As we prepared for Episode 6, something new happened: a poet whose work we wanted to read and discuss on our podcast said, “No.” It was bound to happen some time and it did—a month and a half in.
Present at the Editorial Table:
Kathleen Volk Miller
PBQ Box Score: 4=2
As we prepared for Episode 6, something new happened: a poet whose work we wanted to read and discuss on our podcast said, “No.” It was bound to happen some time and it did—a month and a half in. We talked about it and acknowledged that some people are simply not going to be ready, some people are going to let fear win over curiosity, and some people are simply not going to ever want their work discussed in such a public manner—a recorded manner that will always exist.
We were disappointed to receive our first “No,” but it caused us to revisit the vulnerability of what we are doing here: taking a writer’s work and picking it apart, separating the juicy poetic goodness from the bone. For most writers, they never get to hear what editors think of their poems, regardless of whether they were accepted or denied. The feedback we are getting uses the word transparency a lot, with that term directed at the transparency of our editorial conversation, but whoa—the writers who are brave for sharing–for writing in the first place—have to peel another layer back to submit to a podcast.
We are grateful that the people we asked so far said, Yes, even though they were scared. Their bravery makes us feel brave, too, and like we’re doing the right thing with this project. Tell us what you think on our FB Episode 6 event page.
We will be looking at two poets today, and the first poet up is Carlos Gomez.
We discussed, Morning, Rikers Island, Black Hair, and Interracial in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Gomez is a renaissance man with too many skills and too many awards for us to reiterate here! Poet, actor, essayist—it seems wherever he directs his attention, great things happen. After you read these poems we know you’ll want more, so we suggest you start here.
Let us tell you his last three accomplishments, just so you get the idea: the cover story on Brass Magazine. He was ONLY voted Best Diversity Artist in Campus Activities Magazine’s 2016 Reader’s Choice Awards. And oh, year, he is featured in The New York Times documentary short film A Conversation with Latinos on Race! So that’s what he’s been up to in just the last few months! Check out his performance schedule—practically no matter where you are he’ll be there this spring and summer.
None of Gomez’s poems were unanimous acceptances, but all three were accepted. From the first line, the light in Morning, Rikers Island resonated with us, and we applauded the craft and elegance of this poem. Interracial in Flatbush, Brooklyn has such specific narrative imagery that we all felt immersed in this scene, and a final moment that resonates. Black Hair had a very different tone, voice, and format from the other two, and our editors were simply engaged in the story just under the surface.
Anyone who has been reading literary magazines for a while has seen work by Adam Day. His latest book is Model of a City in Civil War (Sarabande Books), and his latest awards are a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship for Badger, Apocrypha, a PEN Emerging Writers Award, and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. It’s hard to keep up with this author. If you need to catch up, visit. If you miss him, watch this video.
You’ll have to listen to find out which of the three poems we accepted, but know this: we had a great time discussing them! Tell us what you think at our FB event page. We enjoyed the passion behind The Quiet Life, and the humor of both My Telemachus and Openango; we’re betting you will, too.
Thank you for your patience as we’re learning as we go here in the podcast world, we’d love to know what you think – let us know on our Facebook page!
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Morning, Rikers Island
Physics and light
pierce the hollow stench
of the forgotten
gymnasium stripped naked of clocks.
All the boys stopped.
Offered their grief
to each other like water,
glancing out the only window
they all shared. A single ray
unfolds its warmth
across the dusty belly
of the thudded parquet;
and here’s the miracle—
another day had come.
Interracial in Flatbush, Brooklyn
We watch them do this, expand
from all directions like lungs
abruptly filling with water,
as we hold hands and walk through
the eye of another storm. A man grabs
his crotch, offering it to my wife, flings
a mouthful of spit and epithets towards us.
Each pupil is a dim swamp
flooding, silence blanketing a shallow
body in Neshoba County, dusk
shedding its absence across the congealed
oven grease beneath a rusted burner.
A woman’s neck swivels when we pass,
wraps a hard vowel around her tongue
like lighter fluid choking a glass bottle
holding a fuse.
On this corner, scored by dancehall and soca,
there is nothing more novel than me and my love’s
contrasting hues—it ignites a rush of color
from these strangers’ faces. They ring us
a violence familiar as February weather,
mine our skin for metaphors, demand
we offer answers to questions
they are still forming like infants
from their throats.
I have watched my body’s primal wisdom
flicker dark as a fist-concealed palm, ache
so volatile it screams for release. Rage
is a language I unlearn on the corner
of Ocean Avenue and Church, no shoreline
or cathedrals in sight, only fractured things
decorating a broken sidewalk like littered snow.
A new voice pierces the air, a flood of sound
that hits me like a wall of ice, louder and higher
pitched than those before, this time a small child
with brown skin and green eyes, writhing
in her flimsy stroller, pointing towards
the dimpled oval bootprints I leave
behind in the hazel-colored slush,
squealing: Papi! Papi! Papi!
I made her a vow
that I always would,
so I join two fresh clusters
in my clumsy
and careful hands as I cradle
her slumbering nape.
I am submerged in the calculus
of it all, as though
concentration is where I took
my misstep. As though I am
not three decades behind
in my practice. As though it is just
about finding the pattern
(too late). I’m too late, I think,
or maybe it’s something else: his hands
never knew how to fix
my sister’s hair. I tend
each thick, onyx strand
like I’m mending her favorite blanket,
as though my calloused
digits might coax and shape
anything into an ordered grace.
I layer another braid
into the tidy maze
crowning her scalp. I can feel,
with each pull and twist,
the newly assembled
The Quiet Life
You is a pricy practical joke, a missed
appointment, termination that didn’t take,
doctor without depth, military march,
intolerant of mystery; a dinner party
grope and stock exchange, growing aroused
in the shadow of compromise, in the pantry’s
smell of lessening, of whatever
comes along. You’ll have him-
you can’t have anything dripping
and no one to see, and should you
be feared to share him your shrunk
breasted enthusiasm, and shaven
gape, like a mouth ajar, an over worn
loafer, you’ll liptongue and hand him,
poor spunk, half-screwed, like moth larva
rolling in a rice jar. To make nothing
out of nothing but a backbend and
take three quarters of an hour over it.
No one ever captured the insanity
of monologue like you did, vulgarizing
anger into irritation and a plaster
of panic, grinding fists into your eyes,
like our child. So quiet now
it scrapes the calm from bones,
punctuated with involuntary
exonerations, the house in weed,
shingles steaming, all fog
and submission, a celibate brothel
(if nuns carried their duties
as you sexed all saints they’d be.)
No, no solicitation in a street
urinal, no sodomizing the duck
on account of its down, no slush
of thrushes in the rain gutter, no train
of dangers, or snoring next door, eyes
unlit, half the sun and twice the rent.
“The dog drinking water
sounds like a horse
trotting,” my five-year-old says.
Well, look at you, brilliant little
oedipal bastard, trying to steal
my crown (and he is illegitimate;
ask his mother if you
can find her) but Patton was too
and look what he achieved.
After Sherman Alexie
I had just begun
ice-fishing. A walleye
how. A fish
with a headdress.
He called me
white man. Man,
of that racist
shit. It’s like
if I didn’t vacation
at your ice hole
have that casino. And
at me like that, lying
on your side, a vein
skating the black
plate of your eye.