Sunday, April 7, 2019

I used to be a roller coaster girl

by jessica Care moore

(for Ntozake Shange)

I used to be a roller coaster girl
7 times in a row
No vertigo in these skinny legs
My lipstick bubblegum pink
                      As my panther 10 speed.

never kissed

Nappy pigtails, no-brand gym shoes
White lined yellow short-shorts

Scratched up legs pedaling past borders of
humus and baba ganoush
masjids and liquor stores
City chicken, pepperoni bread
and superman ice cream

Yellow black blending with bits of Arabic
Islam and Catholicism.

My daddy was Jesus
My mother was quiet
Jayne Kennedy was worshiped
by my brother Mark

I don't remember having my own bed before 12.
Me and my sister Lisa                           shared.

Sometimes all three Moore girls slept in the Queen.

You grow up so close
never close enough.

I used to be a roller coaster girl
Wild child full of flowers and ideas
Useless crushes on       polish boys
in a school full of       white girls.

Future black swan singing
Zeppelin, U2 and Rick Springfield

Hoping to be Jessie's Girl

I could outrun my brothers and
Everybody else to that

recurring line

I used to be a roller coaster girl
Till you told me I was moving too fast
Said my rush made your head spin
My laughter hurt your ears

A scream of happiness
A whisper of freedom
Pouring out my armpits
Sweating up my neck

You were always the scared one
I kept my eyes open for the entire trip
Right before the drop I would brace myself
And let that force push my head back into

That hard iron seat

My arms nearly fell off a few times
Still I kept running back to the line
When I was done
Same way I kept running back to you

I used to be a roller coaster girl
I wasn't scared of mountains or falling
Hell, I looked forward to falling and dropping
Off this earth and coming back to life

every once in a while

I found some peace in being out of control
allowing my blood to race
through my veins for 180 seconds

I earned my sometimes nicotine pull
I buy my own damn drinks & the ocean
Still calls my name when it feels my toes
Near its shore.

I still love roller coasters
& you grew up to be
of all girls who cld



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13 Questions for the Next Economy

by Susan Briante

On the side of the road, white cardboard in the shape of a man,
            illegible script. A signpost with scrawl: Will pay cash for diabetes strips.

A system under the system with its black box.         Disability hearing?
a billboard reads. Trouble with Social Security? Where does the riot begin?

Spark of dry grass, Russian thistle in flames, or butterflies bobbing
as if pulled by unseen strings          through the alleyway.

My mother's riot would have been peace. A bicycle wheel
            chained to a concrete planter. What metaphor

            can I use to describe the children sleeping in cages in detention
centers? Bird pushed fenceward by a breeze? A train of brake lights

extending? Mesquite pods mill under our feet
on a rainless sidewalk. What revolution          will my daughter feed?

A break-the-state twig-quick snap or a long divining          as if
for water? A cotton silence? A death?          Who will read this

in the next economy, the one that comes after the one that kills us?
What lessons will we take from the side of the road? A wooden crucifix,

a white bicycle, a pinwheel, a poem, ICE
waiting to be redacted:            Which would you cross out?   

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by Tim Seibles

     for Natalie

So much like sequins
the sunlight on this river.
Something like that kiss—

Fourth of July, with the moon
down early      the air moved

as if it were thinking,
as if it had begun
to understand

how hard it is
to feel at home
in the world,

but that night
she found a place
just above your shoulder

and pressed her lips
there. Soft rain

had called off the fireworks:
the sky was quiet, but
back on Earth

two boys cruised by on bikes
trying out bad words. You turned
to reach her mouth,

at last, with yours      after weeks
of long walks, talking

about former loves
gone awry—

how the soul finally
falls down

and gets up alone
once more

finding the city strange,
the streets unmarked.

Every time you meet someone
it’s hard not to wonder

who they’ve been—one story
breaking so much

into the next: memory
engraves its hesitations—

but that night
you found yourself
unafraid. Do you remember

what the wind told the trees
about her brown hair?—
how the cool dark turned around:

that first kiss,
long as a river.

Didn’t it seem like you already loved her?

Off the sidewalk: a small pond,
the tall cattails, all those sleepy koi

coloring the water.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Parkinson's Disease: Autumn

by Andrès Cerpa

When I woke for school the next day the sky was uniform & less than 
with the confusion of autumn & my father

as he became distant with disease the way a boy falls beneath the ice,
   before the men that cannot save him-

the cold like a forever on his lips.

Soon, he was never up before us & we'd jump on the bed,
   wake up, wake up,

& my sister's hair was still in curls then, & my favorite photograph still 
my father's back to us, leading a bicycle uphill.

At the top, the roads vanish & turn-

the leaves leant yellow in a frozen sprint of light, & there, the forward

The nights I laid in the crutch of my parents' doorway & dreamt awake,
 listened like a field of snow,

I heard no answer. Then sleepless slept in my own arms beneath
   the window
to the teacher's blank & lull-

Mrs. Belmont's lesson on Eden that year. Autumn: dusk:

 my bicycle beside me in the withered & yet-to-be leaves,

& my eyes closed fast beneath the mystery of migration, the flock's 
   rippled wake:

Monday, July 16, 2018


by Tone Skrjanec
translated by Matthew Rohrer & Ana Pepelnik

such a sticky day today.
coins clang in my pocket as i walk.
piles of ducklings are squatting in the shade of a tree
which could, at a quick glance, be a willow.
two women with legs bare to the knees are laughing
and gesticulating blessedly while crossing the street
that winds around the lake. walking is important.
thinking while walking. bodies while walking.
three cyclists on the top of the stairs are from another world.
covered with science-fiction helmets,
all red and flushed. looking like aliens.
while you walk you meet many almost divine creatures,
i.e. ducks, which i have already mentioned,
or this one here, sitting all by itself by the lake
and, seemingly without purpose, widely opening its beak,
so its long and slender neck is beautifully tightening.
such a sticky day, and yet
such a nice evening's silence.
just cars, birds, and oars
from afar hitting the lake,
and it seems that we animals are mostly satisfied.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Laura Kasische - Bicycle Poems

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I had no familiarity with Laura Kasischke's poetry until reading one of her poems in the Poem-A-Day feed. I checked out Where Now: New and Selected Poems from Copper Canyon Press and am more than halfway through it. It's overdue at the library and can't be renewed but this one is worth the fine. Below are four poems in which bicycles are prominent, including one that may be the only poem ever written to include TWO of my favorite things in the world, a bicycle and Old Faithful geyser. She can be forgiven for calling a bison a buffalo; it's common among tourists and more poetic, as William Cody would surely agree.

For the Young Woman I Saw Hit by a Car While Riding Her Bike

I'll tell you up front: She was fine - although
she left in an ambulance because
I called 9-1-1

and what else can you do
when they've come for you
with their siren and lights
and you're young and polite
except get into their ambulance
and pretend to smile?

"Thanks" she said to me
before they closed her up. (They

even tucked 
her bike in there. Not
one bent spoke on either tire.) But I

was shaking and sobbing too hard to say goodbye.

I imagine her telling her friends later, "It

hardly grazed me, but
this lady who saw it went crazy..."

I did. I was
molecular, while
even the driver who hit her did
little more than roll his eyes, while

a trucker stuck at the intersection, wolfing
down a swan
sandwich behind the wheel, sighed. Some-

one touched me on the shoulder
and asked, "Are you all right?"

in ten seconds. She
stood, all
blond, shook
her wings like a little cough.)

"Are you
okay?" someone else asked me. Uneasily, as if

overhearing my heartbeat
and embarrasses for me
that I was made
of such gushing meat
in the middle of the day
on a quiet street.

"They should have put her 
in the ambulance, not me."

Shit happens.
To be young.
To shrug it off:

But, ah sweet
thing, take
pity. One

day you too may be
an accumulation
of regrets, catastrophes.
A clay animation
of Psalm 73 (but

as for me, my feet...). No. It will be
Psalm 48: They

saw it,
and so they marveled; they
were troubled, and hasted away. Today

you don't remember the way
you called my name, so
desperately, a thousand times, tearing

your hair, and your clothes on the floor, and
the nurse who denied your morphne
so that you had to die that morning
under a single sheet
without me, in
agony, but

this time I was beside you.
I waited, and I saved you.
I was there.


I had the baby in my arms, he was asleep.
We were waiting for Old Faithful, who was late.
The tourists smelled like flowers, or

like shafts of perfume moving
from bench to bench, from
gift shop to port-o-pot. The sun

was a fluid smear in the sky. Like
white hair in water. The women
were as beautiful as the men, who

were so beautiful they never needed
to see their wives or children again.

It happened then.

Something underground. The hush of sound.

I remembered 
once pretending
to have eaten a butterfly.
My mother held my arms hard until
I told her it was a lie

and then I sighed. I've

loved every minute of my life!
The day I learned to ride a bike
without training wheels, I

might as well have been riding a bike
with no wheels at all! If
at any time I'd

had to agree to bear
twenty-seven sorrows
for a single one of these joys...

If the agreement were that I
had to love it all so much
just, in the end, to die...

Still, I can taste those wings I didn't eat, the sweet
and tender lavender of them. One

tourist covered her mouth
with a hand
and seemed to cry. How

could I have doubted her?
There were real tears in her eyes! The daisies

fell from her dress, and if
at that moment
she'd cracked an egg in a bowl,

the bowl would have filled with light. If

there is a God, why not

this violent froth, this
huge chiffon scarf
of pressure under water under her
white sandals in July?

The baby was asleep, still sucking, in my arms, a lazy

wand of sun moved
back and forth across his brow. I heard a girl's laughter
in the parking lot, soft
and wild as

the last note of "Jacob's Ladder"
played by the children's handbell choir.

I turned around.

It had been watching me. Or him. Or both of us.

Good beast, I whispered to it
facetiously under my breath.
It took, in our direction,

slow and shaggy step.

Bike Ride with Older Boys

The one I didn't go on.

I was thirteen,
and they were older.
I'd met them at the public pool. I must

have given them my number. I'm sure

I'd given them my number,
knowing the girl I was...

It was summer. My afternoons
were made of time and vinyl.
My mother worked,
but I had a bike. They wanted

to go for a ride.
Just me and them. I said
okay fine, I'd
meet them at the Stop-N-Go
at four o'clock.
And then I didn't show.

I have been given a little gift - 
something sweet
and inexpensive, something
I never worked or asked or said
thank you for, most
days not aware
of what I have been given, or what I missed - 

because it's that, too, isn't it?
I never saw those boys again.

I'm not as dumb 
as they think I am

but neither am I wise. Perhaps

it is the best
afternoon of my life. Two
cute and older bys
pedaling beside me - respectful, awed. When we

turn down my street, the other girls see me...

Everything as I imagined it would be.

Or, I am in a vacant field. When I
stand up again, there are bits of glass and gravel
ground into my knees.
I will never love myself again.
Who knew then
that someday I would be

thirty-seven, wiping
crumbs off the kitchen table with a sponge, remembering
them, thinking
of this - 

those boys still waiting
outside the Stop-N-Go, smoking
cigarettes, growing older.

Green Bicycle

There it is on the horizon, wavering.
There it goes, disappearing, into space.

My father hears sounds in the basement.
He goes downstairs in his underwear, a seventy-
year-old man in the static of night and rain.

The wall's caved in. He turns
and climbs the stairs again.

No trouble, no illumination.
I guess God likes it that way.
But the foundation of my father's 
house has collapsed
and the insurance company won't pay
and here we stand this afternoon

stupefied in our wet shoes.

No enemies, no friends.
Without the middle, no beginning or end.
If the phone doesn't ring, if the thing never breaks...

The world says, Give me
more of yourself than you can spare
and I'll take you to a strange
city, drop you off downtown, come

to pick you up a little later, greatly changed.

Once, an old man
sat down beside me on a park bench.
He said he was from Ireland.

There were thistles
in the wastefield beside the pond, pre-

historic in their silence, their
shapes, their faith. My bike
was green, and new, and mine. I owned

the most beautiful bike I'd ever seen, and
rode it, watching
myself ride it
like a prepubescent ghost
with long soft hair
into the supermarket's plate-glass window.

It had gotten me to the place
I was, which was, perhaps, farther

than I ever should have been.

He put his hand on my hand, leaned
over and tried to kiss me on the lips.

Oh, no, I said - got up, ran, never looked back. But

Today I would ask that old man, What about all that?

The turtles were paddleing on the pond's smooth murk,
poking up their faces for a better look.
The thistles made their hushes
in the breezes. Tell me, kiss me, Old One. This

time it'll be
our little secret.

Although, that time, thrilled with my
first horror, riding my bike home
I stopped

over and over to tell this story
to everyone I knew,

and my father, a very young man,
came down there looking for you.

Monday, July 31, 2017



(Against September 11, 2001)

by Brendan Galvin

He breezed past me on a bike so thin
it looked bulletproof, another spandex
superhero, I thought, until he came back
slowly, sagging and loud, both hands
on the grips, talking to nobody
on this road given over to birdsong.
Both towers? He was almost screaming now.
Both? Another vacationer losing
his mind at his leisure, until I saw
the headphone clamped to his helmet.