There Were No Tulips

Michal Leibowitz

that winter, but the crows stayed.
Ruffled their skins from the telephone
wires. Crowed as they were wont to do.
We did not ask for things
to be anything

but what they were. Still,
I wrote you. Compared your hands
to flat top mesas. Compared your lips
to December’s vane.

Winter had always been
a blade. Like your paring knife on a chestnut’s
leather, like a scalpel on the wet
membranes of a frog.

It was not the seasons that changed.

May Psalm

for Devon

Michal Leibowitz

Outside, the fields are shaved
with silence. The school
children whisper something
about a girl.

In Katonah, spring
likes to make an entrance.

She numbs me.

I write a piece of dust
and forget

to pray.

Sunshine Liquidators

Kai Carlson-Wee
 

Biking through downtown Bellingham,
nothing but partyboys staggering back
to their cars in the dark, the sound
of a distant muffler, the hum of a vent
where the bakers are kneading the bread,
we stop at the Sunshine Liquidators,
opening bag after bag of garbage,
hoping for bread or chips or eggs
or cartons of soymilk, one day expired.
My brother moves quietly over his
headlamp, handing me over-ripe plantains
and mangoes, Hass avocados from San Joaquin,
spoiled and black in my hands. Maybe
there’s something to save here, he says,
passing a flat sack of carrot cake muffins,
a Styrofoam package of trout. Above us
the motion-light glosses a window,
bending our shadows against the far wall,
kinking our heads at the hard angles.

A wound in the old city

Ethan Chua

The poems bleed out of Lithai,
the poems line the thoroughfares of Chaliang,
the poems come out of lava bricks
half-formed.

Holes in temple walls left by the exhalations
of volcanoes. The piercing quill, the bullet-riddled
landscape, the aching lotus feet of monks,
sunken bodhi trees and palms. Lithai speaks;
two breaths mix in the Thailand heat. In the ruin,
the Buddha’s lip hangs like a silent precipice. Mottled
light drains through the ubosoth. A thousand
misshapen, expectant eyes. It feels like something
must be born.

The creak of an ox cart wheel, the muddy prints
of elephants’ feet on the thoroughfare cutting through
Chaliang, cutting through the stupa - the knife, the altar,
the sacrifice. Between palms, a piercing quill. Twice into the air,
a prayer.

The earth has been wounded enough. Centuries later,
we excavate the finger of a god. Tusks cleft from stone
elephants leave them with the features of dogs.

The poems bleed out of the riverbed,
the drought, the creeping algae blocking out
the sun’s misshapen eyes from lotus leaves. The eyes ribbon
‘round a thousand unrung bells. Bronze hollows which
old women say speak in Ramkamhaeng’s voice.
We excavate the sound of kings. We excavate the prophet’s
muddied brows. We wait, and kneel, and scuff our knees
on Chaliang’s violent bricks. The susurrations of the earth.
The gouges on our skin shaping out words.

Camel

Michelle Jia

When I say beloved I mean
a body safe to walk into.
A white gut, good for painting,
drum-taut filaments of questionable
taste. Some days
I cannot believe how young
I am; some days I feel
misplaced. My disproportionate
love for Nothing, No One, etc.
like a robe I woke up
wearing, sewn with such
dumb levity–I made
my new svelte skin. Finally! Unable
to articulate the old raisons d’être,
I might say: the face is just a face,
and no one knows
when we will meet again.

Splendid. I feel like God now:
useless, but still good to have around.
I laugh; I bluff; I stick my head
in a velvet box and seal the top,
just to feel smaller
than something.

& soil

Talia Flores

in the bulb of a wet cheek /
a plant sprouts. illuminated
prism / in the spit of caves.
here grows / the heart of a
flower, / a black hole or /
reverse birth. / out of cracked
blood / seeps tulips
freshened stems / caught in
vermilion; / a skin bark and
muscled green. / she combs
her hair to turn it into moss. /
her legs / are those fallen logs
inverted, earthy sestinas /
bark muscled green.

Ting Wei

Juliana Chang

Mommy, what is
                                                     Ting Wei?
媽媽 , 什麼是

they put you on my green card
when I was six months old,
immigration officer squinting as
mother repeated over and over 庭瑋,
                                     her name is              .
it’s nearly five o’clock and
he’s tired too, scrawls down whatever
he thinks he hears
in pen, signs the form.

you are the first correction I make
on the first day of every class.
when they ask for you at the bank
or at the airport, I edit you
asterisked, unrecognizable.

are you the distorted English
of the immigrant American,
or the broken Mandarin
of the tainted Taiwanese?
are you both,
am I both,
are you the transliteration of
what I turned out to be?

if I asked you, would you even know
it was you
I was calling?
 

Reynisfjara Beach

Tyler Dunston

I’m losing track of all the photographs my brother took.
In the town where all the houses look like candy wrappers.
Half the photos were deleted.
Half my memories are fog. Listening to distant calls.

In the town where all the houses look like candy wrappers,
we walked until we made it to the sea. Looking from the pier,
(half my memories are fog) we listened to the distant calls
of birds that sound like people underwater.

We walked until we made it to the sea. Looking from the pier
I saw his lens his eyes cast out over the waves.
Birds that sound like people underwater
cried out, the sound came out in bursts.

I saw his lens his eyes cast over the waves
of the black sand beach. Where some got too close to the sea
and cried out, the sound came out in bursts.
We stuck to the rocks and photographed the tide from a distance.

The black sand beach, where some got too close to the sea,
was my brother’s sanctuary. He took photos to remember.
We stuck to the rocks and photographed the tide from a distance.
We couldn’t allow the black sand beach to leave us.
My brother’s sanctuary. He took photos to remember.
(Half the photos were deleted.)
We couldn’t allow the black sand beach to leave us.
I’m losing track of all the photographs my brother took.

 

Agent and Instrument Nouns

Stephanie Niu

spontaneous word innovations:
how do children proceed?

1. the connection between old meanings and new ones is transparent
2. devices most productive in the language
3. adherence to conventionality

necessary for grasping
the essential nature of language as a communication system
even
one-year-olds ask for the names of things.

             children relinquish their own innovations.

I’ve got a picture here of
something that burns.
pen-and-ink drawing of someone
eliciting some response (even if it was ‘I don’t know’).

it’s not a pair of scissors.
what else could you call something you cut with?

children’s spontaneous speech:
to rule from ruler, meaning ‘measure’
to trait from traitor, meaning ‘to betray.’
little doubt that most three-year-olds understand.

begin with the transparent
             a rainer
only later discover the meaning
             ‘someone who drives rain away’

             a hugger-people
was used only by the youngest children.
             hitter-man, knocker-man, hider-man

older children
conformed to the conventions.
             fisherman,
             washerwoman.
but
the same person can cut, hit, climb, open, or burn things.
‘He’s a shoveler; he’s also a man.’

the asymmetry
most striking when
nouns like man or machine begin to yield their place.


Author's Note:
Found poem written using phrases from the linguistics paper published in Cognition, 1982 by EV Clark. 

Temple

Emma Jackson-Smith

Great Salt Lake, 1847

Their hands were cracked like the salt flats
under their toes, when they put down their homes
from out their hands – no horses to draw their
carts, the women took the job, and pulled, and
Pulled – and he (we'll call him Samuel), four
years old, asked her, have we grown scales,
we look like turtles, when will we go back
Home,--
         across the way, the sky, swelling with
Reds, itself pregnant, began to bid its servants
That they soon dig their hands into the earth,
Pluck out what bricks they can, make sacrifice
Of their limbs, and build something lovely,
So soon, someone will paint it, then another,
For fireplaces.
                                                               A command
which inspired the Father to tell his people,
This is the Place.
                              (and unlike with the other
thirty-four Places, because of the sky's ability to
form a quality backdrop, his sea of women
believed him this time)
                                             their tide was something
you couldn't swim through; she saw how
He stepped, the swagger that convinced their
fathers all of his Heavenly; how her voice
was silenced in the hope of all that Soul; and
her boy hadn't that swagger. They had
too many boys, not enough girls, so she knew
they had to shed some off, maintain imbalance.
She looked back down, and wished to tell her boy
of days foreseen, of hers alone in the otherwise
abandoned cabin, then of his loneliness.
Here they will wring women dry, replace them, have
excess men, so at twelve, after Samuel, his hands
unworn, can measure up to the peephole,
He will try to go back to his front door, and it
will not open.
                           He will cry to his mother's
New God, O, give me shelter in this salt, so dry,
They will not let me in.