Online Exclusives

11.17.21
Whatever Future is Coming
I fell asleep with my girlfriend’s head on my shoulder, but woke to a too-familiar absence—one that had somehow followed us down all those highway miles—her body a shadow on the other bed that could have belonged to anyone, could have been an axe murderer for all I knew, but I just closed my eyes and willed whatever future was coming to hurry, I was tired of waiting for it. On my second waking the sun was shouldering its way into the room through the crack in the curtains, my girlfriend now missing from both beds, and the room was made strange by her disappearance so that I flung myself out from under the covers. I found her in the bathroom with her hands on either side of the sink, the water running and There’s something wrong with it Liv she said. [...]
11.10.21
Summer of Drowned Fathers
        The fathers drowned and scientists were baffled.
          All over the world fathers met their end in water. Fishing fathers drowned in rivers, swimming fathers drowned in lakes, tanning fathers drowned in backyard pools. Bathing fathers drowned in tubs and surfing fathers were sucked in the sea’s undertow. Fathers panning for gold drowned in creeks. A father was found dead with his head in an overflowing sink near dishes slick with syrup from breakfast. A father in a bathrobe was discovered face down in a puddle in the parking lot of a department store. Deep within a national forest, a father was found upended with both black rubber boots stuck up high from a primitive outhouse’s chamber hole. He would have looked funny if he weren’t dead.
          Fathers in other countries, fathers of celebrities, rich fathers, poor fathers, fathers only known in passing, cherished fathers, stepfathers, fathers of strangers and fathers of friends. They drowned and drowned. [...]
11.03.21
Scent of You
   The day you told me the world was ending, you had inquired about a particular scent for treating your mother’s lapses in memory (further complicating the matter by saying that your father, the primary witness to her memory loss, was also deteriorating himself). I assured you there was no such perfume.

            As a joke or token of consolation, I showed you a favorite scent of my mother’s, which had played no small part in enchanting my father. It was a perfume heavy with middle notes, or heart-notes, as we call it, which take longer to dissipate. It had no medical basis for treating pre-existing memory loss, but the scent alone was potent enough to provide an olfactory anchor at the moment of inhalation—a perfumed time-stamp. 

            Of course the world was ending, I said. Everything was always ending.  [...]
10.27.21
Two Poems
I stretch into
a shape. Do as I’m told

in plastics. Each mold

is a house
is an ocean but

only now do I know
his death was never some renewable

substance. The whale sank away––

out of contact ...  [...]
10.20.21
Six Poems
Launch

codes, we stripped species,
            our insecure
hands of gloves
to crack the test           to our capitalizable
future. Pray
            for the multiverse I’m working on
at midnight. [...]
10.13.21
Five Poems
Forgive us. We were waiting
here, in the thickening ice. We worked a long time. Now
we try to give what we found, a little basket
hiding behind each back, full of the young shoots.
They are so green. Mercifully green. We say so. Yes,
they are alive, we say. We, too. We are still sick. [...]
10.06.21
The Jackal
Friday night, and you have done the unthinkable. You’ve taken your father’s Jackal Ghost bowling ball from its locked hard-shell case under your mother’s bed—the ball that looks like a purple and black version of the earth, a jackal’s head rising from the swirls—and gone to meet Teddy and Zeke and Evan and Marya, most importantly Marya, for a night of bowling, the game your dead father was obsessed with: the game that, according to your mother, ruins people. [...]
09.29.21
Three Arrangements
new animals are formed by buds
which break off and sink to the bottom
showy outside ray flowers attract insects
and less showy center ones develop into seeds

the bat flies with wings of skin
and sleeps hanging upside down
the great sea tortoises
sometimes live a hundred years [...]
09.22.21
Three Poems
The cockatoo
was kept in a kitchen
drawer All her life
           
in a drawer Kept there
by a
What would you call
           
The bird is
bald She plucks
her feathers Her skin

is reptilian
bleeding Parrots
call one another

by distinct sounds My name
means strange stranger
foreign The cockatoo
    
shares it Parrots [...]
08.11.21
Sky Burial
The property consisted of a small washout pond, several tin structures, and a ranch house with a wraparound porch. The landlord was a tall tan man with silver hair and great big hands, impressive even in his early seventies. He spoke in fast and stuttered rhythms that made me want to clutch the dirt and hang on, but walked at a pace which indicated there was no other place he’d rather be in that moment than with me, touring his property, him explaining to me his rules. [...]
08.04.21
Five Poems
I spot wind at the Texas inn where 
my brother plays charcuterie, his head glowing with sweat.

As he peers into the cheese, my oblong sister
offers her face to violent vegetarians

and prognosticates the part about the bison;
indeed, this bison will have denied paradise to us

before we have even eaten.  [...]
07.28.21
Five Cantos
Sanjay’s stepmother enters the dining room and
his monitoring bracelet records a flutter in his pulse.
Dr. Cameron shows the assistant how he applies
an electrode to the surface of the patient’s brain.
She sees a mountain blow away like it’s sand. [...]
07.21.21
After the Eye Surgery,
“Well, technically batshit,” I’d tell him, and I’d remind him that, seeing as we were trapped in this cave—“Cave?” he’d say, and I’d say, “Yeah, the cave we’re recovering from eye surgery in,” and he’d say, “Oh right”—and that seeing as we’d be thus—“pardon the expression,” I’d say—interred for at least as long as it took to recover, that the cave would be, for all intents and purposes, what we’d have to mean, from here on out, by the word world; and thus bats, who were the only creatures still flitting in and out of the cave’s narrow apertures and thereby participating in the larger ecosystem and importing to an otherwise inhospitable environment the most basic elements needed to sustain life, their excretions would need to be, for the foreseeable future, what we’d have to mean when we’d say sun. [...]
07.14.21
Five Poems
And all manner of head swerves.
Three people flew past me, but did not see.
It’s not even clear what happens to the chicken on the bobsled.
 
Trails . . . that slither with their cake.
Will you have more? [...]
05.26.21
The Holographer
I remember how, when we got word that it was okay to emerge, my parents opened the front door. My mother was holding an aluminum baseball bat, my father had a shovel. The three of us were in our hazmat suits. (Mine had grown a little taut. I was eleven years old and had gotten taller and rounder.) Our breaths were trapped in our masks.

How long had we been indoors? Time was hard to figure. It had been well over two years. But had it been three? [...]
05.19.21
Two Poems
his bright impatiens in their beds, apple trees,
            to which he earlier rose on his cane and leaned

until among their snow blossoms alongside the bees,
            surrounded in floral-sweet fragrance,

from where your father says, And, no one wants you to be
            bitter. [...]
05.12.21
Three Poems
Like the ancient glass marked

with fleck and mottle. But O—
her silver likeness. Long forsaken

the mirror: the edges, now light moves
straight through. Shrug or shudder.
  [...]
05.05.21
Getting Out of Janesville
 
Because they’re in Florida, their position on the terrace is glorified with a gigantic orange ball sinking into serene water, streamers of pink snaking along the blue, the whole thing so … so … validating? And the pelicans! “Look, dude! Pelicans!”

“You can’t shout ‘Pelicans!’ every time we see pelicans. We’re in Florida, babe. There’s tons of pelicans.”

“But that’s the point …” the equestrian’s former friend muses. [...]
04.28.21
Burn Scars
Fire hurtles past on both sides bubbling black
At the edges. He wakes to a solitary yellow line
Glowing desolation. House truck dog are gone
Evaporated into red sky and patchy earth, snags
Decorate the darkness. Out of his scars grow
Thin buds. Imperfect impermanent incomplete,
He falls back as if falling into a pool, arms out [...]
04.21.21
The Parenthesis Hunter
Book thieves as well as purloiners of ancient maps and medieval spell books, whose superficially absurd tactics often belie a mastery of their skill, are both well-known and feared by booksellers and librarians. A list of the various methods and stratagems used to outwit an employee’s vigilance would be endless, and while vendors have certainly come up with more or less effective techniques to stem this scourge, the fact remains that to this day none has managed to catch even a single parenthesis hunter in the act. [...]
04.14.21
Poem Called “The Lie” After the Poem by C. K. Williams from Which It Takes Its Last Two Lines
When you think of white do you think of Rembrandt
in darkness          pockmarked     a sieve or a monkfish
Ahead now     ahead then:       ash        scrub pine        shade
and Penny –– then twelve        then my brother’s sole friend  [...]
04.07.21
Seven Poems
To sing’s to field thought’s
failed arrow, then drop it,

as sadness surprises,
as always, then doesn’t,

its record all rumors, bits
of lithic in its meat, [...]
03.31.21
Four Poems
Underneath the electric microscope frass gathered like a word no one could pronounce, or something children left in a cage. Sugar ants were gorging on the corpse of a cicada next to the front door. Soon four golden mounds were theirs, to carry back in their lemony bellies to the queen. I have a box of nine suns set on spikes, a pair of gray bags concealing speakers. I am your teacher, said the teacher, alone in a room. If there is a predicate to this. [...]
03.24.21
3 Photos of Us Laughing in the Public Fauna
A hole in the sky 
is what it looks like. Something that will be replaced 
by color, which is a kind of 
false answer, and yet the only real truth 
in this world. The only “real truth”
by which I mean
forgiving. Fog is made virtually [...]
03.17.21
Red Puncta: Poems
Of the foreground, we will not speak. Look past the blotted figures, the stiff line that parts glaucous air from ground’s teeth. Forfeit faces. Alight instead on the twine that screws hands together. Gelid landscape, chromatics at life’s edge, those pant bottoms burnished to peasant gray.
  [...]
03.10.21
Articulate Body
That death measures out
                                    the immeasurable—sands
            fused to a melted stream,
                                                the minutes
hardening to a glass pane
                        against whose cool
            we lean our heads and watch clouds
                                                            unbutton to rain.
And inked its quake on white. [...]
03.03.21
From The Hölderliniae
The roses never looked so good before we gained a dormant garden
help. But roses burn in just one day of this appalling desert heat. An
effervescent sun burning the roses as I must wish it would inflame all
features of the abhorrent politicians plunging a nation into ruin ... and archaeology! We look in vain for faces from a human past. [...]
02.24.21
Five Poems
Then geese cycle madly
across a pond
like Wile E. Coyote
three feet past the cliff—

catch lift
and join the great migration. [...]
02.17.21
Moving Out
We’re coming home from school, walking up the hill, Marco in front, his head down, his hands buried in the pockets of his jeans, Laurel behind him, the collar of her shirt spilling out of her sweater like a tropical plant, then Samantha, agitated, as if struggling to free several birds from the snags in her hair, and finally Peter, our little brother, who lags behind us and sings:

           and all the people said
           what a shame that he’s dead [...]
02.10.21
The Deletionists
Lev’s suit was neat and elegant, even when rumpled. In another life he might have been a priest rather than a civil servant and teaching meditation classes once a month at the community center. He had turned forty that year and often talked about retirement when he could dedicate himself to his practice full-time. They had met two years ago, after one of his classes, when Claire had asked him if he believed in reincarnation. She was interested, she said. [...]
02.03.21
Tasseography
It’s the day you get the letter. You get it at work. You leave work and walk to your building and it’s your door and it’s steel and it’s glass and it’s covered with half-smeared fingerprints and through its cloudy pane you see her face (yes, it’s her face, what other face but her face) and she’s holding open the door and she’s looking at you but you can’t look at her so you look at her lips and you think yes, of course, she has no lips, she has slivers, she has lines, she has a crevice, like someone realized they forgot something in her making and took a knife and sliced straight across above her jaw and yes of course her maw is just a black-blooded wound, just a dark slit that opens and gapes, and you’re shocked when it moves (look at it move) and it whispers: you slut. [...]
01.27.21
When Drummers Drum
 
Here we are, then, in a typical Mediterranean village, sometime between the end of the last world war and shortly before the next one begins. There’s no obvious reason to think trouble is imminent. In the eyes of an ordinary tourist, everything looks lovely: the colorful, lopsided buildings packed on hillsides above the sea, the slopes lined with abundant vineyards and olive groves, the flowery vines spilling over fences. How could anyone not be happy here? [...]
01.19.21
Three Poems
. . . a well-perfumed friend, wise both
in the olfactory and in love, taught me
to spray with economy, to wear scent
as a private pleasure, evident only to
a lover in kissing distance.


  [...]
01.11.21
Hex
One’s opportunities to be unhappy are

Unlimited.     Or limited, but only by

One’s own imagination, which is powerful

But fragile, is defenseless,     but is limited

Only by things unseen.     As Bark Psychosis did it [...]
01.04.21
Three Poems
As life encroaches on the dreaming
bedpost, you remember

a chip of ice you found in river
sludge, its sheen a mute witness

to increments of change
as lens and pure belief. [...]

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In Print

Vol. 77
States of Play: The Games Issue
Fall 2021
Bradford Morrow

Online

November 17, 2021
I fell asleep with my girlfriend’s head on my shoulder, but woke to a too-familiar absence—one that had somehow followed us down all those highway miles—her body a shadow on the other bed that could have belonged to anyone, could have been an axe murderer for all I knew, but I just closed my eyes and willed whatever future was coming to hurry, I was tired of waiting for it. On my second waking the sun was shouldering its way into the room through the crack in the curtains, my girlfriend now missing from both beds, and the room was made strange by her disappearance so that I flung myself out from under the covers. I found her in the bathroom with her hands on either side of the sink, the water running and There’s something wrong with it Liv she said.
November 10, 2021
        The fathers drowned and scientists were baffled.
          All over the world fathers met their end in water. Fishing fathers drowned in rivers, swimming fathers drowned in lakes, tanning fathers drowned in backyard pools. Bathing fathers drowned in tubs and surfing fathers were sucked in the sea’s undertow. Fathers panning for gold drowned in creeks. A father was found dead with his head in an overflowing sink near dishes slick with syrup from breakfast. A father in a bathrobe was discovered face down in a puddle in the parking lot of a department store. Deep within a national forest, a father was found upended with both black rubber boots stuck up high from a primitive outhouse’s chamber hole. He would have looked funny if he weren’t dead.
          Fathers in other countries, fathers of celebrities, rich fathers, poor fathers, fathers only known in passing, cherished fathers, stepfathers, fathers of strangers and fathers of friends. They drowned and drowned.
November 3, 2021
   The day you told me the world was ending, you had inquired about a particular scent for treating your mother’s lapses in memory (further complicating the matter by saying that your father, the primary witness to her memory loss, was also deteriorating himself). I assured you there was no such perfume.

            As a joke or token of consolation, I showed you a favorite scent of my mother’s, which had played no small part in enchanting my father. It was a perfume heavy with middle notes, or heart-notes, as we call it, which take longer to dissipate. It had no medical basis for treating pre-existing memory loss, but the scent alone was potent enough to provide an olfactory anchor at the moment of inhalation—a perfumed time-stamp. 

            Of course the world was ending, I said. Everything was always ending. 
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