Jaimie Gusman

Shape

The ocean is ice blue, a translucent clearing that could chill a wolf’s jaw. Our skin is not yet ready for it, but reflects a similar frosty pigment. We are still developing our hypodermis, but all the other organs are in place. We are not quite inside out, we are flat sheets of muscle. We are scalps, faces, hands, nipples.

But how old are we?
We are old enough to be your mothers.

Us blue women stand around the edge of water, take pleasure in watching the cold steam rise into fibrous silks, then hit the air like soft, warm breath.

We are old enough to be your mothers, so listen.

On earth, everything begins as a blue organism. First, we are liquid drops. Some of us join with others. Some of us stay singular.

We all develop small shells that hold our insides together. This is where we produce livers and hearts and brains. Then, we break open and suddenly have wings. But we don’t know how to use them, and they eventually fall off, then we grow skin.

In the fetal stage, we develop the lowest aspect of the soul. It matures in the liver, spreads throughout the body via blood.

Behind us are white mountains and gulches that are iced over, so we can never tell how deep the openings drive into the earth. Forests, too, ancient greens are browned over by dense moss and loamy soil. We have the ideal topography for growth.

When our wings fall off, the sound is exactly how one would imagine chitin to crumble, like the half-dead roseblooms continuing to hold shape.

Below our breasts are our hearts. They thump so hard you can see the little beats bulge through tender sternums. The middle part of the soul lives inside the bulge, chirps like a bat. It feeds off breast milk and sings when it’s full.

Chitin is not elastic. When its time for us to grow, we have to push out of our wings, split open the structure like a cicada from its shell.

On days when the lights are turned all the way up, we find bows and arrows and guns and knives stuck in tree roots. When we try to touch them, our hands go numb until we pass out.

Passing out is like dreaming. Sometimes we wake up back at the edge of the water. Sometimes we wake up again with wings we know we will eventually lose.

Around us is a welcoming luminous globe of white.

The brain is the highest level of the soul and comes to us when we hunt or imagine the forests turning to mud. Other colors flood in and the blues fade in the light.

We can’t swim through water, and there is no way out.

When we gather by the edge of the water we play the water game, what are you thinking? We stare into one another’s eyes and guess. Each time our thoughts get more complex, and some of us have to squint to find the answers.

We are blue, but our souls are blue hot.

When a soul reaches full development, it abandons us for the water. We watch them form from the steam rising.

But without wings, our souls float away from us.

Marthe Reed

oilfield dreams: roy champagne

why don’t you come
rough-necked
pushin’ tools
drilling rigs oddly anywhere

intimate and far
flung that deep slow
going all the time
a decent life

specific bodies in
specific places
a bar and a grocery store
Cut Off

and my brother
all south
marsh then bays
nice big rigs

further out
back back of
Napolean Bay
Ponchartrain Southeast

Pass
mud drillpipe
between them rigs
casing

never slowed down
a rope
a jack-up a steady
risks lie across

a yellow sheet
that
grandfather clause
water fuel mud

check
a transparent reality
three thousand
sacks those connections

class-A
cement
the world drowned
you all feel all feel

ten foot seas
to kill that
white yellow and red
systemic and irreversible

mud
comes yellow
too late
neither culpability nor

solutions
a breakdown
a blow-out same thing
you’re gone

Eileen R. Tabios

I FORGOT THE ENGINEERS OF LEXUS

I forgot the giftbox was the gift.

I forgot gifts carefully differentiated among recipients—the matron’s painstaking definitions of servants versus those served.

I forgot the classic contents of the Filipino Balikbayan Box:
Dove soap
L’Oreal shampoo
Colgate (“has to be Colgate, not Crest”) toothpaste
SPAM corned beef
Set of Encyclopedia Brittanica from the 1970s
Nestle’s Quick chocolate
Folger’s (nowadays, Walmart house brand) coffee
Snickers
M&Ms
Irish Spring soap
Libby’s corned beef
Costco Vitamin B-12
See’s chocolates
Back issues of
Conde Nast Traveler, The New Yorker, Marie Claire,
Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Glamour
Oil of Olay lotion
Almay lotion
Ziploc plastic bags
Nutella
Reynolds aluminum foil and saran wrap
Campbell’s soups
Nine West and Liz Claiborne purses (“from factory outlets”)
Parker pens with refills
Osh Kosh playsuit
Baby Gap, Old Navy and Fisher Price onesies
Bayer aspirin
Carnation instant creamer
Nail polish: “L’Oreal for family, Maybelline or Wet n Wild for the servants”
Pantene for family, Suave for neighbors”

I forgot the luxury of appointments.

I forgot Tequila Corazon de Agave alchemized from the heart of blue agave bred in the rich, red soil of the “Highlands” in Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico.

I forgot W Hotel’s promise to balance “style” and “soul.”

I forgot the feminism advocated by diamond traders: Women of the World! Buy Your Own!

I forgot Microsoft snooping on our passions.

I forgot Ford’s definition of “Escape”: blowing by a mountain-high 18-wheeler through 200 horsepower V8.

I forgot shoes subject to credit approval.

I forgot Las Vegas’ invitation to be at home with The Topless, The Wet, The White: Mandalay Bay!

I forgot the artist who traded identity for a Tiffany house brand.

I forgot a silver platter on the beach. I forgot a platter serving sunlight.

I forgot financial advisors attuned to the good.

I forgot the glimpse of eternity in black obsidian.

I forgot life defined through the credit card.

I forgot Lexus engineers.

Connor Stratman

Lebenswelt

I imagine a lifeworld
where a crushing sense of
defeat is not the mode of design
not a principle of architecture
no more no less but a possibility

now out here in the country
a vaulting arch
rings above the shoreline

a mirror likeness merged
running across
the stumbling sky

this is only one land

to be buried and formed in the Image

Charles A. Perrone

A Principled Precipice of Learning

It is indeed quite a steep drop
from
a Manhattan (or similar) loft
or a Matterhorn (or dissimilar) lift
or the Mad Hatter’s left over assembly
to
a teepee on the midwest plains
or planes of snow-melted intersections
or a plain teacup sans liquefied energy fields
that someone deigned to steep for discretion.

The fall can be foolishly frightful even fatal
and no fetal position or self-righteous pose
can warrant that sea of tranquility you chose
to seek, to desire, to aspire to navigate …

John Lowther

It’s just a bowling alley.
It’s for people who want to feel rebellious but are terrified of actually breaking any laws.
It’s just stupid to have objections about it.
It’s not sex; it’s a cocktail of testosterone, fueled by addiction to pornography, loneliness, and the need to hear a woman’s voice.
It’s a limited thing.
It’s rainbow cake.
It’s embarrassing to me that there was a time in my life that that was funny.
It’s a bit disheartening sometimes.
It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.

Jeff Dahlgren

Gullible Anvils

Purple (n) pink (oink) acid Brillo meat intersections,
my spear of influence is on the nose.
Dreaded into it, hyperbole n metaphor
Expels us prominently, saturated loosely,
toothless on, harpy and solemn, crass be
nibble in the fresh dew mythos. Moribund,
we wish for storm and blight, favorable vegetables –
by trolled succubus and tumors,
snorting lords, flappy or about breaking window panes,
she sneaks in a good one, fertile is an exoneration.
Alibi moist goons slurp the highbrow width of endless.

 

 

Clever Hairbow Nuisance:

Lucid choosing shark fin cast iron brunette,
riddance riddle flooded dogged.
Pardon me.
It’s a Lofty Harvard anti-theist morgue
or your orbit blow-out,
soot of foggy strips of paper, hacks like tasty ghost.
Pour me another tapestry. Garbed in focus,
as the melody of your hair’s renaissance claims dusk
and drowned sighs catapult velvet fig leaves
on Mary Joseph’s used naval pool, all live.