"Explaining Hazards" by David Morgan O'Connor

EXPLAINING HAZARDS
For Mia

I’m trying to write a letter
to my god-daughter in London
after reading Between The Word
and Me
and although the book
is good and true she is not black
or white she is beautiful and smart
and I want to warn her but not
alarm her or draw a line down
her as America’s constant war
demands and yesterday at George W. 
Bush Airport in Houston after a month
in Costa Rica with my doors unlocked
and fair priced dentistry I felt I was
walking into a maximum security prison
with a live Trump-feed and I stood
in line with all the other tired and
hungry thinking I was going to die
or at least put a part of my soul on hold
cause you have to choose here one
extreme or the other and don’t
cross the tracks too much cause
if you do mix both sides will have
guns and love using them and
the nearest port of entry may be
behind you although we are lucky
cause they stamp our passports
cause our countries have money
I’m still trying to write the letter
to my god-daughter with her own
history and life all I can think of
saying is go elsewhere until things
blow up and over because they
certainly will and I don’t want you
caught in the middle your beauty
is above and beyond the lines
they force us to draw and follow


David Morgan O'Connor is from a small village on Lake Huron. After many nomadic years, he is based in Albuquerque, where a short story collection progresses. He contributors monthly to The Review Review and New Pages. His writing has appeared in Barcelona Metropolitan, Collective Exiles, Across the Margin, Headland, Cecile's Writers, The Great American Lit Mag, Bohemia, Beechwood, Fiction Magazine, After the Pause, The Great American Lit Mag (Pushcart nomination) , The New Quarterly and The Guardian. Follow David on Twitter @dmoconnorwrites or visit his website: davidmorganoconnor.com

 

 

 

Posted on March 10, 2017 .

Three Poems by Kim Roberts

FRED OTT'S SNEEZE

Once, when I was a teenager, I caught
a man bending over in a long string

of sneezes.  An older woman leaned close
and said, You can always tell how a man

will be in bed by how he sneezes.
After that, I couldn't help myself:

I'd think: he makes that exact expression
when he comes
. I'd never waste my time

talking to any man who suppressed his sneezes.
One of the earliest motion pictures

made for the Edison Kinetoscope showed
a man take a pinch of snuff,

and the resulting sneeze.  You'd watch it
through a peephole: 81 frames

of involuntary bodily contortions.
Seen in slow motion, it appears that Fred Ott

has a religious revelation:
beatitude, oblivion, explosion.

People paid to see this:
they called it entertainment.
 


BURBOT
    lota lota

The burbot is a long thin fish.
Todd calls it an eelpout and curses its name;
it steals the bait he intends for walleyes,
it wraps around his arm when he releases
the hook, its teeth are numerous and sharp, 

and its beard, the single barbel, odd. 
He curses it and throws it back.
The French call it river cod 
and poach the liver in white wine and make pate
called foix de lotte de rivière. Alaskans

call it ling cod and bake it whole; chefs prize
its flakes of tender white flesh. 
I’ve never tasted the fish.
Todd shows me photos on his phone:
he wants to brag about his tricked-out

ice-fishing shack with its large-screen TV
and all the walleyes he catches.
Everyone in Wisconsin, he insists,
hates the eelpout. Turns out it’s the only
freshwater fish in the cod family. 

Was it separated from its salty kin
by continental shift, by some early
unmarked cataclysm? The burbot is the only
freshwater fish to spawn in winter, 
at the same time as saltwater cod. 

Burbots rise each winter from the depths
for a shallow orgy, sometimes a hundred or more
intertwined bodies in a quivering ball, 
releasing eggs and sperm, churning
beneath a blanket of ice.


IN MEMORIAM: MING THE CLAM
    (1499 – 2006)

The oldest known living
animal, Ming
was dredged up
still alive, age 507,
off Iceland.

Sclerochronologists
can count the rings
on their shells the same way
dendrochronologists
study tree rings.

The ocean quahog
or arctica islandica
lives in the top two inches
of muddy substrates
off the freezing coasts

of northern Europe
and North America.
Climate, sea temperature,
food supply—all
the environmental changes

are embedded there,
coated in a tough black
periostracum.
Inside her shell,
Ming shone like the moon.


Photo by Mig Dooley

Photo by Mig Dooley

Kim Roberts’s fifth book of poems, The Scientific Method, was released from WordTech Editions in February 2017. She is the co-editor of the journals Beltway Poetry Quarterly and the Delaware Poetry Review, and editor of the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC (Plan B Press, 2010). Her book of walking tours, A Literary Guide to Washington, DC from Frances Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston, will be published in Spring of 2018 by the University of Virginia Press. Roberts is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, HumanitiesDC, and the DC Commission on the Arts, and has been a writer-in-residence at 15 artist colonies.

Her website is http://www.kimroberts.org.

Posted on February 6, 2017 .

Three Poems by Ananda Lima

Bird

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 3.03.59 PM.png

Sitting by the Hudson*

Rio was never home
until I got far enough
for home to expand into a whole country
Before then
it was just river
in the beginning of a sentence
or in front of a proper name
like Doce

And Rio Doce
was then just water
flowing through a valley
covered with
if not milk
honey
and if not the honey
implied in its name
it was home
if not for me, then
for the men of Mariana
I see crying on a screen

 

*“Sitting by the Hudson” was written as a response to news of the rupture of a dam releasing toxic Mud over Valle do Rio Doce, Brazil (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brazil-mine-disaster-floods-area-with-toxic-substances/).


Vacation Bed

So as not to wake you
I unzipped just enough
to slide my hand
past the hard shell
of the suitcase
As I felt
I forgot
that all I wanted
was a notebook
a pen
and socks
to go for a walk
I made out the outline
of the buttons
on your father’s shirt
and the clean soles
of the high heels
I know I’ll never wear
then twirled my fingers
around shoelaces
you can’t yet tie
and sailed my hands over
the smooth plastic
of a ship
to which I didn’t hold the key
I cupped a sleeping lion
stroked its mane
pried open its mouth
and as I felt
its plush little teeth
take a nip at me
you shifted
and I laid the animal
back on its pillow of t-shirts
without a roar
and when you reached
with your little boy hand
towards the space beside you
I was already back there
sucking on the tiny spot
of blood on my index finger
and adjusting the blanket
that kept us
together


Ananda Lima’s work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Offing and is to appear in LIGO Magazine and The Heavy Feather Review. She holds an MA in Linguistics from UCLA, was selected an AWP Writer to Writer mentee and has attended workshops at Bread Loaf, Sewanee and Tin House. Ananda is currently working on a novel set in Brasilia, where she grew up as the daughter of migrants from Northeast Brazil, as well as a poetry collection centered on identity in immigration and motherhood. Find her at http://www.anandalima.com.

Posted on February 2, 2017 .

"Los pájaros" by D. E. Steward

On the mudflats of a vast Caribbean lagoon on the Orinoco Delta coast a tight standing flock of common stilts face an east wind, the ones behind step ahead pushing the front ones forward

Each morning’s first frigatebirds fill the huge eastern proscenium minutes before sunrise

In graceful Venezuela, little kids on the street doing the samba in place, the sliding lane-shift flow of a Caracas freeway, frigatebirds soaring over long coasts, trucks lurching down red-earth mountain tracks, the Orinoco

Iberoamérica. Venezolana, venezolano

Piña, papaya, caraotas negras, arepas de maíz, queso blanco y café

It is glorious to be at the top of the immense vertical continent with the ability to drive off south through the equatorial double tropic into the far, ocean-bound cold exterior pendant peninsula of Patagonia approaches a Paris-to-Beijing Eurasian scale

Study in awe the huge scaly yellow legs and talons of a common black hawk waiting like a dark Madonna in a shrine in the shroud of a mangrove over a roadside tidal pool

Stunned in the presence of a harpy eagle on perch, an avenging angel almost a meter high, head ruffed and bushy, divided crest that goes hornlike when erect, thighs barred black, massive tarsi, bare, its black chest patch clearly visible, tail marbled and barred with black

The nearly omnipresent caracaras, abrupt and crazy like few beings in nature and barely more than half the size of harpy eagles, plunge around flying low off from roadkills

Their facial skin color changes from orange to bright yellow when excited

Bound for caracas spilling from its high mountain valley with over six million people  

Caraqueñas, caraqueños

In Nueva Esparta on a red-earth mountain cutbank above the sea, mushrooms appear one night like smooth-cap parasols (Leucoagaricus naucina), frosted silvery so white as to glow in the false dawn

A buffy hummingbird singing nearby in first light flies off, flies back in and begins again to sing, can see her tinier tongue when she opens her tiny beak

Before the sun is up, another buffy hummingbird and a female ruby-topaz in an arroyo farther along the hillside

Search for the ruby-topaz male, crown feathers to the nape glittering ruby red, back dark olive brown, throat and upper breast glittering topaz orange, a tuft of down white feathers on the flanks, tail rufous chestnut tipped black, insect size at three and a half inches long

But either the ruby-topaz male is not here, or if he is somewhere in the acres of steep hillside brush, when looking one way he is behind, when looking left he is right, when looking back behind he is foreground low in front

One bushy tropical hillside, a big place for one darting hummingbird

Eighty-six species of colibries, tucusitos, and chupaflores in Venezuela

Their families, the Sunangels, the Pufflegs, the Brilliants, the Lancebills, the Violetears, the Mangos, the Sabrewings, the Starfrontlets, the Coquettes, the Woodstars, the Emeralds, the Goldenthroats, the Sapphires, the Hermits, the Barbthroats, the Hummingbirds

Spot neotropic cormorants, the clumsy feather-duster plunging around of a smooth-billed ani, tropical mockingbirds, brown pelicans, an osprey, eared doves, ruddy ground doves, a carib grackle, black-faced grassquits, a bicolored conebill

In the straits skirting the Isla Coche bound for Cumaná, a pomarine jaeger half a meter long, yellow eyed close off the rail  

Flies with us there for half a minute, its twisted spoon-shaped tail streams unmistakably, hulk gliding singularity, the great circumpolar skua that ranges here in winter

An opportunistic voracious jaeger like that in sight of the coast of Sucre state’s canyons and mountainsides all resplendent with nectar-sipping hummingbirds is as amazing and as wild as anything on earth

Walking from the ferry slip in Cumaná 

The city still full of Cumanagoto faces

The elegant Tainos were Arawakan brothers of the Cumanagotos, who except for language were gone in a lifetime after Columbus hit, every Taino on the planet dead within fifty years of 1492

The Tainos left words like these, savannah, maize, hurricane, tobacco, cigar, canoe

Ultramarine yellow, yellow ultramarine, and light chrome yellow

Ten years after Columbus came, Bartolomé de las Casas arrived in Hispañola and started a model Indian community in Cumaná 

His magnum opus, Historia de las Indias, was not even published until 1875 in Spanish

Like a nineteenth century humanist, he preached against Indian slavery and medieval Spanish free-booting lust and greed, Catholic colonial issues that people still argue about

Ask the car rental guy, an old ballplayer, about Las Casas and he grins, points to his face, “¡Cumanagoto, cumanagoto, cumanagoto!” 

Against the sun going down in salt-coast haze an alpomado falcon, Falco femoralis, hunting high over a yellow grass bajada with its white-barred blackish tail obvious in the indirect light, hovering there it looks twice as large as a kestrel

The birds appear like gifts, oriole blackbird, scaled dove, gray kingbird, great kiskadee, boat-tailed grackle, yellow oriole, golden-fronted greenlet, scrub greenlet, tropical gnatcatcher

In the same feeding flock within a mangrove swamp beside a Radio Sucre transmitter, a male prothonotary warbler, brilliant yellow, brilliance as emphatic as Bartolomé de Las Casas seeing his god in Indian slaves’ eyes

Climb the first mountain pass on the way west to Caracas, a waved woodpecker’s hatchet-shaped head shows up over a switchback hammering on a tree-size cactus, woodpecker speckling, red cheek and ear patch back toward its nape, Celeus undatus 

Yellow earth impure yellow ocher on the headlands and mountains above the bays

Driving out of lightly populated Sucre toward Anzoátegui and Miranda before Barcelona and Puerto La Cruz, each river’s green canyon, bananas, maize, papayas, Muscovy ducks, sheltered hamlets on blacktop lanes off the coastal highway, red sand beaches inside coves and inlets

Oxide yellow is yellow ocher on the cutbanks and bare rock-face passes headland to headland down along

A hundred kilometers west in colonial Barcelona’s numbered-street barrio grid with wrought iron grills and sixteenth century carved hardwood doors

A rock guitar mass going on at dusk in Barcelona’s big white early-Baroque cathedral on the plaza Boyacá, a quiet square encircled by high elegant patios, blue-screened TVs inside high windows

Evening coastal glow off the Paseo Colón in adjoining Puerto La Cruz and dinner thereat a big bright parrilla managed by a homesick Peruvian from Lima who talks Sendero Luminoso, Brazil, and goes on about Lima like a New Yorker about New York

In the dawn from a river bridge west of Barcelona watch yellow-shouldered parrots flying out from roosts in twos and threes turning their heads toward one another on the wing, talking away

Greenlets, seedeaters, a plumbeous kite, a smooth yellow-headed caracara lifts off fast away from the river bank with a thin brown and black snake in its talons and see three green kingfishers working riparian territories a tenth the size of what North American kingfishers claim

Píritu’s colonial buildings and blue woodwork along the coast, its parks and trees laid out below long hills, Laguna de Unare on sand tracks to Boca de Uchire, stilts, dowitchers, spotted sandpipers, five kinds of herons

Scarlet ibises rising and then disappearing behind big mangroves  

Empty sand flats, double-striped thick-knees, and stone curlews that are often kept in semi-domesticity around Venezuelan homesteads to keep the insects down

Into Miranda State where not only the river canyons but everything is green

Hamlets become like villages, villages like strip mall towns, approaching the capital where one quarter of all Venezuelans live

The freeway up to El Marques at the eastern lip of the city’s mountain bowl and on in down the urbanized high valley

Massive highrise cityscape, nearly a thousand meters above sea level  

Pico Ávila in the range between Caracas and the sea overlooks everything from over two thousand meters over all that city, all that green

On the trails back down off the summit the green jays seem to follow, bold peeking and prying in and out of the foliage almost all the way back down into the city 


IMG_0456  Nov3,2016 Bota.jpg

D. E. Steward, writes serial month-to-month months of which “Los pájaros” is one. This Chroma project was begun in 1986 and continues unbroken. He has 364 of these calendar months with more than two-thirds published. The first six years of them are in press as Chroma I (Archae Editions, 2017) with further volumes to follow. 

Posted on February 2, 2017 .

"i fight with my girlfriend because the fascists want me dead / peleo con mi novia porque los fascistas me quieren matar" by Raquel Salas Rivera

i fight with my girlfriend because the fascists want me dead

i initially think we fight out of hunger,
because she looked for the pills and i put them in the oven.
i had to take care of my mother at 14
when she cried like alice.
we reached el yunque’s peak
to see only water and wind.

i have a list of reasons in my bag.
reasons to hate yourself and all others by extension:

             first reason:
my father has cancer.
             the same father who would vote for trump,
                           if he wasn’t puertorriqueño,
    but he is puertorriqueño, like his cancer,                   
                           his very puertorriqueño cancer.

             fifth reason:

here my friends hoard hormones,
there my friends spent years stealing from the state that stole their
resources, which don’t exist.

             twelfth reason:

i feel rage towards my white friends,
            who don’t care about the imposition of the control board,
                          for whom this is the first dictatorship.
            i’m crying at them the rage i feel toward my gf,
                          but i let it go because i’m worried about their sweetness.

miscellaneous reasons:

i can’t breathe in basements.
the codified letters are to be read with a metronome.
this chest//rage//discordant ink.
fascism isn’t new.
             fascism lived in condado.
                          fascism pushed my face into the sand
                                       when it reached our beaches.
who cares is fascism’s motto.
who cares if the minimum wage goes down in puerto rico.
who cares if all your people die slowly.
fascism is so not-new, that i don’t know the difference
between the rage i feel and the rage i felt.

i fight with my gf because she opened the window and it was cold.
           i fight with her because it’s cold and i’m not in puerto rico.
i fight with her because the lamplight is too strong.
           i fight with her because it isn’t the río piedras sun.

the fascists want us dead.
neither one of us says it because it’s obvious,
like saying capitalism is the root of all our problems.
it’s so obvious we forget,
or we want to forget because destroying it feels impossible,
when barely living is too much.

i fight with my girlfriend because she forgets
            my boricua friend’s name
and because i’m tired.
i self-medicate with poems.
i do rebirth rituals.
i fight with her because i love too much for these times,
because love is an elemental resource,
but never as elemental as self-defense,
which is the most love of all the loves.

we fight because it’s 12,
because a day doesn’t pass where we aren’t afraid,
because all the cross streets read enemy,
because any white man could be armed,
because i am boricua and they record my conversations,
because she is jewish and carries numbers in her blood,
because the fascists are organized
             to kill us.
these are obvious things, things we know,
things that reverberate.

many theorists say trauma is time out of joint.
the audiotrack speed
doesn’t match the images.
my mouth also doesn’t say what my face wants;
the words come out too fast and hurtful, 
as if it didn’t recognize her.
i think trauma is more like
            they put the audiotrack on another series,
                        as if i spoke for her
and she spoke for the fascists.
it’s so obvious those aren’t her words
it’s so obvious, like saying
capitalism is the root of all our problems
or we can’t fight if we are dead.

 

peleo con mi novia porque los fascistas me quieren matar

inicialmente pienso que peleamos por hambre,
porque buscó las pastillas y las puse en el horno.
tuve que cuidar a mi madre a los 14 años
cuando lloraba como alicia.
llegamos a la cima del yunque
para ver sólo viento y agua.

tengo una lista de razones en el bulto.
razones para odiarte y a todos por extensión: 

             primera razón:
mi padre tiene cáncer.
             el mismo padre que votaría por trump
                          si no fuese puertorriqueño,
             pero es puertorriqueño, como su cáncer,
                          un cáncer muy puertorriqueño.

             quinta razón:
acá mis amistades acumulan hormonas;
allá mis amistades llevan años robándole al estado que les robó
recursos que no existen. 

             duodécima razón:

siento rabia hacia mis amigxs blancxs,
            a quienes no les importa la imposición de la junta,
                        para quienes esta es la primera dictadura.
            les estoy llorando la rabia que siento hacia mi novia,
                        pero la suelto porque me preocupa su ternura. 

razones misceláneas:
no puedo respirar en los sótanos.
las cartas codificadas se leen con metrónomo.
este pecho//rabia//tinta discordante.
el fascismo no es nuevo.
             el fascismo vivía en condado.
                          el fascismo me restregó la cara en la arena
                                       cuando llegó a estas playas.
qué importa es el lema del fascismo.
qué importa que en puerto rico bajen el salario mínimo.
qué importa que toda tu gente muera lentamente.
el fascismo es tan no-nuevo, que no conozco la diferencia
entre la rabia que siento y la rabia que sentí.

le peleo a mi novia porque abrió la ventana y hace frío.
             le peleo porque hace frío y no estoy en puerto rico.
le peleo porque la luz de la lámpara es demasiado fuerte.
             le peleo porque no es del sol de río piedras.

nos quieren matar a los fascistas.
ninguna lo dice porque es obvio
como decir el capitalismo es la fuente de todos nuestros problemas.
es tan obvio que nos olvidamos,
o queremos olvidarlo porque destruirlo se siente imposible
cuando apenas vivir es tanto. 

le peleo a mi novia porque se olvida del nombre
              de mi amiga boricua
y porque estoy cansadx.
me automedico con poemas.
realizo rituales de renacimiento. 
le peleo porque amo demasiado para estos tiempos,
porque el amor es un recurso elemental,
pero nunca más elemental que la defensa propia,
que es el amor más amor de todos los amores. 

nos peleamos porque son las 12,
porque no pasa un día que no nos dé miedo,
porque todos los cruzacalles leen enemigo,
porque cualquier hombre blanco podría estar armado,
porque soy boricua y me graban las conversaciones,
porque es judía y lleva números en la sangre,
porque están organizados los fascistas
             para matarnos.
son cosas obvias, cosas que sabemos,
cosas que repercuten. 

muchos teóricos dicen que el trauma es vivir a destiempo.
la velocidad de la pista del sonido
no cuadra con las imágenes.
mi boca tampoco dice lo que quiere mi cara;
las palabras salen raudas e hirientes
como si no la reconociera. 
creo que el trauma es más
            como si le pusieran la pista a otra series,
                        como si yo hablara por ella
y ella hablara por los fascistas.
es tan obvio que no son sus palabras,
es tan obvio, como decir
el capitalismo es la fuente de todos nuestros problemas,
o no podemos pelear si estamos muertxs.


Raquel Salas Rivera has published poetry and essays in numerous anthologies and journals. In 2011, their first book, Caneca de anhelos turbios, was published by Editora Educación Emergente. In 2016, their chapbook, oropel/tinsel, was published by Lark Books & Writing Studio, and their chapbook huequitos/holies was published by La Impresora. Currently, they are a Contributing Editor at The Wanderer. If for Roque Dalton there is no revolution without poetry, for Raquel there is no poetry without Puerto Rico. You can find out more about their work at raquelsalasrivera.com.

 

 

 
Posted on January 31, 2017 .