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.
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
through equations of pictures
in magnetic frames, and stays up
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"
"God is a vicious gambler."
Three ice cubes
plunge into his orange
juice and then,
"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
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.
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.