Communique: 3 Poems | Emily Louise Smith, Oskar Gambony-Steding, Aurora Shimshak

Jun 2, 2017

For the final episode in our poetry binge on Communique, we have 3 poems from 3 authors: Emily Louise Smith, publisher at Lookout Books and UNC Wilmington professor; Oskar Gambony-Steding, Creative Writing student and tutor at UNC Asheville; and Aurora Shimshak, MFA student at UNC Wilmington and Managing Editor at Ecotone. Listen to these poets read their works above; see the text (plus 2 extras) below.

Please note that poems lose their formats in this story.

by Emily Louise Smith
Emily Louise Smith
Credit WHQR/gg

Antonio by Oskar Gambony-Steding  

Antonio wanted to train 

an animal to do something for which 

it has no natural inclination, 

and he did. 

Then he died. 

 

Now there is an ape 

(also named Antonio) 

in Hector's living room suckling 

at the valve which drains the air

conditioning's absorbed humidity. 

 

Antonio (ape) communicates 

Oskar Gambony-Steding
Credit Oskar Gambony-Steding

through equations of pictures 

in magnetic frames, and stays up 

all night 

weeping. 

 

This morning on the refrigerator she had posted, 

"(clasped hands) = (angry, flailing mob) x (rolling casino dice)," 

which Hector has loosely translated 

to either "prayer is violent hope" 

or 

"God is a vicious gambler." 

 

Three ice cubes 

plunge into his orange 

juice and then, 

desperately, surface. 

 

"Sometimes I stare out at the ground and try to convince myself that it's farther away." 

Antonio blinks suspiciously at the ceiling fan, spinning.

"I tell myself that what I 

see is the ground projected 

across a series of mirrors--that 

the streaks of red and black staining 

the streets are just magnified reflections 

of squashed mosquitoes; that the smog hanging 

in the air is a layer of dust suspended along the invisible 

face of the glass.

 

I tell myself 

that every angry driver 

yells only mispronounced 

statements of immense love which 

are then misinterpreted 

by other drivers embarrassed 

by their own 

immense love." 

 

Antonio wraps a blue bandanna around her eyes, 

hangs by her legs out of Hector’s window 

with a camera held in her outstretched hands, 

and click click click clicks. 

 

Aurora Shimshak
Credit Aurora Shimshak

Saturday Morning at the Apartment Complex by Aurora Shimshak

I’ve spilled coffee on my comforter, 

but still I’d like you to stay. 

 

If we pull the corners over our heads, 

the synthetic down looks like clouds. 

 

This down promises heat, Level II.

And I know we haven’t really had winter,

 

but maybe if we wrap ourselves tight,

then even the news won’t get in.

 

We could listen to

trucks on MLK and invent their routes.

 

This one’s going to Toronto, this one’ll be home 

before dinner. That one’s a Walker on the planet Hoth.

 

Stay. There are enough things moving 

and my freckles feel just like skin. 

 

In the valley of my ribs

there’s a scroll with a story about sun—zucchini sprawling

 

over my mother’s garden plot, and squash blossoms—

orange seeking home in a star-shaped flag

where before there had only been green.  

Song for Sara by Aurora Shimshak

pigeon-toed in 5th grade gym class   /   pair of cut-off jeans & no gym shorts, long   /   mullet & unwashed hands   /     Sara, trailer / Sara, junkyard with your cousin / Sara, warts on your knees like me     /   1 liter of Mountain Dew on the bus   / & I can taste the citrus, hear   /     no man she’s a dog     /   Sara, you looked out the window /   pretended not to hear 

in the locker room, they said you looked when we were changing   /   so I kept my head down / wondered too late about your   /   favorite song, the color   /   you’d paint   /   your room   /   & were we the worst thing or did that come after   /     Sara, I dream you down at the creek at night, ground to hold     /   your skin, hands combing grass   /   clover bees humming   /   in your throat, you’re wishing   /   for a tracing warm and slow down   / 

your face   /   you stand, water to your ankles /   kick so hard the spray catches moon   /   becomes heron / before landing, like drops, on your arms /   and in that light, time goes quick /   you’re grown now / embroidering pillowcases /  singing Adele in the car   / TV in the trailer / Sara you could never sing   / I want  to tell you   /  

you might like the about the stories   /   they never run   / in the papers, want to ask if you might   /   live one, finally touched, girl   /   bruised girl, still breathing, sipping   /   Mountain Dew one moment and the next   /   day is just life

 

American Photograph by Emily Louise Smith

By the time Walker Evans arrived, there wasn’t much

besides the shrug of a tenant house, 

sun-stiff shirts hung like paper-doll garland. 

Red-clay road, a gash. Come evening, 

oak limbs strew a doily of shadow 

across the barn. He’d never seen light 

touch things like that, nearly prayerful, 

the way it blotted roofs and wood floors. 

It would prove as impossible to capture 

as the odor of smoke, lye soap, and sleep

the children carried like clouds in empty pockets. 

He tried leaving them out, but to photograph

a field is to hold a mirror to longing. 

Even cutlery kept between a board and the wall 

reminded him of them wedged in the single bed. 

 

Years later, a potbelly moon would spit stars 

across Massachusetts, and he’d remember

the baby napping at Mrs. Fields’s breast. 

How, just before he made their picture, 

she stroked a lock of blond hair and

launched, in the child’s dream, a paper boat. 

There is in every photograph a secret

that implicates us in someone else’s memory 

of a pasture, a rusted sign, a dress pattern. 

It’s what love does: makes room 

for a boat on a tenant farm in Alabama. 

All day he’d wait for the right light

on a stove, by which he meant to say

the effect of them on that place. Even long after 

the grown child inherited his forbearers’ sleep 

like the emptiness under the belly of the house. 

A young wife slipping through a field gone to pine,

or the paper boat, if anything remained of it. 

A sound familiar as a mother, calling 

her children in for the night, all that began

and went back to its loneliness after he left.