Sam Rasnake, ed.
Poeta en San Francisco by Barbara Jane Reyes
Tinfish Press, 2005
Winner of the 2005 James Laughlin Award of The Academy of American Poets
Book-length poem, 111 pages
1. there is ghazal swimming inside of her, wanting to be born. on the matter of foretelling, of small miracles, cactus flowers in bloom on this city fire escape, where inside your tongue touches every inch of her skin, where you lay your hand on her belly and sleep. here, she fingers the ornate remains of ancient mosques. here, some mythic angel will rise from the dust of ancestors’ bones.
2. our lady of salt pilgrimage
our lady of building demolition
our lady of crack houses
santa maría, madre de dios, pray for us sinners
(from [ave maria])
3. she whispers desert trees, thorn-ridged, trickling yellow candles; roots spilling
virgin of ribboned silk; virgin of gold filigree
one day’s walk westward, a crucifix of fisherman’s dinghy dimensions washes ashore
(from [galleon prayer])
4. That blank space on your map, that’s where I was born.
The more blank your map, the more darkness for exploration.
Gold stars pinned to your chest for every military and civilian
slaughter, for every child defiled, for every rice field set ablaze
5. To honor movement in crescendos of text, combing through ashes for fragments of human bone, studying maps drawn for the absurdity of navigation — what may be so edgy about this state of emergency is my lack of apology for what I am bound to do.
(from [state of emergency])
Together We Can Bury It by Kathy Fish
Lit Pub Books, 2012
40 fictions, 162 pages
1. They are watching a movie about a man who cheats on his wife, whom he loves, and is so disconsolate that his wife eventually loses all patience and leaves him. They are at the point in the film where the man considers his many blunders as he walks along a rocky shoreline carrying what looks to be a large vase.
(from “Foreign Film”)
2. The next morning I went down to the basement, and just as the woman had said, the moths had all died. At first I thought everything, the floor, the furniture, the shelves, was covered in thick, green leaves. Then I realized.
(from “Moth Woman”)
3. In the spring we’d get twenty-five-cent kites and stand in the middle of an open field and give them up to the wide blue sky. My dad scribbled on a piece of paper, tore it halfway and stuck it onto the string. After a few stutters, the paper hurried away from us, up the kite string, until we couldn’t see it anymore. I asked him, was that a prayer? No, he said, it was a secret.
(from “What Kind of Person Gives Secrets to the Sky?”)
4. Tom Brace stands naked in front of a mirror doing something resembling the Twist. He watches his paralyzed left arm arc across his body, then swivel around and disappear behind his back. He does this over and over again. He’s very high and it makes him laugh.
5. Later, they are woken by laughter. The girls tumble from their beds and look out the window. It is their mother, beyond the hollow on the edge of the cornfield in the blue night, her arms wild, waving down the moon.
(from “The Hollow”)
a half-red sea by Evie Shockley
Carolina Wren Press, 2006
47 poems, 82 pages
1. i am southern hear me roar i am burning flags bearing crosses i am scarlett and prissy like a piece of carmine velvet at christmas don’t know nothing bout birthin no rabies so don’t come foamin at my mouth i am miss dixie and a miss is as good as a guile i am a daughter of the con-federacy come on dad don’t you know me here let me put on this hood and sheet do my eyes look more familiar now surrounded by bleach
(from “cause i’m from dixie too”)
2. the graveyard on the corner becomes the lower jaw of a whale sown with crooked rows of granite teeth. the roof of its mouth is the sky, falling, the grassy dentured mounds struggle up, the jaws of the whale close, and i am outcast, neither ahab pursuing nor jonah pursued, but woman, alone.
(from “waiting for van gogh”)
3. i am named for a poet who never in her lifetime
published. her notebooks survive her–attic stacks
of flimsy spiral-bound pads–narrow-ruled. her
poems read like grocery lists. i need–a dozen eggs
–a tub of lard–loaf bread–fatback–and rat poison
for the rat who sleeps in my bed.
(from “ode to ‘e’”)
4. the night
before the full moon
the moon seems
full. what is missing
is a dark hungry
sickle, the sliver
of shadow eating
us up inside.
(from “–shall become as–”)
5. found in africa / dawned in freedom
raised in boston / rose in slavery
schooled in greek / grew in god
published in england / died in poverty
for phillis wheatley
(from “bio / autography (or, 18th-century multiculturalism”)