the sun is rising / michelle red elk

the sun is rising,
the sun is the capacity
lends itself to blooming.
a hand to the limbs beginning.
a single branch can commute miles
back and forth across waterways,
through deserts harsh ground
it is the situation of blessing
the recollection of pecan groves
hundreds of years old.
to fancy the man who would never be photographed,
to know his image well
down to the spine of the last
feather in the hair.
to follow a song clearly
through the line of fire
disregarding boundaries and remote orders.
obedience is for official pact makers,
wrapped in beavers fur
blotting swollen eyes with silk handkerchiefs
over millions in gold dust
now under current in rivers.
the consequence hits only investors
for now the boats sail sharply
and the waters edge glitters.
revenge is in the telling of the story,
the history books shadows
a highway full of broken bodies,
a bushel full of bottles,
pounds and pounds of tongues
and shelters made of lace.
and then there is the dream:
where coal forced nothing,
the gift of the horse was anonymous,
allotment and reserve have no meaning,
no knives around necks.
sometimes it is easier to know what
you wish not to have
than what exactly you wish for.
but the dream was once of a white mask
flashing and shooting out the sun,
now the dream is that that face
never flashed one minute
and a single dance could
turn the song around.

Besides Myself: Upon reading The Unabomber Manifesto/Mark Flanigan

We’ve been warned before
By prophets
Only through their failures—
Blessed Blake’s chimney
Comes to mind, not
Those whose names were
In exchange for being heard.

This, too, shall be your fate.
For the petty crime of
Being unable
To match vision with
Of being incompetent
In rendering your presence

He was right after all, they’ll lament.
We should have listened.

Yet, you will not find yourself
Proving impotent to inspire
The masses
To swallow the prescription.

Really, how many children have you?
How many readers?
Allow me
To be a father to you
And show you the first step: See
Who, even now, stands before you—
The Natural.

Sure, your vision
May create more room
For the birth of hope, and though
The World be indeed defiled,
No matter,

Still no one will ever argue
With certain success
The fact that It is mine and,
Exactly where It should be.

the mercy / michelle red elk

who enters birth by mercy
I recall fever
motion inflicted by sheer trance
where water declared delicate thin innocence
whole notes rotate some curled mandolin
ceremonial masks signed with native mud
strengthened until blind men see.
our medicine captured small birds
rendered in thread.
our coldest winter tormented missionary breath
sudden truth to shipwreck christened saints.
round and round fragile water
under yellow skin
somewhere beneath youth arranged in rows.
pride is an illness rising out of pain
of rich embroidered features when it rains unbending senses
fears in force
recurrent dreams.
who burned forgiveness
we are twelve recaptured enemy
with revealed sight to stand astonishing
amongst customary man
despite ambassadors who sound oil
they say dreams curtain madness.
who rode or stood motionless amid the sea
the newborn fowl are fallen fossilized
with medicine to sound in the dark
when grace presses language to song.
we were as the birds
as man and fish, flesh and scale
scaled red to red
where language is unlettered
untented we shall not feel force
we stand crowned spearmen
gathering notes to document the birds
small musicians delivered from trees
hatched perfect.
caught, I shall go back to no maps
the sea removes men to save men
cast as seeds in the oceans rim
one time children came and lifted grace to the dead
the air is crowned with them.
I am torn, I drown, I drown
I am double hollow, I drown
I am feathers and red.

For a Coming Extinction / W.S. Merwin

Gray whale
Now that we are sending you to The End
That great god
Tell him
That we who follow you invented forgiveness
And forgive nothing

I write as though you could understand
And I could say it
One must always pretend something
Among the dying
When you have left the seas nodding on their stalks
Empty of you
Tell him that we were made
On another day

The bewilderment will diminish like an echo
Wandering along your inner mountains
Unheard by us
And find its way out
Leaving behind it the future
And ours

When you will not see again
The whale calves trying the light
Consider what you will find in the black garden
And its court
The sea cows the Great Auks the gorillas
The irreplaceable hosts ranged countless
And fore-ordaining as stars
Our sacrifices
Join your word to theirs
Tell him
That it is we who are important

June 13 / Andrew Mandelbaum

Her limbs tremble
In a deep place
In the brine
she is pierced and hemorrhaging the dark spill of our weakness

We continue to show up to work
To pay our rents
To eat from the bowl on the floor
This is the flag of our appalling domestication

Tell me that worms ferry the fires of revolt
Tell me mutiny is feigning death and will arise

Wake me with a feral grasp
Kiss the sleeping hunger until it is wide and beyond taming

Tell me that the worms ferry the fires of revolt while the orchard arms itself and prepares to take on again the terrible uncontrolled substance of the forest

Let me descend home to primate, to poet, to person
Let me burn

Shine, Perishing Republic / Robinson Jeffers

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening
to empire
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the
mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots
to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and deca-
dence; and home to the mother.

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stub-
bornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains:
shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thick-
ening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there
are left the mountains.
And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant,
insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught--they say--
God, when he walked on "

Homa / Michelle Castleberry

A homa is an ancient Vedic ceremony in which offerings are cast into fire. The offerings become both sacrifice and message. It can be performed to bless, to purify, to protect, or to celebrate. In ancient times the fire sacrifice was an elaborate ceremony that could involve the sacrifice of horses, cows, and goats, as well as.…gems and other precious items cast into the fire.

In my memory it is like a shoebox diorama, that night we went to the Manhattan after dinner. I barely recognized you outside of work, in everyday clothes, your black-on-black uniform gone. There we were, two little pipe cleaner counselors bent over drinks. Mine a glass thimble of beer, yours a tiny amber bead of scotch. Off-duty helpers, talking shop.

Later, I asked about your paintings and how they came to you. Whenever I talk to painters I feel the same as when approaching horses; one part captivated to two parts afraid. You told me about a woman who (did I hear this right?) wanted to buy and then "trim" your painting to fit above her couch? Then you told me about the house fire.

Agni, the god of fire, is both a deity and a way to address other gods.

Dear friend, I don't know how to make peace with fire, even in poetry because I was schooled in hellfire before God-is-love. That is why I cannot, even in a pretty piece of writing, make sense of paintings on fire. If I call it a sacrifice of horses, it is beautiful only here, and only in the way that some scars are beautiful.

Or maybe, if you go back and throw something into that house on fire and smudge the ash on your forehead, it becomes a durga homa—an offering to remove negative energies. To protect you from the art-blind buyers of art. To make fire-horse gods out of oil and canvas, quick to carry the message that is now and forever being sent in the air, a warning, a promise, a prayer.

Two Objects/Three Rooms - excerpts from the novel HeavenLight by Mark Katzman


A benevolent power, I have materialized from the unknown.
I am not of this world.
It is strange here. All is strange.
Passion. Suffering. Indifference.
I am a friend of the Earth.
I wish you peace.


Bliss and emptiness, emptiness and bliss.
Thou art that.

R O O M 25

They’re watching Eraserhead.
Henry’s staring at the radiator. Tripping out.
I like his hair. It’s disturbing. The whole movie is disturbing.
That fucking baby, man. My God. The dinner scene. The hemorrhaging miniature chicken. The clinking and the clanking. Sound-track from another dimension.
The woman with the weird cheeks--freak-out city.
I can’t understand how it’s turning them on. It’s sick.
The trouble is, this is the third fucking time they’ve watched it.
Me, I’m absorbing the Xanax they brought along. A room can only take so much strangeness.

R O O M 40
This here’s the story of Big Jack. Quite a happening dude. Her pleasure plaything. Her life-size inflatable love-doll.
Big Jack, have you read any Beckett?
“Yes. Molloy is my favorite. Very amusing.”
Have you read the Buddhist Sutras?
Big Jack, have you lived previous lives?
Do you enjoy having a hard-on forever?
“It’s ok.,”
Does God exist, Big Jack?
Have you ever prayed?
“I pray constantly.”
To whom do you pray?
“The Source.”
Do you care for Giacometti’s Head of a Man on a Rod, circa 1947?
“Yes. It’s a favorite of mine. I also like the portrait of his mother. It’s very intense.”
Big Jack, you’re really a cultured guy.
“I try to keep up.”
Do you enjoy your owner, Loretta?
“Very much.”
What does she like?
“Loretta likes to put me in her ass.”
How do you feel about that?
“I don’t mind.”
What does it feel like to be an inflatable love-doll made out of rubber, Big Jack?
“Nothing special.”
Is our essential nature one of voidness, Big Jack?
Big Jack, you’re a happening dude indeed.
“Thank you.”

R O O M 43
This one. Woo. One strange invader.
He was here with his loved one, Miss Magic Mouth.
“Miss Magic Mouth, things have gotten a little dull between us, a little stale. And now here we are. Just the two of us. We won’t be disturbed. It’s our chance to renew our love. I’ll just get us unpacked so we can settle in. Here, let’s get you out of your case. You must be a wreck. I’ll comb your hair. There. Come into my arms. I want to kiss your red lips. Mmmm, that was nice. You’re warming up to me just as I dreamed you would. Let’s open the drapes. Look, Miss Magic Mouth, the beach, the sea! Oh, how beautiful! See how excited I am! Our trip is already a success. Why don’t we lie on the bed, sweetheart. I need you to take my love.”
He slept with his precious plastic head between his arms every night.
And, though her big, blank eyes spoke nothing, he was the happiest man in the world.

Found Jesus / Bob Brussack

All that she was,
and it was plenty,
was reduced by a scrub-faced preacher
at 1:13 p.m. on the afternoon they buried her
to this: in the final days before she left us, she found Jesus.
And maybe she did.
In a way.
“Nobody’s an atheist in a foxhole.”
So maybe she did.
Maybe she untethered herself
from all the evidence
and covered herself in a Jesus blanket.
I’ll probably do something similar,
push comes to shove comes to penultimate.
But what’s that the lawyers say
about consent under duress?
Anyhow, those of us who actually knew her
knew that, her physique notwithstanding,
she was pixie-souled.
Life’s a cabaret, old chum.
And she was in a hurry,
maybe because she’d known most of her life
that her life would be shorter than most.
Something about her kidneys.
Her wry wit poured from her
as if frantic to escape a condemned building in a tremor.
Her eyes sparkled behind her glasses.
A tilt of her lip gave her away
when she wanted her zingers
to sneak up on you unawares.
Okay, maybe she found Jesus.
But all that she was,
and it was plenty,
will not be cabined
within the claim
of an epiphanic moment.

Exploration Deplorations / Grady Thrasher

BP’s Lament

So, we had a blowout under the sea,
A tiny spill in a great big ocean,
No problem for us here at BP,
It’s only oil, why all the commotion? 

But, wait!
How do we solve a problem like our oil spill?
Before it’s fouling everything around!
How do we make the world think
we mean no ill?
Our media team is steady
A handy phrase is ready:
“Such a little bit of oil and so far down.”

It wasn’t our fault, really,
don’t you know that?
Transocean, maybe Halliburton—either or!
Let NOAA estimate the leakage, we’ll just stand pat.
We’re neither worried nor demented;
our liability’s limited!
That’s what we pay and use our lobbyists for!

But, wait!
We better solve the problem of the oil spill
before it drags our profits to the ground.
We tried to stop the spillage with a “Top Kill”;
golf balls just wouldn’t choke that gusher down!
Hey! We’ll just drill another well,
then all will be so swell.
Those beaches will look fine an oily brown.

The Politicians’ Lament 

How do we solve a problem like a BP?
They’re handling offshore drilling like a clown!
They said we’d make a killing
With their fail-safe deep sea drilling,
but now they’re killing all sea life around!
They’ve even set the Gulf ablaze!
(But in the ensuing oily haze,
they’ve kept those campaign payments coming ‘round).

But, wait!
How do we solve a problem like this oil spill--
now that it’s 300 miles around?
Constituents are clamoring for answers!
It’s time for us to climb to higher ground!
We’ll tell BP to pay,
and listen to what we say!
(Like, keep those campaign payments coming ‘round.)

The People’s Lament 

How do we cure a problem like this oil spill
and keep our Gulf shores from turning brown?
How do we keep the sludge away from every beach and marsh and bay?
BP’s hamfisted tries
and politicians’ lies
show only that solutions can’t be found!

There is many a word that we would like to tell them
More than “We’re glad your stock is going down!”
“Your callous pursuit of offshore drilling
has caused such needless wildlife killing!”
“Louisiana’s delta’s not your dumping ground!”
They say BP will pay
--don’t hold your breath for that payday--
while our vital ecosystems choke and drown.


Will Big Oil and government ban such offshore drilling?
They say, “But that’s where oil and gas is”.
Will they ever stop the killing
and restore our marshy grasses?
Not likely. Why?
Their respective points of view
can’t see what’s plain to me and you:
Their heads are too far up each other’s asses!