by Len Krisak
Like those who lurk on-line, forever hooked—
Who watch and loiter with intent, and with
One single-minded, fixed desire—he looked
To lie low near, not far, from where the myth
Arose: the goddess who could kill a man
With just a glance—a basilisk Dian.
Far safer then, never to speak or act
Or show himself in any way—in fact,
Safest by far to stay an asymptote
Eternally strung out mere miles from where
The comedy so long ago began;
Where now her dogs would rip him from his throat
Should he be dolt enough to do and dare.
He lay until he died in reconnoiter,
His death throes just a puny rhyme with loiter.
Len Krisak‘s most recent books are The Carmina of Catullus (Carcanet Press, 2014) and Rilke: New Poems (Boydell & Brewer, 2015). With work in Agni, The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson Review, PN Review, Raritan, and The Southwest Review, he is the recipient of The Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, and Robert Frost Prizes, and is a four-time champion on Jeopardy!
THE HIGH IS THREE DEGREES IN CHICAGO TODAY, AND I’M NOT EVEN TELLING YOU WHAT THE WIND CHILL IS. I’ve arrived in this Midwestern city at the perfect time to see it at its worst; the winds are howling off the snow-covered lake, and it’s so cold that it’s dangerous to go outside. I’ve stood out on those elevated train platforms now with my nose tucked into my scarf, shivering under the measly little heat lamps while that wind howls close to my skin. It’s a creature with teeth, a mugger wielding knives. It is a physical presence with a cutting brutality on your face, your eyes, your hands.
Seriously, I grew up in New England, but this cold is a whole different level. This is the cold that people can die in. Homeless or drunk people get locked out at the wrong time and die every year.
And with all this extremity around me, my hometown has STILL managed to best Chicago this year. Again, my timing was perfect; I left about a week before the first snowstorm hit Boston, and it’s been nothing but piling snow ever since. At first, snow is beautiful and delightful. Bostonians I knew were sending gleeful messages about another day of canceled class, another snowman built. Giddy photos popped up online of people making snow angels, sledding down Beacon street, skiing down Comm Ave.
But the snow is overstayed its welcome. With no days above freezing temperatures, the snow has stayed, even as more and more has piled up. Trains are stopped. Buses are spotty. Most roads have become one-way. People with real jobs, people with kids to take care of, are desperate. Snow days and piled sidewalks have become one more thing that a few are privileged to enjoy, and most must suffer.
In the way that we all think the universe revolves around us, I can’t help wonder what Boston is trying to tell me with this howling gale mere days after my final departure from my home. It makes me feel like I was essential to the place, somehow, and now once I’ve left, there’s an icy void in my place. Maybe the city is expressing its rage that I’m gone. Or maybe I belittled Boston too often. I’ve told too many people that it’s really a small town, barely a city. You don’t think I’m a city? Boston is retorting. Well how about this?
I’m being silly, of course; nothing is more impervious to human beings than weather, and yet we insist on taking it personally. On a Chicago day when the winds are so strong that I must take shelter behind a building, in the lee of the wind, I wonder what I did wrong, what I did to deserve this. Am I up to Chicago’s mettle? Do I have what it takes? I don’t know yet, but I’m trying. I’ve leaped into the icy deep end of what Chicago has to offer. For the next few months, you can picture me feeling around in the black waters of the unknown here, struggling to survive.
by Jessica Forrest
As we made ready to leave, singing the myths of our new homeland in a pulsing roquentin each disjunctured harmony a lesion lashing the taut drums of skin stretched across our ribs;
Bitter plums bitter figs bitter butter bitter never bitter
Changing season a wicker maze I wander when I want to escape the view of your favorite constellation abandoning the body that signifies holding fast, safe harbor. On the other side of the world a mouth blooms, an ember softly glows.
Distracted by the fingers of your left hand I didn’t notice the fingers of you right hand crawling
through the dead summer briars towards
Entropy caught in the erstwhile torpor; not unaware, not placid; the
First time your name means nothing the first time they expect you to remember what they have taught you to NOT where you came from the first time where you came from doesn’t matter the first time you don’t matter the first time you don’t care what they do to you the first time you do whatever they tell you to do to another human being the first time you don’t recognize your own flesh and blood and the first time your kin who could not fight to get you back stopped recognizing you the first time you stopped wanting to go back to the place that carried the name HOME the first time the name HOME was picked up by the place you hated the first time you broke when you thought you were not breaking the first time they didn’t have to ask.
Goosefleshed blurs stain your glasses but you don’t wonder why you can’t see properly.
Heart? Wh (ere) at is my heart? The
Inside of me smells like the outside of you.
Jess leaves by opening the door and walking away,
Kicking autumn leaves where the straggle in the floodwater dregs, sliding between sole and asphalt. She puts
Lips to fingers, lips to amulet, lips back to fingers and someone says, “look at the poor girl playing all by herself.”
Maybe we could never really exist in the same space. Maybe we’ve been killing each other this whole time
Never realizing. Never realizing.
Over time you will jump to their command without realizing you are jumping over time when you jump without realizing you will be at peace and everyone will say what a lovely person you are over time everyone will say what a lovely person you are while you destroy everything you once tried to protect over time everyone you once tried to protect might or might not trade you for the chance to be seen as a lovely person over time you won’t care that you don’t remember the definition of betrayal over time you will come to love the knife you are twisting into the martyr’s back and over time you will love the martyr for its death spasms
Picking at your knucklebones, smudging spider web cracks with grease and throwing pieces of you onto the floor
Quiet the chartreuse in its cracked glass
Running down the length of the table, soaking the lace so quietly. Extrinsic
Scaffolds surrender to shuddering fingertips grip the ragged skyline under the road kill pelt of clouds oak giant netting lightning in a warm embrace that Translated through me on this grand adventure; slapped you when your teeth cut the soft mist shrouding your scream
Unintentionally. We still scrape against each other, our stories mingle, become the same
Vadimony we rolled with the last time we faced the scales of judgment and as then it’s now also
Wrong to have wanted you with me forever, with your soul
Xerographied tightly to my collarbone while
You snapped against me, a vicious,
Zaffre tinged integument, a soft garment of woven bruises.
Jessica Forest holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College and is currently trying to find a day job that won’t kill her soul. She loves writing poetry above everything else in the world and casually blogs at http://chewingwormwood.tumblr.com.