Check out the submission guidelines for our upcoming themed photo gallery documenting the lives of writers, "Written on the Body: Writers and Tattoos."
Amy Strauss Friedman
Amy Strauss Friedman
WE REGISTER DAMAGE FIRST
All wounds fasten memory
at bone level.
The pearl dust smear of repair
a contaminated packed clay
festering with yesterday's dust
like those found in mended bowl cracks.
and veined with strength,
but relegated to the second-hand table.
We register damage first.
Healed wounds are prehistoric
insects trapped in ossified amber;
truth lies within fissures.
Time makes of the scar
a sealed asset,
THE WIND'S TATTOO
Collage undresses the darkness with a mirror’s secret undertow. It’s a dance done on burning kites while dreaming at the speed of light. Expectant as nakedness, collage is a door that surfaces in the shipwreck of your sleep. It’s a caress with the irresistible softness of a slipknot in a velvet blindfold. At its best, like poetry, collage is a moan just beyond delirium.
Tuesday night, at the Bible study, we lift our hands and pray over your body,
but nothing ever happens.
After 12 years of playing piano, my little fingers unlearned
the muscle memory—shook, made me tired, made me
anxious. So, I practiced the neurological tests:
pointer-thumb middle-thumb ring-thumb little-thumb little-thumb
and back again, dull scales of sticky fingerprints.
The last piece I played: a Celtic Be Thou My Vision
on out-of-tune keys at 3rd Baptist Church in Joelton, TN—
the congregation blessed by my mess, my chest wincing
at every fumbled note, everyone smiling just the same.
It only takes a single I’ve been praying
for you to start some sort of electrical fire
behind my cheek bones: domestic violence
of the body—the white blood cells can’t control
their hot-tempers, and myelin has no electrons
that could beg them to stop.
But maybe that’s not why the flames started.
Maybe it was that cellist who placed her body like a bow
between me and a good friend—her mouth sang
forward with can I pray for you? Didn’t miss a note—
this affliction of the body is not of your kingdom, and we beg
that You take it away.
When she’s gone, I feel blessed that she’s gone
and damned for feeling blessed that she’s gone.
I’m under the impression that you can’t pray your way out of hell.
In the myths, there is a longing for sun, for honey, but no requests—
no recorded lyric pleas to leave, to return.
There are women on the other side of the world who are forced to watch their abductors
kill their families. Then, they are taken to a warehouse with a thousand others—
men look across the collection, choose a body. The women do not pray
for release, only bombs, pleading to die by a stronger hand than their own.
It’s hotter there; maybe something changes
in the amygdala after it simmers in the heat
of blood for a while.
I long less and less for summer, put ice packs on my bruises,
take slow showers to forget the constant sounds of pollination
in my hands. In that quiet, I pray for the women who aren’t praying
When the poetry instructor wants me to write about trees,
I don’t write 40 feet and falling. I write the word green,
smashed apple blossom and broken twigs.
I write today. I write The tree trimmer who reached for air,
fell onto frozen ground, somewhere near East Pittsburgh.
I’ll stare at this blank screen until a tree scares a poem out of me—
bare boned and free of leaves, nakedas my neighbor’s ex
who stripped down to less than nothing, danced drunk
on her front porch, raised her V for victory legs like winter branches.
She wants me to be visual, use words like deciduous,
wants me to distinguish between frozen dead mimosa
and CAT scans of my brain— spidery river of missed connections.
When I say, falling leaf, fiery red Maple, do I mean blood?
If I write, cluster of snow struck pines, will I think of a man’s steel hands,
touching? The no no of me, little tree, sapling, small root system.
When I write water, do I mean his mouth? Tongue sliding into dirt
night crawler under the earth. When I write wind, do I mean
this breathless air, eyes closed, shaking hands—
make believe the tree is so real,
the reader could just reach out and touch it.
with a line by Mark Doty
MASK & ROSES
My background as a psychotherapist and poet has influenced my photography as I search to capture a poetic sensibility in a subject, an energy that is not necessarily based in logic. I am mostly drawn to taking photos that I interpret as speaking to a deeper place, like moments in a dream. At the same time, I try to stay attuned to composition and light and their transformative effect on a subject.
“Clown” was taken on the streets of New Orleans in 2014.
“Mask & Flowers” was taken as part of a larger series in my studio in Ossining, NY.
I AM MY CAREFUL PROJECTIONS
Appear sincere. Think of myself as a marble sculpture
holding body and spirit harmoniously intact
while maintaining the pretense of openness. Sigh
serenely. Imbue gestures with a refined ambivalence.
When the unsummoned presence of the past nears,
silent as light and just as omnivorous,
don’t flinch. Yes, I was once Miss America,
and it was disturbing, but the scepter felt firm in my hand,
so I smiled. My small perfections
are the least interesting things about me,
but aren’t they lovely to behold:
porcelain boxes carpeted with crimson velvet.
Open them to hear their pockets of silence,
that pure air. The eternity in it.
In the strip of cream skin between her bra and silky slip, the mole
beneath my mother’s right breast scared me: I sat on her bed with my dolls and peeked.
Hanging from the corner of her bureau mirror were rosary beads,
black onyx peas you could finger as you prayed.
I drew Miss America sashes on my dolls, Barbie and Francie and Midge,
with thick magic marker--a slash over their breasts, across the stomachs
to their snap-on hips.
The stain wouldn’t come off, even when they floated in the pink tub
and I rubbed and rubbed the hard nubby plastic with my thumb.
Their feet, up on tip-toes en pointe, had my teeth marks clean through
to the wire that allowed my dolls to kneel.
My father sat in the den across the hall, manipulating the rabbit ears on the tv
to catch the signal from the aerial on the chimney where crows perched
cawing: I saw! I saw! I saw!
SELF-PORTRAIT AS TOM CRUISE RUNNING
My hands slice the air between us into increasingly smaller portions.
The asphalt beneath my feet buckles
under the heat of various explosions.
This city burns.
It’s my job to save the world
from the possibility that we do not exist—
every sky has the stars it deserves.
Surely by now you’ve learned not to expect grace.
I am hand grenade with the pin pulled,
trigger without warning,
the glow at the end of your cigarette
as you stand in an alley at the back door of a bar
on a humid Tuscaloosa night,
the small of your back slick with sweat
your skin flushed and my arms on your mind.
My knees piston ostentatiously,
I close another gap, another.
The blasts are getting closer.
Eyes forward. Refuse to look back.
There is no other escape plan.
Give me your flowered ear. Did you see how I carried my breath in a
handbag and peeled off the parts of myself he requested? May I never
again need to be so fluent in silk at daylight. Festering boil. Disease of the
Take handfuls of ashes…
Give me the bitter in chances. Noon turned to smudges. We sat by the
wall, taking desire as treasure to the back of our throats. We had light in
Goshen, and stream and cloud—
may there be blood,
the worst hailstorm
Much later, I count these plagues down, how the moon hardly wobbled
through vowel on vowel, through windowpane, the mountains forgotten,
my home full of torment. I confess: the small form of my body found
sweetness. The sky at the door, the legs of the chair. We weren’t yet
finished. I was devoured
for months. I knew why I had gone—
and if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite
all the borders
—but I made it home through the dust where the sun tumbled
in and lifted out as it sometimes does, and we saw green rain,
the small things we’d avoided.
WHEN I LEFT
When I left
Maude said he would drag me
back to the shore.
I ran to the closet.
A broom is a cradle
full of sticks
until he holds it.
I can’t explain why a knob
wishes to bend
upon itself, but I can
that it does.
This is a photograph of a clanging sound.
The ink from his reef still stings fresh.
SKULL & BUSHES
SKULL & ROSES II
The human skull is one of the most powerful and oldest iconic symbols know to man. It has been used in art for centuries and carries with it an array of diverse and sometimes overlapping interpretations and meanings. Skull imagery has been evident in some of history's most impactful art, from Jose Gaudalupe Posada to C. Allan Gilbert, Shakespeare to Pieter Claesz, Frida Kahlo to Damian Hirst. The death of my father has affected me immensely and has found its way into my work. The cluster of feelings and representations that are attributed to the skull have become the perfect vessel to convey my conflicts regarding life, death, and mortality.
IF YOU PAUSE IT JUST RIGHT
uninterrupted. We won’t
see the moment halved.
We won’t have
to read our own palms
instead of watching.
Here in the middle—the life-
line, bisected. Cut to
another cutaway. Too soon.
You blinked, missed
the worst of it. If you look
through parted fingers
you can see the fist
but not what’s in it.
Do you know
how scenes come
to a point? Frames
shifting faster so
both sides of a story
until the room heals
into one picture.
Let’s freeze it
still just that.
Issue Five Contributors
Nashville native Hannah Baggott recently received her MFA in poetry from Oregon State University. She is a regular contributor with PDXX Collective and winner of the 2015 Marcia and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry with Bellevue Literary Review. She is working on a full-length manuscript about her experience with Multiple Sclerosis. Her work can be found or forthcoming in [PANK], Passages North, HOBART, Ninth Letter, and through her website hannahbaggott.com.
deborah brandon holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2004). Additional work appears in [PANK], Ocho, MiPOesias, Mom Egg Review, Hotel Amerika, Puerto del Sol, Denver Quarterly, Cream City Review, White Whale Review, and others, including a couple of anthologies.
Jonathan Brooks' work was just part of a digital display at The Louvre Museum, is being used as decor in a Twentieth Century Fox film, was featured on the CW Network's The Vampire Diaries, and is available at West Elm. He recently attended Creative Capital Foundation's Professional Development Program Workshop at Florida State University in Tallahassee for artists who shape the future. The workshop was funded by The National Endowment for the Arts.
Lauren Camp is the author of two collections. Her third book, One Hundred Hungers, won the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). Her poems appear in Slice Magazine, The Seattle Review, World Literature Today, Hobart, and other journals. Lauren is a Black Earth Institute Fellow, and winner of a Margaret Randall Poetry Prize and an Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award. She produces and hosts “Audio Saucepan”—a global music program interwoven with contemporary poetry—on Santa Fe Public Radio. www.laurencamp.com.
Amy Strauss Friedman teaches English at Harper College and earned her MA in Comparative Literature from Northwestern University. She is a regular contributor to Newcity, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in *82 Review, After the Pause, MelancholyHyperbole, Fractal, Extract(s), Crack the Spine, and elsewhere.
Amorak Huey is author of the poetry collection Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress, 2015) and the chapbook The Insomniac Circus (Hyacinth Girl, 2014). A former newspaper editor and reporter, he teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Follow him on Twitter: @amorak.
Jennifer Martelli's chapbook, Apostrophe, was published in 2011 by Big Table Publishing Company. Most recently, her work has appeared in Up the Staircase Quarterly, Wherewithal, and Hermeneutic Chaos. She is a recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry and a Pushcart nominee. She is an associate editor for The Compassion Project: An Anthology and lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Find her on the web at www.jennifermartelli.com.
Lorretta Oleck is a psychotherapist and creative artist with poetry and photography published in Feminist Studies, The Missing Slate, Obsidian, Word Riot, The Adirondack Review, The Stockholm Review of Literature, High Coupe, Right Hand Pointing, Cultural Weekly, Commonline Journal, The Westchester Review, Picayune Magazine, and Elohi Gadugi Journal, among numerous others.
Emily O'Neill is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her recent poems and stories can be found in inter|rupture, Powder Keg, and Tinderbox, among others. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of Yes Yes Books' Pamet River Prize. She teaches writing at the Boston Center for Adult Education and edits poetry for Wyvern Lit.
Elizabeth Onusko’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Slice Magazine, Linebreak, The Journal, Vinyl, Radar Poetry, FrontPorch Journal, DIALOGIST, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Adroit Journal, among others, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has been featured on Verse Daily. She is a founding editor of Guernica.
Robert Walicki's debut chapbook is A Room Full Of Trees (Redbird Press). His work has appeared in many journals, including,StoneHighway Review, Pittsburgh City Paper, Grasslimb, and on the radio show Prosody. Most recently, he has won second runner up in Finishing Line Press' Open Chapbook Competition in 2013 and was awarded finalist in the Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition (2013). He lives in Pittsburgh, where he curates a monthly reading series, VERSIFY.
Valerie Wallace is an editor with RHINO, the Afghan Women's Writing Project, and leads poetry workshops in Chicago. She has received awards from the Illinois Arts Council, the Barbara Deming Fund for Women, the San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference, and the Midwest Writing Center. Her chapbook, The Dictators' Guide to Good Housekeeping is available from Dancing Girl Press.
Bill Wolak is a poet, photographer, and collage artist. He has just published his twelfth book of poetry entitled Love Opens the Hands with Nirala Press. Recently, he was a featured poet at The Hyderabad Literary Festival. He teaches Creative Writing at William Paterson University in New Jersey.