'Tender is the Knight
or a response to Bukowski’s A Poem For Swingers’
by Janea Kelly
he prefers women who haven’t slept with too many men,
and I prefer men who have slept with more women,
with more men than I
who cry when you press a finger against his perineum,
who beg you for permission to come, who are eager to worship
your ankles, your kneecaps, your cunt
because every girl grows up to fear the forty-something virgin,
the twenty-something porn expert who has never had his face ridden,
much less kissed goodnight and he drools against your mouth and whines
“can I come in” after one drink
if you touch his dick, he will splatter all over
your nice dress, and he’s such a nice guy
he wants you to show how tender you are
he mauls your breasts with his too soft hands
and you keep thinking
is this a man, is this a man, Jesus was a carpenter
and his hands were calloused,
his hands were worn leather soles with holes through the middle
and oh, holy, holy
is this why nuns prefer God to men
I want to join a convent, I will be a woman of habit
at night I will lie still, naked,
with my hard nipples to the sky
and let God worship my body
is that blasphemy
or is that Bukowski
or is it bukkake
or is it all the same,
men showering women with their judgement,
hands on their cocks even after the bullets stop
they’re just beatniks
I don’t mind
I was asking for it.
I licked my lips,
and let God pass
I don’t mind
because not all men are brutes,
some are knights
and when you ask them for love,
they’ll tell you
If you want to shoot down the moon
you’ll need a bigger gun.
Janea Kelly called us from Baltimore, MD.
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by Emily O’Neill
She says we are going to Oz, but it hasn’t
been painted yet; pockets the cones from my macula,
won’t let me see color. Says with a shovel we’ll arrive faster than weather.
Dig. Pull at the ground until it is part of you. End up in the orchard
instead of in town. We are both dogs now and everything is new.
Every corner smells like a secret, a mistake. That ax there is enchanted;
it will chop down the woodsman until he is a wood stove.
We watch it happen. Animals see such magic daily.
The blood pools black in everything
we’ve touched. There, we are burning now. I read it
in the newspaper. She plays stupid. Drinks from the stream
without thinking. Reaches for my hand in the dark.
She wants the Emerald City but can only see sand. The grains float
up and over her. She can’t catch them in her hands, can’t
fix her gaze, does not make lists. The bitch only claims cold.
She forgot her sweater in Kansas. Forgot how long this might take.
Forgot I can smell when she is wrong. She calls it holding her breath
when we pass through the woods. I call it walking. I know better than her.
When we come to the forest’s edge the first true color we find is red.
She hurries and my knees burn. We are so close to salmon, giving
chase to some forgotten yet familiar place. If we weren’t rushing,
we wouldn’t bleed this way. If it was blood she wanted,
why not sever the nerve or flay the skin? Blood is the red we could’ve found
without moving an inch. What a waste.
If I could, I’d lay her leeches in the grass.
Empty-handed, she could fold like a poppy in snow.
Emily O’Neill called us from Medford, MA.
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'another poem about the whole goddamn universe (because all poems are about the whole goddamn universe if you think about it that way and you should)'
by Sally J. Johnson
the current count of men in space is six
which is still some unbelievable number. still too few
to say we reached anywhere beyond ourselves. still something
to believe in if you’re little enough and that earth-as-marble
perspective lets us know we’re all little enough.
so far two times that many men have made it to the moon.
met that place and said their words and left their flags
and footprints and golf balls and statues and
yes their own shit because if anyone is out there
they need to know about how capable humans are
when it comes to always leaving a mess.
of course we’re now making laws
so that nobody touches our things
all those empty miles away. meanwhile:
here on earth in america in the midwest
a woman with a cinched waist looks up at orion’s belted
sword and thinks of course there is no god. of course
there had to be the violence of starting
out. no deity needed to learn to touch
each other with hurt and tenderness. with
the same hands. so yes the big bang. yes
the smoking gun proof of our arrival. the explosion
that says how we got here. that says yes
heaven is anything we can think of
and still isn’t as vast or perfect as space.
placed here how lucky we are I can’t say.
it’s too cruel or stupid to do so.
so. hope is either the thing with feathers or
combustible fuel and a countdown facing upward.
it is a dying or dead star still showing light
and taking up space in the necklace on the collarbone
of a constellation. original umbilical cord of stars strung together.
the blood trail all milky. way out there. then every one
of us but six still here. so let’s meet on some crushed rock
parking lot to crank our eyelashes skyward. curl them to space.
mascara them the color of open sky around asteroid. afterward
drag our woozy eyes away from our mirrors to see
our reflection past atmosphere. view our profile:
the curve we slice into the crescent.
past that: an act of looking at our baby pictures.
our puny hearts hoping out signals. let’s check
our teeth in the ozone layer. smile at those floating men
up there. ask them if from there they can smell the smoke.
Sally J. Johnson called us from Wilmington, NC.
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by Christopher Morgan
All the strawberries you grew sparked when we’d bite into them. Must have been the vibes of summer seared inside.
Yesterday you woke me up, put a sword in my hand, and made me fight my brother in a field of sunflowers. I don’t have a brother. But he was furious at me for all the times I’d failed him. He said that I’d forgotten myself. That I no longer thought about my father. That I had traded away my anger to become something new.
Which is true. At least that’s what I kept telling myself as I twisted the blade—we have to be brutal with the ones we love.
Now done, I vowed away the sun and went home. I sat in bed with some of your strawberries, watching the sparks as I chewed.
Christopher Morgan called us from Livermore, CA.
More about Christopher.
by Chelsea Werner-Jatzke
He holds my birthday like a national holiday.
He tells me on the phone, calling
from a number I don’t have
blocked, I hold your birthday like a national holiday.
As if I were a dead man.
As if I were a dead man and my birthday was the day of my birth
as a man. As if he were
cradling so many dead men in honor of my birth as a man
Chelsea Werner-Jatzke called us from Cal Anderson Park in Seattle, WA.
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'The Life and Death in a Train Of Thought'
by Christian Phiffer
My dreams tell me otherwise. I give thanks
for love and years long embrace, manifesting
our arms to do as designed. Planets working
in alignment with the rhythms of thanks, holy
the absent thought.
G-d damn. What is it about you that makes me
forget all the motions I should be taking? It’s
that smile erasing pain, the attitude in the
looks of playful judgment.
What’s your name, have I seen you before? Could
I pry through your thoughts non-evasively, the way
this caused in-coherent thoughts? What’s your name?
Can I be your buddy system? Does the fractures
in our pasts cause callused hearts to bleed
the way they’re suppose to? Have you seen
my mind, wind soaked eyes curl the phrases around
the distance between us, is it yours to
manipulate, am I in this room as always
the question outspoken in loud places without
escape? Talking to you is the clot in
my terminally winded wholly hearted, my lungs
filled with tea and words like, forever overwhelming, vulnerable,
absent minded, love and alone.
Holy the random smiles as you walk by, loving me,
I’m confused___ And without judgment.
I wish to snuggle on words and cats, mama rolls
in the dark, lit by the universe rooms, and boxes
of blankets and galoshes, tights you ripped and
forgotten, smiles I still can’t shake, could
you just stop and say ‘I love you’. It’s okay.
I’m adjusting to this connection of disconnected passers
by, in love with the moments in which we
just give these whole stories safe passage to cleansing
sinks, washed with soft soaps and harsh
moments of written verse. My arms miss
hugs, the kind you’d save just for me, where
our days would melt away and this breath out
existed. I’m missing those moments, your loving
legs tangled, ice cream lips sticky with promises
and sleepy sex, moans in motion, hold me in
forevers, and bed hog four legged stinkers
content to watch and hammock the covers
between us, the windows open to
allow your heart to leave, you took
the chance and left. I’m sorry I could
not let you do so gracefully, my heart is healthy around
you, in you, so the apologies mean shit
in email, the cats save my life daily,
the guilt is overwhelming
my voice no longer comforts, not that I
have your number anymore, anyway.
Where’d you go? My fingertips need the
skin of your hips, curled crease of
your bum at night when I’d go searching through
covers, the soothing life of your ass
in hand, strange, but it’s where my
comfort lived, g-d damn!
'I don't want to believe Bruno Kirby was closer to me than you ever were.'
by A.J. Bradley
I used to have psychic dreams a lot
though not many anymore
sometimes predictions months in advance
some minor everyday acts, some
regarding B-list celebrities
the guy who played Billy Crystal’s best friend in When Harry Met Sally
I dreamt of him briefly,
doing what, I don’t remember,
woke up confused
I hadn’t watched that film in years,
then heard that afternoon he had died the same day, learned
his name was Bruno Kirby
once I dreamt I placed a cake in my parents’ refrigerator,
just that, that’s all
opened the door in real-life morning and
there it was, almost as imagined, brought back from a family party, I had no idea
I don’t particularly like cake
I don’t think about cake that much even when conscious
once I dreamt, before my last year of college, girls
I would soon live with in an old Victorian
would become angry with me because food I cooked smoked too much or smelled
I laughed this off: no one gets in fights about that, until
months into autumn, everyone was leaving me notes about oil on stovetops, how
I almost burned down the house with eggs, commenting on lamb chops,
how it made our house smell for hours
they all tended to eat
toast with jam
or cereal or things
leaving no trace
we are all still friends now, though,
in our newfound fourth decade, online
where we leave each other sweet messages and inside jokes on birthdays and holidays
if we remember
note: M’s sister dreamt the Sandy Hook shootings were happening
as they were happening
I am grateful I don’t have a dream story like that
I don’t ever want to have one
most recent, I dreamt H and I reconciled the very night
he had been writing me to reconcile
and for our first phone call in over six years so see
some of these
can end well
even my mother dreamt of you, though you will never meet each other
this was around the last time I saw you
I was with someone with hair like yours
in a house that wasn’t a house but a thrift store
we were shopping for jackets
she liked a black one on me but you liked a white,
so I chose that instead
she noticed an elephant laying down outside a window, just before finding
carpeted with piles of elephant shit
'But of course,'
she said to me, ‘none of this has anything to do with you.’
at this point I told her that same week you had brought me a small notebook
from your trip abroad, embroidered
with an elephant on its cover
how I thought its pages were made of that special paper formed of elephant shit, dried to a pulp
flattened and actually
really beautiful and grainy
and delicate once finished
what I didn’t tell her was
I had texted you a few days after you gave it to me
how your hands had shook like paper too as you presented it
in my message I asked
if you knew anything about notebook paper made from shit
you never texted me back,
even though you had just brought me a gift
flown above oceans across the world
I guess that was the moment
I knew who the fuck I was dealing with
I have had one million one hundred twenty four dreams about you since
and those are just the ones I remember
you don’t need me to tell you, though with those kinds of numbers
odds should have been better
none of them ever did come true
A.J. Bradley called us from New York, NY.
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'You could hold the sun in your hands today'
by Caleb Andrew Ward
If you wanted, you could hold the sun in the palm of your hand today.
It would only go where you tell it to go. It would only stay when you said, stay.
I tried to hold the sun, but my hand wasn’t sturdy enough. I didn’t have the calloused hands you have. I didn’t have the scars on my face. I didn’t have those sunken eyes and furrowed brow to keep the sun from staining my eyes.
Your eyes have that glassy look that old dogs have, and so you can look all you want.
When I tried to hold the sun it burnt my hands. It’s too hot for me to hold. I ended up scarring my fingers with moon-shaped patterns that wrap around my fingertips. I tried again to hold the sun and dropped it in the process. I burnt the grass and fields I lived on. It set my Earth on fire. I almost burned you, but before the fire went wild you picked the sun back up, with your calloused hands and scarred fingertips you slid the sun back in place.
You could hold the sun in your hands today, but today you don’t have to.
Caleb Andrew Ward called us from Wilmington, NC.
More about Caleb.
by Ellyn Touchette
so let me make you this analogy, yeah? let’s say this thing we’ve both got is like, a komodo dragon or some shit, alright? so he calls me and says he can’t keep me and the komodo dragon, and I’m all like listen, I can take it for you for a while except he says no again and again, thinks this fucking lizard is killing us and I mean he’s probably right but I mean how many people do you find who’ve got dragons like your dragons? or like, think of it like this: he calls me and tells me that I’m a real great gal all kinds of times but we’re just never going to make it work because he’s leaving me for a komodo dragon and okay listen, fuck this metaphor, what I’m saying is that it happened like this: there I was, finally found someone like me, someone exactly like me on some ridiculous level, and he wants out because we’re killing each other and he’s completely goddamned right but for some reason I just want to keep being lonely around him until I just die or some shit and did you how know deadly komodo dragons are? mouths full of deadly shit so that’s pretty interesting, right?
Ellyn Touchette called us from Portland, ME.
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'The Cherries of Gods'
by Bret Lawrence
We lead each other down by the lighthouse –
further out there are men fishing
on a sand bar that we can’t see,
their ankles disappearing in water
beneath the shackles of light.
You toss a sun-swollen blackberry
and I catch it in the bottom of my mouth.
The horseflies race above us
jockeying for bare skin.
We run with them, cantering
down lanes of hot grass
our sweaty hands swinging
through the air, back and forth,
in the same way that the lighthouse beam
often ricochets across the water at night.
We identify birds with a pocket guide
that my grandfather gave me -
Forms huge flocks in fall and winter
often with grackles or other blackbirds;
Female has no red shoulder patch.
A crane suns itself amid yellow cactus flowers
with its long neck and legs outstretched –
During courtship, small groups gather and dance.
You carry me into the sandy reeds
and we do the alligator death roll
unsure who will break apart first.
It is hard to be afraid of anything right now.
A stranger predicts the American apocalypse,
and our stone fruit lips tremble
with excitement. When I kiss you, it’s like
a red hot cherry in god’s mouth.
At the end of the day, we take off in my car,
in the belly of a burning black marsh bird.
Long life-span. Untidy nest. Sings at dawn.
Bret Lawrence called us from Brooklyn, NY.
by Ashley Opheim
I resist tweeting and keep the following thought to myself: In industrial meadows we are future gardens made of heart nectar.
The average human being thinks somewhere between 7,000-50,000 thoughts a day.
How many thoughts does the Dalai Lama have a day? How many thoughts does Miley Cyrus have a day? What does this tell us about thinking?
How does one classify a thought?
Do you think a thought, or does a thought think you?
I don’t want to hear what I’m thinking. I don’t want to think what I’m hearing.
I put cinnamon oil behind my ear.
It burns my skin, but I do it again and again.
By accident, I create a wound.
I put amber dust on my wrists in the bathroom.
Someone upstairs is jumping up and down a lot.
The government is on strike, or something unbelievable like that.
I dream that I climb a pyramid only to find a mall with a shitty food court at the top.
I order a coffee.
I dream about a girl who steals my lovers’ heart with nothing but her eyes,
which are like mine but not.
She is singing
‘There was a calming but it’s gone’ over and over again.
I am here with the fruit flies.
I am creating mansions made of orange rinds for the fruit flies.
I am writing to avoid feeling awkward.
Don’t ask me about my online behavior,
it is a sensitive issue.
It plays a part in my samsara, which I am trying to escape.
Beginnings are just as delicate as endings.
I will live through every moment because I have to, because it is necessary for my survival.
A girl walks by me on the street carrying a birdcage with nothing inside of it.
I imagine a 360-degree rainbow surrounding my body.
I walk by flowers without noting how vivid their colours are.
I walk through a field in the middle of the city.
I walk by flowers without noting how vivid their colours are,
where someone has knocked over two bee hives by some white flowers.
Endings are just as delicate as beginnings.
Ashley Opheim called us from Montreal, Quebec.
More about Ashley.
'i am needy & do not know what i'm going to do about it'
by Maggie Tirrell
i have low self-esteem so you can fuck me— anytime, anyplace
let my pale/frail, pale/frail, pale/frail as fuck body take you in and throw you up in the morning, let so much happen because so much is always happening and you’re never around for it
when you first said the word ‘sex’ to me, i was drunk and filling up on your compliments and uppers. you said the word ‘sex’ and i repeated it and you said ‘when?’ and i said ‘oh god soon’ and you better believe i did mean soon. how’s next thursday? no monday, no tomorrow. come over. come over. come on top of me. this is vile. i am vile.
you are hot and probably into different stuff than me. i am hideously grotesque and into weird stuff. i want to sit on the hood of an el camino with you while you rub my temples. rub more than my temples. but please start with my temples.
i have so much confidence so you can fuck me— anytime, anyplace
let my defined soft body engulf you lovingly and hotly as the sun comes up and your neighbor’s outdoor shower starts, let nothing happen because we both need a break
when you first said the words ‘i don’t know what you’re looking for’ to me, i was happy and unaffected. you said the words ‘i don’t know what you’re looking for’ and i thought but never said ‘whatever you are, i just want to have you in some form’ and i had you in some form and i was happy and partially unaffected and i will take you in any form you present yourself to me for as long as you give me attention and touch my collarbone in the rain.
Maggie Tirrell called us from Greenfield, MA.
'Things You Should Know About Me and the Dating Thing'
by Hayley Vinson
I am the kind of person who speeds up at yellow lights trying to get home to text you once before you get on a plane to Israel
I am the kind of person who looks at you too much when im driving because I know youre there and it feels like a cyclone in my Ford Focus
I am the kind of person who notices your acne scars like stars in the sky, making constellations while you are asleep
I am the kind of person who hasn’t grown into red wine yet (sorry I didn’t tell you that before)
The kind of person who feels airplane turbulence in my stomach
The kind of person who feels airplane turbulence like dying a thousand times while I smile bright enough to ignite the 3 cans of hairspray my grandmother uses every week
The kind of person who never wants to know the girls you’ve fucked because I know I’ve already won
The kind of person who is trying to meet the new person I became a while ago and never met
The kind of person who knows being in love is being in love with everything around you
Person that doesn’t know how long this movie is, but baby, I don’t care
Person that notices the veins in my feet and fears them like age worming its way into me
Person that broke into the central park zoo with you by accident that one time and knew that right then if we ever got married we have to get married in central park zoo because we broke into it by accident that one time
Person that will pick all the freckles off your body and blow them out of my hand and onto your back like glitter or snow
Person that doesn’t know when I might love you but knows that I might
Hayley Vinson called us from Raleigh, NC.
'I want you'
by Matthew Dinaro
holy fuk i want you
let’s go to brooklyn in the summer and fuk on a rooftop
at someone’s apartment which is not ours
amidst smell of rooftop barbecues
as the sun is setting and the obscene glory of manhattan floating like an impossible ship behind us,
let’s go to the adirondacks and climb mt. marcy and fuk at the top of mt. marcy
amidst green hills and the shadows of clouds upon them and the chilly air of adirondack
we shall fuk m’lady
let’s fuk like creatures of the freaking night
let’s go to georgia i’ve never been there
let’s find a freshly whitewashed church sneak in a window and fuk there
it will be hot and i will lick every bead of sweat from your arms, inner thigh, underchin and kneecap
i want to tongue your vagina in the high desert,
at high noon
high on mescalin,
in a silver trailer with country music playing on a clock radio,
patsy cline will sing crazy as we fuk,
i want to fuk in the valley of the shadow of death
i want to fuk in the dressing room at the forever 21
i want to fuk on the salad bar at the burger king
and shower spew on the lettuce and cucumbers,
i want to fuk on a bus to st. cloud minnesota
i want to fuk on the falkland islands in the sheep meadows, the sheep can watch if they want
i want to fuk in the last operational phone booth in winnepeg canada
i want to fuk via skype from the next room over and then one of us comes in the other room and fuks IRL
i want to fuk on the jumbotron at shea stadium during an exhibition soccer match
i want to fuk in the attic of the house where they filmed the exterior shots for “the munsters”
and when i come i will shout HERMAN THIS ONE’S FER YOU BUDDIE
i want to order a domino’s pizza and try to get you off using only my big toe
in the half hour window domino’s promises
i want to fuk you above and beyond the call of duty,
i want to fuk you 110%
i want to fuk you like a valedictorian,
i want to fuk you like an asian try-hard,
i want to fuk you like a macarthur genius
i want to fuk you like a horse who just won the triple crown
holy seattle slew i wana fuk you
Matthew Dinaro called us from Amherst, MA.
More about Matthew.