Bill Yarrow, ed.
The Map of What Happened by Susan Elbe
The Backwaters Press, 2013
Winner of the 2012 Backwaters Prize
58 poems, 97 pages
1. Hard dreams come to me this spring:
sunflowers bending over me,
their huge, yellow heads, cougars
on the loose, a vampire moon,
the street inside me full of children
the Trees of Heaven, their thin arms
and legs gleaming white
(from “Things That Look Like Other Things”)
2. days unchangeable except when
weather rolls the waves of switch grass:
true, I’ll leave you, go back to the city
but until I do, show me how
to shoot this tin-can loneliness
off fence posts, claim this place as mine
(from “anthropomorphic” from “Five Summer Nights”)
3. Look, it wasn’t only death that pushed me down,
scraped my shins, and tore my sleeve.
It was the bridge from there to here,
the hum of its metal, how the girl who needed
to cross couldn’t trust it would hold
the weight of her grief or her love
(from “The Map of What Happened”)
4. We spent hours on the front stoop,
waiting for our lives to find us,
not knowing we would have to steal them too,
not knowing every life is kidnapped,
or at least bartered for
(from “Stealing Popsicles”)
5. But now, coming home, I stop in the alley,
like a stranger, witnessing
this silent, ardent work, a loosely threaded
mend of fireflies, sparkling between
porch and window, before the sleep that separates us all
undoes the fragile stitch again
( from “Their Marriage Fifty Years In”)
The Children’s War and Other Poems by Shaindel Beers
Salt Publishing, 2013
57 poems, 67 pages
1. Tropical storm Debby batters the Southeast,
and near Boston, Julia is waiting for a kidney. A father
in Wisconsin on whim pulls out a camera and says,
Smile! His daughter beams: his son looks sullen,
and he wonders, a bit forlorn, How did my and my wife’s
bodies create these two children?
(from “What Is Lifted”)
2. This is the heart.
Little spark. Pulsating star on the screen.
It is hard to believe someday you will be human.
Right now, you are a blueberry. A kidney bean.
(from “The Image Grows: It Moves”)
3. This is the cradle that held their daughter.
The stove where the wife baked their bread.
The mudroom where he pulled off
his boots every night after milking.
This is the part where you realize every
broken window is a piece of you.
(from “This is the house of yearning—”)
4. Who are at once scalpel and salve.
They have only one spigot for honey or gasoline,
and you don’t know which you will get until it hits
your tongue. Sip slowly. Protect the soft palate.
(from “There Are Men … ”)
5. I mourned
for the childhood of our marriage. The skinny yelled at girl,
the beaten little boy we used to be. I thought of my mother
cowered in corners, my father knocking over furniture,
your four year-old arms spotted with cigarette burns,
your hunger locked in rooms, and how we never escape our past.
(from “A Prayer for Angel Torres”)
The Narrow Circle by Nathan Hoks
Penguin Books, 2013
National Poetry Series Winner, selected by Dean Young
44 poems, 84 pages
1. Everyone tells me I look like Jim.
Jim, I say, who the hell is Jim? In truth
I know him, but I’m feeling anxious
About these accusations.
(from “Personality Test”)
2. Three or four
feelings later the spoon wish turn to rain. A ghost finger taps
me on the shoulder but I will not disappear with it into the
oak’s bear-shaped shadow. I have to watch this sparrow bounce
and eat in the grass.
The wind pops
the soap bubble, my face disperses with angels of teeth and
loam. The snake sheds its skin, the tree of steam leafs its way
into the sky.
(from “Spiral of the Interior”)
3. When my wife comes home from work
The invisible bird is still hissing near
Her head. She looks for the mail and wrinkles
Her nose at a waft of cottage cheese.
(from “Family of the Interior”)
4. When I drop the glass in the sink, I want to watch it shatter in the light.
The tunnel elevator releases the eyes and pinches the light.
Alone with a tangerine: light in the backseat.
The smell of tarmac that has sat for hours in the light.
Is it possible to think darkness without also thinking light?
5. I walk around town looking
For my god in the windows
And in the bare branches
And in the bookstores
And in the dog shit.
My god lives on a fire escape.
My god has no tangible benefits to the soul.
My god is the word “No” stuck in the mouth.
My god my god every word is my god.
(from “God of the Interior”)