I Find That We, As A People: An Exquisite Corpse

by K.D., Ryan Sartor, Lawrence Scott Parkinson, Gwenn Gebhard, Kathryn Locey, Nikolina Kulidzau, Michael Barach, Kate, Steven Wolfe, Tom Wheatley, Burt Kimmelman, Jana Russ, Michael Rumore, Ariel Moore, Allyson Mead, Heather Severson, Alex Geng, June Marie Wade, Harvest Henderson, Meredith Gray, Bryn Chancellor, Tim Dempsey, Michelle Tokarczk, Emma Sovich, Freya Gibbon, Jen Dempsey, Mark Spitzer, BJ Hollars, Paul E. McCullough, Lesley Clark, Adence Washington, Lindsay Moore, Brit Blalock, Sara Grossman, Sandee Umbuch, Helen Ruggieri, Holly Stone, Elizabeth Lara, Ivy Page, Joshua Mensch, Bradley Paul, Peter Jurmu, Brad Modlin, James Celestino, Katherine Pearl, Noelle Rankin, Gro Flatebo, Michael Khandelwar, J.S., Bridgette Shade, Karen Lizon, Cathy Che, Brittany Cavallaro, Michael Barron, Jim Hilgartner, Jenny Lupes, Laura Davis, Sharon Harrigan, Tyler Harper, Mattie Davenport, Samantha Killebraw, Tyler Harper, Frank Dobson, Gwyn Fallbrooke, Amy Whitaker, Tyler Harper, Angie Hogan, Jessica Handler, Mickey Dubrow, Araba Maze, Adrienne Su, Juan Carlos Reyes, Vinny Sunguttuvan, John Carr, Tommy Dean, Michele Reese, Mary Marwitz, Lindsay Key, Eleana Levine, David Dill, Daniel Schall, Christine Herrmann, David M., Kona Morris, Lena Rogue, Becky Firesheets, Karen Chronister, Margaret Hutton, E.K.P., C.E. Wheeler, C. LePage, David Collins, Robert Evory, Michelle Banczek, Linda Umans, Isaac Butler, Tyler Harper, Emily Anderson, Leslie Sussan, Tina Richardson, Christine Cutler, Erin Tocknell, Max Thamos, Ava Leavell Haymon, Jacqueline Mehring, Louisa Dang, Amira Pierce, Marilyn Knight, Madelaine Hoptry, Samantha Holley, Lucy Green, Tarfia Faizullah, Khaled Mattawa, Kate Cumiskey, Purvi Shah, Elsbeth Pancrazi, Julie Chinitz, Mason Manna, Marissa Tinloy, Mark Jarman, Sara Marshall, Terri Witek, Lucy Norman Spencer, Peg Boyers, Don Petersoy, Catherine Pond, June Rockefeller, Jillian Clark, Matt Ramey, Ezekiel Rahloof, P.S. Salvador West, Gina Vivinetto, Joshua Gottlieb-Miller, Robyn Kohlwey, Alyse Knorr, Grigsby Hubbard, Valerie Vogrin, Liam Beare, Anna Joy Springer, Beth Staples, Josh Morsell, Britt Melewski, Taylor Mankid, Adrienne Celt, Emily Howarth, Mariette Pan, Bob Girardi, Dewitt Brinson, Sebastian Paramo, Cynthia Grier Lotze, Wendy Oleson, Tera Vale Ragan, James Ragan, Colin Pope, Casey Smith, Susan Levi Wallach, Maria Tomasio-Moore, Amy Souza, C.A., Mant, Abby Beckel, Smallhands Rejected, Anastasia Kozak, and Trenna Sharpe, edited by Kendra DeColo and Matthew Baker


Poetry is a sickness. The muted glimmer

is suffocating, in a Denny’s parking lot,

whilst checking the cars for stray goods.

The dog blanket was stretched out across the back seat so that after a run through

the woods, along muddy trails in the spring and dust paths in the heat of

August, the dog wouldn’t track dirt into the car. Other stray goods strewn on the

backseat included two library books, an empty water bottle and a wrapped half-eaten

sandwich: not such a mess, really—

the bread, a marbled rye, was so thin that she expected the pickle

to soak through, but even though the bread showed a few holes—those

come from air bubbles, she had heard—the thing still looked basically

intact, and if she had known how long that sandwich had been there, she

might have eaten it.

But she didn’t.

Neither did the sheep. A straw hat,

nothing more than decoration, lay on a wicker rocker in the corner,

feet swinging like ripe durians, huge and stinking,

after a night out without neon lights.


I stumbled through the streets toward home,

bleeding in high heels like some Cinderella stepsister—

but, fairy tales are awfully cliché.

Like the one about the princess in pink,

who picked the dragon in the end,

and lush, sweet choices made us.

The bitterness came next:

birds battered the windows

as though they knew something we’d forgotten—

they were ready with hot tea and toothbrushes.

All she could think was, Stains.

The man in the porkpie hat yelled, “This cream is rancid!”

Then he said, “Lake George is the worst place to

live: snow in November—no health insurance.”

But she did not heed his advice,

for she dearly loved the lake ponies.

Lake ponies bite and kick, like Chincoteague ponies, but lake ponies can’t swim

the way they dreamed. This is all that matters: the way water

rushes between her honey thighs—eye

the color of sheep gut—

reminded me something like Don’t Be So Trite.


He could never be my only obsession,

because the butterflies twirling in my gutter flutter more.

(She didn’t want a biologist as a father

but his eyes were electrons gone haywire, belief in something burning,

like the Bible, or a Confederate flag.)

Like ice in frozen grain,

my life is Buffalo winters,

equal darkness of silent obscurity submerged

in the most anonymous deep purple.

It was almost night and on the horizon purple shadows threatened

to rise, choleric and raging, over the sound.


Bring me to your ear, hear the whisper of the laughter I keep behind closed teeth.

But don’t tarry, lest the lobster boils down to its own poached shell—what wonder, or else.

Though all things are poached eventually! Or smoked, or other…

The convention hall is now closed—please move to the nearest exit—

The convention hall is open once again, all who enter are welcome—

Among your troubles, however—you can’t find it with this map.

Although, for me, the ephemeral discovery is the absolute:

at six-years-old I thought myself quite powerful, believing I had caused

the death of my parents’ child.

I found out later that bad milk was to blame for their death.

(It pissed her off when he used words like “momentarily” when one-

syllable “soon” would work just as well.

She tried to restrain herself, but her hand was operating

with its own thought; she slapped him hard.)

“Where’s my cherries jubilee?” she shouted.

They’re mocking me, the cactuses.

Outside the air was sweating lizards.

I carry within myself borders.

Dark walls. A rattle. The sound—

is this heaven? No, a Tide commercial.

Give a dog a steak, he’ll eat for a day;

teach a dog to steak, he’ll eat for the rest of his life.

He will examine, perhaps, his steak-blessed life with a new

sense of urgency, and take himself, perhaps, to the woods…

(“Veggie burgers be damned,” with a fist raised to the sky, he shouted his manifesto as

the medium-rare juice ran pink down his chin.)

Composting meat is forbidden. You must never bind meat to leaf matter.

Leave the feathers on the wind. Bind the sausage with hair ribbon.

The Great Day begins with a sign:

if it’s a red octagon, stop.

(To lift his head one last time

and say, “I can smell the cherry blossoms again.”)

And the light as truth shines upon you as a great river flows!

And the river runs deep; its currents crest and plummet.

Fish gleam like lost coins through the silt.

If not museums, art. If not art, your life.

Water ripples through the night, and hope to all there, all

will be sense and swift.

If you place a dark stone in my hand, shall

make a light, says the Buddha.

They made me ugly, she said. They failed, he replied.

The sky is getting higher.

After which, the kiwi took off,

landing four short steps from Brighton Beach. Brooklyn police called in Federal investigators

to ascertain the nature, structure, and future of the kiwi, seeing as the last time these sands

had held one, outgoing Mayor Delano La Guardia declared, “There is nothing much we can do now that our

children are permanently scarred by these abominable fruit droppings from on high.”

Fruit, that sweet nectar of the skies, dripping in a succulent gooey mess onto the shoulders

of teenagers inhaling under the umbrella of stout branches.

That fruit, those crushed red raspberries he wore as face paint, war paint, ready for

the coup.

The horses bridled and fed, awaited their writers in a fog of steam.

(I bought a bag of dog food from the lesbian at the feed

store off the books.

My dog has an exquisite social conscience; he may not

eat something—

even when he was a puppy, he begged for avocados only.)

Bon appetit in the non-kosher realm,

cicada.

Squints through Jhumpa Lahiri’s pupil

and asks, Why are we all here?

What you want to know—why we drink beer—

we smell deep and then we understand.

Sometimes our own aroma gets in the way.

I find that we, as a people, are confused yet say we know.

And so, what is left are flowers and theft.

(Whoever thieved—without leaving fingerprints—received a bouquet of lilies.)

Here in D.C.—so much fun to visit my son, out of

the rest—

a baby bird died, just out in the cold.

My poor son cried because it was not old.

Jesus said, “Don’t touch that mold.”

Push toward the ground-

hog, whose shadows draws the new planets,

whose light draws the new moons, whose energy inspires the roots

to intertwine, and I, after seeing you again,

the time I thought not to live, to be free forever,

the time I knew you, and lived forever already,

and had already forgotten the long quiet of death

(until she decided to sit and make a bow of Barbie doll shoes;

she’d decided her life was not perfect after all;

but perfection breeds complacency, so she let the tea continue to steep.)

Nevertheless, she found the tea made her neither complacent, nor

perfect, but only tired.

Things. It was over early.

(Why did I eat that potato?

It was green, there were sprouts growing out the top!

My rainbow-colored mop, my leaking heart, the clammy world!!!)

Gum, the flavor of high school kisses.

Metal arms embrace the sky.

I wish the pen regained its might,

that dark earth would birth jewel-colored answers.

Nightly, the dark wind scalloping the dark river.

Must we go on sailing this detritus, we thought.

And the lyrics of my sister’s hands, thistle, carving air,

the stolen song of my father’s land, a country generated by wind’s desire—

tall grasses, rails, pavement, grout, and always higher,

scrub scrub scrub.

(Smile until your cheeks are sore, and then smile some more,

said the woman with the rings around her eyes, her retinas—the color of an old

wedding band.

The fecund fruit fulfills a furious fantasy.

Loud curatorial music governs from its aerial bassinet.

Oh, that the answer may always be ocean.

Oh yes, until the storm comes,

or until the—and we are swept into the river of

poor handwriting.

The nail polish was chipping.

She was biting at her fingernails, and no one cared.

Her gel-polish manicure wouldn’t last three weeks—not ever.

Instead her yellow diamond would stand guard—

Stand back, the yellow bird warned, emerging.

All of the birds warned this, they would not stop with their warnings—

and yet, the blood people continue to roam,

their credit ratings in intensive care

and bad checks, spoiled as month-old tomatoes,

piled, piling, on the nightstand you used to call hers.

Which digits now serve to reach her? Is it ever too late to call?

She pressed her palm to the leaf—terribly

intricate on the base of her spine.

Germany to the Czech Republic in three hours—

remembers every step—

oh fuck you, you stupid—

your kitten’s half this kitten’s size.

(This kitten must be a bobcat, and it ate my tuna sandwich.)

With its departure, with the message it did not survive;

they didn’t pay enough postage, and the smoke signals were in Spanish.

Semaphore was even worse.

She’d taken a bite of the Dachshund—

“Aloha Foxtrot Tango!” cried the chubby zookeeper. “Bravo Charlie!”

But it was too late—the lemur had escaped

from its cage.

Sexy, no sexy—boy smile

in solitude I still find my hernia above

and here, in winter, I find it keeps me too warm—

warm, or worm, really—bisected and regenerating.

As the crickets sing their gossip into the mute midnight air,

as if they knew—at sixteen her eyes were ocean wide—

I show you a good sky—it could hold a fleet of geese

above a kite, sipping in a breeze—or foliate

with leaves of cherry wood and hedge—

a cornucopia of geese pouring from

the lake of our estimation, of love—

my frail heart wants nothing more

than to beat a moment under a hard orange shin—

like a citrus-flavored candy liable to shatter if bit and make the tongue bleed sweet juice,

the hard-backed insect.

Stretched out, played dead, played possum.

The earth smacked blood red and wet

leaves blew a wasteland of Spanish moss.

And from a distant planet, a cosmonaut, named Smallhands Rejected, shifted his

eyes to a balding head.

It was the most exquisitely shaped head in the world.

So I shrank it—I hung it on the wall.


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