Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Campesino

By Gary Soto

Spring ’73, I’m two time zones from my country
And hacking at the soldier-straight weeds —
I’m captain of their destruction. But the army
Of weeds keeps advancing, day after day.
I was a math teacher in Mexico,
But now I’m a number squeezed into a white van,
The stars blue as my life at 5:30 in the morning.
But don’t feel sorry. I have my hands and back,
My face dark as a penny in a child’s palm.
I walk a straight row. My lean shadow keeps up.
But look at the circling seagulls,
Landlocked with no way home.

If there’s work, I hoe nine hours in the beet fields,
Sometimes with a friend in the next row,
Sometimes alone. You would be crazy
To open your mouth — the wind and dust ...
In a year, my face will be tooled like my wallet,
Dark and creased. Over the clods,
I sing to myself, or whistle like a parrot.
I practice English —
Waffle, no good tire, nice to meet you.

In the fields, I stop when the patron on the tractor path says stop.
I pound sand from a boot like an hourglass.
Time pours forever and forever.
Tomorrow I’ll start again. I’ll chop at the earth
But it won’t bleed under my hoe.
I’ll chop, sweat, and think in English —
Toaster, thread, seagulls find a way home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Willamette

By Clementine von Radic

I dreamed I cut open my own arm
and out poured the Willamette River.
Out poured each dead friend
buried in the fall earth
which smells always of rot.
And out poured your heart,
which had calcified
like Percy Shelley’s and was hard,
in one piece yet still broken.
I believe it floated down the river
out into the ocean or wherever
things go to sink
when they are too weak to swim,
but even in my dreams
I did not follow you. I am devoted
to the church of my own survival.
I am the girl who does not grieve
a bloodless loss.
I lose a whole river
and stay standing.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Still life

Still life with Ensure, vials of fentanyl, oxycodone, water.
Still life with crackers maybe, hopefully, he will keep down.
Still life with tossed sheets and yogurt cup. Still life
with Sports Illustrated piles in the bathroom, guest room,
on the living room floor, on the dining room table, in recycle bins waiting
near the door. Still life with the younger brother assessing
how to dispose the hoardings of the one man left who shares his face.
Still life with hanging tension and sadness, failed ambition,
medicated dreams. Still life with phlegm and corruption.
With waste, with fanned get well cards, appointment reminders,
hospital garage parking receipts. Still life with the mantel clock,
one birthday’s present, still ticking and ticking and ticking away.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Love Elegy with Busboy

The whole mess —
pair of chopsticks pulled apart,
tarnished pot of tea,
even my fortune
(which was no good) —
we left for the busboy to clear.
I’d probably feel more
guilty if he didn’t
so beautifully sweep our soiled plates
into his plastic black tub
and the strewn rice into his palm.
The salt and pepper shakers
were set next to each other again.
A new candle was lit.
You’d never know
how reckless we’d been,
how much we’d ruined.
With the table now so spotless,
who’s to say we couldn’t just go
back? Who says we can’t start over,
if we want?

This poem previously appeared in the New York Times.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Ghost stories

By Nixi Schroeder

I am 13 when I have my first paranormal encounter:
a whispered moan fizzling in the wind like a holler from a car window—
“Ay girl, lemme get that pussayyyyyyyyy….”

My father does not believe me.

I am sixteen and it happens again, this time
“Nice tits.” My mother explains
this is a common psychic phenomenon.
I am seventeen when a spirit at Wal-Mart asks what I have in my jeans;
my boyfriend says this is a compliment, says
I am lucky to hear such spirits speak.

I am nineteen.
A wandering sprite asks if I want to get a drink.
When I decline I am haunted for three hours
through cafés, narrow streets, and alleyways by
a shadow presence marked in eye corner glimpses.
I do not go home for fear of the Ouiji board.
I do not go to the police:
the police do not believe ghost stories.

We all know a girl who wasn’t believed.

We’ve all been the girl who wasn’t believed:
I have a friend whose ass was grabbed in a frat, a ghost hand
leaving finger bruises as an invisible mouth suffocated her scream—
she tried to call the ghostbusters but was threatened with retaliation,
like so many girls are threatened with retaliation—another friend
was the victim of possession—
held down in her bed until she shrieked in silent tongues;
the police asked why she was not carrying a rosary;
her mother is still making monthly payments to an exorcist
who has not told her to speak
because he knows
her voice is still another’s
possession.

We all know victims of possession. I have an aunt
who has scars across her cheeks from where her husband marked her
as a possession;
the police told her to stay in a haunted house
to protect her children,
now even after the restraining order she still receives visitations,
her husband’s spectre rattling the chains which bind
so many women, and
at the end of this poem I will hear a harsh
voice, whispering “not all ghosts,”
whispering “quit being so dramatic—

one in five women are always so dramatic”
and I will say, no, not all ghosts.
Not all ghosts,
but
enough.


Nixi Schroeder is a MA student of English at Truman State University. Her poetry has been featured by The FEM, Eyedrum Periodically, Spectrum, Red Dashboard Press, and Windfall Magazine, among other publications.