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Mark Bibbins
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This poem is at least as relevant today as it was when Brandon wrote it three years ago, alas. [—M.B.] “A New Gun Folds Up to Look Just Like a Smartphone” —Huffington Post, March 30, 2016 Gun that folds up into a teddy bear. Gun that folds into a bottle. Gun that folds into a dozen roses. Gun that folds into a condolence card. Gun that folds into a conference pass, a baseball ticket, a ticket to anywhere. Gun that folds into your golden retriever, the usual tail wag. The jolt of electricity through the tail when you say its name. Gun that folds into another gun. Gun that folds into a prerogative, into an absentee ballot. Gun that folds into a bulletproof necktie. Gun that folds into rope. Gun that folds into a grin without a face. Gun that folds into legislation, and folds and folds again until so thick it can’t physically be folded again. Gun that guns into a fold. Gun that folds into an opening. Gun that folds quietly. Gun that folds into a weather forecast, a travel agent. Gun that folds into a car key. Gun that folds into a door key. Gun that folds into a body. Gun that folds into a mirror, that shatters. Gun that folds into a crane, into another crane, into a history lesson. Gun that folds into an anti-NRA sign. Gun that folds into a picture frame. Gun that swaggers into an argument. Gun that folds into a pen. Gun that unfolds an ink cartridge. Gun that folds white as paper, that writes its wishes. Gun that folds its fingers into a steeple. Gun that folds into a pantry. Gun that folds into a knife fight. Gun that folds into a sitcom episode without an ending. Gun that folds into itself, that becomes more gun. Gun that folds in err, in human. Gun that folds into a cell phone; gun that calls your children home. Brandon Amico is the author of Disappearing, Inc. (Gold Wake Press, 2019). He is a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Regional Artist Grant, and the winner of Southern Humanities Review’s Hoepfner Literary Award for Poetry. His poems have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Blackbird, The Cincinnati Review, Copper Nickel, Kenyon Review, and New Ohio Review, among other publications. Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
I have always loved the propulsive rhythm of this poem, its strange and desperate tenderness. Reading it feels like a dream you might have after falling asleep while watching a nature documentary. —[M.B.] He Marries the Stuffed Owl Exhibit at the Indiana Welcome Center He marries her mites and the wires in her wings, he marries her yellow glass eyes and black centers, he marries her near-total head turn, he marries the curve of each of her claws, he marries the information plaque, he marries the extinction of this kind of owl, he marries the owl that she loved in life and the last thought of him in the thick of her mind just one inch away from the bullet, there, he marries the moths who make holes in the owl, who have eaten the owl almost all away, he marries the branch of the tree that she grips, he marries the real-looking moss and dead leaves, he marries the smell of must that surrounds her, he marries the strong blue stares of children, he marries nasty smudges of their noses on the glass, he marries the camera that points at the owl to make sure no one steals her, so the camera won’t object when he breaks the glass while reciting some vows that he wrote himself, he screams OWL instead of I’LL and then ALWAYS LOVE HER, he screams HAVE AND TO HOLD and takes hold of the owl and wrenches the owl away from her branch and he covers her in kisses and the owl thinks, “More moths,” and at the final hungry kiss, “That must have been the last big bite, there is no more of me left to eat and thank God,” when he marries the stuffing out of the owl and hoots as the owl flies out under his arm, they elope into the darkness of Indiana, Indiana he screams is their new life and WELCOME. They live in a tree together now, and the children of Welcome to Indiana say who even more than usual, and the children of Welcome to Indiana they wonder where they belong. Not in Indiana, they say to themselves, the state of all-consuming love, we cannot belong in Indiana, as night falls and the moths appear one by one, hungry. Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
As many readers will be aware, the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference is currently in full swing. We are ever on the lookout for Josh's "free-range / angels slumped out / on conveyor belts" here. —[M.B.] Vince Neil’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, As Transcribed by Josh, in a Crowded Hotel Bar One Afternoon, Being a Poem Spoken in the Future, During the Upcoming AWP Conference of 2014, in Seattle, Washington 1. Of the latter heroes I was most supine, handed out warnings to women who were pregnant or were likely to become pregnant, hope tucked bloodless into saddlebag, neither hunter nor borrower, sometimes referred to myself as It— as in charity is its bird machine—a strap-on fashioned out of bits of the foregone cross coming at me from the future in the tiniest and the most lineal of dreams, my preferred haruspex pondering her retirement and my new address as quickly dirty as the last, in times of war immune to alarum, at least fifteen minutes away from sword and armor, the valves of my heart opening and closing slowly like the wings of a new butterfly at rest upon the battlements of overweening Troy, and all the maidens and immortals 2. and the handful of princes who, in those days, took time away from their own troubled narratives to stop and save me from myself or from the ancient boy-scout Death are now themselves long dead by natural and/or mythological causes. Don’t mention it they seemed to say with their great careful bodies as they turned them from me in departure. Don’t mention it and drifted leonine and smooth toward the assault on their promised constellations and perhaps the foreign-funded rebellions of their homicidal children, got upon or beneath majestic animals and graduate students, ears crisp but not always white as snow. And where was I—year of the jellyfish, cossacked, bowing feastless before capital—when they in their turn required me [continued] 3. and I heard them cry out for me from the dust that their fallen bodies made in the dust, even better and taller destroyers looking down upon them, their lives an end-note of snuffed out goat-bone, free-range angels slumped out on conveyor belts, felled by slotting bolt in a rusty hank of factory-light, and by the transitive property and a million miles away a flower of blood popping from the dashboard of my Camaro? No, you haven’t 4. heard all of this before, dirtlings. Moreover there’s something not quite real about sex dolls. They can’t be strangled to death 5. and the conditions for such an act, the aura of its chance, like gravity, makes the minimalism of the vestibule a possibility. If you don’t like the vestibule, then what about the service elevator, where tonight we’ll strangle down so easily? Also, the zombie prostitutes and hustlers, who have laid up like sandwiches for hours beneath heat lamps in order to trick me, with their customized temperature, that they are living beings to kiss... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
I am moved by the deep physicality of this poem, its small but significant moments of transformation, in which the mundane is made resonant and weird. How do we love someone we’ve never met, yet is already a part of us? O’Rourke’s poem does not offer an easy answer to this question. —MB Poem for My Son You were of the earth, like a lentil. The taste of quince, a revulsion at meat. The others were like a dream that scores the body long after waking— But you were sour spit, a pinched pain in the right hip. There was nothing luminous about you, oh you made the smells of the city repellant. On the doctor’s screen, a black dot with a line through it, a blot, you grew slowly grey and white, then boned and legged and oblong and minded. I made you out of grapefruit and Rice Chex. —The others were made of longing.— Each time I saw you in the soundwaves was preparatory, not romantic; not like the wind but more like a river pushing against my legs, insisting on its presence. In thick socks I ate potato chips and congee, built you without trying, splaying my ribcage. Lugging my freight down the street, I thought about what I wanted for you— (love love and more love) but you were already you, not an outgrowth of my mind, just your own strange, remote, hardening body, moving toward arrival under surgical lights in sudden, open parenthesis— Meghan O'Rourke is the author of the poetry collections Sun in Days, Once, and Halflife. She is at work on a book about chronic illness. Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
I love the way this poem captures the sad, sweet, isolated longing of adolescence. The tension created by the interplay of short lines and sneakily unruly syntax seems to mirror the experience of tentatively feeling one's way toward, eventually, hope. —MB When I Was Fifteen When I was fifteen I suddenly knew I would never understand geometry. Who was my teacher? That name is gone. I only remember the gray feeling in a classroom filled with vast theoretical distances. I can still see odd shapes drawn on the board, and those inscrutable formulas everyone was busily into their notebooks scribbling. I looked down at the Velcro straps of my entirely white shoes and knew inside me things had long ago gone terribly wrong and would continue to be. When the field hockey star broke her knee, I wrote a story for the school paper then brought her the history notes in the snow. She stood in the threshold, a whole firelit life of mysterious familial warmth glowing behind her, and took them from my hands like the blameless queen of elegant violence she was. Walking home encased in immense amounts of down I listened to the analog ghost in the machine pour from the cassette I had drawn flowers on. Into my ears it sang everything they told you makes you believe you are trapped in a snow globe forgotten in a dark closet where exhausted shadows argue what is sorrow cannot become joy, but I am here from the future to tell you you are not, all you must do is stay asleep a few more years great traveler waiting to go. Matthew Zapruder’s most recent book is Why Poetry (Ecco, 2017). His fifth collection of poetry, Father’s Day, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in fall 2019. He is Associate Professor in the MFA program at Saint Mary’s College of California, and editor-at-large at Wave Books. Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
I'm very grateful to David Lehman and Stacey Harwood for the opportunity to feature poems from The Awl (RIP) here on the BAP blog. The Awl's poetry section had a great run—nine years!—and I'm delighted that we can share some of the poets' work with more readers. Up first is a poem by Nuar Alsadir. I love how it walks the line between imagery and abstraction, or rather, how it seems to declare that there is no line. And the exclamation point in the tenth couplet is one of the more complicated I've encountered. What does it want us to do? -- MB Morning when dark, is not that, morning, but more like rain: a sky of smog-stuck potatoes; frustration without eyes. The way I did nothing exhausted me: I fed the wall, ran water over my body until it swirled down the drain. On a determinable plane I am undetermined, on a moving train, unable to find a seat. The edge is what knows me, the face half-carved off, the gutter that gathers its objects like knives, without connection, here what is not there and vice versa. I lie. I have seven jars of lies: one for each day and the joy! of repetition. Weeks redouble and hold me still, anchors sprout from my feet, stand in for will. Desire is the lie I tell on Tuesday. I tell it with my socks off to be understood. The color of intent is the crispness of bread; whoever wants the heel comes last to the table. Nuar Alsadir is a poet and essayist. She is the author of the poetry collections Fourth Person Singular (2017), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Forward Prize for Best Collection; and More Shadow Than Bird (Salt Publishing, 2012). She works as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York. Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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