed combining her growing poetry skills with her background in biology (she earned a Bachelors of Science in Biology from Kansas State University in 2011, before staying at the same university to get her Masters in English this 2018).

Originally from Minnesota, Julie Hart has lived in London, Zurich and Tokyo and now in Brooklyn Heights. Her work can be found in PANKMagazineThe RumpusVol. 1 Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Poets Anthology and at juliehartwrites.com. She is a founder with Mirielle Clifford and Emily Blair of the poetry collective Sweet Action.

Petra Kuppers is a disability culture activist, a community performance artist and a professor. Her most recent poetry collection is PearlStitch (2016). Poems and stories have appeared in PANKAdrienneSinister WisdomBeauty is a Verb: New Poetics of DisabilitytextsoundStreetnotesDrunken Boat/AnomalyPodCastleThe Sycamore ReviewFuture FireAccessing the Future: A Disability-ThemedAnthology of Speculative Fiction, and elsewhere. She is the Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective, and lives with her partner Stephanie Heit in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her speculative queercrip short story collection Ice Bar is forthcoming in 2018. 

Minadora Macheret is a Ph.D. student and Teaching Fellow at the University of North Texas. She is a Poetry Editor for Devilfish Review and the Co-Coordinator of Poets in Pajamas Reading Series. Her work has appeared in Tinderbox Poetry JournalRed Paint HillRogueAgentConnotation Press, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbook,Love Me Anyway, from Porkbelly Press, 2018. She likes to travel across the country with her beagle, Aki. 

Jamie O'Connell lives in the Bay Area, where she received her MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. Recent poems can be found in FIVE:2:ONE, CalifragileOcculumbad ponyReality HandsMemoir Mixtapes, and elsewhere. She spends most of her time with her majestic zebra-striped dog/direwolf, Daisy. Visit her site here: www.jamieoco.com.

Lana Pochiro is a proud Rust Belt native from Youngstown, Ohio. She currently lives in Queens, New York and works in nonprofit communications and fundraising.  

K Rodriguez is a non-binary, Puerto Rican writer, and a doctoral student in English at Emory University. 

Amy Watkins grew up with the rattlesnakes and armadillos in the central Florida scrub, surrounded by a big, loud, religious family--the kind of upbringing that's produced generations of southern writers. She married her high school sweetheart, had a baby girl, and earned her MFA in writing from Spalding University. She is the author of Milk & Water (Yellow Flag Press, 2014) and the art editor for Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine.

Nicolette Wong is the editor in chief of A-Minor Magazine and A-Minor Press. Her poetry has appeared in PositBellingham ReviewCrab Orchard ReviewThrush Poetry Journal, and other venues. She is based in Hong Kong.