poetry

Beyond Repair by J.C. Todd

beyon repair

By Michael Collins 

“In Whom the Dying Does Not End,” the opening poem in J. C. Todd’s Beyond Repair, initiates several interwoven themes in the collection, including the roles and perspectives of various mothers and women experiencing different aspects of conflict and displacement, the complicated psychological plights of survivors of such mass traumas, and the roles of imagination and empathy in attempts at healing. The poem opens with the juxtaposition of “cells / churning toward brain / just as a vacuole / opened to become a mouth” while “Hafez, father of Bashar” (3) orders a precursor of recent headlines: “the troops of Hafez attacked / the people that Hafez ruled. Twenty thousand dead” (4). Between these two worlds, speaker subtly invokes awakening to these complexities:

It happened in Hama
while I gestated, TV off,
newspapers unread,
in Harrisburg, my thinking
sludgy, speech cut back,
consumed by what I fed. (3)
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The speaker’s reflective stance juxtaposes an authoritarian, patriarchal lineage of violence with a cellular-level imagining of maternity: “Loved, she grew, singular / anarchic, safe in the province /of my body, and Hama was razed” (4). The two perspectives differ, crucially, in how they imagine their role in others’ lives, or life, over which they have a degree of control, the speaker focusing on a self-image as a haven for the inchoate life and self-determination of her child, the dictator creating a public image of obliterating all life that opposes his rule.
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Engagement with images – journalistic, artistic, and psychological – will become a theme of the collection’s larger meditation. Several poems focus on women who are prevented by political circumstances from keeping their own children and themselves safe – as well as a moral exploration of the role and limits of media in presenting their stories. “The Girl in the Square” recalls a woman who was beaten and partially exposed in public during the protests in Egypt, highlighting along with the assault itself, her ephemeral appearance within media coverage and viewers’ awareness

among flotsam, snagged
in the stream of a video
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that holds her up
to memory
although the torrent
has swept her away” (10-11)
 
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The portrayal in “Cover Shot” of refugees welcomed by a meal in safety shares an acute awareness of the boundaries of the image, in this case spatial rather than temporal:
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mother and child
buoyed on a current of mercy
beyond the cropped shot
into the open field
of a good story
that reseeds in each of us
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as a perennial hope or wish
but the background resists
insists
.
and we too
feel the world
askew (14)

These poems’ dual awareness of the scarred and endangered lives presented in the reporting that reaches us and these presentations’ mere representation of thousands or millions of other lives certainly has elements of social critique. However, within the context of the opening poem they also have a quality of self-reflective practice: The speaker’s awareness of suffering is linked with awareness of the mind’s own inability to quantify it. Therefore, yes, the reports are cropped, edited, and insubstantial, but there are also qualifying understandings. For one, the idea of whole story is really just an abstraction. Further, even more comprehensive storytelling, such as the wide lens the poem itself offers, is far more complex and daunting than the “perennial hope” we also require.

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What the collection offers in the absence of mythical objectivity is flexibility of perspective; its meditation on war and its aftereffects continues by exploring a plurality of experiences in forms and expressions appropriate to the distances at which they are encountered. The sonnet crown “FUBAR’d” employs a close third person of a female American medic, and its tone and diction reflect the mental and emotional fatigue of seeing one after another “soldier who didn’t come through” (27), often due to circumstances beyond her control. Her gallows humor reflects the need to remain unsentimentally resilient against threats both foreign and domestic: “A stiff prick, / how’s it like an IED? Makes you meat” (30). The shift to formal poems itself adds range to the collection; however, the leaping recurrences from final to opening lines in the sequence also grow to seem expressively necessary in their quiet evocation of the paradoxical comorbidity of feeling constantly on alert for new danger while at the same time experiencing the crises’ permutations as interminable. This seems a quite appropriate presentation of a perspective of one near in proximity to the effects of war yet distanced by necessity on a psychic level by the nature of her own suffering as a witnessing participant and her need to maintain daily equilibrium.
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This sequence segues into poems that focus on experiences of surviving war that are both common and, cruelly, trapped within. “Debriding” is one such treatment of the inability to release traumatic experiences: “you’ve survived, but your will will not release / the scream, your wound will not heal / in the mind that daily eats it raw” (40). The run-on sentence and rephrasing line breaks formally mirror the circular and disjointing psychological effects of trauma. Notably, the speaker also shifts to second person here, allowing the sufferer and the reader to be concurrently and interchangeably addressed, perhaps the beginning of fostering potential bridges of understanding and healing. “In Late Summer the Sea Comes to the City” presents another such opening, arising from the common experience of looking down into a puddle: “You are a reflection in / the gutter’s standing water, and the flat-you, / swept up in traffic, an image looking back.” This passage recalls the earlier pictures found in reports of foreign affairs, yet the fleeting image we encounter here is our own. In response, the speaker asks,

Imagine – what is it like to be left
with a solitary thought, uprooted,
.
pulled out from beneath you
by unfathomed undertow?
Every last cell lost. In this way
you learn to distance from your memory. (48)
 
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The imperative to imagine here is an even more direct outreach to the reader’s awareness of their own self-reflexive experience; correspondingly, the suggestion invokes more objective aspects of the psyche than any of the external stories encountered in the collection, in the sense that the self-reflective contents can be confirmed in the experience of each reader. All of our memories, identities, and daily realities are, on a deeper level, similarly insubstantial. In a counterintuitive corollary, though we may not comprehend individual trauma by direct external experience of each situation, we may, to a degree, have imaginative compassion for them due to the shared temporary and contingent nature of life itself, if we are open to our own awareness of it even – or especially, perhaps – on more existential levels. Here, we should note how “every last cell” is lost in our momentary experience of annihilation, recalling the earlier imagining of the autonomous self-arranging of cells that would grow into a person in the first place. The cell-level imagery here seems to point toward a healthy depersonalization that allows for holding of psychic phenomena as such, rather than carrying them as aspects of identity.
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Other poems reexamine and complicate this cell-level imagery through differing perspectives. In “Sonogram” the first-person speaker reconnects to empathetic pain from an article read in childhood, contrasting the objective, metaphorically medical perspective with the individual experience of empathetic consciousness, “echoing internals / image by image.” An aspect of such pain that has been implied throughout the collection emerges here explicitly: The “place” the speaker’s empathic suffering appears is in consciousness, presented in the poems themselves:
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Bursting in me, insurgent memory
walled off for thirty years.
Where is the sonogram,
CAT scan, MRI to locate
rogue cells that refuse to forget?
This is where the sorrow lodges.
Here. Where it hurts. (65)
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The wish to “locate” and see the “rogue cells” of the internal “insurgent” presents an alternative to the drive of Hafez in the opening poem to eradicate such experiences by projecting them onto political opposition. However, this personal tracking of such experiences allows the speaker to deal with them in their psychic reality. Perhaps such practice also allows the imagining of its pathological opposite, in which empathy is barred from the imagining of cellular life in “Herr Doktor Mengele Considers the Fetal Brain”:
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Why not colonize beginning with the brain?
Sort the neurons one by one to link
in clear-cut lines that radiate like spokes
of force. Iconic, like a painted state-
house dome: commander top and center, displayed
above lieutenants, lackeys, messengers.
Redesign the circuitry for worker,
each cell imprinted to obey. (80)
 
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The poem uses persona to characterize the way authoritarian mental illness remakes itself, trauma manifesting as idealized ideation and imagination of the world that, if allowed, organizes both the brain and the world in its image. The terrifying part, and one contribution of the poems to our understanding of the mind, is that all of the minds presented in these poems are our shared potentialities.
The later poems gravitate toward the humble potentials of art for the interrelated pursuits of survival, witnessing, and cultivation of consciousness. Artistic practice provides a measure of solace for those suffering under inhuman – or all too human – oppression in “What’s Left”:
root twigs broken from an unknown tree
braided into a box that holds nothing
discernible under its lid. Oils from
the hands that wone it stained the roots,
but DNA analysis did not reveal
the maker, who may have – who knows?
– entered the exhibit and spotted the box
whose weaving had kept her together
enough to stay alive, enough to say
she knows this box, here, is hers. (85)
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The vision of the maker sees itself in the work of the other – in an inverted way to that of the authoritarian, which seeks impossibly to mirror its illusion of power the world over. The making of the cared for object, whether the box in its most basic (though no less creative) form or in the poem with its intersubjective complexities, though it mounts no defense against external brutality, models a practice through which one hopes to survive it and supplant its internal moorings.
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Such practices, though noble, are not without limitation, as the collection’s coda, “In Bruges,” acknowledges: “The Old Masters called it still life. In Bruges, the phrase inverts to / life stilled, the burnish of a grieving too particulate to dissipate. / It darkens a lyric voice to contralto, a lullaby to requiem” (89). And, yet, the relative lasting of art, its refusal to “dissipate” like news stories, provides a measure of companionship for consciousness and compassion when they arise within us, just as the ordering consciousness of this collection operates from an understanding that the world’s shadows are our own mind’s, a connection which opens psychologically to some mitigation of its sufferings.
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You can find the book here: Beyond Repair: Poems
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Michael Collins’ poems have received Pushcart Prize nominations and appeared in more than 70 journals and magazines.  He is also the author of the chapbooks How to Sing when People Cut off your Head and Leave it Floating in the Water and Harbor Mandala, the full-length collections Psalmandala and Appearances , which was named one of the best indie poetry collections of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews . He teaches creative and expository writing at New York University and the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and is the Poet Laureate of Mamaroneck, NY.
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Pacific Light by David Mason 

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By g emil reutter
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Mason is a poet defined by place, if it is Southeast Asia on the Pacific Rim or Northwest America, his poems breathe life of the people around him as well as the nature he observes and partakes in. Careful observation and craft abounds in these poems. The poet tells us in The Voices:
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I came to a wood where dark trees were talking,
their voices sparking in the shadows, near
or distant, singly and in chorus, and I thought:
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This is the way of trees, to wait until we least
expect it of them, then to speak from their depths,
the nerves strung out in lines with each new flash. 
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Voices sparking in shadows, nerves strung out in lines with each new flash. Trees talking. There has been some study indicating trees communicate through the root system, this poet see it and tells us about it. There is no doubting here.
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In the poem, The Work, he offers up a beautiful description of time:
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Time is the hillside falling away in grass and gum trees,
the current of water, the island behind the cloud,
and there is more of it and less of it than we know. 
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Pacific Light, the title poem is a paean to the Pacific by a poet who embraced the light and moved south. In the second and third stanzas the poet wraps himself around the Northwest:
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I remember now. The light in my mother’s house
above a bay, a virile western sun
bleaching the spines of books, fading furniture
and making the candles we lit at dinnertime
doubly sad. I’ve watched for sixty years
the sun on the western water, islands, clouds
the mud flats, oyster beds, fishing masts–
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the light I thought a poem should be infused with,
the light a man might die by in his bed,
the light remembered women leave behind
and children recollect like broken dolls,
the light destroyers cut with their gray prows
in my father’s war, light the lava died in
the massive gouts of steam, and spouts of whales,
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So much captured in just two stanzas. His mothers house, sun bleaching, mud flats, fishing masts, broken dolls, father’s war, spouts of whales. It is a lyrical intensity rarely seen, packed with images, metaphors and observation. He ends the poem:
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No pill or whisky and no burning weed
can touch the light, nor can the blue flame
of the struck match or lightning’s jagged stroke
that sets the woods aflame. A passing light
that holds us watching motionless as seals
till night returns us to our element. 
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The words speak for themselves.
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Mason writes of the nurses who care for those passing to the other side and leads off the poem, The Garden and The Library, with beautiful images of the dead in the garden:
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A gardener grows familiar with the dead
and dying, each tree with its own way of letting go,
the oak leaves brittle and difficult to heap,
while beech let down their arms to the hold the dead.
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He ends the poem with this:
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I think about those nurses, and their speed
and silence in the face of miracles.
I think of all the weeping, all the books
in tiers of shelves. I think of all the leaves.
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It is the trees, the nurses, the weeping, books in tiers of shelves. It is us.
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There is much to this poet, this book. David Mason has arrived and we should all have a look. Get the book, watch the video and be prepared to be amazed.
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Watch the poet reading from the collection here:
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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/
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A Summoning by Nicole McCarthy

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By Greg Bem

How deep can a poet dive into their own memory? What can selections of memory become when brought together, when affixed, when sharing the same intentional space? Nicole McCarthy, in her debut, cross-genre book, answers this question with prose, journaling, erasure, and generative text. The result is an experimental landscape that explores the psyche. Memories atrophic and recessed form an exquisite topography.

The poet touches upon what is lost, what is found, and what is present. The book is a mélange of possibility; it is a fixation of multiple realities. She grasps trauma, grasps the structural damage of Alzheimer’s, she brings to bear what can be cherished and finds niche intersections with what is necessary.

Memories that haven’t gone through the consolidation process yet are like clay waiting to dry—they’re vulnerable to malleability. (page 21)

As memory is fluidic and staggered, so is the McCarthy’s form. The book opens with paragraph of memory, the summoning process of the poet emerging from the first page. The work immediately becomes a blurry flux of the ecstatic, the pensive, and the sorrowful; tone is temporary and a totality.

Though it’s not ever announced, the book expands page by page by way of experiment and investigation. The poet’s process remains veiled, but McCarthy’s ethereal fragments further open and push through a commitment to exploration. An exploration of personal and shared history. Of family. Of past partners. Of self. But it is more than a mere push, more than force. The poet undergoes a process of submersion. Textual works transform into visual. Visuals splice back to text. Collage appears and disappears.

I was just crumpled bones in a moonlit room. (page 73)

Out of the pages comes consistency. Comes acceleration. Comes phasing forward. Comes being in sync. But occasionally a title appears: Manipulate. Falsify. Manipulate. Falsify. Otherwise, the reader is left submerged alongside the poet, the blur book-length, moment-to-moment, obfuscation adjoined to clarification.

McCarthy raises questions of authenticity and integrity; when we don’t have the whole picture, what does the whole picture we do have mean? How do we reconcile with memories spliced together? To what do we owe their thematic presence, their trends, the string of memories as a story that feels bound but is tenuous, always collapsing and restructuring?

Can I clear the state then? (page 36)

The poet’s prescription is one of endurance until the abstracted emergence arrives: by the book’s end, any sense of conclusion is warped and undesirable. The book as document, as entity, was always conclusive. Our journey through McCarthy’s archival wandering is satisfying because it is a whole, it has been put together, it was, poetically, summoned.

You can find the book here: https://heavyfeatherreview.org/portfolio/a-summoning/ 

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at www.gregbem.com

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Portable Light – New and Selected Poems by Mike James

port
By Lynette G, Esposito
 
Portable Light New and Selected Poems 1991-2021 by Mike James published by Redhawk Publications (The Catawba Valley Community College Press) Hickory, North Carolina features one hundred and twenty-three pages of poetry that interweaves common images with uncommon juxtapositions presenting old themes in new ways.
 
The volume is divided into two sections including New Poems and Selected Poems. In the New Poems section on page twenty- three, James presents sunlight and one’s expectation of it in his poem In This Place.
 
I expect the morning light to end
And it does.
It does.
 
The sun reminds me which way is west,
One less thing to guess about,
Take me away from my plowed down routine
I’m mostly lost.
 
His narrative voice brings the reader into his morning observations, drawing without unnecessary details, how quickly morning disappears. In choosing the word end, the impression is direct and stark.  Something is over just as it begins. The final stanza of the three-stanza poem concludes:
 
The dreams I wake with don’t stay close.
Last night I dreamed about walking among flowers.
This morning, one window frames
The consolation of an empty field.
 
James skillfully guides the message with a light touch. Dreams are as fleeting as the morning sunlight. We have all been there.
 
His poem Sitting on the Back Porch, in Summer at Dusk in the Selected Poems Section on page forty-eight, works with juxtaposing an observation of nature and a human response.  The poem is made up of mostly unrhymed couplets and feels as if one is having a conversation with oneself.
 
my children play in the neighbor’s field
games they make up themselves
 
my wife somewhere else
wherever that is
 
James has established the place through his title and the situation by putting his family away from where he is alone on the porch. The narrator observes the crow and suggests the crow observes him.
A crow lands and human and bird stare.
 
after a few minutes he makes his loud cry
then flies away
 
I can’t repeat the cry he makes
only the silence he leaves
 
This is a skillful poem that visualizes a quiet lonely moment on a back porch and shapes its message into a comment on the ability of nature compared to the silence of man.
 
James explores carnal knowledge in his poem Questions for Genesis. This is one of those long skinny poems that slides down the page like a string.
 
did eve’s lips
grow lustful
after the first
bite of the
apple did she
inhale in
anticipation
of adam’s
scent think
of her own
which she
barely knew
did she
quickly look
over each
shoulder’to
see if animals
saw her
different
before she chewed
 
In the series of questions, the focus is clearly on eve but the bigger question becomes obvious in the last lines. Is she perceived different now? Again, James is skillful in focus and in drawing the reader into the world he creates.  He does not rely on capitalization or punctuation but on image and message.
 
This tome is well worth a read and reread.  The themes are varied as well as the poetic forms. James has excellent control in his poetic works and is able to lead the reader to places they don’t realize they are going.
 
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 Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.
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Commonplace by Hugo Garcia Manríquez (trans. NAFTA)

 
common
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By Michael Collins 
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Hugo Garcia Manríquez begins Commonplace with a unique hybrid of invocation and manifesto, clearly announcing its meta-poetic intentions in the use of both generally conceptual language and semiotic terminology. The reader is therefore immediately arranged into a mode of engagement that requires applying considerable thought. The approach is necessitated by poem’s subject matter, the connection between the aesthetic and lethal aspects of modern political power and its role in the environmental crisis, which requires not merely seeing through cultural and aesthetic facades but altering inherited modes of perceiving, considering, and valuing lives previously thought “subaltern” and therefore “dead matter.” Hence, there is a clear warrant for the poem to require concurrent thinking about how we think about poetry:
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We push history to the side
Turn it into our own indexicality
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Aspects, ones from others
The world that produced us
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Moments. Moments to intonate aspects

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I read the opening lines’ reference to “our own indexicality” as saying that we look at our history within our own context, as part of our own meaning making process within that context. This can be interpreted in two ways that inform one another. First, our world is so different from historical worlds that we, to some degree, can only accurately view it within its own context. Second, this worldview that ends at the boundaries of our own context is itself the form of myopia through which we usually approach reality, which requires continual reframing or complicating of context..

The poem then sets out to consider the aspects of our world within the context of various “moments” of “the world that produced us.” This sounds a lot like a very abstract description of a lyric poem: We are, ourselves aspects of the world, considering other aspects by separating them from one another in discrete poetic moments. However, Manríquez then moves into “discussions about poetry / that are in the end discussions / about politics”: “in those moments / the poems intonate aspects // Aspects gathered and aspects kept apart.” It’s difficult to imagine a poem approaching poetry itself from any more detached, more objective position and language, and it creates an affect toward poetry itself that is distinctly unsentimental and rational. This succeeded in making me curious about why someone would open with such an unexpected tone and perspective, and I wanted to read on. Hence, it was a successful first page.

Continuing, it becomes clear that the objective meta-poetic position is essential to establish because the reader will be asked to question assumptions about the role of literature in our culture and politics. We are often required to think through connections between the parts of an assertion and question its validity for ourselves: “When we read literature we read the budget / of the Mexican army (21). Here we see an early glimpse of the connection the poem will elaborate between the aesthetics within which power shrouds itself and the violence that enforces it. A similar construction invites the reader to connect this constellation of power with what we think are “our private lives” – and the poem’s potential role in them:

A poem is part documentary
part inferno
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But first something
about our private lives:
 
The budget of SEDENA (75)
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In order to interrogate this aesthetic-military complex, the poem invokes the Dantean moral quality of guiding the reader through its hellscape, the process modernized by focusing on litanies of documentary evidence. The sardonic aside to “something / about our private lives,” which are constituted by the defense budget, is perhaps a modern echo of “abandon hope all ye who enter here” that evokes the voiding personal meaning by a culture based on subordinating heterogeneity. In this context poetry serves to document not hope but the truth of the hollowness of lives constructed and defined by arms sales and the power they underwrite.

However, this recognition of emptiness is foundational, not nihilistic. The empty space previously assumed to be “our private lives” becomes one in which peoples and cultures previously silenced might approach voice and listening, perhaps a more polyphonic world – or at least an approach to the world that understands that it is polyphonic already:

a new nothing
traverses the poem
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as capital
traverses the century
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reactivating insurrection
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the insurrection
of objects
the uprising
of matter (71)
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Manríquez articulates a poetics given life by what have been assumed to be “objects” and “matter” by the perspective of the dominant culture. Poems being cultural products, this revisioning necessitates the degree of self-definition we noted at the opening of the book, in order to differentiate from the inherited cultural expectations of poetry itself.
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Arriving at this “new nothing” involves “new articulations” that “are inserted / with constant moments” (23), which seem to replace the personal lyric moment in a corollary to our inner lives having been replaced by military budgets. The oxymoronic phrase “constant moments” highlights both the vapid and generic qualities of these instances, as in the “11,231 constant moments” involving guns sales “designed, produced, and sold / to the Secretary of National Defense” (25). However, in juxtaposition, “constant moments” are also produced by the biome’s endemic wildlife, for example, the
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howler
monkey (Alouatta palliata) with its specialized
oral apparatus with its hybrid bones
and larynx developed
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forming with the mandible a resonating chamber
that allows the powerful amplification of
the sounds, aspects gathered together
aspects kept apart (25)
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Placing the military budget language on the same level as the objective zoological description has the effect of establishing each as an independent world. Yet, we know from the rest of the poem that these worlds cannot coexist. Again, we are asked to think through the ramifications, in this case of the zoological language that acts as a mirror of the scientific aspects of our thinking, describing the creature in ways that from its perspective bring forth some of the wonders of the creature’s organism, but are also quite foreign to its being.
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The pathos of this section, which we can only arrive at by thinking though the logical parallels in subject-object relationships, is that we are the creatures defined by our defense budget in the same way that the monkey is described by anatomical jargon. We are still connected to the natural world as was the case in the romantic worldview left far behind in this poem, yet no longer by of a shared soul, so much as a shared subjugation that we can logically comprehend by the examination of the “aspects gathered together / aspects kept apart” that interestingly echo the poem’s opening disclosure of its own processes. Unfortunately, there is far more complexity here than this short piece can address; fortunately, the book is in print.
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The poem’s conception of the lyric as a contemplative space also necessitates consideration of the relationship between poetry and time, which we see in the elaboration of “Constant moments / that seem to begin and only begin” (33), such as:
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Bombers that are an extension
of the impact on my mother’s cheekbone
when I was 17
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I haven’t thought about this situation
for a long time a time that is non-transferable (31-3)
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Time in this poem does not stop, reverse, repeat, or any of the other things it may appear to do in consciousness. We inhabit the perspective of chronological time, in which we know that consciousness cannot bring back species that are made extinct or people blown up by bombers no matter how timeless it may appear evoke them in poems.
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Perhaps the most pointed result of these reexaminations is Manríquez’s conception of the writing as a continual choice that his poem has endeavored to clarify:
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When writing, we do not
romantically confront the blank page
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Rather, the confrontation
is historical:
 
take the side of Sigűenza y Góngora
and protect the Library from the masses
as Mexican letters have done
for centuries
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                take the side of lifeforms
the side of the forms of language that
sprout from the riot (57)
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Here again, taking the side of nature no longer means to loaf and invite one’s soul, but to think self-reflexively about the threats posed by our own cultural complexes to other perspectives and creatures with whom one shares the world.
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One approach to this cultural reflection is to seek out and amplify dissonant perspectives from history such as those contained in the Popol Vuh, which “records the rebellion / of the objects and animals / against human endeavors” (63). The history of Western civilization’s creation of such histories as byproducts of its subjugations gives rise to this role of Manríquez’s poem in our contemporary world:
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The historical forms of the continental imaginary
recorded the rebellion of that irrational, subaltern
dead matter
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Those forms registered the basic
operation of poetry: the interruption
Within that revolt exists an immanent historical lesson (65)
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The “immanent historical lesson” is the way that the forms of “subaltern / dead matter” manage to interrupt the dominant discourse that subsumes them. In their “interruption” of even the texts that contain them, they represent the countercultural basis of poetry, the “immanent historical lesson” about which beings we identify as alive.
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Reading these lines, it is apparent that the emphasis on thought in the poem does not render it devoid of emotion or empathy. The reference to the colonial view of whole peoples and biomes as “irrational, subaltern / dead matter” evokes both the degradation inherent in this view and the chilling way in which such thoughts formed – and form – themselves into prophesies that can become self-fulfilling if allowed to continue unchecked in their own self-confirmation due to the failure to recognize counterarguments. The pathos of the poem arises in conjunction with our apprehending from the outside of such a perspective, aspects of which perhaps at one point were unwittingly assumed as our own.
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Michael Collins’ poems have received Pushcart Prize nominations and appeared in more than 70 journals and magazines.  He is also the author of the chapbooks How to Sing when People Cut off your Head and Leave it Floating in the Water and Harbor Mandala, the full-length collections Psalmandala and Appearances , which was named one of the best indie poetry collections of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews . He teaches creative and expository writing at New York University and the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and is the Poet Laureate of Mamaroneck, NY.
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Two Poems by Edward L. Canavan

blank
[under wing]  
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untaken stock
low in the heart of matters
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still to rise
day in and out
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pulled
toward the wondering lust
of too long alone
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caught in the trap of mind
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rolling thru
the unwritten pages
of blank expression
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and the useless expectations
of things never known.
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[sorts of flight]
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undeemed pleasantries
swallowed like cloves
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away from inner circles
of pride’s wide smiles
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as bastions burn
in the lighthouse mind
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leaving every barren shore
littered with the gold of confusion.
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Edward L. Canavan is an American poet whose work has most recently been published in Spillwords, Edge of Humanity, and The Opiate. His second poetry collection entitled PROTEST and ISOLATION was released by Cyberwit Press in July 2020. Born and raised in the Bronx, NY, he currently resides in North Hollywood, California, where he practices Buddhism and listens to Bad Brains.

Demeter’s Song by Danielle Page

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Demeter’s Song 
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give her flowers, mountains of gold
chrysanthemums, bold lilies of that
strange valley, braid her hair of orange
with honor and bestow a world of
our own making.
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teach her the ways of outlandish
society and dip her into sun-springs
of questions, spin her tales of fish
in the sky, the kind that cherish rapt
gazes and wither contempt—
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give her flowers and she will braid
them into a crown of plucked,
perishing stems, and fearless,
she will leap into the pit,
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beaming.
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Danielle Page is a truth-teller, writer, and educator. She is currently a professional writing tutor at High Point University and delights in working one-on-one with students. When she’s not reading up on composition theory, she’s scribbling in her moleskine journal, hiking a mountainous trail, or entertaining newfangled ideas for her poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Whale Road Review, Calla Press, The Raven Review, Celestite Poetry, Teach. Write. and The Amethyst Review.

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They sit on the bridge by DS Maolalai

blackberries
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They sit on the bridge 
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they sit on the bridge.
cluster as close
as the round bulbs of road-
swollen blackberries,
dusty with travel. drinking beer
and port wine and they smoke and eat
sandwiches over the water
which moves slow as they do,
a rolling black gruel into estuary.
sometimes a woman passes, and they
will say something – I know it is
threatening, but there’s no malice
there (though you would have to live
nearby to know that) any more
than there is when you reach
into brambles and hurt yourself,
picking a berry. the night
sets around them – it lays
like a dog at a table. they take it
as company, put out their hands.
occasionally, under the bridge,
there’s a swan kicking forward
in peaceful grey stateliness
or the floating crushed wreck
of a beercan.
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DS Maolalai’s  poetry has been released in three collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016), “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019) and Noble Rot (Turas Press, 2022)

Memorial by Ann E. Michael

swan
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Memorial
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1. Before
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You folded me inside your wide embrace
until I pleated myself tiny, a paper airplane,
origami swan, flammable sliver.
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You idly fingered one lock of my hair
looking for the B-flat key or a streetlight
or the sea.
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Once you said I already know everything
about you; but I don’t.
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2. Memorial
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I remember the crowded room without you,
other voices raised up with your words.
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How the music reverberated in my breastbone,
reed trembling, the strings humming,
violin bow, piano’s percussive ring & strike:
the damper, the black keys, the mournful chord.
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I felt your sense of humor wander in,
rearranging the chairs, turning your poems upside-
down, whistling “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
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3. After
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the swan in the quiet cove moved noiselessly
over the drought-shallowed lake
and I could not approach it nor ever be
nearer to you.
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AnnEMichaelPorch-1
Ann E. Michael lives in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, slightly west of where the Lehigh River meets the Delaware. She currently directs the writing center at DeSales University. Her most recent collection of poems is Strange Ladies.  More info at http://www.annemichael.blog
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