Sixfold poetry summer 20.., p.1
Sixfold Poetry Summer 2016, p.1Sixfold
Sixfold Poetry Summer 2016
Copyright 2016 Sixfold and The Authors
Sixfold is a completely writer-voted journal. The writers who upload their manuscripts vote to select the prize-winning manuscripts and the short stories and poetry published in each issue. All participating writers’ equally weighted votes act as the editor, instead of the usual editorial decision-making organization of one or a few judges, editors, or select editorial board.
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Cover Art by Carly Larsson. Thyme Pattern.
Copyright 2016 Sixfold and The Authors. This issue may be reproduced, copied, and distributed for noncommercial purposes, provided both Sixfold and the Author of any excerpt of this issue are acknowledged. Thank you for your support.
Garrett Doherty, Publisher
Sixfold Poetry Summer 2016
Sarah Sansolo | Bedtime Stories & other poems
Miranda Cowley Heller | Things the Tide Has Discarded & other poems
Alexa Poteet | Escobar's Hacienda Napoles & other poems
Cynthia Robinson Young | Triple Dare & other poems
Nicole Lachat | Of Infidelities & other poems
Amy Nawrocki | Bad Girls & other poems
Lawrence Hayes | Winter Climb & other poems
AJ Powell | God the Baker & other poems
Gisle Skeie | Rearranging & other poems
Bruce Taylor | Always Expect a Train & other poems
Ricky Ray | They Used to Be Things & other poems
S. E. Ingraham | Storm Angels & other poems
Laura Gamache | Outing & other poems
Keighan Speer | It Rained Today & other poems
Emma Atkinson | Grocery Stores Make Me Feel Mentally Ill & other poems
Erin Lehrmann | Block & other poems
D. H. Turtel | Margaret, Again & other poems
Chris Haug | Bovine Paranoia & other poems
Kimberly M. Russo | Definitive Definition & other poems
Holly Walrath | A Tourist of Sorts & other poems
Angel C. Dye | Beauty in Her Marrow & other poems
I imagine my father
carrying boxes upstairs
in his too-skinny arms
and my mother, suitably
impressed. I don’t ask
for details, just the dog
he gave her for Valentine’s Day.
My mother wouldn’t give it up but she told me
about the breakup long enough
for her to love a man who was not
my father. It didn’t change the ending
I know by heart: gazebo, dress,
I can’t sanitize my stories for child
consumption, can’t have the stuffed
Valentine’s dog without the sex.
There was no true love in my dorm room
but on my twin bed Nicole found my G-spot,
loudly. In our future, I wanted
rings and flowers but my story is more
the original Grimm, wolves
under covers and blood in my shoes.
At the AA Meeting
You won’t believe I love you until I walk
from Thomas Circle down to Dupont;
up carpeted stairs, past walls
flagged with inspiration and lists of hours;
I enter close on your heels,
take a back-corner seat,
surrounded by girls who share the same secret
again and again and never,
never guess my secret,
that I don’t belong.
Every other word I write is a confession.
But here I can’t keep pace,
my tongue can’t form the words
“Hi Jessica” so fast.
I offer no memories here;
no blackouts or mommy issues.
I don’t repent, I don’t believe, I don’t
even like the feel of booze. I like the taste
of you. After prayers you show me
to your friends, buy me honey in a box.
Clytemnestra After the Murder
John Collier, 1882
I will never be a constellation. At night
I trace the stars into gods, heroes, men
who take—and women, victims all. I brush
Gemini, thumb caressing the brothers
who never once looked back.
I blot out Cygnus. I have no stomach
for swans. But I can stomach more
than these female forms reduced
to pinpoints, maidens dead for love,
Ariadne, Helle, Semele, Cassiopeia—
I will outshine every one. I am a woman
who takes back. There is bloody cloth
in the closet, a lover in the bed.
Better a murderess than a star.
On the First Morning After He Marries Another
“I languish for you . . . my sentiments for you are those of a woman.”
—Hans Christian Andersen to Edvard Collin
Lie to me—
I have learned to love untruths
when they’re all I have.
I learn to call them stories.
I write you in the margins:
prince and scoundrel.
Let me be the bride.
I dream of metamorphosis,
a shape to fit to yours,
legs to part and curves that give
beneath your hands—
soft as seafoam,
harsh as nettles.
Give me your ring,
be selfless just this once.
At sunrise, cut my fingers
at the knuckle,
take my tongue,
marry your girl in silence,
safety. Cut between my legs,
let me bleed out
red as this morning.
Remember this is nothing,
this is fiction, fantasy.
Remember that I’m lying.
Close the book.
I leave doors unlocked tonight
wanderer I open windows
wind in my curtains making
nightmare shapes I put on
the good sheets I put on
my best nightgown I brush out
my hair I lie down wanderer
I don’t sleep I don’t hide
don’t bunker myself tonight
to ward away bad men
because you wanderer are not
man what you are I can’t say
pixie or spirit nymph or maybe
just girl all I know wanderer
are your words your letters
your promises in the creases
for me your word wanderer
is enough come into my room
into me stay I left wine
on the sill mint on the pillow
Miranda Cowley Heller
After our ba
I waded through cardboard boxes,
their sodden, drooping bottoms
coming apart in my hands,
and wished I had put them up on cinder blocks.
Boxes of memories, electric cords,
cassettes, tangled and unwound:
wisp-thin seaweeds of magnetic tape
filled with lost songs.
Baby clothes, rust-soaked and rotting,
each tiny sock, shirt, desiccated-elastic waistband,
a familiar note.
And endless tax receipts that I kept
just in case they came
asking for proof of the past.
I threw out a Sega, a shredder,
three Styrofoam gravestones stamped
Rest in Pieces.
And a king-sized mattress, plush and coil,
that had sponged up the first of the flood.
It took four of us to drag its
bloated corpse out to the street.
Silverfish scattered into city drains.
In the afternoon, I unzipped
a black and green tartan suitcase
I’d salvaged—wedged between an
etching of Columbus in Chains
and a rabbit-eared TV.
Somewhere, there’s a photograph
of my mother boarding a train,
her graceful ankles bare,
in steep stilettos.
She’s smiling at someone.
A porter stands behind her
holding the plaid suitcase in one hand,
a round hat-box under his arm.
Inside the case were all the photos
I thought I’d lost when we moved, years ago.
Many were ruined—water-blurred and tacky,
stuck together in chunky mille-feuilles rectangles,
their faces and moments washed away,
bleeded together forever—
left to rot under the floorboards,
the damp, flooding, rat shit,
sad dark unearthednesses.
I laid out my past on the kitchen counter.
Sorted years into piles,
sifted through the ingredients of my life:
the exact minute my first son was born.
He is squalling in a doctor’s arms,
his umbilical nub dressed like a wound.
Then, he is in my arms in a hospital bed
latching onto my breast, suckling, pig-perfect.
A phone line runs across me, uncoiled,
stretching as far as it can.
I was talking to my mother—
telling her I had just given birth to a son.
And the day I fell in love with my husband.
He is standing next to a white Vespa
in a chambray shirt, hair still damp
from a plunge into the Sargasso Sea.
In the photo he took of me, I am naked,
full-frontal, Polykleitan, goddess thighs. Lush.
Wading knee-deep in Bloody Bay.
Afterwards, we had sex in the turquoise water
and he didn’t tell me when he saw the shark.
Around dinner-time, I picked up the phone
and called my eldest son.
He likes to tell me he has always been unhappy,
that life isn’t worth the living,
that he’s voting for Trump.
But I remember him running
across flaxen fields, wind-lapped,
diving into the tumbling stream,
swimming in the deep end.
Eyes bright. Loving me back.
I wanted to tell him I’d found a decade of proof
that he was wrong, that I was right.
In photo after photo he laughs,
splashing through light.
His phone rang a few times
before going to voicemail.
And I felt the emptiness of boxed air.
But I knew what he would have said,
if I’d reached him:
“How do you know I’m not crying
in all the photos that got destroyed?”
And I would have said: I promise you
I remember. I remember everything.
And you have to believe me
when I tell you it’s worth it in the end
so please stay the course.
A thousand moments, some lost, some found,
and joy and sorrow,
and Oh Fucking Christ it just passes,
day after day after day.
And you ask:
How can so much have happened?
How can so little have happened?
How is it possible to stay afloat?
But we do. We sail, spinnakers full,
and look back at dry land
from the blue horizon.
In another world, eggs come home to roost
chickens hang from the rafters like
fat, auburn-feathered bats
and my husband is in a good mood every morning.
In another world my mother sings me to sleep.
In another world I do not furnish rooms
with no one in them but the dream of a future self.
I sit in my chair every day
and write something good. Or bad.
In another world, a boat sinks too close to shore.
Villagers row out in their stub-wooden boats,
collect a cargo of linden saplings and sacks of millet,
plant a tree that grows to be a hundred stories high,
whose branches stretch to touch the moon
making a bridge for us.
Hours later, I can still smell
his sweet-sour sweat, his traces,
sleep-wrinkled into the pillow,
feel the watered grit, gruel-thin trail
drying on my thigh,
and picture how wordlessly he crept around our room,
stabbing for things in the semi-dark,
trying not to wake me.
I could hear the Town Car lurking,
impatient, outside our house
in the quiet gloam—
that cusp of night and day beyond the window pane.
A few stars struggled to stay alive
in the hushed eggplant sky.
He kissed my forehead, muttered goodbye.
I listened to his footsteps leaving,
his roller-bag strumming our cindery walk,
rattle-plastic ball-bearings on cement.
Watched him from the window.
He stopped, mid-step, his back to me,
picked up his bag,
so careful not to disturb the neighbors
whispering dreamed things in their lingering r.e.m.
Lifted it three inches off the ground,
extended handle wedged in his armpit,
awkward, shoulder shrugged to ear.
And I thought of the way he would
swing our son when he was young,
and we walked him in the park,
and he begged for more, for more,
for more height, more levity.
I watched as the black car rounded the corner,
away from me.
Watched as the streetlights dimmed,
one by one, in the grey quiet.
Things the Tide Has Discarded
I stand in bare feet at the break,
icy water soaks my cuffs,
a scoop of pelicans dives on bait fish—relentless, cruel.
Kelp fronds mourn in the glassy deep.
A hermit crab creeps onto shore,
skittles its way across the sand.
In the blue, soot tern wings loop the loops.
And I lift my face into the wind.
Away from me, sea lice bite and itch
at damp piles of jetsam—a butter clam rotting in its shell
crisp hollow straws and green-black weeds—
things the tide has discarded from its tumbling nest,
and then reaches for, stretching its wide arms in yearning,
in regret, before turning away. I wonder about the sea.
Does she miss the things she leaves behind, abandons, in her wake?
My mother is holding the new baby. She offers it
her thick, ripe breast, her puckered nipple,
warm bechamel milk. I watch her soothe and sway,
whisper secrets not meant for me.
At night I wait for her to come, pull the yellow blanket
over my head, hide from the hollow longing.
A streetlight casts tree-shadows on my ceiling.
Black lace branches dance in the wind.
My room is filled with the breath of ghosts.
I listen to the house—a body turning in a sighing bed,
the long, dark hallway agape,
the silence of floorboards.
I pluck at the black-glass eye of my rabbit. Rip it off.
Thin threads protrude from a star-shaped hole.
They wave at me, begging for remorse.
I clasp the cold eye in my hand, a talisman to mute the dread:
the killer waiting in the closet,
blazing fire, my mother dying.
Fear is a pebbled shore of tiny glass eyes.
Think of a white shirt instead.
My mother does not fear death—all life is ebb and flow:
earth worms and maggots will feed on her flesh,
a pear tree will grow from her rich soil,
flowers will bloom on a hillside, she says.
She must not know the picture she paints in my head—
she must not know the things she leaves behind.
When I wake in the morning, the tiny black eye lies on my pillow.
In the kitchen, my mother is making pancakes.
There’s bacon cooking. The baby is asleep in its cot.
She looks up when I come in.
I would be good for
eating, I said as we ate
barbeque on the deck.
The cooking smoke thick
in my hair, as mosquitoes too close
to the fire, singed to ash.
I imagined my tri-tip
fried over fennel. The fingernail
you’d use to work my white gristle
from your teeth, pearlescent
as silver skin strung
between ribs. Don’t be silly,
you said, holding
my wrist to lick
my sauce-salty palm, then
smiling, turning away
to suck on a buttery bone.
The House Fire, a Year after Moving in
In my dreams, still, I remember the smoke alarms,
wailing into the night like a far off arcade.
There in the gray room of sleep, I feel embers
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