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2210: Ode to Short Shorts | Kenny Tanemura

"Ode to Short Shorts"
Kenny Tanemura

It was the summer
short shorts came back,
even in Kyoto women wore them,
they came back like a first love
returns in a dream,
back to the hometown
that hasn’t changed
in her absence.
Like all good things,
I got used to
short shorts
being gone for seasons
& seasons
& forgot anyone ever wore them
until that year summer broke loose
from spring’s gunshot
like a horse galloping into a sprint
& short shorts
blossomed everywhere—
in denim,
in pink & lavender & scarlet
in sky
blue & women with light skin
& dark skin
wore them, women
with long legs
short legs small legs
thin legs
beach-tanned legs
European cruise-tanned legs
& pale city legs
wore them
even on days when it never
got too hot
never sizzled
never baked the dogs
making their tongues hang
out in the heat
dying for a taste
of water—
because it was the thing
to wear that summer
& it was enough
to pack June
make July eventful
& August a festival
without going anywhere
like Paris or London or Tokyo
or Beijing,
a festival of swiveling lights
of studying the play of light
like Monet
& the play of shadow
like Hiroshige
& the play
of playful couture
& one day I imagine
there will come the summer
of soulful eyes
for the first time on earth
the soulful eyes of women and men
ablaze on the street
telling the story
of the inner life as
it’s always been lived—
but I won’t forget that summer
of thigh-muscle flexing
of the powerful ankle
of hands smoothing imaginary
satin against the skin
hands unused to baring
and brushing against so much—
of not wanting to be a Buddha
of shooting the Buddha in the back
of adding fuel
to the volcano
& letting it get out
of control—
those calligraphic lines
behind the knee
were characters
in my ancestor’s language
& their spirits had returned
that summer
we celebrated even the dead

2209: Accomplishments | Michael Chitwood

"Accomplishments"
Michael Chitwood

What you have not done
is without error. What you
have not said is beyond contradiction.

What you understand of God
was yesterday. Today a bicycle
waits, chained to a bench.

The success of this afternoon’s nap
is the dream of lifting seven boxes,
your week, sealed with clear tape.

They stack, three to a column,
with the seventh like a capstone.
What you do not know they contain.

2208: In the dark we crush | Julia Cohen

"In the dark we crush"
Julia Cohen

crab apples for the sound of it. Light cannot
be bitter. The backyard licks us.

Blue like kindling, the fox we caught with
a shoebox. Your shirt is a constellation

in the tent of recovery. If you release the hand
you relax the animal. Bookshelves hold up

the moon. I sweep your fur into a feeling.
I put you into my memories on purpose.

Moss smuggles stars into your cheeks.
Inside your body’s future, bravery turns to pulp.

The flashlight pendulum. Your face sounds like that
record player. Electric & spinning.

Let’s grow old together. Don’t be scared
of Gertrude Stein. Be brave.

2207: Haiku | Gary Gach

"Haiku"
Gary Gach

proud meditator
stops looks at watch says
wait i’m almost done

2206: Ode to the Fan | Karen Skolfield

Note: This poem mentions parental abuse/sexual coercion.

"Ode to the Fan"
Karen Skolfield

The only thing smuggled from my parents’ house.
Square, heavy, a motor my age, 19, my dad
telling me I was no longer welcome there,
how he hated my life, maybe because
I’d never slept with him. But this
is about the fan, the green fan
that I hid under blankets in the back
of my lover’s gigantic truck, in the time before
SUVs when trucks were functional and ugly.
And the hidden fan, my unhappy cat
that had also been kicked out.
That night I slept on the floor of a stranger,
Jen and I on piles of blankets.
It was July and we turned on the fan
and slept in its hum. I think I slept deeply—
why wouldn’t I, with life clearing
like the view from mountains? Like wind
I’d created myself? Later I painted
the fan raspberry, a ridiculous color,
and when I plugged it in my new lover
or old lover or whatever would joke
“Where’d you get that fan?”
because they all knew the fan’s story,
the famous Skolfield fan, the way my father
held onto old things like hand tools
he didn’t have the strength to use
and rotted chair webbing and sawdust,
because maybe there would be an oil spill,
a whole tank of oil, and sawdust’s just the thing.
I didn’t speak to my family for a long time,
until the cancer thing, and then every time
I saw my father or got him on the phone
he’d say “Have you seen the fan?
The big green fan?” he’d ask as soon
as he heard my voice, as if he’d forgotten
he’d asked before, and this went on
for 15 years, and I’d patiently answer
“No, Dad, I know the fan you’re talking about,
I don’t have it.” Because although he
was patient, I’d learned from him,
I would outlast him, I didn’t mind the questions,
sometimes I’d be the one to bring it up:
“Dad, don’t you have a fan for this room?
I remember a fan here, green—did it stop working?”
And he’d say “I thought you had it.”
And I’d say “Oh, I wish, what a fan. A fan
to end all fans. You should write a poem about it.”
Because he used to write, in college,
and told me he’d stopped to have a family.
We would start every visit lying to each other.
I like to think it pains him, the idea
of his fan with me, how I might neglect it,
the gathering rust, the mice delighting in the cord.
Or worse: that I threw it away.
Or even worse: How it brings me pleasure,
the metal blades stronger than today’s plastic,
the solid whir of it, sleep-inducing vibrato.
I like to think I’m contributing to his nightmares:
I cherish the fan. It still works. It’s that good.
"Years From Now When You Are Weary"
Julia Kasdorf

and worn out, wondering how you'll pay
a bill or make the rent or meet a deadline

set by some thoughtless boss—and kid,
such days will come—remember yourself

at five: hair light from the sun or just from
being young, new lunchbox pasted

with butterflies, how you hung your backpack
on a hook, then wouldn't let me take your picture

on the first day of school, sending me
out of that classroom, to the car, to my job

where a pair of bats flapped in the hallway.
Bats may be just bats, but one darted

into my office, quick as the boxer's head
that bobs and weaves and never gets hit.

It landed and hung from the drapes, upside
down, as you hung in my body for a while.

Bats are not the only flying mammals.
That afternoon in line for the bus, you cried,

so tired you thought you'd fall asleep
and miss your stop. Years from now, child,

in some helpless dusk, remember that fatigue
but how you made it home to me anyway

in the care of a kind farmer—bus driver.
Recall that once I arrived late, your bus

gone, and when I found you, carefully seated
by a coffeepot in a corner of a dim garage

at the school bus lot, you just said, Let's go,
Mama. Don't tell anyone about this.

2204: Honesty | Maya Jewell Zeller

"Honesty"
Maya Jewell Zeller

It’s true I drove an SUV once
through Fresno with a backseat full
of college boys to whom I found myself
having to explain you could still catch herpes
even while wearing a condom. One of them
in particular was incredulous, he was listening to his iPod
and he removed his headphones and said he had
a few more questions. These were my husband’s
varsity runners, and I was a volunteer, so I was awarded
the new rental with only four miles on it when we left
the lot. I’m not going to lie—
I liked driving it. It was nothing
like riding coach or making love
with protection. There were so many buttons
to push, and they all did something satisfying,
like drop from the ceiling a DVD player
for passengers or warm the driver’s legs
in just the right places. The seats were leather,
the kind you feel guilty just sitting on,
the good kind of guilty when you can’t help
but imagine parking somewhere with someone
so you can watch the stars rise over the city,
take time to check out all the automatic features.
The boy you’re with will want to know
how things work, and you’ll end up showing him,
because he is young, because he has a bag of sour apple
or peach fruit rings he’s willing to share, because his face
can look so becoming in the streetlights.
But mostly it’s because you can no longer remember
where you were going. Was it to dinner?
Were you taking him back to his hotel, where
he’ll sleep, dream of winning?
Or maybe it was a nighttime snack
run. The SUV is black
and the night is blacker. You can feel it
closing, like a fist around a steering wheel.
You’re not the fist. You’re the wheel.
“On Reading a Poem by Phillis Levin”
Marilyn Robertson

I laughed out loud this morning.
I was reading a poem called The Buzzard
and it took me through ice storms,
evacuation routes, terrible winds—
an ominous landscape.
But where is the buzzard, I wondered,
and how is he going to navigate
toward breakfast in this gale?
I got to the end where a neighbor’s shovel
scraping the walk made you reconsider
the meaning of your life,
and still no bird had shown up.
Not even a canary.
Did I miss something?
I turned back the page to read it again
and saw it was called The Blizzard.
How interesting life can be
when you mistake one thing for another.

2202: The Alteration of Love | Myra Shapiro

"The Alteration of Love"
Myra Shapiro

I was crying—I mean
tears came—about love,
old love, long marriage
spilling past impediments of
who wants what for dinner or
in the bedroom—ins and outs
my father’s coarse humor
made a joke of: you put it in,
you pull it out, the story’s over,
only in Yiddish it rhymed,
words I don’t recall. Over,
he is. So is my mother. We
were never to be them.
Now they want me
to stop crying. I was trying
to say something about love—
how one day one of us
will disappear. That’s when
my eyes hauled up the sea,
and my mother and father came
to make a child of me.

2201: Untitled | Athena Kildegaard

"Untitled"
Athena Kildegaard

I thought, when I was twenty, that when I turned
fifty, I'd be immune to love's vicissitudes,
and here I am at fifty, indoors, peeling the skin
of a beet, my fingers bloody seeming, and I'm
watching you outside with our grown daughter,
her back's to me, she could be me, something
about how she leans forward from her shoulders.
All those years ago, what was it we argued about
so fiercely I crossed the Michigan Avenue bridge,
the Wrigley Building white and tranquil behind us,
but we couldn't let it go, couldn't walk away, we
hollered across the traffic. Even now I can feel
my spine lengthen, my shoulders square back,
a little ferocity hardening me. I finish the beets
and lean toward the screen, as if to hear what you
and she say to one another, how you work it out.

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