— after Linda Gregg
What things are lost? Not the trees.
Not the small shells we’ve gathered and displayed
on our bookshelves, which call to the ocean
The winds are not lost as we are.
Worn bottle fragments experience our hands.
But not like our bodies experience one another.
Apologetic and shy, we stutter.
Wanting satiety and longing all at once
and what that means. Nothing holds us here
yet we stay. Nothing remembers what
we have been
to each other. We pause, stop sometimes
at this realization, as the wind blows,
as the ground swells with spring.
As we untangle what we are, alone and together.
Perched on a future we cannot know.
What these bodies resist.
Our fingers quiver like wings.
Dana Guthrie Martin (website) lives and writes in eastern Washington state. Her poetry collections include In the Space Where I Was (Hyacinth Girl Press, forthcoming), Toward What Is Awful (YesYes Books, 2012) and The Spare Room (Blood Pudding Press, 2009). Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Boxcar Poetry Review, Alice Blue Review, Failbetter, Fence, Knockout Literary Magazine, Stirring and Vinyl Poetry.
Let’s get two things straight: Collaboration isn’t incarceration or incorporation.
True, collaboration is like incarceration in that handcuffs, particularly the kind lined with faux fur, are absolutely necessary. The collaborative process works best when participants are attached but still able to reach with their free hands. Of course, by “free,” we mean within the context of their material conditions (e.g. diet, geography and astrological determiners).
Collaboration is also like a company in that profit is collected. However, paychecks come in the form of beads and trinkets. Threading these requires a keen eye and a bottle of aspirin. Sharing a set of contact lenses is not advisable, since blurred vision leads to the most desirable outcomes. This is art, after all, not a driving test. Nobody wants or needs collaborative art taking up valuable space on our already congested highways.
Like a brain in the gut, collaborative process challenges the ego. Thoughts smear like cheap mascara on an overly emotional drag queen, which is not to say the collaborative process is overly emotional. In focus groups, collaboration has been called “impersonal” and “emotionally unavailable.” That’s right: Collaboration is your father. However, collaboration has also scored high in the areas of “inappropriate staring” and “monkey business.”
We applaud those who undertook collaboration for this issue. We sympathize with your resulting identity crises and ecstatic spasms. Unfortunately, we only have poetic licenses, which means we can’t dole out any medications to help you return to your isolation chambers. Soon the word “I” will disappear from your vocabulary. You won’t notice when it goes, but might later feel mild tingling and foreign-body sensations in your ribs.
There will also be a slight awkwardness when ordering at restaurants. People will wonder why you always order for two. They will assume you are using the royal “we.” They will never understand you. You are an artist. You are not meant to be understood. Thank you.
Go tell John to stop writing backwards. Stop calling forth unrooted trees. Make broth from worn shoes and empty hands. Stow away family albums and vermouth. Place neon bar signs over your doors. Winnow the undesired shoals into darker waters. Resuscitate the pipe organ. Pound cutlets from abandoned expatriates.
They won’t ply you with ice cream trucks. They cannot play chess. They will not mime a man trapped in soggy tissue paper. They won’t abscond with the escape ladders. They won’t fritter the last hours away on carousels. They will seal every exit but cover their footsteps. They will hesitate before slicing the skies and filling you with sawdust and straw. They will want what you can never say to them unless you are speaking in tongues.
Liquor drizzles the porn collection. Hula hoops enter oncoming traffic. Viaducts volley their occupants. Articulating arms reach out for pulsating bodies, leech heat. Tarot cards shuffle, tell the same story. Fur stoles crawl into knotted piles. Stamp collections peal away from their albums, mail themselves to the past.
In disastrous end-times, you will suffer: unending lines at the grocery store check-out; muscles, unmassaged and unused; queasy silences at the dinner table; the coarse laughter of your daughter’s daughter; a crushing lack of caffeinated beverages; mosquitoes (their bite and buzz); the stench and mortification of eternally unbrushed teeth.
by E.A.P. and Dana Guthrie Martin
windows will shatter before impact
force of forward thrust
fabric will scratch and tear
all escapeways will remain sealed
all lavatories will empty
water into the darkness
by E.A.P. and Dana Guthrie Martin
The Juke Box Needle Hovers Over ‘Could We Start Again Please’ from the “Jesus Christ Superstar” Soundtrack
Each lyric douses Jesus in light waves and sound particles.
The 45’s concentric grooves capture and release
the bar’s stale fluorescent glow, as much a miracle as any.
The many feet, the sagging arms, define the space.
Jesus parts the throng, laying hands on strangers’ thighs.
We become germs and weariness begging for soap, heat and water.
The music starts again, this time without a source.
Jesus looks up, his eyes crackled marbles ushering light
into the bowls of his retinas, small imploding suns.
Elsewhere rags soak in kerosene, entire blocks catch fire,
old padlocks corrode and release all the inmates.
Jesus hears every cry as glossalalia. He stutters into song.
Pretty words won’t live past his teeth. Hard ones marry music.
Jesus taps out rhythm in sudden necessity, raises his arms like driftwood.
We learn food can be sung to, coaxed out of sand and cloud.
Now Jesus moves his body as if conducting a jazz orchestra.
He sways in front of the destruction asking questions of flame.
Bricks blacken, crack. Tar runs in from streets, seals flesh to flesh.
Our skin reddens like the eyes of a tired bartender. Hurt accumulates:
change in a tip jar. Jesus takes cover behind the bar, hunkers
next to thumbed copies of Maxim, Bartending Today and Screw.
Who doesn’t blink in a snow of cinder and ash?
How can the end come down to this: a sound like a trill,
like olive jars trembling on a glass shelf?
Upon autopsy, the neck stump of the parasitic head was shown to contain fragments of bone and tiny vestiges of a heart and lungs.
I could feel your blood circulating inside me,
knew I was killing you, siphoning off
what you needed for myself,
but how could I have been expected
to do otherwise.
On examination, our skulls are one,
locked together like puzzle pieces,
our craniums stacked and sealed
like bricks laid and mortared
by a bricklayer who’d been drinking.
What has a body, even body fragments,
wants to live, has no choice.
The two-headed snake — its brains
struggling to find food — writhes,
gets nowhere until it dies hungry.
I knew something was going wrong
when your body became pale
as rice paper, your blue veins dried up.
And I could not turn my head
to look you in the eyes.
If you can’t see the movie, you need to download Flash.
skin held together with epoxy…..with ligatures
what wants to pull apart when the body is no longer of service
what falls into disuse as soon as blood stops circulating
(the mass spread before we could catch it
maybe you need some time alone
here’s someone you can call
they should be able to assist you)
lament for the ICU
lament for the gathering sky
lament for masturbation
lament for holidays
lament for morphine
lament for making no sense
lament for aphasia
III. Choking Hazards
swollen tongue….cotton rags
too many syllables in the throat
breath held in the chest….fluid into lungs
medical implements used for the going-over
IV. The Body
what has gone unnoticed for years
what has given us no reason to complain
where is the ripcord….the safety manual
why can’t the dismissal be temporary
the weight of weight
final acts….an untidy separation
before going under
we all laugh the drunken laugh
of the soon to be sliced open