Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Miller Oberman


His body's the marsh of north 
Jersey, brackish water, 
cattails.  The turnpike all 
exhausted gravel up to New York.  
Yellow stalks stick up from the muck.  
I can't walk across him; I'd sink.  

He's a wild persimmon, picked 
from the briers.  Sour, bitter, 
wrinkled.  He's heart pine, gold-
soft.  He's still awake at four 
in the morning, and sick.  

He's a shtetl in Russia.  It's 1904, 
the pogrom fires stink and smoke.  
He's an old newsboy cap.  Silk lining 
orange and frayed. He's woolen. 
Scratchy but warm, even when wet.  

He's in his body on the beach, Coney 
Island, the salt sings fritters and beer.  
He watches the boys strut in uniform, 
link their arms in the pink arms of strange 
girls.  He is so still feels shells 
turning to sand, and the giant  creak 
of the coasters climbing their tracks.  
They click up, up and up; then let go.

To Keep the House Quiet

Father closes the door when he teaches little sister 
music.  Myron has a stub of charcoal.  
He draws her playing great-uncle's violin.  
Draws it how it is, the violin too big, 
her hair pulled back with twine.

The horsehair bow, brought over on the boat, 
smells of Russian cart-horse.  
Myron doesn't know how to draw 
smell, or the way his stomach yellows 
during the long silences.

Eighth Nerve

Something is wrong with Myron's
ears.  It always sounds like it's
raining. Or the sound, sometimes,
of galloping horses.  Better 
not to mention this.
  He tries 
hitting his head against his bed-
post.  No change but a small 
bruise, safe under his hair.  

Far off, the front door bangs.  
Father, home from work, beats
his boots against the mud-room
sink.  And that is really 
 Myron thinks.


Myron is gone.  Become
flat as the others.  Grayfaced,
he eats his rations, and after, 
sings sailor songs with the men.

All day he drops depth charges
on submarines with no curdle
in his guts, the inside of his stomach
clean and rosy as a gentile's.

But this is a nightmare.  Myron 
wakes.  Still Myron, fresh as a wet
cut.  His bed sways sickly.

Waking comes hard as the lace
crust of ice on the sea, brittle 
and stinging.  Brittle and stinging,
thinks Myron.  He can hear his sister
in her room practicing Beethoven's 
seventh, the movement in A minor. 
Their favorite key.  The four beats, 
heavy as walking, as waking.
Myron does it.  Lifts his salt-caked
chest, breathes, and marches down 
the bright cold hall, to the sound.

Miller Oberman was the 2005 recipient of Poetry Magazine's Ruth Lilly Fellowship
 and has recently had poems in Bloom Magazine, the Minnesota Review,  and Lilith.  Miller lives in Brooklyn with Zero Oberman.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

James Cook

Night Shift At The Machine Shop

Out in the dark
past the grime-caked windows
I feel pain begin to stir
in the wombs of animals
while here under a smear
of ugly lights
the lathe scrapes out
its archaic rhythm constantly
until the raw mesh
of my nerves starts to hum.
Its an old song
of brass shavings and sweaty faces
and there is something
necessary to it
if we're ever to understand
why the dreams of our fathers
grew terrible
and left their hands
scarred like maps
to cities that are always
just a few miles off...

Memory Of September Light

September light
was falling through itself
like smoke
and you were wearing
the dress your aunt gave you,
the one the color
of the Icelandic word
for "moon"

You kept asking me
if I knew what it was
but I didn't.

We imagined it would be
the sound of a piano
tuned to falling rain
or snow dissolving
in the air before it reaches the ground,

and then you asked
if I remembered
the seedy seaside hotel
with its cracked flowerpots
its tinny music
piped in from the other world

where sailors took turns dancing
with the same beautiful whore
how, one time, at dusk
we saw thousands
of monarch butterflies

dying on the stones beside the water,
wings flickering
like flowers
about to burst into flame

and, terrified, returned
to our bed without saying a word
while the sailors
played cards all night
in one of the empty rooms

James Cook is the author of a chapbook, Kingfishers Catch Fire (Foothills, 2003) and is a machinist. His work has appeared in The Cortland Review. He lives in Upstate NY and is currently working on his first full length collection, Moments At Point Light.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Brenda Iijima


Where were you when we needed you subconscious field richness

Bubbly oily rich homology such gesticulating orchestrations

Wash us thick with substance

Because it can be done par excellence lasting opus

Little contrast great emphasis

There's sex to be had in the language shimmering large alluvial plains

That is why the study of soil covering prelinguistic sites is so interesting

Since the beginning of life on earth material corroborates

Glaciers are energized moving rivers of ice oozing moraine deposits like mind

Dirt and rocks at the edges

Time might be said to oscillate elsewhere prairies interspersed with woodlands

You can brace yourself against a cave wall for structure

Prehistoric men go out hunting

Women struggle with the roots

It is a great feat that we bred the aurochs

The height of the withers of a large domesticated cow is roughly 1.5 meters

Convert that to stomach fat couch tuber yam

In Jaktorów, Poland the last known live arouchs, a female died in 1627

Swedes stole her head in a battle waged with the Poles

Studying the dissected brain of the fetal pig we inspire a notion of ourselves

We can imagine creatures with mandibles like ours but evolutionarily birds

It's been nice knowing you eating everything that breathes

I miss you, tribes of the Würm glaciation roaming is a favorite past time of mine

Civilization pales in comparison with night

Brenda Iijima's chapbook, Subsistence Equipment is just out from Faux Press. Animate, Inanimate Aims was recently released by Litmus Press. Forthcoming publications include Rabbit Lesson (Fewer & Further) and If Not Metamorphic (Ahsahta Press). She teaches at Cooper Union and runs Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs in Brooklyn.