Online Exclusives

Architectures of Emptiness
1.        Yogis call these buoyed minutes    the moment of the universe, and who knows   if spruce, aspen, [...]
Lola, Europa
HOW CAN PEOPLE SAY a person is washed up when just getting to shore is a victory? 
The Greens, the Birds, the Speech, the Dance, the Silence 
The greens—myriad, viridescent: 
every one of them alive. [...]
HE WENT DOWN THE STREET, his old street, on a whim, and then the whim birthed another and he turned a few more corners, finding himself on a block [...]
by Han Ong
    Curious spirits, Eleanor says. I cannot discern that these spirits around you have a personal connection to you, by which I mean, I cannot discern the emotions common to relations and loved ones, like love or concern. These are spirits who you do not know. I don't know why they are gathered around you. Maybe they are just passing through and something about you has detained them for the hour, for the day. [...]
Four Poems
UP AT THE PASS   On either side drops a waste of plain scrub   And drought-driven earth. At the last rise   To stop [...]
Wren and Jackal Poems
I’ll relate to you the order of occasions:       1.  I explain the water’s gurgling.   2.  Sandhill cranes are [...]
Two Poems
Tiergarten   1.   One evening I had to admit to myself that I had long since preferred trees to   people. Trees had [...]
Nothing is Really What it Is
The world makes little sense, which is to say that it constantly exceeds understanding. [...]
Seven Poems
The grass has that sandpapered look
and by it you know it is no longer summer. [...]
Lviv In March
who put these angles in us
yes angles
we attend to their impossibilities that they become

if not possible, light-legible, which bear load [...]
Precisely a week ago, a stop sign at the intersection of Jefferson and Polk was painted green.

The crime was not a case of simple vandalism. Rather, it was part of an experiment by the person who called it in, a local amateur psychologist who is exploring the nature of incongruity. [...]
The Rachel
The Rachel stands tuned  
            to multiplicities, 
aslant in a territory of longing,
            where she becomes foreign.

            What has she found?
She listens, acknowledges another sound,
            diffuse, multiple,  
pulsing thought, oscillations, whisperings,
            never only one. [...]
The Whorled
I had yet to discover the source of that star, it came and it passed but from where it sprang and then fell to fading remained a mystery. In cycling its light lent its powers to coloring my tablecloth a lighter shade, relieving pigment from its duty to darken, except for those spots where I placed my bottles and cups, shielding only parts of the piece from fading, threads left closer to their original hues hewed to others abandoned as wraiths to their fates, a darker ring the mark of those who stayed behind. [...]
Five Poems
Where the trees blackened, I saw,

Quickly, three deer lean into goldenness.

It seems, although wildfires rage

Out of control, this world remembers

Some portion of its first purposes:

Superfluous beauty [...]
Two Unpublished Poems
In Memoriam (1932–2023)
Keith Waldrop will long be remembered for his kindness as a man, for his generosity of spirit, for the nuanced beauty and disarming simplicity/complexity of his poetry and translations, for his tireless work with Rosmarie Waldrop at their influential Burning Deck Press, and for his inspiring and magical (for Keith was purest magic) presence in the lives of his friends, fellow writers, students, anybody who was lucky enough to know him. [...]
Advanced Studies in Thanatology
The postmortem simulations are designed to prep the soul in the art of travel. The goal here is to navigate certain archetypal features that serve as doorways between worlds. Rivers, tunnels, bridges, stairs, tubes, pits, warrens, graves, and environments that resemble sewers all recur in multiple iterations.
... “The Egyptians were aware of how disorienting the underworld is,” Quarrington says. “According to some of their fables, the deities created it like this to eliminate souls who are not properly initiated. It’s not enough to survive into the realm beyond death. We want to bring our consciousness with us.” [...]
Seven Poems
Early mint. Intimate. Lace of now
leaves now in spirit. As infinite
as if. In spirit within. Is now.

New. Is new glorious. Daylight
embracing that shade of late

morning. Your every last minor design
for which. Only

let therefore eternal loss offer.
Ecstatic decline. [...]
Bell Ranch
The plan was simple: to get from here to there.

But there were obstacles. The first was that he had two children, two daughters, six- and nine-year-olds, to get into the car—which he supposed wasn’t so much an obstacle as the plan he’d been planning for nine years and nine months. There were other obstacles like traffic, and specific needs for specific caffeine delivery systems, and a nine-tenths empty tank of gas he’d intended to fill. And yet none of those obstacles were the obstacle.

The obstacle was that he was 44 years old and a little before midnight he’d eaten way too big a gummy, and now he couldn’t feel his toes or tongue. [...]
I Am Sorrow to Say
A Collage from the Archive of Edward Gorey, Including Unpublished Texts and Images
Edward Gorey to Consuelo Joerns:
Our behaviour to one another is most of the time venemous and peculiar, and, infrequently, overly kind and considerate but still peculiar.

From “Edward Gorey and the Tao of Nonsense” by Stephen Schiff, The New Yorker, 1992:
“I thought I was in love a couple of times, but I rather think it was only infatuation. It bothered me briefly, but I always got over it…. I realized I was accident-prone in that direction anyway, so the hell with it.” [...]
Seven Poems from Viewers at Home
Sometimes there’s a secret room—
my daughter is one, I think. 

She is infinitely regressive. 
Every night she says I love 

you even more until 
I stop saying it back. 

The idea that we 
are not our own 

is as old as words 
allow us to think it.  [...]
This morning     the bruxism     from the night before    deep in the jawbone        and two crows circle over hairy yuccas          caw and caw long high and gravel-gulleted      at the periphery of the wash      you are in their dominion           within reach of the moment their circling sinks       to settle behind ridge        and yuccas:        deck is anathema to the flat extended promise of a view: [...]
A North American Field Guide to Glaciers
I recalled the early days of the glacier, its slow advancement from uneven patches of ice confusing scientists until becoming a fat, white tongue thickening in the dried-out lake bed, and how for so long we had resigned ourselves to the emptiness that comes with extinction, no longer hopeful of rewilding, no longer sunbeams in Sunday school singing praises but chanting under our breaths Jesus wants me for a catastrophe that we surrendered to the glacier’s demands willingly and without question. If Miss Z had indeed walked out into the glacier it was nothing exceptional. Every day of my childhood men and women wandered silently into its emptiness. And the glacier grew whiter and thicker. [...]
Letter to My Submerged Father
After we immersed your ashes in the river Ganga, I wrote a letter to my friends back home: “Our journey began in North India,” I wrote, “but this story really begins in South India in Tamil Nadu, in a place called Kallakurichi, where my father was born.” It was where your father, my Thatha, became a spinner of cotton and a diviner of water. [...]
Ice worms first start communing with me in Forlandsundet, a miles-deep sound north of the Greenland Sea. I don’t speak Norwegian, but I can parse: For. Land. Sun. It’s completely black outside. Det means “that or it.” Det, that’s easy, I’ve been one all my life.

The KV Svalbard is an icebreaker. From the foredeck, the rocky screes sweeping west are the planet’s emptiest place. No one between us and the North Pole.

Det,” I hear, “Oi Det.” I can’t locate the strange, oblong voice, more of a nose whistle. Near me? but not inside me. I soon give up. [...]
Of course the book she writes—the lesser book, the book about nothing—becomes a popular text, one that readers adore. When they ask her what she will write next, she says she is going to write the book over. Over? they ask her.
       Again, she says. She isn’t really a writer, she tells them, she’s a transcriber. She transcribes stories.
       Across languages? they ask.
       No, she says. That would be translation. I used to do that but stopped, she says. Now I transcribe. I take texts and transcribe them into another version of the same language.
       So you rewrite, they say.
       No, she says. You’ll see. [...]
The Wave Readers
For thousands of years, the peoples of the Marshall Islands have entertained a bustling interisland travel by canoe and small sailing craft without any of the tools—compass, sextant, nautical charts, and, these days, GPS—on which the rest of the world has depended. Within a purely oral tradition, Marshallese navigators developed a highly refined system of voyaging, relying entirely on their senses to decipher the subtlest of codes in the aqueous environment. Theirs has always been a world of waves. [...]
The River Abides
With photographs by the author
I’ve been snorkeling in this river for sixteen years now and documenting a small stretch of it for about thirteen. Once a week, year ‘round, regardless of the weather, I will swim for several hours, picking up trash as I go, but mostly photographing what I find—fish and turtles, plants and rocks, even the contours of the riverbed, which change depending on the flow. Based on John Burroughs’ maxim—“To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday”—I decided a long time ago to focus on the half-mile reach that runs from City Park, through Sewell Park, and on to the spillway below Spring Lake. [...]
Now Is Tomorrow’s Yesterday
I dream the master tells me:  for poetry 
                                              you need meter, meaning 
                                              and lust    

This sounds plausible enough     I am attentive 
to the master    
I write her dictum
                         in my small black notebook

But all the informal pronouns have been discarded    littering the streets [...]
Zeaz, Soldite, and Nephosa
He had understood marriage as a way for people to be close together by maximizing their respective, individual isolation. He suspected that people got married so that the mirror of blame and excuses could point away from their respective selves, a way of blindly dismissing their own accountability. Had they been alone, they would have been forced to face their own terrors and demons. They would, at least, have tried to tackle some of their weaknesses instead of directing the velocity of their failure toward their “seemingly” innocent spouse. Zeaz understood this on a fundamental level and so, in the Year of the Tiger, he prepared legal papers to divorce his white wife and faced what he feared the most: himself, a biracial man with intermittent epileptic episodes, who was less dominant than a leaf. [...]
Tears Cycle: Companion Peace
To survive sadly is still. 
At a boat’s bottom, allegedly a boat. 
Allegedly an anchor. Allegations of a law. 
Oh splinters that split us, oh those who spit on our black gaberdine. 
The skin rolls the water off. That is what ash is, actually. 
Accumulation of spittoons and the water’s detritus. 

Hump day is a whale, freer than us even in capture, even in tallow. 
No one said: this isn’t a whale, even as they strung it up to cut its meat. 
No one said: this is something tbd. They said: mammal, leviathan, child of god, named by Adam. 

We got a new name. Something made up. We managed to live. In that hole name. [...]
He’s been coming around a lot but I’ve only recently started calling the dog Jesus because if Jesus were to return, this is how he would do it. In this shape, in this form, in these times. I’m sure of it. My best and only friend, Holy Amy, who thinks of herself as a kind of very powerful and sexually budding nun, disagrees. She says Jesus would return in the form of a handsome kisser, not some ugly mutt. Someone with a beautiful face, so we would know it was him. I say he’s not ugly. She says I am “vexed,” “cursed,” and that I am doomed to repeat the mistakes of those before me, though I’m not sure whom she’s talking about. All I know is it’s true: he’s not ugly. The dog suit he wears isn’t even a dog suit.  [...]
Every Friday Nite is Kiddies Nite
When the Reverend Houston was seventy he was retired from the ministry with a pension, paid by the national church organization, that was slightly in excess of the salary he had been receiving for nearly fifty years from his parish at New Babylon, Missouri. There were no strings attached to this pension. He could do with it and with himself, thereafter, practically anything that pleased his rational fancy. Naturally enough, he quit preaching. He had been preaching for nearly fifty years and he was getting just as tired of it as his congregation was. One Sunday morning during the summer of his seventieth year he shook hands with his successor, a vigorous young man who would attract plenty of spinsters to the Sunday-school faculty, walked calmly out of the church and never returned. [...]
The Last Ones
He walked for two years across the putrid surface of the solid crust: he learned how not to die by gnawing on it and how not to dissolve in its salt at night; he healed his own bones when the wind whipped him through the air like a rag and flung him onto the stiff waves.
       He was perpetually dazzled by the glare, but every once in a while he glimpsed shadows beneath the crust, brooding their bodies from one side to another and bashing themselves against the surface.
       Once he caught sight of an old man, inexplicably gleeful, jigging from one little plastic islet to the next. They waved at each other, arms aloft; he managed to make out the other man’s silhouette, stretched tall against the glare of the crust, and at that precise moment an enormous, jagged mouth rose up around the old man’s feet and carried him down to the depths of that filthy chowder. [...]
The Complete Miracles of St. Anthony:
Definitive Edition with Previously Unpublished Material
At dawn, as police made plans to arrest Father Marek, a pilot whale washed up on a nearby beach. The priest himself was the first person to come upon the stranded animal, its sleek black skin glistening in the surf, its huge body writhing and flopping, its mouth pressed into what looked like a carefree smile.
          Another passerby might have been alarmed by the discovery, but Father Marek’s whole adult life had been a series of sudden arrivals and departures. His name, for instance, was a fabrication, though he had grown to like the sound of it on parishioners’ lips. Nor was the priesthood his actual profession, though he had briefly studied at a seminary many years ago. His only occupation, one that took many forms, was convincing other people to place their trust in him. [...]
Readings in the Slantwise Sciences
Fairies perform five crucial functions for our planet, Herbst told me. They provide food for our dreams; they consume the stagnant waste of our inhibitions; they devour the pestilential cares that would otherwise overwhelm us; they pollinate the illusions on which our happiness depends; and they aerate and enrich the sources of our creativity, without which we might as well throw ourselves under a subway train this instant. [...]
As Birds Vanish: A Love Song
He’s been down under five times today, taking his turn, searching for the sailboat, believing he might be the one to find a child inside, skin violet, nerves tremoring, alive in the sweet torpor of hypothermia, fluttery heart almost but not yet still, breathing slowly, hushed, floating face up, a bliss of air trapped above her—
In the last minutes of twilight at the surface, in swirling silt underwater, Nic Kateri risks a final dive into the murky cabin of the sailboat, finds her with his hands, not his eyes: yes, where her mother left her, the child curled into herself, lungs full of water, pressed high above the bed in the tightest corner of the berth where yes, it’s true: there might have been bubbles of air once upon a time, hours earlier— [...]
You Are Exactly Where You Belong
Recently, your wife has left you. She’s reading Frankenstein, and there’s nothing in the world she’d rather do. You’d think talking about the book would be an option, but no. Books lose their power when she tries to speak about them. So do movies, songs, news articles, and most of what she does with Nathaniel. Only in passing did you hear her call him Nightingale, and then you learned he was reading an alphabet book of birds.
     You adopted the nickname.
     You find him on the pink couch, whispering to an Ernie figurine.
     Where’s Bert? you ask.
     Birch in the vent.
     Time for dinner, Nightingale.
     Time for dinner, he sings. [...]
The Separation Of Earthly Objects
The birth of color begins in the entanglement
of water. Color is the birth of light.

Low clouds morning visitation, the words are
forming separable from their origins. Stars

crease the heavens. I have been moving
into their stream, heavenly bodies, the architecture

loose and ungainly. I’m not one but two, the occupancy
of a system, here in the apparel of another’s

light, to come down these stairs, dawn
weighted with silver, a perimeter that hooks

sky, bleeds our nights into day. There is this
sanctuary, intricate respite, cut-out, here on the floor [...]
An Excerpt from Kidnapped
A second-growth forest is not the same as a first, and a third is not the same as a second. Those old dying oak and chestnut trees saved a century ago from axe and saw to shade the grazing livestock are surrounded now by all the wrong progeny—birches and popple in one case, pine trees in the other. Absent a mature overstory’s broad canopy, the understory receives too much unfiltered light, and low thickets and dense copses of trees and shrubs all the same age spring up.
     In ancient times a carpet of fallen leaves and ferny ground cover was lit by long beams of sunlight descending from openings in the treetops as if from the clerestory windows of a great cathedral. Humans and other animals walked easily among the tall, straight trunks and had unobstructed views from glen to vernal pond and stream to the glacial moraine beyond. That was a forest, not a woods. But the forest was not replaced by itself. It was displaced and replaced by these woods, which is a different and lesser thing.
     My dog darted through the brush ahead of me, tracing the lingering spoor of a deer or bear or coyote, led by his nose instead of our man-made trail. And as I walked I remembered again a story from the village, part of which I saw, part of which I heard from witnesses, and part of which I imagined. [...]
An Excerpt from The Everyday Invisible
A brick-shaped piece of architectural rubbish. A brick of someone’s missing place. My brick, but only because I’ve taken it as my own, to collect, among my menageries, set alongside small shoes made of mottled glass and rusted railway spikes and silver-clad icons sold to me by aging nuns in old-world churches I’ve visited. I have shelves full of this stuff, little artifacts of the beautiful/not beautiful city. I collect glass and tarnished things. I collect memories too, all kinds, some that might fall into the category of demolition garbage, what might be too sharp and embarrassing to keep out in the light.
     I learned in AA to call these kinds of inmost collections my inventory. I haven’t been to AA recently, but when I used to go every week I loved the inventory step meetings. Step Four is to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Step Ten is to continue “to take personal inventory” and when we are wrong to promptly admit. My inventory/my me-ventory/our we-ventory, one might say—an everyday assessment of the invisible collections residing beneath and within.
     I don’t believe in the Christian version of God but I do believe in the spiritual wonder located in material presence. Like my brick. Any cubic space in the world is a brick of multiple histories. I interrogate all of what feels like mine. [...]
Seven Poems from the Museum of Mary
The Way

If only the waters were still this blue,
the boats this innocent. The sea,
the clouds, the cliff faces: blue, blue, blue.

And me in a red dress with a blue mantle
draped over my lap to keep my legs warm.
It’s true, I’m sitting on a coffin

with the lid down. The lid
is called a crown. The coffin is filled
with what happens when evil takes over

the world and says yes to giving
the lost unlimited hate
and all the weapons they want. You’ll say,

“That wasn’t my fault, I’m like you, Mary,
I was only ever being fabric
and two hands, harmless arms and a mind

filled with maxims—only ever on my way
to tomorrow, my right foot at rest
on the head of a cherub.” Do you hear [...]



In Print

Vol. 82
Works & Days
Spring 2024
Bradford Morrow


April 24, 2024
The July morning was alive with a sound in the air, strange communications, the acoustics of the big yard amplifying each rustle, each wave. Odd creatures glittering on the ground. Herds spread lavishly, a wilderness of transparent wings, bug eyes, a mosaic of glassy fragments. Glinting. They covered the grass, the sidewalk, covered the branches of the trees.
April 17, 2024
The sound reverberated in my sense of what was right and reliable in the world like drone weaponry, and what I wanted to ask was: what business have you left undone, and did you do a thing you so regretted that you can’t let go of it, was there a person you cut off, when sympathy would have been the better gesture, was there a person you trod on to get ahead in your sales job, speaking ill of them, so that they were forever harmed, did you say something awful about a friend in school, did you call a friend the worst of names in middle school, because it was a thing they said then, the boys did that, only to find, later on, that you loved that boy in a way . . . .
April 10, 2024
I do not like old water.

The water in the ocean is old

The lake is old

But maybe it’s not

Subject to the logic of time, of old and new.