Devin G. Kelly: An Interview

We’ve been in the mood to interview these days. We’ve also been in the spirit of our 3rd Annual Chapbook Contest. You know, the important things. So, despite 3/4 of the TW editorial currently in college, Chanel Martins, our long-term managing editor, was dispatched to NYC. Why you may ask? A native Northern Californian all the way to the Big Apple? It sounds preposterous, albeit curious. That’s why we have the internet, to conduct interviews with people thousands of miles away. This one in particular would be classified as “important enough to fly out to”, just saying. See what unfolded below…


Chanel Martins: Thanks for your time in conducting this interview with us here at Thirty West. Why not start by telling us a bit about yourself?

Devin Kelly: Thank you for taking the time to ask me some questions! As it probably says somewhere, my name is Devin Kelly. I’m a poet, writer, and teacher living in New York City. I’m in my first year of teaching high school full time. I adjuncted at Bronx Community College and City College for three years before realizing that adjuncting was, though unbelievably fun and rewarding, sort of the purgatory of teaching. I’m also an avid runner and ultramarathoner, but I won’t bore or scare anyone by talking too much about that. I already talk too much about it anyway.

CM: It looks like you partake of all kinds of writing genres (nonfiction, poetry, fiction, etc.). Which is your favorite?

DK: That’s a tough question! Each genre allows for different avenues to explore the strange beauty of this world. It’s hard for me to choose a favorite between nonfiction and poetry. I’m obsessed with the idea of truth, and the past, and how memory is its own curiosity, and I think both of those genres allow for really wonderful ways to explore those kinds of questions. But even when I’m writing about sorrow, I like the idea of play, and I think the writing I gravitate toward across all three genres does play with something — whether form, language, content, or more.

CM: Aside from writing, you also teach. I, too, teach at the high school level. What called you to this profession? How do you balance your work in teaching and your writing career?

DK: First, thank you for being a teacher. I wanted to be a teacher ever since I had a favorite teacher — which I think is similar to a lot of teachers. I was fortunate to have a litany of wonderful high school English teachers, and I always wanted to follow the example (and magic) they set for me. When it comes to balancing writing and teaching, it’s hard. Especially now that I’m teaching high school full time. I don’t know how you or anyone does it. I used to have the time to set aside an hour or two each day to devote to the practice of writing, but now I scribble notes on paper, write drafts of things on my phone. I’m answering this question on my phone, now, actually, on the subway on the way to work.

CM: On your website, you list yourself as a “writer, teacher, [and] student.” Two of these seem obvious, but in what ways do you still consider yourself a student?

DK: I would say because I learn everyday. I learn from my students. I learn from my friends. I learn from poets and writers I follow on Twitter. I learn from my various practices of teaching, writing, and running. I definitely still learn from my father, my mother. I think the moment someone begins to deny themself the possibility of learning is the moment the world begins to close its doors on them.

CM: On top of teaching and writing, you also co-host a poetry reading event. Tell us a bit about the Dead Rabbits Reading Series. What is it? How did it start?

DK: I’ve been co-hosting Dead Rabbits for over four years, which is still unbelievable to me. Over those years, I’ve had the complete honor to host poets and writers ranging from award winners to those just beginning to find their place in the literary world. There are so many things about the series I’m grateful about. That I got to hear poets like Morgan Parker, Eduardo Corral, and Lynn Melnick read. That I got to hear poets early in their blooming careers, like Carlie Hoffman and Kwame Opoku-Duku. That I met some of my best friends, like George Kovalenko, through it. That I’ve been running it alongside another great friend, Katie Rainey, who is leading a press spin-off of the series, called Dead Rabbits Books, which you should all check out.

CM: It looks like your books are currently available in big-name stores such as Amazon, Powell’s, and Barnes & Noble. What do these big names mean to you as a “Writer” ?

DK: You know, not much, if I’m being honest, though I support Powell’s more than I support Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I believe in the power of literature and making art as a way to engage with and reckon with the world, to make beauty and sorrow out of the real and mundane, to actively believe in the potential of your imagination and your way of seeing, and to build community and solidarity in a world that so often pushes against it. I think corporations, even when they’re involved in selling art, can be a pain, and can detract people from some of the more intrinsic positives of making art. That being said, I believe in the power and joy of small bookstores, and the potential they have for uplifting and building community in the communities they are located.

CM: Where do you find your inspiration for your writing? What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far? 

DK: That’s a difficult question! My inspiration for writing comes simply from the way I look at the world. That’s not to say that I look at the world in an innately special way, it’s just to say that the world as it is — whether mundane, or beautiful, or whatever — is where my poems so often end or begin. There’s a Larry Levis poem that says, “There are two things I want to remember /

About light, & what it does to us.” I think of that all the time when I write. How simple that is. Most of my poems have to do with the world as I see it, and the bonds between families and friends and lovers that are made or broken or in the process of being made or broken within that world. I think the friends I’ve made through my art are the biggest accomplishment I consider as a writer so far. That’s not to say I’m not grateful for having a book, or being able to publish my work. But the friends — without them so much wouldn’t be possible, and when the year comes that not a single person buys my book, my hope is at least I’ll know a poet or two and still be able to call them my friend.

CM: On your website you mention that you “enjoy extremely sharp cheddar cheese melted atop a medium rare burger” which sounds delicious right now. Anything behind this in terms of significance? Why do you find this important enough to include on your main page?

DK: Hah, I love this question. And I have no answer other than I want one terribly now, a medium rare burger with the sharpest of cheddar. Some delights are (almost) better than a beautiful poem.

CM: So, we’ve been teasing this for a while now, but here it is: we at Thirty West are honored to have you as the guest judge for the 3rd Annual Chapbook Contest! Have you ever judged a contest before? What are your expectations for it?

DK: I never have! I’m so honored to be given the opportunity. First of all, I’m grateful that I’ll be able to encounter what I am sure will be a wide range of beautiful work. And secondly, I’m sure it will be one of the hardest decisions I’ve faced to choose from such a wide range. I’m really looking forward to it.

CM: Any pro-tips for prospective authors who are considering this contest?

DK: Send your riskiest, your most imaginative, your most mundane, your wildest, your quietest, your loudest, your most still. Whatever way you see the world and ask questions about the world. Send me that. I can’t wait.

CM: Thank you, Devin, for the interview. It was fun and we’re looking forward to seeing your manuscripts on March 1st!


Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is the author of two collaborative chapbooks as well as two collections of poetry,  Blood on Blood  (Unknown Press), and  In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen  (Civil Coping Mechanisms). His work has been published or is forthcoming in  The Guardian, LitHub, Catapult,  and more. He is the Director of Enrichment Programming for the Sunnyside Community Services Youth Futures Program at Queens Vocational High School, as well as a teacher at the City College of New York. He is the founder and co-host of the Dead Rabbits Reading Series and currently lives in Harlem.

Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is the author of two collaborative chapbooks as well as two collections of poetry, Blood on Blood (Unknown Press), and In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (Civil Coping Mechanisms). His work has been published or is forthcoming in The Guardian, LitHub, Catapult, and more. He is the Director of Enrichment Programming for the Sunnyside Community Services Youth Futures Program at Queens Vocational High School, as well as a teacher at the City College of New York. He is the founder and co-host of the Dead Rabbits Reading Series and currently lives in Harlem.

Karina Bush: An Interview

It took me a few “Where’s Waldo” moments to be able to track down where Karina Bush is at any point in time or particular mindstate, but finally I found her: the duck-billed baseball cap donned over blonde hair. I apologized for interrupting her brain lace weaving, but thankfully, she was able to take some time to answer my highly-anticipated questions. Below is the following account…


Josh Dale: Thanks for allowing me to interview you and I’m sorry for interrupting your weaving! To start, why not tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Karina Bush: Hello, Josh! It’s a pleasure to be interviewed by you. I’m an Irish poet, writer, and artist. I’m from Belfast and I live in Rome for now, but I’m moving on soon, not sure where yet.

JD: I’ve been a fan of yours since I was recommended first chapbook, Maiden. What central themes are you most confident in portraying?

KB: Thank you! Sexuality has been a strong theme in my writing. Creative energy comes from the sexual area, so I think it’s quite normal for early work to be seething with sex. But the sexuality of my poetry is locked into emotion; it isn’t throwaway sex. Except for 50 EURO, of course, which is 20-minute throwaway sex, but it still lives in an emotional realm of mostly negative emotion. Emotion is what I’m most confident writing in, the emotional landscape is endless, I always find more to explore.

JD: I’ve caught myself Googling specific Irish terms and figures of lore in your work. As an Irish woman in the 21st century, how has your work embodied the culture?

KB: With my first three books, I don’t think my Irish-ness has been prominent. With my new book, it is. It’s set in Belfast, a story of cruelty and stupidity in love. It’s coming out soon with Analog Submission Press. I admire the press a lot, the editor has a great vision and enormous energy for it—he’s a powerhouse and an interesting guy. Being Irish has certainly had an impact on me as a storyteller; everyone in Ireland is a storyteller, except for a small number of bores. There are deep wits and insights that permeates the culture and genuine respect for the arts—it’s in the blood, a long oral and lyrical tradition that can’t be broken. The Irish can’t be broken. The British government tried to break us for centuries and they failed. We refuse to be tamed.

JD: How has traveling been an influence (or inhibitor) for your creative endeavors? Where have you gone in the past year or two?

KB: It has been a huge influence. It pulled me out of a closed-minded thinking pattern. I felt stuck in Belfast, so I packed up and left five years ago, with fuck-all money and no plan, and I’ve made it work. I’ve traveled a lot—in Asia, the US, and Europe. My favorite places are Japan and Italy. I don’t write about where I am living or visiting. I’m not one of those travelers who jumps into a culture with a GoPro on my head. I absorb what I want to absorb. The cities and countries do seep in, but not in a direct way. When I first moved abroad, I struggled to write because I was unsettled, but being unsettled is quite normal now, and I’ve found that developing adaptability to change has helped me write and create. I’ve had to learn to ground and centre myself anywhere, and it’s easier to do now.

JD: I recall you had an affiliation with 48th Street Press (publishing Maiden, broadsides, etc.) Do you feel that they propelled your writing career? Do you enjoy mailing personalized letters, broadsides, and swag to your fans?

KB: For sure they did. I’m still closely connected to the press; the editor works with me in the writing process. He has been my personal editor for six years now—he’s brutal though. BareBackPress has also been significant for they were one of the first to publish me back in 2013 and we’ve developed a very fertile and creative friendship. The owner has edited my new book and he’s incredibly sharp. This mentoring has had more influence on my work than anything else. And yeah, I do enjoy mailing stuff out. That’s such an important part of the small press, getting words out there. I love digital but I also want to be part of keeping physical literature alive.

JD: In 50 Euro, the narrator is indulging in various sexual encounters with seemingly incompetent men. I’m not keen on all feminist theory, but this collection seems to be a tangential path that is rarely explored. Care to give us your take?

KB: I didn’t write it with any feminist theory in mind. I’m a woman, and like most women, I’ve been assaulted and harassed, but I don’t have a feminist agenda in my work. I write as I see fit; I don’t feel the need to be reactionary to social or political tides. I had a story published by the incredible Akashic Books last year, which is the closest to political I’ve got. It’s about a British soldier in the 1990s holding a thirteen-year-old girl at gunpoint, sexually harassing her, and her subsequent revenge. That story is semi-autobiographical; a soldier did that to me as a kid during the Northern Ireland conflict. The crimes of war are hidden stories as well as newsworthy ones.

For the most part, I see masculinity as positive energy. A beautiful male mind is the most interesting thing on the planet to me. But, ugly behavior certainly needs to be examined and exposed. I turned some of the creeps I’ve met into johns in 50 EURO. I liked stripping them down in my writing, having power over them, taking their money and their confidence. I was careful with 50 EURO to neither glamourise nor victimise the protagonist. I simply wanted to capture the essence of the red-light district and those quick exchanges.

I’ve had people cross the line with me as a result of the book: call me a whore, send me dick pics, send repeated messages begging me to fuck them. Kafka wasn’t an insect. Mary Shelley wasn’t hideous and eight-foot-tall. You can write about things and not be those things. Literature is not always literal. I work in the tech industry, not in sex work. My poetry is not an invitation to get sexual or personal with me.  

JD: Brain Lace was my favorite of the three, for it feels like a compounded maturation of your previous two titles. Less abrasive, yet equally abstract, and filled with genre-bending work. What state of mind were you in as you wrote this?

KB: Thank you, Josh! My mental and emotional state was very fractured writing it. Everything I was experiencing felt like an abstraction. Nothing was concrete. The book is confused, trying to reconcile thought-scapes with reality and notions of karma. I was in Japan, feeling alien and isolated, and I had a connection with someone on the other side of the world, a connection I didn’t understand and still don’t. That sparked the concept; the brain lace I was experiencing. Being so far away from my roots—my home— it’s strange and beautiful but I found electricity moves like roots. Being in Japan accentuated that for it’s such a mix of ancient and digital. We’re all going through an intense evolution right now; things are moving fast, reality is being redefined. I’m enjoying feeling it as much as it confuses me.

JD: You’ve been involved in visual arts lately, crafting videos and photos that are suggestive and unsettling. What’re your literal representations for such projects?

KB: I’m getting increasingly frustrated with how to express. I think visually. My work starts as an emotional form; it’s not verbal at all. I make it verbal because that’s the easiest way to get it out. But I need to make it move. flat writing feels lazy; it’s no longer satisfying me. I’ve been writing poetry through video lately. I’ve got a mega video piece in the works but it’s likely a year or so from being ready so I’m still training myself.

JD: Valentine’s Day is approaching…immediate reaction?

KB: Pile of absolute shite. Romance is meta—it can’t conform.

JD: Lastly, what’s your favorite memory of your time in the U.S.? Any plans on coming back (possibly to do a reading?)

KB: Watching two golfer middle-aged johns twerking to trap music, trying to impress sex workers in Florida. I’m sure security would’ve broken my arm if I’d tried to film in there but I’ve still got the video in my head; one of the johns even got a special mention in 50 EURO. I’ve been to your hometown, Philadelphia. I took a tour of the Masonic Temple; it’s one of the largest in the world. There is a lot you can’t access, so my inner Robert Langdon took over. I was dying to sneak into a secret passageway and find some reptilians eating babies, but the tour guide was on to me, fuck’s sake. I have no plans to read my poetry, but I’ll definitely come to one of your press readings if I’m ever back in Philly.

JD: Thanks, Karina, for your time and I’m looking forward to your forthcoming publication! For more about Karina, including links to her site and books, see the bio below. See you next week on The Weekly Degree with NYC-based poet, Devin G. Kelly, and some exciting news on the 2019 Chapbook Contest!


Karina Bush is an Irish writer and visual poet born in Belfast and now living in Rome. She is the author of three books, Brain Lace (BareBackPress, 2018), 50 Euro (BareBackPress, 2017), and Maiden (48th Street Press, 2016). She has a new book, Christo & Nicola, forthcoming from Analog Submission Press. For more, visit her website    karinabush.com    and Instagram    https://www.instagram.com/karinabushxx/   .

Karina Bush is an Irish writer and visual poet born in Belfast and now living in Rome. She is the author of three books, Brain Lace (BareBackPress, 2018), 50 Euro (BareBackPress, 2017), and Maiden (48th Street Press, 2016). She has a new book, Christo & Nicola, forthcoming from Analog Submission Press. For more, visit her website karinabush.com and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/karinabushxx/.

Levi Bentley: Bucolic Ecologues - 3 Poems

curdled milk enow

there’s one more early memory here of sewing the red     X

in cloth diapers at                        the mission                  hospital to give new

mothers marking as property our cover while                     starting

a church converts there risk arrest                            i am

five when we return     to the states now my mother is sewing

alterations

into      hand-me-downs reading settler-fiction at bedtime the

button tin and the Singer, our sewing machine comprise

a non-game winding     the bobbins threading all the eyes

setting a tension that hums                           breaks jams and                  snaps

like the room when my fxxxxx enters slack then snapping

i enter the picture        coiled unspooling leaving

snarled

a          rat’s nest of knots         taut beneath the

gears  of this

bid the woods

vasostructure  /           a stretch webbing         /           pinnately

/

compound palm          /           oak falls                       /

damp  /      handed pile

/           raked               /            rip       /           along vein

/

wax taught reed

mounds of wet oak leaves cold reddened raked

and bordered by thick waxy salal hedges with

black berries beside childhood home old

white siding yellow trim in washington

state i learn aloneness with sticks moss

slugs chickens meat rabbits mulched

leaves big wet hands raised against

grey sky green fields steel grey sea

climb a sticky ponderosa pine to be

above roof ridge for hours being

forgotten a home garden a deer

fence in the town name truncated

klallam for “quiet water” sounds

like “skwim” like something you

don’t want to happen temperate

desert surrounded by rainforest

settler history begins there 1850

incorporating into township in

shadow of logging and railroad

boom and bust a log camp then

farmland until the 1950 green

revolution makes small farming

obsolete and california begins

retiring there my grandparents

and others bring chain stores the

year i leave a walmart a median

age of 62

makah whaling rights won in 1999 are exercised

and then voluntarily suspended but in high school

for several years someone brings in ziploc bags

of blubber for show and


Levi Bentley organizes the reading series Housework, edits the journal Boneless Skinless, writes for Artblog, and is a member of the artist collective Vox Populi. "Bucolic Eclogue" was released from Lamehouse Press in July 2016. Chapbooks "Obstacle, Particle, Spectacle", "&parts", and "Stub Wilderness" were released from 89plus/LUMA Foundation, Damask Press, and Well Greased Press, respectively. Vitrine released their tape "Red Green Blue". Poems have appeared through 491, Apiary, Bedfellows, BlazeVOX, Boog City, Elective Affinities, Fact-Simile, Gigantic Sequins, No Infinite, Madhouse, Maestra Vida, Magic Pictures, Painted Bride Quarterly, Small Po[r]tions, Stillwater Review, The Wanderer, Tinge and Truck

Aiden Heung: 3 Poems

First Snow

The weight of winter, hard on every cloud

dropping low on this city, and soon

shredded,

ground

and falling white

from a vulnerable sky,

breeding

the first shade of darkness

prolonging the night.

A soft wavering voice

Against the wind —

Melancholy.



Two Monochrome Photos from Summer

1.

The morning heat

breaks through the window

and warps

the dream

into a hot reality.

8 o’clock,

the fateful hour of awakening,

reminded

by a ticking watch,

with almost the same rhythm

of the heart.

A moaning summer,

dying in the yards.

Some arranged flowers

yellow

from a sad florist.

2

The scorching south wind,

breath

of Feilian(1),

coming to all

in cities or villages.

A wash of tolling bells.

thick shadows

hidden

behind a mottled wall

and a murmuring crowd of people

squatting at the gate

of a silent neighborhood.

(1): god of wind in Chinese mythology



The Line He draws

for Tomas Transtroemer

The line he draws on his notebook

stretches out, endlessly,

with the sound of an axe cutting the air,

and continues its silent judgement, where

the world is halved.

I’m on one side;

My deeds the other, falling soundlessly;

A rebuke—

I cast my thought over

into the realm of inanity.

It bounces like a morning dew

on lifeless leaves.

Air is thinner there

than a breath.

I grab hold of the line —the edge of existence,

saved by an old hypothesis

of death.


Aiden Heung is a native Chinese poet currently working and living in Shanghai. He writes about the city of Shanghai and about people who live in this city. He is a Tongji University graduate, with bilingual poems published in many online and offline magazines in Asia and Europe, such as New English Review, Alluvium, Eunoia Review and A Shanghai Poetry Zine among many others.

Remi Recchia: 2 poems

On Visiting the Fairlawn Cemetery in Stillwater, Oklahoma

The birds here are tiny dinosaur soldiers:
black & feathered & claw-footed. Probably carnivorous.

 

We're walking down the path hand-in-hand,

tourists unaffected by bones at rest. It is cold,

 

& you are wearing my sweater. The brown

threads weave over your chest like a casket.

 

I understand death in a detached way—studied

coldness & distended stomach. My dog stopped

 

breathing in February (or March or April) & I

never told anyone about it, just burned his collar

 

& ate the rest of his food. Sometimes it is like this

in life.

 

I smell the wind picking up a few miles back; your hand

stills the back of my neck like a mother in prayer.

 

I'm thinking about those cold yellow cats,

how their mother was there, unidentified, among her kittens,

 

& I watched townspeople & children litter & smoke

in the parking lot. I waited for them to leave & stomped

 

out the embers. We called every animal shelter that night,

asking what to do & where to go & they told you,

 

"ma'am, they're supposed to be there, they're downtown

cats," & I didn't want to be the one to tell you the cats

 

would survive just fine without you. & now you're staring

at the graves, at your reflection in my face, small & white

 

& marble, reading dates of little deaths, & I know

how beautiful certainty tastes.


On the Event of My Father’s Seventy-second Birthday

O God

On my knees

& I’m thinking about the man in a leprechaun hat,

how he’s drunk & asking me if I am

my father’s son, telling us his son was murdered;

 

O God

On my knees

Basement incense will cover my brother’s cigarette

sounds, but not the slow slope of my father’s shoulders

Sometimes I wonder how it feels to dowry a daughter;

 

O God

On my knees

Was Abraham afraid of animaling his son?
It doesn’t matter if Isaac shuddered

These are the things we give to our fathers;

 

O God

On my knees

I am twenty-three & I can’t remember how to catch

white leather seamed with red, & I want to learn again,

but my father is away, skin stitched together tight;

 

O God

On my knees

I’ve been told I was born old, but I’m not

the one with liver spots, my lungs are fresh,

& I have never been more afraid of death.


Remi Recchia is a Ph.D. candidate in Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University. His work has appeared in Barzakh Magazine, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Front Porch, Gravel, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Haverthorn Press, among others. He holds an MFA in Poetry from Bowling Green State University.  

Michelle Brooks: 3 Poems

Tabloid Dreams

I am writing to you from a far-away

place. The future is nowhere in sight.

You won’t learn anything new. I’m not

alone – the ghosts whisper into intercoms

at night. There’s a suitcase in the hallway

that I keep forgetting to move. Sometimes

the light shines into this darkness, and I read

magazines with pictures of the famous

dead, piles of yesteryear’s scandals. None

of this matters anymore.  It’s always late

afternoon, and I’m always waiting for someone

to come home. A lit cigarette rests on a saucer

that has never been used for anything except ashes.

The Serpent Consumes Itself

You won’t like why I’m telling

you this story about when the carnival

came to town. Set up in the mall

parking lot next to the dying Sears,

the late summer heat glints off the steel,

and from the top of the Ferris wheel, I

can see the highway rising like an ordinary

hallucination in the dog days of summer.

It leaves within days as if it was never

there, and yet I am still suspended

on the top of this world I’ve known

forever, understanding this limbo exists

within my blood, always knowing when

the carnival comes to town, I realize it never left.

I Didn’t Mean to Scare You

A girl crawls out of the dumpster

at the Shell where I am getting

gas early Sunday morning, the heat

already like a blanket. In the bleached

denim light, I gather empty water

bottles and fast food wrappers to toss

while the girl motions to someone

who crawls out of the dumpster which

appears to contain multitudes. I curse

myself for letting the tank get to almost

empty while the numbers rise. My Russian

nesting dolls from the dumpster walk

into an alley, gone from my sight. Did

they find what they were looking for?

Does anyone? All I know is that gas prices

are rising again, making me wonder why

it costs so much to get anywhere at all.


Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). Her poetry collection, Flamethrower, will be published by Latte Press in 2019. A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit.

Brenna Webb: Mouth of Bees

I threw our six-dollar champagne bottle in the trash.

“Night one in New York, baby!” I said.

The memory of the glass thudding into the bin made my temples pound. It was August and sweat clung to my naked skin. No air conditioner. Just a bare mattress, a suitcase, and a couple of boxes.

I had a vision that once I moved to New York City I’d sip black coffee in a knit beanie like Patti Smith. The champagne was a celebration. The city of dreams. Though Manhattan had her own deck of cards. She didn’t deal anyone a hand, rather she pried cards into your mouth one by one until you were shitting out the Queen of Hearts, realizing plans are an arrogant pipe dream in the face of her steel power.

I tried to remember the end of my first night in The Big Apple. I knew it was bad. There had been screaming in the street, a rented bicycle was stolen from its kiosk, and a fifteen dollar bacon lettuce tomato thrown to the Manhattan sewer-ether. The clearest memory was marching up to my fifth-floor apartment hearing the, “fuck off” I yelled in J’s face reverberate down the seemingly endless flights of stairs.

This happened every time I got drunk with my boyfriend, J. His crime was being there after I had one too many. I know I didn’t deserve the magical cup his forgiveness poured out of, it never ran out. I pushed his chest when he lost the keys. I sulked incessantly at plans that did not run on my timetable. I bitched and bitched.

Now looking at him asleep next to me, I thought his blonde hair looked too pure to rest in my three-thousand-dollar a month roach nest. I wanted to bleach the place looking at it next to his clean and sculpted body. He would wake up and smile without a word. The same smile that met me in mornings that smelled like hospital paint while I waited for discharge papers. We were in high school then, he said nothing when everyone else said too much. I’d tell him where I’d been, he’d smile and say it was ok. His grin met me in mornings that smelled like fresh produce blended for us before work. We were adults then, and he waited when everyone else had left. I’d apologize for being a bitch. He’d kiss me, we’d fuck.

The word bitch lived in a beehive beneath my tongue. Wet and swarming around unbridled insecurities, weeds in an unkempt garden. The diagnoses had always felt invasive, I was simply a pallet of colors that seeped into places it shouldn’t. The black watercolors diluting everyone’s blue. Bipolar.

Two pigeons cooed at my window. Manhattan was a bitch with her rent and rodents. Her broken trains, and trash. With her unkept promises, glamour, she is so idealistic. We had more in common than I’d like to admit. A girl with bipolar and the city that never sleeps.

I slipped into the bathroom, careful not to wake J. Day two started with no paper towels, so I slipped my palm under the running water and swiped the dirty mirror with my hand. Buy Windex, I whispered into the reflection.


Brenna Webb is from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Her work has previously been featured with Basement Poetry in the Spring 2017 production of HER. Other published works can be found published in The Laconic. Brenna wrote and directed her first short film, "SIN LADY" with Mr. Mister Productions, scheduled for a Spring 2019 release. She currently lives in New York City where she studies English-Literature and Film Studies at Columbia University.

Akachi Obijiaku: 3 Poems

Empathy


You don’t know what pain feels like when you’re well

You cannot imagine what loss evokes when you still have

 

Empathy tries to imagine

She tries to make us relate

 

But we are only mimickers

We cry when others cry hard enough

 

We laugh when another laughs loud enough

And when empathy tells us to be silent


We are silent


But we don’t still know what it’s like to be in one else’s shoes

To remember what his child’s last heartbeat felt like

 

To cringe when she was told to sit at the back of the bus

We try to understand, we do


But we don’t


That Autumn Smell

 

That autumn smell makes me love life

Mixed with leftover street cigar scents

And a shy winter trying to creep in

 

That Autumn smell makes me want to be adventurous

Spontaneous runs in the park beside tall handsome strangers

Late night treks to the picturehouse all by myself

 

That autumn smell washes away the homesickness

Giving me a re-awakened sense of valiance

Ready to construct some new beginnings

 

That autumn smell holds me to account

Reminds me that I have no reason to fail

No reason to fear, and no reason to fade


 The Pastor’s Son Is In Town


The pastor’s son is in town!

Make sure you comb your hair well

 

Take a deep shower and keep clean

Eat before you get to the church - look healthy

 

The pastor’s son is in town!

Be cheerful and be on time


Don’t let me down

And make sure you give him your number


Akachi Obijiaku is a Nigerian poet. She emigrated to England 5 years ago, and started writing poetry last year. Her poems appear in over 10 journals.  

Larry Narron: 3 Poems

Antique

It's not the heart

that broke,

it's the promise—

 

an antique

clock that now keeps

its hands

 

in its pockets,

knuckling

the springs

 

they straightened,

that now keeps

a blank,

 

numberless

face

fixed

 

on mine

as it lies

about time.

 

Creation Myth

for Kool Herc

            Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?

                                                            —Tupac Shakur

In a valley

of shriveled fire

 

escapes, he plucks

a discarded

 

cardboard box

from a dumpster,

 

tears out the staples

as if they are thorns.

 

Unfolding each

delicate petal,

 

he rubs his palms

over the creases

 

to flatten what was

thought to have wilted.

 

Here he will re-

sow the undreamed of

 

in concrete

& nourish a field

 

until it blooms

for his neighborhood's

 

pleasure: a dance

hall without walls,

 

without a ceiling,

with the sun

 

for a mirror ball,

with the whole

 

sky to make room

for their moves.


Golden Era

for Brandon, Armando, Garrett, & Joe

Long before rappers

guzzled cough syrup

to numb their tongues

 

so all their words

dulled into mumbles

that all bled into one,

 

we gathered in circles

under parking lot lights

& passed around

 

piss-colored forties—

elixirs of violence

fermented with such

 

surprising sweetness.

We cared for each

word as the serifs

 

of their letters were

so delicately sharpened,

the handle of every

 

syllable held, nurtured,

rocked into reverie gently

by the hardest beats.

 

We savored a potency

we tasted in each drop

& saved the last

 

of the poetry just

to spill it, to pour it

out for all the dead

 

emcees, then threw

bottles in the street

just to hear them shatter.


Larry Narron is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Phoebe, Santa Clara Review, The Brooklyn Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, Tilde, The Boiler, and elsewhere. They've been nominated for the Best of the Net and Best New Poets.