Insert PIN

 

he draws a pinhole

breath, bowling ball sunk

in the sternum. gutter-

bound before the foot

flick. his brain is

all pins and needles

poking the pink ink

in his throat. mouth

a crumbling pyramid. his

teeth a collision of

ghosts. he tries to

think happy thoughts. how

the pinwheel spins in

the summer breeze. and

that reminds him of

his mouth again. a

ten car pileup. his

fat tongue flipped. wheels

spin under the sun.

a hot flash that’ll

melt the spine. a

failed mechanism that coping

  1. the shrink gave

him four steps. but

when it strikes, her

voice sounds like the

squeal of hoping. his

mouth, a slaughterhouse. watch

the rotten meat plop

off his conveyor belt

tongue. watch him try

to pin down the

anxiety before it swallows

him. boy forgot the

PIN code. locked out

his own head again.


MATTHEW COONAN is a poet and teaching assistant from Long Island, New York. He is a three-time SUNY Oneonta Grand Slam Champion and received the “Best of the Rest” award for his poem “Fish” at CUPSI 2015. His poems are published or forthcoming in The Drunken Violet Review, 35mm Magazine and Inklette. Matthew is also pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Stony Brook University.

Sol Invictus

You have heard it said the sun never rises

and this is true                    soil furrows out

night from day                notes whisperlong

in the open country past mountains

calling like some figure cast in marble &

paint like dancing at the summer carnival

 

fabric hangs from my shoulders thin

& open in the breeze who more than I

to know myself this perfect sun

of gold            of fathers            of reigns

unconquered on the temple steps

that stretch from door to dresser

 

waiting where wind will wind whip

sharp on legs shorn of memory

this body          gold and perfect

buried.           in a cloud of light

and draping the way it is said

I do not rise                 I unfathom

 

eruption of memories into the sky

cast down clouds like distant tribe

sol                   the sun                  I

invictus           unbent                 I

move between realms I cannot name

turn the earth beneath my feet

 

like a field fallow-full                              like

the wind that catches in this skirt

hung on my ankles        like voice

caught in my throat      this invocation

drying out dew in the morning


RYAN MURPHY is an MFA student at The University of New Mexico and mostly drinks a lot of water and tries to stay out of the sun. Ryan‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Manzano Mountain Review, Beech Street Review, Inklette, and Garbanzo, as well as a very talented pigeon delivering hand-rolled poems to upper story apartments.

A Brief History of Mine

 

On the day after I was born, six cranes took off

from the side of a cropped green hill. The hill

was not a hill in the Chilean sense

 

but instead a zero: round, hollow, subtle,

a void filled with tragedy and possibilities

and above all, things that didn’t matter

 

like ads: a book, three weeks my elder,

that continues to be my older brother,

to whom I bring all of my new ideas so that he will be proud

 

and he shows me how, of course, they were actually his,

that they were already on the page,

three weeks before I was born.

 

In a rage I throw the book into a black hole and fly

to catch the cranes. They are far away but I follow

their tracks in the sands of beaches at the ends of the earth

 

yet each time that I am certain I have captured one,

it turns into the ghost of the book, and, laughing, tells me

to wake up. I am on the green hill, that cipher of nothingness,

in the middle of the unknown continent where I was born.


SEAN C.C. ROBERTS is a writer and environmental scientist, descended from deep Texas roots on one side and a long line of nomads on the other. He has lived for the past several years in Valparaíso, Chile, where he is an alumnus of the Neruda Foundation’s La Sebastiana Poetry Workshop. Tweets @seanccroberts.

The Star

 

you see I’m trying to get

away from the booze hound

in the Mexican cantina

under these festive chili lights

like it was Christmas in July

like a heat spell that foretells

the end of the world

and launching off the planet

with a tear in the eye

and a hopeful woman floating

in her silver zero gravity suit

and that star just a number

where our great great grand

children will begin again

life with the same mix of

tragedy and vice and loneliness

and occasional tenderness

and a glass of green fantasy

but even here they come up

with those faces of broken

blood vessels like sculptures

rough-hewn from a raw scream

saying I left my distortion box

out there in the rain and now

it’s picking up signals from old

Soviet Union cold war days

prairie wind and mile on mile of

empty road rolling right back

where the needle goes in

and the nurse explains this may

make you a little dizzy

and she’s right and what a glorious

sea it is and that rickety dock

I dive from into liquid sky

to swim out through the sun’s eye

into clouds of unknowing where

I see the great architecture of

crystalline light bridges that

I realize I’m only making up

as I look through a manhole

cover in the ground in the

city of the dead that trembles

with a breath and shatters

as I’m sucked back into

Langley by the sea

Island spirit floating

in the never never mist

where when the desperate reach

that point of exhaustion

the last of the fuel burned

the lights gone out and the final

relative buried in the common grave

I’m out here and take nothing

but what fits in these pockets

with the screen door open

and wind like a ghost rushing in

walking out through empty streets

and every step feeling like now

I’ve made it so I’ll start again

realizing wait a minute wait a minute

as those steps circle back to town

over and over with less

to return to but the Bulldog

over the bay with the last

fishing boat beached and listing

dry on the sand and armies of

crabs none too happy with the way

the water’s been clouding down

march up over the pylons

growing bigger as they come

their claws flashing like swords

as they descend on the homes

and click cut pluck up

sleeping people and snap

timbers in apocalyptic devastation

ha                   that’s one

to wake up from in a daze

saying what a doozy

to an empty room on a gray day

dressing slowly as a good citizen

filling a lunch box with an apple

and a sandwich wrapped in wax paper

and heading up the old road

under the mill smoke piling up

with tin hat crane operators

and massive movement of earth

as I pass the gate and stand among

the red spirits of the yawning

excavation pit while the whole

scene vanishes with a voice narrating

weather trends and ship lanes

and drinking songs and memories

old lays and things thought gone

you’d never believe were true

and making it up as we go along


DOUGLAS COLE has published four collections of poetry and a novella. His work is in anthologies and journals such as The Chicago Quarterly Review, Chiron, The Galway Review, and Slipstream. He has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net, and received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry. His website is douglastcole.com.

Midlife Valentine

 

You will not believe me when I tell you there are years

you will want nothing more than sleep and to be kissed

senseless by the quiet.

 

There were other years you thought you needed beauty

the way the girls in fairy tales need magic rings, or locks

of hair, or golden coins, a talking bird, a shoe.

 

You will not believe me when I tell you it’s the wanting

that you’ll miss the most once your lap is full of everything

you thought you’d go without.

 

Those years you made a compass of desire, the way

you make a paper heart by folding it in half,

and cutting what is left of it away.


JEN STEWART FUESTON is a poet and freelance writer. Her poems have been published in a number of journals, most recently Mom Egg Review, Pilgrimage, and Ruminate. Her chapbook, Visitations, was published in 2015. She has taught writing at the University of Colorado, Boulder, as well as internationally in Hungary, Turkey, and Lithuania. Jen lives in Longmont, Colorado and keeps busy chasing her two young sons, podcasting, pitching pop-culture articles and working on a couple new chapbooks.

Interview with Talin Tahajian

“As a poet, there are certain milestones you can mark, vague and blurry as they are, about writers and experiences and pieces that changed the way you approach your craft. Reading Talin Tahajian’s poetry has been one of these formative moments in my relationship with the craft of writing and understanding how it operates not only on a level of metaphor and meaning, but also subliminally. Talin’s poetry is an interplay of images, of the way sceneries of the mind can become metaphors for larger, more deeper meanings, and how the individual identity roams freely even when tied down physically.. The kind of internal monologues her work explores become reflections of some of the best pieces you might’ve ever read – there is a universality to them, but also ground for questioning, for doubt, a whole room to move in and interpret as you please. It is perhaps the best quality a work of art could claim to have.”

Smriti Verma, Poetry Editor 


Շարական (“In this new country”)

 

I’m living in a ridiculous, beautiful imitation
of a place I’ve already lived.
America’s scholarly faux cathedrals—
her gothic turrets and traceries—
her autumn-evening blue-bright architectures—
the way the light leaks in, cutting neat the forested edge of the entire visible world—
where the street folds into itself and ends without indication—
where everything is made miniature at the end of a long brick road with maples—
her nouveau riche. Her strange glories inherited—
her good real estate. Such a good way to render this discovered

immaculate land—I wake up, and my goddess-huge maple
has started to turn. Its leaves all flushed through.
September is over. And still I don’t know where in the world I am—

Here, in this new country, more people look like me—look just like me—

In moments of daily theophany, I walk by girls who look like me.
Imagine, all of us together again in the cul-de-sac of our ancestors.
Lined up as tiny identical icons—assembled in perfect portraiture—
kissing our խաչքարեր for mercy—but this time, not shot dead in turn—
Խարբերդ, the place we’re from, is no longer part of our country.
And, most of all, we’ll say, of Արարատ, they stole our beautiful mountain.

I don’t know what’s left in Armenia for me.
And Aleppo is gone.

In my mind, every day, I’m still on King’s Parade—
I’m crossing the same bridge over and over—
I did the best I could—it doesn’t matter—
there’s no place for me in England—

I waited three years to go into King’s Chapel, and when I did, my blood was flashing artificial—
I was seeing things that God didn’t choose to make—all of us
showing such petty irreverence for those blood-blue vaults and buttresses, all of us
together beneath the ripe-hanging festival moon—

The drugs tortured me as they left me—They torture me and again
again the torture, as the sun rose, through my fits and figures,
sapped primordial as Michelangelo’s yet-lifeless Adam, palms limp—
reaching toward grace—for the drugs—in some other kind of begging
before prayer existed at all—farewell, love, I’ve thought to myself

as I rise with it—the chemicals—naming myself and my friends over and over.
I sometimes forget my nomenclatures—I sometimes forget—

Once, I licked drugs from the hands of someone I love
disgustingly particularly—do you remember?
I am reminded of creation as wicked in a way that can’t be described
in speech or spell—that devilish art—I was named after a village

with a cathedral inside it . Talin, first misnamed nine
centuries ago by an ancient astronomer—an old master—I’d rather forget.
I name myself—Թալին—I name him too—Ptolemy

O my ancestors—O my lovely lost forgotten գուսանք—
my own little շարական—I create you—
I don’t know you—I still don’t know what parts of me are holy—

(Published in The Rumpus, July 2018)


Inklette: This question may be a little vague, but in all our reading of your work, starting from the very beginning, we’ve noticed that a number of your poems feature bird imagery as a recurring metaphor. What’s the intention behind this? Do you think we as writers tie ourselves to certain images and metaphors over the course of our careers?

Talin: I’m still young, too. Once, I was asked a similar question, and I said I’d never come away from the dead birds, or something like that. But I think, largely, now, I have done. I think it has to do with what we’re casting ourselves up against, at the moment—writers create imitable things, and I think that part of growing up and learning is sapping them all up—the ones that really stick with you—and spitting them back out. So, early on, I guess I was reading a lot of poets who use a lot of birds, and that’s how I learned how to write. They’re also, of course, almost infinitely poetic creatures—as in, literally, able to be poeticized—and can stand for love, hope, fear, loss, overcoming hardship, the transcendent, et cetera. This is why they are so malleable in the hands of new and seasoned poets alike, and another reason why they’re probably all through my older stuff.

That being said, about the “concrete metaphor”: I think we latch and unlatch like barnacles as we grow older, as the seasons change, as we move from city to city, and we’re surrounded by different objects and spaces…

 Inklette: How does a poet know the extent to which the usage of symbols would retain their personal appeal to the poet, while also not appearing overly cryptic to the readers?

Talin: The question, to me, seems to be about what is expected of the reader—what sort of reader are we expected to be? What does difficulty ask of us?—what does poetry ask of us? Does poetry really “[require] nothing of you other than a willing ear,” as Jia Tolentino recently described for The New Yorker? Poetic “difficulty” raises questions about elitism and precipitates discussion about the literarily “democratic,” qua Geoffrey Hill. It’s all about readerly expectation. But where does expectation come from? Again, it’s something constructed by our own understanding of what poetry “is” or “should be,” which comes from our own vertical and horizontal reading. So, the “symbol”-object, as you call it, will mean something different to me than it means to you, and it will mean something different to another reader, et cetera. I definitely don’t always intend for readers to “understand” everything that I write; that is, to interpret it in the same way that I do—how could they? Instead, I hope that they can sap from it what they like, the way different metals, affected by the same sound wave, ring with different tones?


Earth usually has more than one moon, study suggests

 

When the last stellar-studded gown swept across the whole

bleeding world, I cried. The pearly night ate me up. Marveling,

you ask, What is it like, living in the larval object? I used to know­—

the same goes for our sloshing planet. Now, I forget most things.

The darkness is round and white. It has become glorious and full.

It’s remarkable­—the way everything glows with the putrid energy

of an oyster mushroom decaying a dead and violated animal.

Long ago, before the end, the pink-grown sky haunted me lengthily

with an old, Western beauty. I was born beneath a sprawling display

of spring-torn clouds. I died the whitest death. Now, incessantly—

I’m bored of being famous; I just want to be a good person. I live in a glade

in an inside-out universe, a spell of sopping moss. Don’t you see?

I have risen from the black smoke of the new Levant, the richest part

where the moon is twice. O, you­—you break my thrashing heart.

(Published in The Iowa Review Online, April 2018)


Inklette: Two of your poems—“Perseids” and “Signs of Life,” both my absolute favourites—focus on merging internal monologues with metaphors of cities and coastlines. What’s the idea or the somewhat deeper meaning behind this? How does your conception of cities influence your writing?

Talin: Wow—well, I think that, right now, the city-as-poem and city-as-transgressable/trespassable-object is the obsessive place toward/into/in which I write, qua the first question… I’m not sure why. I like the way that reality and not-realities seem to coexist in the city. In a pretty typical way, I also have a lot of memories and passions and nostalgias attached to specific cities, and those are the ones in which most of my work lives, at the moment.

Inklette: A lot of your poetry focuses on interiority and reads like a stream-of-consciousness piece. At the same time, it also relates itself to, say, the immediate surroundings. Do you find this challenging? Do you think it can be hard to situate an internal monologue with, say, a political or social theme?

Talin: I don’t think it’s hard for some people—immediately, Nicole Sealey’s “Virginia is for Lovers,” sam sax’s “Executive Order,” and Dorianne Laux’s Facts About the Moon” come to mind, and there are many, many others—but, usually, I think it’s challenging for me, yes. I think I need to go somewhere, insert myself into that place, and that’s usually the right kind of fodder for me. Recently, I went back to Cambridge (UK) to do this, and it was incredibly important to me that I did. I believe that, in some way, most social themes are still spatial. (That’s one of those generalizations about which I’ll definitely disagree with myself in a few years, but hey.) The space is always there to ground the monologue, to tether it to the Earth.


No Steeple

“If there is still one hellish, truly accursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.”
Artaud

I live in beautiful old buildings
that your fathers lived in,
& their fathers. Nothing is real until it is.
You’d hate that.
It’s hard to hurt things.
Isn’t it.
I’m afraid of spiders but I still scoop them cold
into my hands & let them free. Where’s the church
for things like this. I could talk about churches
but for the dust. I could talk
about cities but for the mist. Last night, I stepped out
into the crystal-cold English night & our looming chapel
was hanging in fog. None of us even deserve
any of this: the only city that envelops you like a shrine
to something you’re not even good enough to worship.
The not-church is my bedroom
& my soft-stained sink. The not-church is everything you, boy, think you know.
I’ve seen your books. I’ve seen your pen. Artaud called it
burning at the stake. I have burned & burned but is it burning
if there’s no one there to see? I burn
in a dark gorgeous cave in a turn of twisting earth
& there are no sounds there, & no figures
or forms, but the softest crystals on earth, pieces of not-rock
& not-thing & I burn in the not-light / & I bleed into my soap-stained sink
still soft / & I sign as I am supposed to sign:
standing straight still, signaling nothing, with nothing, for nothing, forgetting
my name as an echo that drifts & leaves its way to the shrine-city for which none of us
are good enough, where it disappears into the system of bells
as just another tonal, longing thing, lengthening & fading.
From my not-church in a building older
than our fathers, I hear it & don’t recognize myself
in it. I hear bells where, somewhere, in another
similar universe, there are no bells,
but through the chapel-feasting flames, an echo
from some dark-cave slick stone stake
signing Talin, Talin, Talin, Talin, Talin, Talin, Talin,
until, in the distance, a small body
falls from a cave in a cavernous crag, a burnt,
budding thing, still crying or bleeding, so thin
& so rot for mercy.

(Published in Cosmonauts Avenue, March 2017)


Inklette: In your artistic career, has there ever been a particular poem that you started working on and stopped? What was it about? Do you ever think about going back to it?

Talin: There are pieces that I think about writing, but I really don’t tend to start until they’re fully cooked—fully marinated? Ready to simmer? Or, done simmering and ready to boil? Either way, what I mean is that I don’t usually start things unless I’m itching to write them, and pretty deeply aware that I’m ready to write them, which is usually a gut feeling. That’s not to say they’re perfect. But I sit on things for a while. I sat on the topics of “Landscape” and “Barn Point” for ages, for instance—until I had a poem in me, fully and definitely, and until I knew that I’d got something—even if that “something” were very small—somehow right.

 Inklette: How have your sources of artistic inspiration changed over the span of your career?

Talin: Now, I learn and draw from the materials around me differently, and with a more critical eye, than I did when I was in high school. And I’m more aware and knowledgeable of the long poetic tradition of which we’re all a part—so, more to draw from. But I think the “inspiration,” the root of everything, must be the thing that doesn’t change—maybe not the reason the hand drags the knife, but the hand, or that the knife is dragged? I hope that makes some sense. Thanks for these questions.


I keep a strange list

 

The night whistles in
as through two
rain-white teeth.
I turn to myself
and say Help
I think I am killing myself—

this is everything we think we want.
Roadkill is so intimate. Launch yourself
into the gore-warm
ocean. Beautiful.
Hello the drowning
is so good Come back no one
can talk to buildings Come home
but I am missionless. I wait
for the water to reclaim
the high white columns
of our fathers. I am from an old city
and, now, from other older cities.
It’s hard to remember.
Sometimes, I walk
on the wrong side of the road
in the wrong country.
I am always dazed
and easily dazzled.
Like any good drug, a cold
glass of coffee lifts me bright.
I keep a strange list
of people I love.
I keep my own personal
terrible holy spirit.
It lives in my faint blood
and my whole animal heart.
We beat together. He is so cold.
Real gods knife you up.
I have experienced indications of the end of the world
so I’ve never been happy.
But I’ve been euphoric. If anyone ever
listened to me, they would know prophecies
and spells Come home to the water
but they don’t listen—they never—

(Published in Peach Mag, July 2018)


tt1TALIN TAHAJIAN grew up near Boston. Her poetry has appeared in the Kenyon Review Online, Indiana Review, Best New Poets 2014 & 2016, Black Warrior Review, and the Rumpus. She edits poetry for Big Lucks and the Adroit Journal, and is an MFA candidate at the University of Michigan. Check out her website and her Twitter

Two Poems

KISS IN RITTENHOUSE SQUARE

 

I see him as an easily startled sparrow

and tell him so the second time we meet.

buddy holly glasses, blond crew cut, he plays piano

at a show tune palace late at night, and he

can’t always sleep. his heartbreak he keeps

tuned to minor chords, and yes, his catalog

of torch songs is well-worn, like a poetry

volume someone gave me at fifteen. does it need

to be said I’ve come to town on business?—

that I’m scratching his deaf dog behind the ear

while he pours us drinks in the kitchen,

that he removes his glasses, that I see his skin almost

translucent in the little blue glow through

a half-shaded window.

that this window is in his bedroom. that at 7 AM

I call a cab and catch my flight.

I leave a note that ends I promise you.

does it matter why there are no phone

calls? what disaster wrecks his dress rehearsal

of “send in the clowns”? how it takes three

summers before I find him again

in philadelphia? we close down a martini

bar where they play moody

indie pop. we walk a block, streets shiny,

white with rain, lined with ivy-curtained houses,

a narrow space, hollow and black,

that holds only us and the smell of wet brick.

I wonder if he’s kept my note.

I start to say, I want— when he surrenders,

body limp, he falls, and with

bliss and impatience, lips intent and perfectly

curled to mine, seems to say he’s craved

my tongue, my breath, the end of this long wait,

to kiss me this way, a moment he already chose

as closing scene—skittish, intelligent bird.

his warm neck I let go. he hails a taxi,

slides mutely in, and leaves me at the edge of empty paths

of cobblestone that web across his city.


THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT AN AFFAIR

 

white cat asleep in a lap of tight pants. in heat,

musk irresistible to males. our bodies know

many ways to lie on a couch. our lips know

many ways to couch a lie. the lover like

a priest, shaded by teakwood, mahogany, lace,

hunches in the dark booth of a confessional.

my teenage self with his pillow rubbed hard

between his legs. a soprano traces a crescendo.

she sings a diamond, sings its flaws. a flawed

diamond lodged in her throat. pearls on velvet

mounted for display as pink as a tongue

or a thumb. his guitar rests like a hand on his hip.

the clock hands make us sense that we are chained.

they also create rhythm. beneath piano

intro, bow and string make innuendo.

violas propose. a cello shrieks refusal.

violin vibrates seduction, whispers dirty

words, spreads its cheeks and thrusts. he dances on thin wire

like flame on the tip of a candle. he dances

faster, pleads for more. insists on finishing first,

piano right behind. applause. applause. applause.

he’s then wiped clean with a rag. a man bites a snake

on the back of its hood. he’s handsome as

a vampire. the wounded snake bites back. who survives?


ANTHONY DIPIETRO is a gay Rhode Island native who worked for 12 years in community-based organizations that addressed issues such as violence, abuse, and income inequality. In 2016, he moved to New York to join Stony Brook University as a candidate for a creative writing MFA and now teaches undergraduate courses. A graduate of Brown University with honors in creative writing, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Journal, Assaracus, The Good Men Project, Notre Dame Review, The Southampton Review, The Seventh Wave, and others. He has been a finalist with Coal Hill Review, Naugatuck River Review, and The Tishman Review. His website is AnthonyWriter.com.