FEATURED POETS

MARISSA ANNE AYALA

Marissa Anne Ayala is a writer based in Astoria. She earned her BA from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and her MFA in fiction from the New School. Her work has appeared in Tupelo PressHandwrittenEntropySTRATA, and forthcoming in Glassworks.

 

 

Home

 

She needed to draw a hard line / / a division

between water / / between land

between ocean / / striated but

crossing that sea

 

sucking on lemon rinds & the silver spoon

 

dropped – after

she was raised // salty.

 

This body thick – stones & concrete –

these bones don’t // break

but the storm bruised her / / lightning scarred boulders

& burnt dunes / / water seeped / / into their house

a boat – rot – wood – slant/ed – roof.

 

Her father would not raise

the house // would not // lift it

it was the bones; it’s just the bones that broke.

 

She never broke // anything // other than

a hole in the wall // punched it.

 

When a house tears / / down / / an image exhausted

an image / / of that girl / /

hidden in the orchard & this mother’s

house was not so different than my own

 

crooked teeth & trees wrapped

 

the yard / / I feared

breathing / / too deeply / / with her

breath strong / / enough / / to break walls

to tear the wood at the seams.

 

The dust was so thick / / in that orchard / / days closed / / days

erupted into nights &

we passed through gold / / light / /

as if language could hold / / us / / 

could keep me / / there / / 

 

& even the edge of this thought is a fray.

Sit in that box / / a shape to hold onto

a shape to contain

 

I draw a line around me

around her

 

red sand on skin dimples &

 

my spine / / now red / / when touched

red is the house / / is the breath

& that girl’s mother is smoke & I

want to settle in / / to light.

 

But –

 

I am the silver / / the bullet // the split // the blood

it washed cement, seeped soil, fed roots &

we sat // in the car // on the outskirts of the orchard

smoked till the windows layered opaque.

 

 

Cohen's Nest

 

You told me you found a dead white tiger -

on the side of the road. I thought you were a compulsive liar

but didn’t care. We laid in your house &

wrote with our tongues & our mouths were pregnant pauses.

 

You snapped fingers and sang didactic -

our tongues stopped your fingers ceased,

lips closed, opened, tongues flicked teeth &

the new ballad emerged.

 

You worked your mouth in intonations-

forced physicality and the liturgy read aloud is sound

sculpture. I laid with rug scratches &

Leonard Cohen’s guitar was the vibration of blood.

 

You let me lie there -  I watched the ceiling -

it opened to the sky and a sketched bird flew

leaving ink trails.  Wind stilled &

we imagined our little house.

 

 

 

BEN FAMA

Ben Fama is a writer based in New York City. He is the author of Fantasy (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015), and the chapbooks Odalisque (Bloof, 2014), Cool Memories (Spork, 2013), New Waves (Minutes Books, 2011), and Aquarius Rising (Ugly Duckling Presse 2010). He is also the author of the artist book Mall Witch (Wonder, 2012). He is the co-founder of Wonder.

 

Fantasy

Forever is the saddest word
The poem's not worth it
I'd like to read to you
What Andy Warhol said
About the traps of the rich
But my tastes are changing
This is a love note
To a Fire Island lifeguard
Tuscano shearling
And mauve champagne
I should never talk
Even after two sips
Though that's when I can
I hate the George V hotel
But I would take you there
Then walk to the open market
Some thoughts are not that great
The Internet is my home
Where it's easy to be beautiful
And seen and new
In the glow
In the spell
I thought I was better
I guess I won't ever be
God wants us to make out
'Cause I'm in this airport
Where nobody's important
I just wrote a letter
Explaining all of this to you
In my head
The prism refracts
But the stone is cloudy
All that comes through
Are the deeper obsessions
Arvid Nordquist and dry shampoo
Cocaine and Pellegrino
This weather should have an entry
In A  Lover's Discourse
A fully enclosed private garden
With direct access to the pool
Hardwood floors
Perfect light
I, like, crave you
Doesn't it ever just make you sad
Plans you had with different people
And how it all can't come true?
I want the extremes
Of pleasure
Boredom
Watching my lovers cry
I really want to show something
To the lifeguard from Fire Island
Thoughts like nectar
International cities
To stand here a young prince
Unique in spirit
Replete with hospitality
Aren't you even curious
To see my hotel room
After I swim?
Sitting on my bed
I typed
Principal Dancer
Into YouTube
And drank
To see the discourse
And the honor
Feels good
Standing at my window
What I think I will miss most
When I die
Is color
And the light
Sometimes it just comes to you
Amidst occasional instances
Of radiance or darkness
I mean
Everyone has their shit
Then enough time goes by
That's your life
Maybe I expect too much
I wouldn't know how not to
In my room
With these portraits
In gold frames
Feels like theater
MGM Pictures
The bronze light of Hollywood
1928
The future isn't real
I should walk in golden rays
Past rows of motorcycles
To Coney Island
Because I know grace
Is more real than love
It feels so real
In the morning
On Fifth Ave.
With the lifeguard
From Fire Island
Weightless in badinage
Whatever comes from
Art and life
Being can be too easy and common
Like soda
I let him come inside my world
Because they gave me a key
To Gramercy Park
Maybe tonight
I'll have a breakdown
Sometimes
I use this French product
To soften the water
When I soak in the bathtub
It is silent there
Like a tomb
Sometimes I wish
I was already in mine
Sometimes I wish
The world had a face
I could touch the cheek of
When I feel
I could be a part of it
When I cannot
And I lie in the hot water
Sometimes I wish
The pearlescent steam
Could sublimate the malaise
And the lassitude
That is there inside of me
Maybe it does
I believe it is that way
When the light touches down
Upon bunny lawns
Of Fifth Ave.
I don't care at all
About the lifeguard so much
Gravlax or Paris
I should call this friend
In Los Angeles
An aesthete who hosts parties by the pool

 

LUCAS HUNT

Lucas Hunt is a celebrated American poet and the president of HUNT Auctioneers, who was born and raised in rural Iowa. His work has been published in The New York Times, and received The John Steinbeck Award for Poetry. He is the author of IOWA, Light on the Concrete (2011), and Lives (2006). 

 

“Long Island City is the place I’ve searched for in my quest to find a home in New York. It is raw yet futuristic, on the edge yet close to the center, industrial yet booming to social life, and more than anything it is not Brooklyn. Because that cultural hegemony exists in New York for a lot of literary people, it was initially hard to view Queens as a valid place to live and write. Yet here we are, in the most diverse borough in New York City. I take walks and bike rides around Long Island City, Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, Woodside, Queensbridge, Astoria and say goodbye to all that, Queens is where it’s at!”

 

Adieu Deerfield

 

We are our best in congregation,

the well-set marble table

piano key painting

black and blue enharmonics

Buddha under an orchid

fake Jeff Koons,

geese shit on the patio,

Larry sells bricks

for seventy-five bucks

to a loud man from Springs.

There’s a frame

around the fireplace

low seated couches, chairs,

tie-died pillows

let’s leave the upstairs

to imagination.

We ate sweet corn

with leftover grilled chicken

a Waldorf Salad

and peach pie for desert.

The piano keys

can shift your focus

from negative to positive.

Mark does not title

his pieces nor

sign them on the front.

We aren’t in Watermill anymore.

 

 

Monuments after Midnight

 

The 7 train is down which leaves the C

outside Grand Central the palatial venue

continues to party, there’s enough cash

to kill ourselves but let’s live forever.

 

The Yale Club hosts a benefit fundraiser

tonight, I could rake a bundle there

but Vanderbilt’s dark after midnight

so over to Fifth, chocolate and watches

 

with saints on gilt doors, Atlas has a ball,

I’ve been here before, mom and dad

had some brunch in the Rainbow Room,

with money you can name your street.

 

According to Fitzgerald, there’s a dream

so close we can hardly fail to grasp it.

I see green lights, descend subway stairs,

rose petals scattered on the platform floor.

                       

 

The Sea for Good

(for Isabelle)

                       

There’s one thing I know

falling is like walking through fields

feet disappear under leaves

connect with dirt—

boulders turn their heads

as sparks wing

the night, what’s below climbs

from grass to bush to tree a flame,

pigs nose knees in shit

piled by doors, odor strong,

river slips bank, dogfish

swim to the fence,

bare shins touch bony fins

then wade away—

hay wheels coiled tight in rows

burst with golden light,

bright is the dust, I can’t breathe

but sneeze motes

of music freed from form,

earth things sting

when thorns enter thigh—

water grips waist, another flood,

the sea wouldn’t be here without you

to carry from shore,

no land has what I want anymore.

 

 

 

SHERESE FRANCIS

Sherese Francis is a southeast Queens-based poet, writer, blogger and literary curator. She has published work in journals and anthologies including African Voices, Newtown Literary, Blackberry Magazine, Kalyani Magazine, and Near Kin: A Collection of Words and Arts Inspired by Octavia Butler. In August 2017, she published her first chapbook, Lucy’s Bone Scrolls. Her current projects include her Afrofuturism-inspired blog, Futuristically Ancient; and her southeast Queens based pop up bookshop/mobile library, J. Expressions, which is dedicated to promoting and growing the literary community in the area and for which she received a 2017 Queens Council on the Arts grant to do her first event series, Reading (W)Riting Remedy.

 

"I don't think I have a specific place where I like to write, but I do love walking around my neighborhood and discovering places I didn't know were there. Growing up in southeast Queens, I was kind of sheltered, so now I am rediscovering my community and its history and incorporating it into my writing. Going to cultural, art and social spaces like the Jamaica Performing Arts Center performances, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning gallery, the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, the Queens Central Library and Rufus King Park, helped me to reconnect with the neighborhood. Last year, I had started a Instagram poetry series called #InYourQ which was photographs I took walking around Queens and using them as prompts (I might start it again one day). I also plan on doing a poetry chapbook inspired by Southeast Queens and I am currently writing a fantasy novel, called The E, which will be set here as well." 

 

 

 

Liberty​ ​Ashes​ ​(Keep​ ​Rising)

 

I​ ​was​ ​raised​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​on​ ​the​ ​edge

of​ ​the​ ​city​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​others​ ​said

was​ ​too​ ​far​ ​out​ ​to​ ​venture

I​ ​live​ ​beyond

where​ ​Nick​ ​and​ ​Jay*​ ​could​ ​picture

beyond​ ​where​ ​Moses*
could​ ​reach
his​ ​mighty​ ​staff​ ​to​ ​change displace

Us​ ​like​ ​the​ ​Red​ ​Sea
This​ ​beyond​ ​I​ ​call
Home
when​ ​others​ ​call​ ​it​ ​wasteland
We​ ​like​ ​phoenixes,​ ​raised​ ​ourselves

out​ ​of​ ​valleys​ ​of​ ​our​ ​own​ ​ash

made​ ​treasures
out​ ​of​ ​trash​ ​before​ ​it​ ​was​ ​trendy

put​ ​on​ ​our​ ​beaver​ ​skins
and​ ​built​ ​dreams
became​ ​engineers
of​ ​futures​ ​and​ ​spaces
that​ ​others​ ​said​ ​didn’t​ ​exist

 

Here,​ ​We​ ​keep​ ​rising

 

We​ ​step​ ​outside​ ​and​ ​signs

remind​ ​of​ ​Liberty

moving​ ​down​ ​the​ ​avenue

it​ ​intersects​ ​with​ ​Farmers

We​ ​are​ ​still​ ​growing

a​ ​new​ ​now​ ​in​ ​concrete​ ​fields
the​ ​same​ ​where​ ​LL
stood​ ​by​ ​the​ ​red,​ ​black​ ​and​ ​green

felt​ ​the​ ​Liberty​ ​rock

felt​ ​the​ ​rhythm​ ​rock
from​ ​the​ ​floor​ ​to​ ​the​ ​ceiling

like​ ​Run​ ​DMC

We​ ​rising,​ ​surprising,​ ​hypnotizing

like​ ​Jazz’s​ ​reincarnation extension
recording​ ​from​ ​Harlem,​ ​Chicago,

The​ ​South​ ​--​ ​the​ ​holy​ ​sainthood

Ella,​ ​Eva,​ ​Billie,​ ​Lena

Bassie,​ ​Waller,​ ​Williams,​ ​Parker
We​ ​in​ ​the​ ​congregation
of​ ​saint​ ​Coltrane​ ​and​ ​his​ ​love​ ​supreme

God​ ​bless​ ​the​ ​child
Browne​ ​found​ ​his
groove​ ​in​ ​Jamaica​ ​funk
when​ ​he​ ​pressed​ ​his​ ​mouth
on​ ​the​ ​trumpet
that​ ​groove​ ​inside​ ​soul
that​ ​groove​ ​gettin’​ ​into​ ​you
We​ ​got​ ​the​ ​cosmo
swirlin’​ ​like​ ​the​ ​center​ ​of​ ​the​ ​galaxy

called​ ​Bebopafunkadiscolypso
with​ ​its​ ​mix​ ​of​ ​Salt​ ​n​ ​Pepa
and​ ​jerk​ ​and​ ​curry
shaking​ ​our​ ​thang
and​ ​making​ ​mo’​ ​Jamaica​ ​funk
We​ ​like​ ​yeast​ ​in​ ​breakin’​ ​bread

 

Here,​ ​We​ ​keep​ ​rising

 

We,​ ​the​ ​people
of​ ​auto​ ​repair​ ​shops
and​ ​junk​ ​yards
We,​ ​the​ ​home​ ​of
Black​ ​spectrum
the​ ​web​ ​of​ ​black​ ​spiders
weaving​ ​theaters​ ​of​ ​poetry

spinning​ ​together​ ​Africa’s​ ​children

We​ ​are​ ​poets​ ​rising
though​ ​dreams​ ​may​ ​be​ ​deferred

Our​ ​tongues​ ​keep​ ​watering​ ​them

when​ ​they​ ​dry​ ​up

like​ ​raisins​ ​in​ ​the​ ​sun
We​ ​are​ ​concentrated​ ​sweetness

We​ ​are​ ​crystallized​ ​grittiness
We​ ​are​ ​graduates
of​ ​the​ ​school​ ​of​ ​Lorraine
singing​ ​anthems​ ​to​ ​lift​ ​every​ ​voice

Our​ ​rejoicing​ ​rising
so​ ​the​ ​sky​ ​can​ ​hear
We​ ​keep​ ​rising​ ​here

 

Springing​ ​up​ ​wells
excavating​ ​buried​ ​wisdom
and​ ​wishes
washing​ ​off​ ​old​ ​dirt
discovering​ ​maps​ ​of​ ​memory
We​ ​are​ ​journeys​ ​uprooted
Still​ ​We​ ​keep​ ​rising
like​ ​trees​ ​healing
from​ ​the​ ​root​ ​shock
Our​ ​bodies​ ​rock​ ​on​ ​the​ ​routes
of​ ​new​ ​vessels​ ​​ ​old​ ​blood​ ​of​ ​new​ ​courses

We​ ​scatter​ ​through​ ​the​ ​wind​ ​of​ ​Our​ ​voices

and​ ​grow​ ​where​ ​We​ ​land
Here,​ ​We​ ​keep​ ​rising
like​ ​churches​ ​on​ ​every​ ​corner
the​ ​holy​ ​spirit​ ​amplified
in​ ​the​ ​sounds​ ​of​ ​the​ ​chorus
singing
We​ ​keep​ ​rising
We​ ​keep​ ​rising
We,​ ​the​ ​risen!

 

From Newtown Literary, issue 9

 

The​ ​Image​ ​of​ ​God​ ​as​ ​The​ ​Cowardly​ ​Lion​ ​(How​ ​to​ ​Act​ ​Despite​ ​My​ ​Fears)

 

Finding​ ​a​ ​way​ ​to​ ​move​ ​on

is​ ​the​ ​endless​ ​procession

of​ ​a​ ​missionary​ ​preaching

survival:​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​how​ ​to​ ​outlive

 

the​ ​hollows​ ​of​ ​wounds​ ​—
dance​ ​like​ ​needles​ ​within
wounds​ ​​ ​​ ​dance​ ​around
wounds​ ​​ ​​ ​dress​ ​wounds
like​ ​egungun​ ​​ ​like​ ​sensay
like​ ​costume​ ​character
like​ ​mummy​ ​medicine​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​divine

despite​ ​your​ ​feet

trembling​ ​at​ ​each​ ​step.
Make​ ​it​ ​a​ ​dance.​ ​Make​ ​it​ ​shake​ ​the​ ​earth.

Make​ ​the​ ​rocks​ ​cry​ ​out​ ​with​ ​your​ ​steps.

 

Find​ ​a​ ​way​ ​to​ ​speak​ ​magic
even​ ​when​ ​you​ ​know​ ​your​ ​image​ ​will​ ​be​ ​sold​ ​&

will​ ​be​ ​sacrificed​ ​on​ ​the​ ​world's​ ​pole.
Always​ ​be​ ​ready​ ​to​ ​dance​ ​once​ ​again,
easing​ ​down​ ​the​ ​road​ ​into​ ​resurrection.

 

From Lucy's Bone Scrolls

 

41​ ​Cents​ ​&​ ​A​ ​Dream

 

How​ ​much​ ​of​ ​a​ ​dream
could​ ​I​ ​buy​ ​with​ ​just​ ​the​ ​change

left​ ​in​ ​my​ ​pocket?

 

If​ ​this​ ​altar​ ​is
its​ ​resting​ ​place​ ​along​ ​with

my​ ​blood​ ​&​ ​broken

 

reflection,​ ​is​ ​it
enough​ ​for​ ​the​ ​collection plate?​ ​

Does​ ​the​ ​emptied

 

shells​ ​I​ ​offer:​ ​my
dark​ ​mask,​ ​scraps​ ​of​ ​hearts​ ​&​ ​friends

be​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​buy

 

a​ ​dream​ ​to​ ​outlive
me,​ ​wash​ ​me​ ​clean,​ ​not​ ​let​

​a future​ ​erase​ ​me? 

 

From Lucy's Bone Scrolls

 

 

 

 

SLAVICK CIGANEC

As a child Slavick Ciganec dreamed of becoming a railroad engineer, but instead became an instructor of statistics.  Married, father of two daughters Anna (2009) and Mariya (2012) and author of two poetry books – “The Allure of the Unexpected” (2007) and “A Day in the Life of a New Yorker” (2017).  Hobbies include walking in Forest Hills, surfing, and making moonshine.   

 

старіють навіть супергерої

ти завжди будеш такою як тоді

коли я зустрів тебе в перший раз

маленькою дівчинкою

для якої мріяти так само важливо як і дихати

ти снідаєш моїми жартами

вечеряєш моїм сумом

а вночі

коли від мене не залишається уже зовсім нічого

ти віддаєш найдорожче що в тебе є

свої сни

твої сни це найсмачніше що я куштував у своєму житті

вони пахнуть сонцем щастям корицею

і ще чимось неймовірним та дуже рідним

моя маленька дівчинка

ти розгадала усі таємниці всесвіту

ти знаєш яке це воно просте людське щастя

і можеш подарувати його кожному

чиє серце ще остаточно не закрижаніло

я знаю напам'ять усі твої сни

цієї ночі ти була принцесою рожевих слонів

а вчора розмовляла з дельфінами

я дивлюся на тебе як ти міцно спиш

і в мене знову нема слів

коли я вперше побачив тебе

ти нагадала мені усіх кого я любив

та з ким хотів бути разом

тепер у кожній я бачу тебе

а в тобі я бачу щось від кожної

це якесь божевілля

у це неможливо повірити

хто ти і що ти кінець кінцем?

назви своє ім'я

“I’m EveryWoman” співає по радіо Вітні Хьюстон

піду краще вимкну

а то мені зара остаточно зірве дах

я знаю усі твої сни

я сам лише один з них

 

even superheroes get old

you’ll always be like you were then

when I met you for the first time

as a small girl

for whom daydreaming was as important as breathing

you eat my jokes for breakfast

you eat my sadness for dinner

and at night

when nothing is left of me

you give me the most valuable thing you have

your dreams

your dreams are the most delicious thing that I’ve tasted in my life

they smell of sun happiness cinnamon

and also of something mysterious but familiar

my little girl

you guessed at all the secrets of the universe

you understand how simple happiness is

and you can give it to to anyone

whose heart is not completely hardened

I know all your dreams by heart

last night you were a princess of pink elephants

the night before you spoke with dolphins

I watch how soundly you sleep

and again I am speechless

when I first saw you

you reminded me of everyone I ever loved

and everyone I wanted to be with

now in everyone I see you

and in you I see a part of everyone

this is some kind of madness

it’s impossible to believe in it

who are you and what are you in the end?

tell me your name

“I’m Every Woman” Whitney Houston sings on the radio

it’s bettter if I go turn it off

or I’ll go crazy

I know all your dreams

I’m only one of them

 

translated from the Ukrainian by Olena Jennings

 

 

 

LISA JARNOT

Lisa Jarnot is the author of several books of poems and a biography of the poet Robert Duncan.  She lives in Jackson Heights, Queens, and works as a gardener.  

 

"My favorite places in Queens are the Hall of Science and the Queens Zoo (because I have an 8 year old)."

 

 

Song of the Chinchilla

 

You chinchilla in the marketplace in france

you international chinchilla, chinchilla of the 

plains and mountains all in fur you fur of the

chinchilla of the pont de neuf, selling wrist

watches, on the oldest bridge of evolution that

you are, you, chinchilla, going roadside towards

the cares, the dark arabian chinchilla of the

neutral zone with pears, you still life of

chinchilla, abstractions of chinchilla, aperitif

chinchilla, lowing in the headlands in my mind,

dark, the cliffs of dover, dark chinchilla, tractor 

of chinchilla, chili of chinchilla, chill of the 

chinchilla, crosswalk of chinchilla of the dawn,

facilitator you, chinchilla, foodstuffs for the

food chain dressed in light.

 

After Catullus

         For Thomas

 

In the beginning

there was grief,

a garden in the

center of a city

lit in rose and green,

a quickening of the

air across the wing

of a plane upon the

tip of the Labrador Sea

there was gleaming

there, a torque

not finished or forestalling

there was the promise of

Paris’s perpetual pomme

pressed in gold,

there was only the hole

in the heel of a sock,

the steam of a since in a

fore-flung damp hotel

there was nothing baked

or boiled there was a stiffness,

a whiteness, a heaviness of

limbs and chips and silvered

peas, there was

this about it—a dipping

of the sun, a singular spoon,

a grid of hymns buried

under the finances of

a pickled cork, there

was finally that sense of it,

pharmacies or chemists

or high streets or the shape

of an ear of a baby asleep,

heavily there was that,

let me explain it again let it

be turned by the heave

of a hundred craven wivers

of verse, let the pendulous

balls of finest quality lead

render it into what I think

it is. Let me go back

to that garden in the

center of that city

to know I who I loved.

 

Brooklyn Anchorage

 

and at noon I will fall in love

and nothing will have meaning

except for the brownness of

the sky, and tradition, and water

and in the water off the railway

in New Haven all the lights

go on across the sun, and for

millennia those who kiss fall into

hospitals, riding trains, wearing

black shoes, pursued by those

they love, the Chinese in the armies

with the shiny sound of Johnny Cash,

and in my plan to be myself

I became someone else with

soft lips and a secret life,

and I left, from an airport,

in tradition of the water

on the plains, until the train

started moving and yesterday

it seemed true that suddenly

inside of the newspaper

there was a powerline and

my heart stopped, and everything

leaned down from the sky to kill me

and now the cattails sing.

 

 
 
 
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