Living Room Yoga/Language of the Dog by Maj Ragain

My wife is practicing yoga in our living room,
a bare chested, beautiful man, Rodney Yee,
directing her every move, on the flat screen TV.

A down dog, then, exhale.

Push up, upward dog.

Jump into a squat. Strongly flex your feet.

Open your chest.

His yoga mat is spread out in a grassy field
overlooking the blue Pacific. In the distance I see
what must be Diamond Head, Hawaii.
Closer is LuAnn, following his every move.

Feel your thighbones as you touch your hamstrings.

Inhale upward dog.

On the floor behind her,
I lean on a sore left elbow and sip cold coffee.
I love this woman now, until my last breath.
It took years for me to lift my stone heart,
the size of one of those purple exercise balls
rolling around in the tropic sunshine,
to lift it, to offer it to her.

The screen goes blank. My wife Lu rolls up her rainbow yoga mat.
She walks barefoot to the kitchen to begin the clatter of supper.

All day I have been staring
down into the deep throat of war,
its cold darkness, searching for the faces
of my friends the veterans in whose
nightmares the Betties still bounce
and the punjis stick.

Dog soldiers, dogs of war,

upward dogs, downward dogs.

Dog tags, they are fixed to the trigger guard
on the rifle of the fallen soldier,
the rifle staked barrel down into the earth,
so he may be identified later, this downward dog.
Name, rank, serial number embossed
in the words and numbers of the living.

Now, a downward dog, then, exhale.

Then, open your chest.

No one knows the language of the dead.

A Man's World, 1966 / Michelle Castleberry

“Hair and teeth. A man got those two things he's got it all.”
—James Brown

The woman just out of the frame
could be adjusting a wreath or crown
from the way your eyes roll up
under the weight of some blessing
or coronation, some syncopated call.
Good God! 

Instead, your attendant takes out
a series of yellow and pink hair curlers
before shaping that righteous bouffant.
The broad Apache cheekbones cup the light
and your face tilts like a saint’s.
Watch me! 

The dark spindrift of hair and full mouth,
the heavy torso of a kouros under the Japanese robe.
I don’t know karate but I know cuh-razy!
It takes a lot of man to be this pretty.

Not yet the white noise of the crowd,
not yet the hot lights or the banshee cries
that come from a place
not even you recognize.
There’s still time to hear the sound of
a theater holding its breath,
the popgun snap of chairs folded shut and
stacked, cramped wallflowers shunned
off the still drumhead of the floor.

Until then, your dresser breathes and hums
around the bobby pins in her mouth.
She is barely heard over the
phantom music of the set list in your head.
You run the changes and tumble
the songs like dominos, like dice, like coins.

Based on Diane Arbus’ photograph “James Brown at home in curlers, Queens, N.Y., 1966”

2 poems by Bob Brussack

Sailors on the Electric Sea

We are the sailors on the electric sea,
Bound for imaginary destiny.
Born to the oar,
Who knows what for,
Let’s raise a glass to irony.

Little Electron

Things cohere, by whose decree?
Who declared this quantum affinity?
Plus and minus, p and e —
Little electron, who made thee?

Exhumation/Shelly Griska

I don't want to see the bones,
armature of an instance
that dared voice the ineffable
binding and separating eyes
countless and disparate as
pebbles coalescing into beach.

Leave him an apparition dissolving
into constellations of particulars,
motley kinships of castaway treasures,
garbage christ with hands mangled
by the roots of olivine prophecy,
one eye a doll, the other an urn,
and lips of the mad fisherwoman
who saw herself netted
in strangers' stories.

Shimmering cloaks of words
like crystal tambourines shatter
the bridge from atom to galaxy,
conjure fragmented mirages
hinting mute paradox,
all else chaff for the fire
at the end of each
lonely universe.

No bones to be found, nor flesh,
no face but a bricolage that
dreamt itself a man now lost,
reassembled by stranger friends
who feel his whole in fragments,
closer than their own gaudi masks.

Elemental/Michael McQuarrie

I am a mountain
solid stone, immovable
made of soil and flesh
rising up from my mother's crust.
I am a geologist's dream,
and if you examine my faults,
my crosscut layers,
my superpositioning,
you'll find the history of earthquakes,
the titanic wars of tectonic plates
beneath my rocky surface

Fire Girl,
when you set foot on my slopes,
you set me ablaze like the San Gabriels
in dry midsummer;
you baptize my skin in your flames
and leave charred ash in your wake;
you destroy and remake my surface
but I am still
crushed soil and firm stone

When I tell you I am immovable, Fire Girl,
you who can burn with the brightest powers of destruction
who can rise from your own ashes,
who can eclipse the sun in magnitude
and burn your aura more intensely than all my passions combined,
Fire Girl,

simply cannot move me

For all that I'm drawn to you
I'm going to seek water--
a dark rain to soak beneath my topsoil,
nourish my forests,
a blue river that will feed my ecosystems,
reflect my moods in the afternoon sky,
a tempest that will rage beautifully
and leave images formed from seaweed on my beaches

Water Girl, seep into my soil
and my roots will find you,
draw you up into my trunk,
circulate you through my heart
into my arms
where you will sprout into words,

And in return, my beautiful and fearsome ocean,
I will be your island.
When you grow weary,
when your waves lap my rocky shores,
you'll find that I am brimming with life
you have never seen--
finches that put nutshells back together
after devouring the meat,
lizards with victorian frills and top hats,
two-story tortoises with actual mosaics
painted on their shells

Where your waves meet my shores,
we will grow reefs
filled with crescent-tailed moonfish,
socially anxious crabs, sea zebras
and supernova starfish

Fire Girl,
you'll never understand
why I dance barefoot in the mud
during lightning storms,
how the rain pattering the window
douses your fading embers,
why I drink so much
after heated conversations with you;
You're too busy
trying to crackle over the aquariums
shored up on my bedroom walls