Naming the Heartbeats by Aimee Nuzhukumatathil

I’ve become the person who says Darling, who says Sugarpie,
Honeybunch, Snugglebear—and that’s just for my children.
What I call my husband is unprintable. You’re welcome. I am
his sweetheart, and finally, finally—I answer to his call and his
alone. Animals are named for people, places, or perhaps a little
Latin. Plants invite names for colors or plant-parts. When you
get a group of heartbeats together you get names that call out
into the evening’s first radiance of planets: a quiver of cobras,
a maelstrom of salamanders, an audience of squid, or an ostentation
of peacocks. But what is it called when creatures on this earth curl
and sleep, when shadows of moons we don’t yet know brush across
our faces? And what is the name for the movement we make when
we wake, swiping hand or claw or wing across our face, like trying
to remember a path or a river we’ve only visited in our dreams.

In a James Dickey Poem by Dante Di Stefano

some teenage girl is always being fucked
in a barn or whipped
during a sermon
while some stewardess is always losing her clothes
as she falls through space
and its not the atmosphere’s fault
she’s disrobing
it’s just a conspiracy of aerodynamics
and we shouldn’t think
too deeply about it because maybe
after all the barn’s on fire
and the stewardess wanted this
particular type of plummeting
and this is only poetry for god’s sake
it’s not a constitutional amendment
or a confirmation hearing
that’s just to say, nothing’s at stake
except maybe beauty
and my allegiance to it
what does it say if we canonize
such fallings
and today I was reading my daughter
a poem
no that’s a lie
I was reading her a children’s book
about a pigeon
who didn’t want to take a bath
it was silly
but she cooed at the bright pages
and I was still thinking
about James Dickey
and how complicity is a freak beast
like a sheep-child in formaldehyde
and I want a world
where my little girl grows up
to rebuke the wind inside of poems
and testimonies and scriptures and laws
and newsfeeds and subcommittees
and will fashion a parachute
from the air inside her own bright lungs
and where she will not be fodder for any poem
but will be a poem herself in every atom of her intellect

Selective Reduction by Destiny Birdsong

Is it fair to long to save oneself?
To feel as I feel hearing
A single loon making its call
at twilight:

where are you?

The imprint of it:
A beak, the fluttering artifact
Of my lungs,

You were miniscule.
But your wingspan — terrifying.

Then bird after bird
Chorus rising
In my ribcage:
What you witness here is holy
Leave this place

And in the ensuing hush:
wilderness.

I would not sacrifice
Everything for you.
There it is.

After the silence, a lone bird repeats:
I am here. Where are you?

Do You Hear Those Crows by Dalton Day

Do you hear those crows they are announcing death but the mystery is the death of what? Let’s guess. I’ll say Summer. I’ll say Summer’s body was finally ready to give out & go home & listen to the unnameable birds, birds we will never see nor hear because what are we? I am bones. You are bones too. You are more deliberate than I am here. When you speak I like to listen to you because when you speakit feels like hearing a story about the first time somebody saw the ocean, no matter what you’re saying. Those crows have never seen the ocean & that in itself is its own kind of death, probably. Maybe Summer isn’t dead after all. Maybe Summer has just dug a hole in the dirt somehwere & is ready to lay down for a while & dream of all the things that happen while Summer is gone. Bones turn into trees. We manage to stay warm. Wings disappear.

fire by Camila Maldonado

please
permit this respite
to serve as the sole motivation
you need to bless me with a recognizable ‘hello’
to revive some sense of warmth
or worth
think not of me as an inferno
but as a campfire, your energy source
i want to help sustain your frequencies
the frequencies that once ran from your blue blazing fingertips through the lampshade excuse of brain i have
think me as you once did
you would tell me 100 reassuring words
almost ironically.
i regret writing this and
i do not miss you

The Wind in a Corner by Stacey Balkun ​

after the painting by Kay Sage

I don’t want to lean this far away from you,
but bone-shudder tall and still, you’ve turned
so rigid. Backed into a corner, windblown
cliffs stiff against sunwash—have you angled

away from me, or from us all? Baby,
I call you baby from exasperation. There’s more
to see in this world if we don’t let it dry up
around us. Once, we found love in this

landscape: cholla blooming like my bouquet,
petaled fury. A gust blows up my skirt and I wish
you’d laugh with me. Crouch down. Look at this
slash of blue rock against red dirt. See, a sprout

of some wild something rooted in the hard earth,
reaching for the wind we make with our hands.

Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real? by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

If by real you mean as real as a shark tooth stuck
in your heel, the wetness of a finished lollipop stick,
the surprise of a thumbtack in your purse—
then Yes, every last page is true, every nuance,
bit, and bite. Wait. I have made them up—all of them—
and when I say I am married, it means I married
all of them, a whole neighborhood of past loves.
Can you imagine the number of bouquets, how many
slices of cake? Even now, my husbands plan a great meal
for us—one chops up some parsley, one stirs a bubbling pot
on the stove. One changes the baby, and one sleeps
in a fat chair. One flips through the newspaper, another
whistles while he shaves in the shower, and every single
one of them wonders what time I am coming home.