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death

Tower of Babel

My reward for waking: close walls
and limestone dust, spit
evaporating from my tongue. First

I count and recount
my toes, throw out grain
for the carp, snatch a femur

Illustration by Chloe Scheffe

An Invocation of the Big-Eared Runt

The first time he appeared to Pablo was on the bus during the nine-thirty tour. It happened during a pause in the narration while they rode from the restaurant that had belonged to Emilia Basil (the dismemberer) to the building where Yiya Murano (the poisoner) had lived. 

Illustration by Chloe Scheffe

Amsterdam

In Amsterdam I lived with a man who was always sad. His younger brother had died in a car crash when my lover was sixteen. Though it had been thirteen years since the accident, he carried the loss as if it were an heirloom. He had brought the loss from Copenhagen, where he was raised, to London, where we met. And now in Amsterdam, I felt it in our flat, its foggy chill. I watched him while he was sleeping and saw the sadness flutter behind his eyelids. Sometimes when he woke, he was on the brink of tears. His name was Örjan, and I began to think of the umlaut over the O as a mark of sorrow: It hovered like a shadow. 

The first time I invited Örjan into my bed was right after he told me about his brother. I pulled the story out, unraveling him line by line, until he began to shudder and weep and I had to wrap my body around his. I liked his sadness, the way it made his silences seem full. When he tied on his running shoes and set out for a jog, I knew he had demons to outrun. When he stared, unblinking, into his coffee, I was sure he was thinking that if his brother were still alive, he would now be twenty-seven, the same age as me. 

Illustration by Chloe Scheffe

Galicia

Antje came to Spain three years ago. She worked as a hotel maid in San Sebastián, where she met Mathis and married him. He was a manager at the hotel. He was eight years older. She was twenty-four and had left Germany after her mother died. Her mother had been in Kabul, serving as an engineer in the Bundeswehr. Antje had never traveled abroad before.

Elegy on the Far Bank


i.m. Greg Greger (1923–2015)

I. West of Chekhov

A month since Father died. Back in our old house, 
sisters, where were we? Desert of childhood, 
      great preserver, 

for you we opened another closet.
Father the farm boy––what didn’t he save?
      There his Army jacket 

Illustration by Corey Brickley

Location

The camp was deserted when they trekked into it. The tall canvas tents were zipped and the big table in the midst of the glade was clear but for a monkey that looked up when Simon approached. The monkey bared its teeth and screeched. Simon stepped back. One of the creature’s eyes, he noticed, was partly closed. A line of scar tissue ran from brow to cheek, over the corner of the eyelid. Rayyan picked up a branch and jabbed at the animal until it climbed off the tabletop and loped in the direction of the trees on toes and knuckles. “Bad monkeys in this park,” said Rayyan. He took a cloth from his pocket and wiped the table before he invited Simon to sit. It was a rough wooden table, made of felled saplings knotted together. They sat opposite each other in canvas chairs and resumed their conversation about Rayyan’s favorite topic: Manchester United. “Antonio Valencia,” Rayyan said. He exhaled and shook his head slowly and sadly. “Always they put him in the wrong position.”

Elegy for the Bully

You have always been nosebleed 
     and nail-bite, the spit-shined halls 
where you harvested us with your tribal 
     clang. Too long we saw your face 
in every shadow, felt the whole forest 
     await your arrival like a nagging frost.  

An Elegy for My Doppelgänger

Turner, a celebrity chef, wrote Brian Turner’s
Favourite British Recipes: Classic Dishes
from Yorkshire Pudding to Spotted Dick. He played 
drums for the horror-punk band Schoolyard Heroes,
played hockey for New Zealand in the sixties, lifted
the impossible as the eighth-strongest man in the world.

Impossible Bottle. By Claudia Emerson. LSU, 2015. 65p. PB, $17.95.

Ecstatic Sorrow

Claudia Emerson, who died in December 2014, had come to be known as a poet capable of revealing startling discoveries inside quiet, quotidian circumstances. Her poems are set mostly in Southern rural and small-town scenes, moments in ordinary lives that would normally elude anyone else’s attention.

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