First we watched the fires dance
lapping at the old wood like
a parched dog's tongue to water
Second we bought vegetables from
a man and ate them without washing
or burning with fire
Next I can't remember but it was
so very long and sad and the things
that make people cry
made us cry
Without a compass I can't move
a new direction even if the wind
rips at my back and thrusts me
I am the shadow of tree limbs
on bright mornings
Dark and soft and untouchable
don’t numb that brain silly boy
put it to good use
cleave in half
the line parsing
you’re a man when
you say you are
save the streaks of palm-filth
dug-under nails broken
buried under dirtweight
what do you know of slippage
****** as inch-thick glass
run through a filter
I’m left for nothing of my efforts
it's dirt under the fingernail
you can taste it
dirt taste short attitude front survive life ride streaky
I don't know the rules. If I go looking
for grace and find it, what will grace
be but penance for my past, a silver
sinew-thread wrapping 'round old
wrongs, gray hair for the
I've naught but want for sweet release
from this history. The bombs ignored,
repeating in gramophone static
as wet bamboo. I remember someone
once sang here, once strung together
chords so sweet they rang like peace-
bells beneath cloudless sky. They've
rang the bell upon my jaw and
done no wrong.
It's not so much unlike one's curiously
cold reception at a funeral. The cold
and rain ****** at the skin
during graveside hymnal.
As long as the earth continues
its stony breathing I will breathe.
That which I cannot help but do.
Stuck between boulders, I sing.
When it stops, I will shatter back
into gravity. Into quartz.
"Rimrock" is a poem from Kaveh Akbar's 2017 collection "Calling a Wolf a Wolf." Akbar's lines are in standard type; my lines are in italics.
The history—you and me—
it's carved in sandstone
I've taken to asking
As though capital-T time cones
into a chisel of wind with which
to strike its flattest face
There was a time I thought
you had taken to the idea
of leaving me and there
is naught to blame for
that but myself
There is little evidence to believe
in history on loop until you've again
been consumed by blindness and
fear and utterly sick of yourself
The one person you're with
every waking second
Just thinking can—at ***** times—
be an act of self-negation
*You told me you loved me and
I felt it in your breath
It's my last hope.
The sun in its afternoon swirl. It's up there. Far,
far and I still feel that
There's always hope.
It's fresh fruit meeting the tongue. It's playing
King of the Mountain.
It's the budding smell of spring flora.
It grows on trees.*
We pluck it, make it purchasable.
"Timepiece" is a poem from Jana Prikryl's 2016 collection "The After Party."
When one is forced to stop drinking, the first thing felt is shame. It is recognition that coerced abstinence was inevitable. The court told me No alcohol and I said Okay. An assessor of the state told me If you picture life past 30, you stop now: he might have added For the longevity of both you and your relationship(s), but it might be his own history stopped him. The morning I crashed my car was not cold like today. Suburbs are generally quiet at four-thirty; runaways choke-chain drooping eyes to a bedpost for a few more fickle hours, hoping (praying) body keeps pace with hunger. I was hungry, and we went to get food. My brow beats ripples into the airbag. In county my sheltered white life was a blanket doused in gasoline. The sheltered white mind may scream but the sheltered white body cowers under concrete. In class I was assured Alcoholism runs in the family. The gene plagues Hendrix men as a curse of choice. It's a gun in a knife case. Six months sober; it still itches. I'm still hungry. The state told me I was Lucky [I] didn't **** someone. I was selfish. I was selfish because I thought they meant me.
This poem is inspired by Mary Hickman's second book, "Rayfish."
I don't have anything to do with this
light of pre-dawn-breaker-
bringer of boredom.
There are systemic means of
hurting oneself, the constant
ripping and stitching of that cherry-
it's like drowning in
maple syrup, sticky and
sweet. I've been told that dropping
drink was the hardest thing I've
I found these things,
these iron pores dripping
iron sweat, remarkably
easy to ignore.