Issue 89 — 

Ann Bracken (ArLiJo#90)
Matt Hohner (ArLiJo#89)
Tim Hunt (ArLiJo#89)
Cindy King (ArLiJo#89)
Gianmarc Manzione (ArLiJo#89)
Michael Milburn (ArLiJo#89)
Leona Sevick (ArLiJo#89)
Ann Bracken

Featured in ArLiJo Issue No. 89


Barriers

It is only the invisible guard
that keeps you from your dreams.

No straps bind your wrists
no bricks stacked and mortared.

Your demon menace
twirls you into paralysis

as invisibly as a phantom
train whistle
echoes through your dreams.

You must find the distant bell
announcing your singular calling

Focus on the clear surface of a lake
then dive.


Copyright © 2016 by Ann Bracken.


The Autoworker on the Radio Explains How the Factory Works

You never stopped the line,
no matter what mistakes you saw.
We worked a lot of overtime fixing mistakes
but we never stopped the line.
“This American Life,” 2010

And I feel the same way about Ben,
my student determined to graduate from high school
still reading reading at the third- or fourth-grade level.

The administrators say,
Ben needs credits to graduate,
reading class doesn’t count
if kids take it more than once.


So administrators find ways
for teachers to push him along,
like the auto factory grinding out
a Ford Focus with Fiesta doors
held on by Explorer bolts.

Nothing fits, and you can’t drive the car,
but we don’t stop the line.
for Ben who understands a lot about history
but he can’t read well enough to take the test.

So we give him an accommodation—special help—
and someone reads him the test,
which worked well when he was seven
but seems foolish when he is 17—
and hoping to get a job, hoping to graduate
So I ask, Will someone read to Ben at work?

The answer echoes back We can’t stop the line
But when you peek under the hood—
like the car with the wrong bolts
Ben will need repairs.


Copyright © 2016 by Ann Bracken.

Biography:
Ann Bracken’s memoir in verse, The Altar of Innocence, was published in 2015. Her poetry and interviews have appeared in several anthologies and journals. Her poem, “Mrs. S,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review and lectures at the University of Maryland.
 

 
Matt Hohner


Featured in ArLiJo Issue No. 89


To A Poet of the Three Gorges

It is evening: cold wind, late November,
east side of Baltimore’s harbor. In the display
window of an upscale home furnishings
boutique, an old wooden ox cart wheel,
circa 19th century China, mounted
on an iron stand: prized salvage
from the flooded towns and valleys where
the Yangtze carved deep into millennia,
cascading through culture and time.
I think of Du Fu, turning his ear
to the gibbons’ howls reverberating
deep in the three gorges, his skiff
moored along the shore, verses coming
like lanterns at night, borne by the dark currents,
lifeblood of heritage, surging past his bow.
Downstream, a new power flows from the river,
its megawatt hum echoing off concrete ramparts.
The old voices, now whispers, drown in waters
rising to light cities of millions where, once,
men in simple wooden boats and carts
delivered the news one verse at a time.


Copyright ©2016 by Matt Hohner.



Famine Memorial, Dublin

Smudges of Liffey’s silt shuffle towards
the coffin ships, eye sockets plucked of sight.
There are no wailing keeners here to mourn
these shadows rising like wisps of peat smoke
from the cobbled walk. The dirges are long
gone from the rigored moors, sunken trenches
carved across the heart of Ireland where clans
interred their stories and thatched roofs hushed
into ruin. Under April’s bright sun, the buds
of spring in the trees lining the riverbank,
waiflike parentheses mark the barren spaces
and unspoken sighs of cultural hurt: always
there, that void in the gut that faith once filled,
whence song took flight into the Atlantic wind.


Copyright ©2016 by Matt Hohner.


Biography:
Matt Hohner, a Baltimore native, holds an M.F.A. in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where he won the 1996 Ted Berrigan Scholarship and the 1996-97 Honors Scholarship. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Baltimore Review, September Eleven: Maryland Voices, The Potomac (online), Lily (online), The Mom Egg Review, Truck (online), Cobalt, The Moth, The Irish Times, and Free State Review. His poems have been finalists for the Sow—s Ear Poetry Review Poetry Prize, the Cobalt Earl Weaver Prize for Baseball Writing, and the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize in Ireland. He has recently been awarded a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, made possible by a fellowship from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. He lives in Baltimore City with his wife and his cat.
 

 
Tim Hunt


Featured in ArLiJo Issue No. 89


The Boy Recites Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep


Tonight as you try to sleep
You imagine again that wind
Of flame sweeping out
From the mushroomed pillar
That is not God’s wrath but
Something called Preemptive
Strike.

You haven’t heard yet the one
About the tree and if it falls
In the forest and no one is there
To hear—whether that makes
A sound, but you wonder
If no one is there to see
The Nuclear Winter, is it winter—

As you pray you would
Not wake if you could only
Sleep instead of wondering
If the flame would be God’s
Flame, and if not, and one burns
Only a moment, is
That Heaven?


Copyright © 2016 by Tim Hunt.



This, Too


The science tells us we are wired to interact, nerve
Endings tuned outward to the surrounding show,
Or whatever in it we have learned to filter
Into the world of mattering—the denting
Of the drifted oak leaves that mark
A path into a thicket, eyes emptied

To register the twigs twitching and the buck is
A moment still against the Manzanita
As you raise the rifle up so much without thought
That deer and Manzanita bring the bullet
Together and you move down the hill
To the harvesting, reaching for your knife.

It isn’t that you understand
This world. You are this world—the folding
Seams of the hills, and how the branchings
Of creek dry to scum as the arc of heat
Builds across the summer, and too the porch at night,
The trees in the yard like tent
Poles of canvassed stars, the day exhaling.

There are, you sense, other logics, other
Grids, and that world, too, thinks it is
Real and that you are in it, hailing you
As if you have wandered
From its encodings, even as you
Give yourself to your world, knowing
You have not.

Copyright © 2016 by Tim Hunt.




Vachel Lindsay Walks the Roads of Kansas Offering Poems for Bread


Oh, Vachel, you have walked all day,
The cicada dust abuzz as if light from
The fields of corn shining within
The light the sun drops as it walks
Its different pace, not hand in hand
With you but perhaps smiling
As it passes on. And yes, you are
Thinking of such things because you
Are a poet and you are walking
To bring that light into these fields
And the far scattered houses
Where the far scattered men and women
Tend the light that often feels
Like a dark burden, the ache of shoulders
Holding to the plow, the ache
In the small of the back bending
To the weeds in the kitchen garden. Oh,
Vachel your feet are tired and even,
Sometimes, your heart. Sometimes
The cicada dust is only noise and not
An aura golden above the tassels
Awaiting harvest as the west
Opens the door to its visitor, the stranger
Always welcomed, a place set
At the table, as tonight someone
Will open the door to you, a stranger,
And you will glow with poetry
And at the table you will savor the bread
As if it, too, is a poem, their poem
Shared for yours, yours for theirs,
Spirit unto spirit within the spirit.
And tomorrow you will walk again,
The light and dark within you,
Holding to the hope as if a plow
And the road an endless furrow
And another night of the puzzled
Farm people listening before you
Will let them sit down and eat with you,
Sharing their poem, the one
They understand. The one they
Do not think of as a poem.


Copyright © 2016 by Tim Hunt.



Relic


Let us pretend that this white
Chip of bone is from the toe
Of Saint Someone who lived Some Where
Some When and was so
Saintly that we might care
If a bleached bit of bone
Was indeed his body and touched
By his soul. Let us fashion
A tiny box to hold it for our
Reverence, carved and lacquered
With such devotion that we
Can look upon the box and know
The truth of what is inside’and know, too,
Some sanctuary of words as if Then
Is still Now for always and ever,
Even as Now and Then recede
From each other like a boat
Drifting off into a lake with no
Shore, remembering the pier,
The rock, where it was once moored
And wondering why it is
Empty. Let us not think of that.
Let us think of the box beneath
Its lid of stone. Let us glory
In the play of light it draws
Through the soldered fragments
Of colored glass, and how in this
Story the farther shore
Welcomes home the drifting boat.


Copyright © 2016 by Tim Hunt.

Biography:
Tim Hunt’s publications include the collections Fault Lines (The Backwaters Press), The Tao of Twang (CW Books) and the forthcoming Poem’s Poems & Other Poems, along with the chapbooks Redneck Yoga, and Thirteen Ways of Talking to a Blackbird. He has been awarded the Chester H. Jones National Poetry Prize and thrice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He and his wife Susan live in Normal, IL.
 

 


Cindy King


Featured in ArLiJo Issue No. 89


First Response


You have been cautioned to discontinue use,
but you persist, applying heat and pressure.
Your application is neither even nor thin,
your occupation, to spread yourself,
to be taken all at once, in the evenings,
toppling the nightstand, racking up bed time.

You have always been rash, ignoring
the stop signs, refusing to brake
out of tenderness. To keep out of reach,
to avoid contact, results in prolonged
inflammation. At the increased risk of my heart’s
own failure, you never will burn unattended.

That night you required immediate attention.
As means of prevention, I sprinted up stairs,
skipping steps when restraint should have been
exercised. Now I’ve worked out the days, but
you close your eyes. I detect side effects;
you are spotting the symptoms.

You are pregnant, or think you may be,
or may become pregnant. Never apparent,
your first response. You blink
several times, feel something—
rainbows, halos, some foreign body.


Copyright ©2016 by Cindy King.



All in the Mind


Thoughts, like rabbits,
spring to it, such things as:
the mind can be small and neat,
closed like a book of hymnals,
or open like the singer’s mouth
.

Beautiful or criminal—
if only you could master it,
you might overtake the world.
And for those who are not
in their right one, the mind can be
controlled, first numbed, then warped
like long-play record left in the sun.

It has its own state, the mind,
perhaps even its own country.
Yet in days like these, rarely
does something set it at ease
or give it peace.

The single-minded
often find themselves
alone. However, one may
change his mind,
be of two, or even three,
like the tree in which we
find three blackbirds.

You can make it up, but
can’t take it anywhere,
in fact, it takes you
wherever it wanders; it
can be lost and never found.

You can take it off
or set it to something—
and the mind's got it all over
matter. Whatever’s out of sight
is also out of the mind.

To be out of one’s mind,
to see the best ones of your
generation destroyed by madness.
Sadly, the minds often meet,
starving, hysterical, naked
in the street, perhaps because the great
ones always think alike.

Some have one for business,
another for pleasure, and though few
would fess up, most minds
are quite filthy all the same,
the dirt, not your garden variety.

They say it’s a terrible thing to waste,
so why not boggle or blow it?
It can be altered, like a suit,
should you outgrow it.

It has an eye, to be sure,
but no ear, although it may be
“of sound,” either with
or without the body. It has
no mouth, yet you can speak it,
and if you’re feeling generous,
you may just give us a piece, though
we may not accept it; so much depends
on whether we’ve got one of our own.


Copyright ©2016 by Cindy King.



Biography:
Cindy King’s work has appeared in Callaloo, North American Review, Black Warrior Review, American Literary Review, jubilat, Barrow Street, River Styx, and elsewhere. It can be heard at weekendamerica.publicradio.org and cortlandreview.com. She has received a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Workshop and the Agha Shahid Ali Scholarship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She will begin teaching as an Assistant Professor of English at Dixie State University in the fall.

 

 


Gianmarc Manzione


Featured in ArLiJo Issue No. 89


Work

The first time I killed somebody, I still
made it back to work before the end of
lunch break. Violations of ordinance,
settled in accordion folders at
the desk where I filed them for the county,
arranged the unimportant afternoon.
I heard the woman in the cube by the
copy machine crack open a Coke. What
was it inside me that was sated by
the snip of telephone wire, the drawing
of indigo curtains in a house I
had never been? (I only had reason
to visit once, see.) You should have seen the
mother’s eyes when she saw my gun and told
her two kids to do as the man said, then
helped me board them both in the bathroom. I
strangled that one with no more thought than she
gave to slipping off a shoe. Excuse me.
My wife’s calling; the dog got out again.


Copyright © 2016 by Gianmarc Manzione.



Lunch Break


The paper’s named the pill that put the knife
in the millionaire’s hand and nobody’s
wiser. The blown-up dead from Kabul to
Kirkuk are known here as news and done with.
Whose father bled to death with his rings on?
Fine. Listen to car engines idle in
the Starbucks drive-through, wondering again
how a whole season has passed without a
call from your kid, what wrench you need to fix
the busted washer back home, how any
number of years seems to pass in a day.
Answers worth knowing don’t wait like the sea.
Oh look. The trucked-in trees abide
their concrete plots in the lot at Freedom
Mall. They belly up to bus fumes between
the Dollar Store and Dillard’s. They beckon.


Copyright © 2016 by Gianmarc Manzione.



Cedar Springs

Then truck fumes smudge the sun as it slips
down the day like an oyster
and cops question two crying girls with pumped lips
and fishnets in the back of a Condom Sense to register
their complaint the way cooks take orders
while penis rings pursed in raspberry cellophane
throb on hooks and for $10.99 they’ll really take you somewhere
like the buses wheezing up and down Wixom Lane

You know last night a man knotted birthday balloons around his waist
and jumped off a bridge under the same unminding
moon as the Cedar Springs trannies laced
in pleather bustiers and the boys who drove by whistling
which made no one think of Bruegel or Brussels or the shame
in fact the paper didn’t even print the guy’s name


Copyright © 2016 by Gianmarc Manzione.




Biography:
Gianmarc Manzione’ first collection of poems, This Brevity, was published by Parsifal Press in 2006, portions of which appeared in The Paris Review, The Southern Review, Raritan, and other journals. His work also has appeared in The New York Times, The Southeast Review, Waccamaw, Inkwell, and other journals. His nonfiction book, Pin Action: Small-Time Gangsters, High-Stakes Gambling, and the Teenage Hustler Who Became a Bowling Champion, was released in 2014 by Pegasus Books. He currently works as Editor-in-Chief of Bowlers Journal International, and I lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, with my wife, Brittni, and daughter, Ellianna.


 

 


Michael Milburn


Featured in ArLiJo Issue No. 89


Pose

He went for the classic
arm over shoulders,
pulled in, best buddies look,
whereas my arms hung stiff
until I draped one over him,
gingerly, a little allergically,
not from lack of affection,
but an instinct for physical recoil,
like my visible flinch
when someone hugs me from behind.

He gets his demonstrativeness
from his mother.
From me he gets ı
nothing tangible, I think—
maybe perseverance,
though I’m only capable of that on a good day,
the kind on which
I can see in this photo
how much I have closed our distance,
gained that ground.


Copyright ©2016 by Michael Milburn.



Venom


I like this word
for what a bee uses
to overcome its buzzing insignificance;
like what my mind unleashes
on perceived enemies,
although, unthreatened,
I’m a little mystified as to the cause
of my constant gush
of poisonous thoughts
like a prehistoric species trait or family legacy
of men spewing to themselves
and their humoring wives.

As steady as a humming
is this hostility,
though the fact
that a bee need not release
and in doing so depletes
wrecks my analogy
because I can’t keep mine in,
draw on an endless ready supply,
and give my victims
no rueful consolation of knowing
that having stung
I died.


Copyright ©2016 by Michael Milburn.



Strong Silent

Tall quiet men
are expected
to speak meaningfully
as if not talking much from on high
qualifies us
as gurus of talking,

but just because I don’t contribute regularly
as my teachers scolded me
doesn’t mean that when I do
I want a damned papal audience.
Yet let one inanity
or flopped joke escape

and listeners look at me
as if wondering why
I haven’t parted a sea.
Like film fans
who confuse actors with their roles
strangers suppose

that just because
I loom looking
stern and withheld
Iım reserving anything like wisdom.
What a relief, then,
after I speak stupidly

to be listened to
without expectation
because only then am I capable
of impressing, just as expected
to impress,
I disappoint.

Copyright ©2016 by Michael Milburn.


Biography
Michael Milburn teaches English in New Haven, CT. His poetry has been published most recently in Poetry East and Mudlark. His third book of poems, Carpe Something, appeared from Word Press in 2012.

 

 
Leona Sevick


Featured in ArLiJo Issue No. 89



Self-help


First, get yourself a good cast iron pot. Don’t skimp.
You know what kind; you see them everywhere
and think Who would pay that much for a fucking pot?
You will. Go to every Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and
Home Goods in a hundred mile radius, and maybe
you’ll get lucky and find an odd colored one—
mustard yellow or baby shit brown’marked way down
because some people only care about how these things
look, not what they do. My aunt’s like this.
Had a pantry full in every variation—grill pan,
Dutch oven, braiser, you name it. I don’t think her
manicured hand (always holding a Virginia Slim)
ever touched one. Even if you don’t find one cheap,
get one. Steal it if you have to. I won’t judge.

Once you get your pot, you’ll know why you have it.
This pot can do anything and perfectly, every time.
Fancy a fry up? You have your pot. Need a twenty minute
cry? You’ll have a perfect risotto when it’s over.
Want to make grand statements with a heavy thud
while you’re tidying up? Turn to your pot.
Soak your pot for no longer than 30 minutes and you’ll
be able to wipe whatever’s stuck to it free with a
soft sponge. No need for a man to provide some
elbow grease. You can do it on your own.

In old pictures of refugees, the ones that show women
with their bundles tied tight with string, there is always
a pot balanced on top of their precious possessions.
You’ll never wonder again what it all means.


Copyright ©2016 by Leona Sevick.



Wishing Doll


He’s squatted on the bookshelf for years,
hardly drawing dust on his crimson jacket,

even after weeks of neglect. Faithlessly
I’ve dusted him, felt the multitude of ridges

hardened from the paper and flour
he’s formed from, fingered the depression

of his face that looks like an even bite
from an artificial apple. His painted

eyebrows form the hopeful wings of a crane.
Chop hairs, meant to look like tortoise shells,

are rushed and uneven, the shoddy work
of a quick-handed man cranking out

Daruma dolls at piece-work rate.
The white businessman likely to buy him

doesn’t know craft from conveyor-work.
Looking toward the corner

of the room, catching the eyes
that seem to follow wherever I go,

I swear he sometimes winks at me.
Weighted at the bottom, my little man

resists the temptation to fall over,
to lie still and wait for it to be over.

Seven times down and eight times up
is what the Japanese say, and I know this is

a metaphor for my life, for everyone’s life.
The second eye, Sharpied in by the man of my

house, makes me think I should set my own
goals, that I should pack my bags and head to

the other side of the world where I can
burn him up and start again.


Copyright ©2016 by Leona Sevick.



Burn the Ships


Fearing his soldiers would choose the safety of what they knew
over the promise of what they didn’t,

Cortés set all his mighty ships afire, stranding himself
and his men in unfriendly Veracruz.

It is a glorious story, much better than the anguished
truth: the mutiny uncovered, the sad scuttling

of the ships that sent them creaking into the sea,
no gorgeous blaze to mark their beautiful demise.

How he must have suffered. The bitter betrayal,
the unknown world he had yet to conquer.

When we burn our ships we want to picture them
ablaze behind us, the heat warming our necks

as we move from the crackling destruction.
Instead, there is only the sucking sound of sinking,



Copyright ©2016 by Leona Sevick.


Biography
Leona Sevick’s work appears in The Journal, Barrow Street, Potomac Review, and Poet Lore and is forthcoming in American Arts Quarterly and North American Review. She is the 2012 first place winner of the Split This Rock Poetry contest, judged by Naomi Shihab Nye and a semi-finalist for the Philip Levine Poetry Prize. Her first chapbook, Damaged Little Creatures, was published in 2015 by FutureCycle Press (www.leonasevick.com). She is provost at Bridgewater College in Virginia.