Tag Archives: Poetry.

Hope Sustains the Farmer

By Christina Schmitt

Spes Alit Agricolam

The grave was five feet deep.
I know this because he asked me to stand in it.
I am 5’7.
The sun was hot, as every May day, and the tall grasses rolled in the quick breeze.
There were the right amount of clouds for cloud watching.
I noticed this when I glanced at the sky as I was standing in the hole to be turned grave and wondered if death was ever an act of mercy.
He put the bullet in his shotgun, explaining the best way to shoot her.
It’s to draw an imaginary X between the eyes and the nose and hit the cross at an angle.
He said he saw it once in the farmer’s catalog he gets every other week.
His hands trembled.
It was Friday.

On Monday we slaughtered three piglets for a pig roast wedding.

(After he shot the piglets,
We slashed the skin above their hooves
Hung them by a forklift
Bathed them in boiling water
To burn off hair.
Delicately,
With a sharpened pocket knife,
We slit their stomachs to remove their inner organs.
It is fragile work,
As you want to avoid puncturing intestines.)

She hadn’t moved from under the only tree in the pasture except wringing with the shade as the sun changed positions. She was a calf, a little over a week old. She was born hairless, which didn’t seem like a big deal when I watched her legs straighten and buckle underneath her last week.
Because new life is always beautiful, even if it is ugly.
I got in to the habit of naming the newborns, and he warned me harshly that I best not assign her a name because it’s best if she doesn’t make it.

The difference between the piglets and the calf is
The desire to kill without a need and the need to kill without the desire, and
Isn’t this a serious human problem?

Her skin was hammered by the sun, and cracked so deeply that flies feasted. She didn’t have eyelids and usually they rolled back so that I only saw the whites of them. Without the hooves, a wanderer never would have identified this miserable creature as an oversized rodent, not a newborn calf.
I checked on her every morning in the pasture that week, praying to God for mercy. If she had the energy to banter with God, I’d assume it would’ve resembled Job’s dialogue; only, God could not banter back. How could you justify misery with a child?
The 3 p.m. bell rang to signify a time of prayer on the farm.
“How appropriate,” he mused, tipped his hat. As he sauntered towards her lifeless body, she stood. Well, she tried. Every movement she made caused her skin to crack more and blood oozed out enough for small droplets to fall in the matted grass that she refused to die in.
She stumbled around for a moment, getting closer to the hole on the other side of the tree.
She stood, facing the mound of dug up dirt, forcing him to stand over it with one foot on each side. She stared at him, whites in her eyes stark against her blood red skin.
She was ready.
“Return to your Soil and Creator,” I heard him mutter as he lifted the shotgun.
She fell, not even a foot from the grave. He reloaded once more, to be sure, and fired again.
Then, he walked away.
It helped me to know that he hurt because of this. Not that I blame him, but because I know that taking lives lie in his authority and that type of power should be humbled.
He returned, where my feet hadn’t moved, and made a motion of lifting her in the grave.

She didn’t look natural, with her legs folded over her and head cocked too far left.
He said it doesn’t matter,
but it did matter.
I regret not saying that.
He regrets waiting so long.
He asked if that was hard. I asked if death was ever easy. I was the first one to see her, last week.
He offered me the bullet casing. I said no.
Some things don’t need a totem to recall their principles.

Spes Alit Agricolam

(Hope Sustains the Farmer)

Sweet Fruit

By Alec Prevett

there were no clouds in the day
all across was a sugary electroshock blue
taffy
         stretched and squashed by a universal pull.

the trees behind the fence
mocked me with their absurd height, extending
their limbs and tasting
that sticky sky—
munching on it as giraffes do
         on leaves.

the naked fruitboys nestled in the boughs
fed on it, too, reaching
from the branches to steal blue in their hands.
they hung there, far above me, laughing
         as i drooled, hungry.

Long Dollar

By Jon Goode

Mr. Jones in his Sunday’s best pacing;
Mrs. Jones in her Sunday dress waiting impatient
For the ushers to begin
To usher in the church congregation
To hear about God’s salvation
And Satan’s temptation.
The flock heavy with sin
The church a weigh station
While pastor lay in wait to waylay em,
Lift lions and slay lambs at the gate
Testify, pacify and pass the plate
(Pass the plate).
And the Choir sang their songs
The congregation sang along
Waving their hands
And their Martin Luther King fans
But they weren’t fans of Martin Luther
Or Christ the martyr
They worshipped at the altar of the Long Dollar
(Of the Long Dollar)
(Of the Long Dollar).

And there I am eighteen years old
Running in late dressed in street clothes;
And when my feet hit the church doors
In jeans and shelltoes
It seemed hell froze.
I was greeted with heaven help’s
And hell no’s
I suppose those folks in salvation’s army
Fo sho don’t shop at the Salvation Army.
They all smelled like obsession.
I pray the scent of salvation’s on me.
And the Choir sang their song
The congregation sang along
Waving their hands
And their Martin Luther King fans
But they weren’t fans of Martin Luther
Or Christ the martyr
They worshipped at the altar of the Long Dollar
(Of the Long Dollar)
(Of the Long Dollar).
The preacher screamed “No weapon formed can harm me!”
Which seemed right he had a right tight army.
In fact I bet not a single congregant had even touched the hem of his garment yet.
So I sat in the front row right next to Ms. So & So
She wore her skirt real high and her hat real low.
You know, that it was known to everyone
That after the pastor would make her speak in tongues.
No one was sure if he was reaching them
But the shepherd sheared the sheep
He was surely fleecing them.
He was preaching and teaching to the young
Tell them who they are and who they should become;
And behind doors he was touching them
Right under parent’s nose he was touching them
Soon it was exposed that he was touching them
(He was touching them)
(He was touching).
And the Choir sang their songs
The congregation sang along
Waving their hands
And their Martin Luther King fans
But they weren’t fans of Martin Luther
Or Christ the martyr
They worshipped at the altar of the Long Dollar
(Of the Long Dollar)
(Of the Long Dollar).

hang out with me

By Maddie Fay

“hang out with me.”
a text i send a lot,
a little demanding,
but always sincere.
it means
“i like your company”
or “i miss the way
your nose crinkles when you laugh,”
or “there’s this new thing
i want to try,
and i want to try it with you.”

my heart stretches years
and states and oceans,
and i try to keep the people i love
as close as i can.
because their brains are magic,
because i like their insight,
because so many of us are
lost boys whose only real family
is each other.
because waking up
to another friend’s picture
on a facebook memorial post
becomes an avalanche of every
phone call i should have made.

“hang out with me”
always means “i want to see you,”
but sometimes it also means
“i don’t like the way
your new boyfriend talks to you”
or “none of us have seen you
around lately”
or “you’ve stopped eating again,
and what kind of friend would i be
if i just pretended not to notice?”

and we don’t have to talk
about anything you don’t want to,
just get in my car,
i’ll pack us both lunches,
and we can drive to the mountains.
i’ll remind you of the reasons
you are good,
the ways you have touched my life,
and why i’m glad to have you in it.
we’ll make really exciting plans
so tomorrow can stop
looking at you and licking its teeth.

i won’t pretend my love
can save you,
but some things
you can’t do on your own,
and i will help you find help.
some days you are
the brightest thing about this world
and it would never be the same
for losing you so soon.
if everyone who hurts like you
dies from it,
there will be no one left
standing at the other side,
reaching out an arm
for those who come next,
and the world will be left
to the people who inherited bridges.

i like your company,
and i would miss the way
your nose crinkles when you laugh,
and there are still so many
new things you have not yet tried.
so come over,
or call me; i’ll come get you.
you can play with my dogs,
we can count the stars.
i can lock up my knives,
you can sleep in my room,
just hang out with me
a little bit longer.

crazy bitches

By Maddie Fay

“you gotta watch out
for those crazy bitches,
man,”
says the drunk man at the bar.
he says this to me
conspiratorially,
like i, a bulldyke,
am far enough removed
from his idea of “woman”
that he can talk to me this way
and i will understand.
i have sex with women,
after all,
so how could i possibly
view them as people?
surely, i know
what he’s talking about.
and i do know
exactly what he’s talking about.

“crazy bitch,”
noun.
defined as,
1) any woman whose emotions
are inconvenient to you;
2) any woman who accuses you
or any of your friends
of predatory behavior.

a crazy bitch will get angry
just because you
forgot her birthday
or fucked her friend.
a crazy bitch will call you
an asshole
or a player.

“crazy bitches,”
he tells me,
“are always ruining things
for nice guys.”

and i know a lot of nice guys,
the kinds i go camping with,
the kind who’ll go to lunch
with your rapist,
but never one-on-one,
they just have a lot of
mutual friends,
and nice guys don’t like
to make a scene.

a crazy bitch
won’t make things comfortable
for nice guys,
a crazy bitch
will call it rape
just because she was asleep
and you didn’t ask permission.

“crazy bitches,”
he says,
“will accuse you of anything.”

and i have never been
a perfect lover,
often not even a good one.
i have forgotten a lot of birthdays
and fucked a lot of friends.
i have been called an asshole
and a player.
i have had sex with a lot of women,
but i have never been called
a rapist.
because i don’t believe in
grey areas,
because i make sure that
everyone i touch
wants to be touched by me
every time.
i have been accused
of a lot of things,
but never once of rape.
you say crazy bitches
are always accusing “nice guys”
of rape,
and i think you are saying
“nice guys”
when you mean to say “rapists.”

a crazy bitch will hold
a knife to your throat
just because
you put a gun in her mouth
and told her you’d shoot
if she screamed,
a crazy bitch will have the audacity
to rip her survival from your hands.
she is not full of soft things
the way you expected a woman
to be,
you can’t tell crazy bitches
what to do.

you are afraid of her words,
but she is afraid of your hands,
and your wanting,
the way that wanting,
for you,
is only a step
on the ladder to taking
instead of the start of a
conversation.

so when he says,
“you’ve got to watch out
for those crazy bitches,”
i say,
“yes.
us crazy bitches
have got to watch out
for each other,
because no one else
is fucking going to.”

Letters

By Jyll Thomas

“Hey pretty lady, can you spare some change for a veteran?” the man sat next to the entrance of Starbucks and leaned against a large dung-colored backpack. He rattled a collection of coins in a Styrofoam cup.

“Get a job,” the blonde woman breezed past him into the store. Her pearl necklace gleamed like baby teeth around her sinewy neck. She ordered a grande latte with six Splendas, foam, no cream, 120 degrees. She grabbed some napkins at the cream and sugar bar and noticed a poem tacked onto the corkboard above the serving area.

 

Even on a rainy day,

The warmth of kindness

Keeps the clouds away.

 

And this. This type of banality pisses me off more than anything. Probably written by some green tea drinker. She ripped the poem off the wall and on the back she wrote:

 

I don’t mean to be crass

Or break your heart like Cupid,

Stick a pen up your ass,

Your poems are stupid.

 

She stabbed her response back on the bulletin board.

“Bitch, I got a job. I am on call 24 hours a day, right here,” the homeless man shouted at her as she walked to her car.

“Yeah, you just keep saving the world,” she retorted.

“That’s right. I’m a goddamned super hero. I got powers you know nothing about.”

The next time Clara went to Starbucks, the same dark-haired man was perched near the door swirling an assortment of coins in a dirty cup.

“Hey pretty lady, can you spare some change for a blind man?” he asked shaking the random change flung at him by other patrons.

“I thought you were a veteran. And you weren’t blind the last time I was here,” she said.

“Like they say, it’s hard out here. You never know what you going to lose or recover.”

She noticed his green gray eyes were a bright contrast to his caramel-colored skin.

“See there, I gave you that smile, now slide me some cash for a cup of coffee.”

Clara walked into the store, ordered her drink and bought a black coffee for the man outside. If she gave him money, he’d probably spend it on drugs. She checked the corkboard to see if there was a new poem.

 

Love and compassion

Never go out of fashion.

Empty your wallet, free your mind

Abundant blessings you will find.

 

Clara rolled her eyes and wondered, what does this mean? This is just sentimental bullshit. Everybody needs money to live and be happy.  Besides, she committed a charitable act by buying the dirty guy outside a coffee. She turned the slip of paper over and wrote:

 

I wish I could believe the words you write

are the best things to do.

Even the blind man can see the light,

Your poem sucks, so fuck you.

Clara posted this on the board and stomped through the door. She handed the homeless man the cup of coffee. She thought perhaps it was the nicest thing anyone had done for him in a long while. The man took a sip and spit it on the sidewalk, hot liquid splashed all over her Jimmy Choo heels.

“Do you think you’re doing me a favor giving me this rot gut? Black coffee, not even cream or sugar? Didn’t even ask me how I take it, you just felt real big giving the bum a small coffee. Gimme a goddam pumpkin spiced latte next time,” he threw the cup at her as she ran to her car.

“Even when I try to do something good, it’s not appreciated,” Clara sat crying in her Mercedes. “I’m never coming back here, first the insipid poetry and then harassed by a vagrant. Someone should call the cops on that piece of human garbage!” And yet, he was the only person she talked to all day.

When she returned, the same man was perched on his backpack near the door swirling a few coins in a dirty cup.

“Hey pretty lady, can you spare a some change so I can get to the doctor?”

“Is he going to help you get your sight back?” Clara asked.

“I don’t know, sometimes we all have trouble seeing what’s in front of us.”

She considered this bit of sidewalk philosophy and asked him his name.

“I am known as Celino. What do your friends call you?”  A gold-covered tooth flashed in the crook of his smile.

Was this guy a gypsy? For a homeless man, he was kind of hot with his dark hair loosely curled close to his collar, honey skin and light eyes. The name, was it Italian?

“My name is Clara. I don’t have any friends. I just moved here from Tampa, and I work all the time,” she answered.

“Sounds depressing,” Celino said.

“Unfortunately, everybody can’t lead the glamorous life,” she replied.

Celino shrugged his shoulders.

“Dream big, and don’t forget my pumpkin spice latte- grande.”

She picked up their drink orders and checked the bulletin board. She wondered if the baristas took any notice of her poetic interchange but they seemed engrossed in their own conversations. Clara felt a pang of envy. She missed talking with her girlfriends about nothing and everything. Maybe she should quit the accounting firm and get a job at Starbucks.

Today’s poem was illustrated with a delicate border of vines and flowers. She wondered what he looked like and imagined he had long hair and kind eyes.

When you feel sad and alone

Reach your hand out to a friend

Use a pencil or a phone,

Broken ties can always mend.

 

Clara turned the poem over and wrote:

I thought your words were pretty lies

Now my heart is broken wide.

This life continues although it does not please us,

I must ask the question, do you look like Jesus?

 

Clara walked outside and handed Celino his latte. He rewarded her kindness with a quick glimpse of his shiny tooth.

“So, I’ll see you tomorrow,” she asked.

“Yeah, unless I’m not here then try not to miss me too much. I know you will because you’re totally in love with me. I’m irresistible.”

“You are something else,” she admitted.

Celino watched her walk to her car, the motion of her hips accentuated by her high heels.

As Clara sat in traffic on the way to work, she pondered what kind of life Celino led. How did he spend his days? He seemed somewhat normal, why he was homeless? Maybe it was because he was the only person she spoke to every day but there was something intriguing about him. If he took a shower, put on some clothes that matched and weren’t ripped, she could bring him to the company Christmas party.

She heard the whispers behind her back at work. They called her “ice princess”. Her extreme shyness and social anxiety made it nearly impossible for her to communicate. Every word that came out of her mouth seemed inappropriate or offensive no matter how hard she tried. Yet with Celino, she had no fear. At least he called her a bitch to her face.

But what about the poet? Clara imagined showing up at the Georgian Terrace dressed in a tight black dress, her pearl necklace reflecting the light of the chandeliers. The poet would hold her hand and whisper sweet words to make her laugh. They wouldn’t hide in a corner as she did at most social events. Clara wouldn’t even care if he wore a long robe and flowing pants. She smiled as she pulled into the parking deck and thought this might be the first party she would enjoy attending.

The next morning at Starbucks, Celino sat propped against the building with his head down. He saw a pair of slender legs standing in front of him punctuated by expensive shoes.  “Hey pretty lady, can you spare some change?”

“Celino, it’s Clara. Do you want a pumpkin spice latte or something to eat?”

He heard her gasp as he lifted his head and revealed his left eye swollen shut by an angry purple-and-red bruise.

“Oh my God, who did this to you?”

“Well, the prick that rolled me didn’t exactly introduce himself before taking my valuables,” he said with heavy sarcasm.

“You still have your backpack,” she said nodding at the canvas sack.

“Yeah, lucky me. Make yourself useful and get me an iced coffee with lots of cream,” he said. A black hole occupied the space where his gold tooth once shined in the early morning light.

She checked the bulletin board for the latest reply. On a torn, crinkled piece of pink paper the poet wrote:

Don’t make me out to be a saint,

Neither much of a man.

If the sight of me don’t make you faint,

Then take my hand.

 

What did that mean? Was the poet a woman, and did that mean Clara was a lesbian? She had fallen in love with the words without knowing the writer. She took the scrap down and wrote on the back:

Give me one chance

With you I have no fear.

Join me in a dance,

Tomorrow I’ll meet you here.

 

Clara’s head was spinning as she handed Celino his iced coffee. He pressed the cold drink against his busted eye. The pain reminded him of his father, fists flying screaming, “faggot”. The only difference this time was he had lost his treasures. He could feel colors colliding, voices turned from whispers to shrieks; his skin itched where he could not scratch. Clara daydreamed of going to the Christmas party with her perfect date.

The next morning, the air was crisp with the first cold day in Atlanta. Clara wore a white dress instead of her usual black business suit. Her head felt a little fuzzy from the Valium she took to stay calm when she met the poet. What if she said something stupid or the poet didn’t like her? This was worse than Tinder dating which she stopped after meeting a man who whistled every time he said a word with the letter S in it.

When Clara arrived at Starbucks she didn’t notice the naked man standing beside the door.

“Hey pretty lady, you got some change?” he screamed.

Clara gasped as she spotted Celino’s clothes strewn about the ground covering his backpack. “What are you doing?”

“Ma’am, stay back. We’ve called the police. I think he forgot to take his meds,” one of the employees held her back with his arm.

“I told you they were stolen, motherfucker,” Celino shouted. He went on a tirade about the government and getting arrested for eating pussy.

Clara had never seen anything like this. Sirens blared as the police rushed to Starbucks, she had to bring him back to reality before they arrived. She pushed the employee away from her and grabbed Celino by the shoulders.

“Look at me, it’s Clara. Everything’s OK. Why don’t you put some pants on and I’ll buy a pumpkin spice latte for you?”

“Fuck your latte,” Celino wrapped a wiry, muscular arm around her throat. “That shit has preservatives, are you trying to kill me?”

At first glance, Clara failed to notice that Celino was naked. And he held a makeshift knife, which was now pressed against her throat. A young policeman pulled up and jumped out of his car. He advanced slowly and assessed the situation.

“Officer, about time you got here, this woman is trying to murder me,” Celino said.

“Sir, I understand. Put down the knife, let her go and we’ll sort this out,” the cop reassured while approaching with the caution of a cat.

“No, you don’t understand. This bitch has been trying to poison me for weeks, she is a dangerous woman.” Celino pushed the knife into her skin. A thin line of blood dripped onto Clara’s pearl necklace and stained the collar of her white dress.

The cop took a step forward and upholstered his gun. “Sir, you need to put down the weapon and let the girl go, now.”

Celino stared with his strange colored eyes; everything lost focus except the gun. “You’re right, officer. This is how it’s got to go down.”

He pushed Clara into the cop and snatched his firearm. Celino pointed the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. The policeman shoved Clara against the wall, next to Celino’s backpack. He checked Celino’s pulse and radioed for an ambulance. Helluva first day on the job.

Clara sat in shock in the same place Celino perched and charmed change from customers. She looked over and saw a familiar piece of pink paper sticking out of his backpack. She felt guilty but she looked inside and saw all the poems from the corkboard. His satchel was filled with poetry and drawings. A portrait on a piece of cardboard bore an uncanny likeness of Clara. Her face was encircled by words like: hope, blessed, love, faith as if he drew a ring of protection around her.

“Yeah,” Clara thought. “He did kind of look like Jesus.”