09 August 2007

Featured Poet: Matthew Guenette

Editor's Note: Matthew Guenette reads this Sunday, August 12 at Myopic Books (1564 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago), 7 pm with Jason Bredle.

Newlywed Poem

That summer’s cramped
humid alphabet, tree-shadowed
street, shadows shading
each day’s motion
syllables slow-finning forward
& back as enormous
impossible-to-catch muskies
slow-finned & flashed
in the current where
the power plant’s outflow
warmed the lake green
that first red morning, the punk
plucking his bike
from a dumpster & smoking
a joint trailing funky
sweet & sour seahorses
of smoke, our sublet’s vague
gas-leak smell, faded orange
plaster music pumped in
from the 70s, jumping spiders
living like monks in the sills
the next door couple’s
moans sapping through
our sleep, the underwater
sound of TV, black & white
canned laughs sinking
through the ceiling, the surprisingly
soothing aluminum blinds
in a breeze, the schizophrenic
xylophone of chimes
& somewhere a drunk singing
Sinatra from his porch—
remember how we slipped
naked down the alley
night’s cool breath on our necks
how careful we were
not to wake, our bed rafting
onto the lake, drifting out
like a new sentence.

Heather Bar Sonnet

The night is an urging of non-Heathers
until in walks Heather
with her fistful of Heathers.

Either we saddle the horse of un-Heather
or we Heather the horse
of unreason

or we unsaddle the Heathers
through the eye of a needle.
Fortune bumblebees toward Heather
who sashays with her look-alikes.

To Heather or not Heather?
To Heather (she stammered in the drunken beauty queen fashion)
her meditative equipoise
and the queens she hides up her sleeve.

His Mind was a Backseat

With stains and a funny smell


Emotionally disturbed brother and I
at the drub diets
enjoying bottles of the latest biter duds.

We’re looking out over rib dusted

Beyond the stub dried, big Ed ruts
where the special ed dirt dusts up like bed turds.

You know what should go there, says emotionally disturbed brother.
A summer bicep camp. Rows of machines for every move.
Dumbbells, preacher bench, nautilus isometric shit.
All biceps, all the time.
A parking lot full of crotch-rockets and Camaros and Z-28s. With special guests
Carrot Top and Governor Schwarzenegger motivating the skinny-legged campers
to sculpt their biceps until their shirt sleeves strain
and the biceps practically oil themselves.

Later we’re watching big eds rut
a bride stud on TV.

A tubed rids with a birds duet
buried in his bust redid gets dragged
to the tribe duds by his drunk bastard friends
who want nothing to do with this debt rudder.

Emotionally disturbed brother says, will he be okay?

All biceps all the time.

When Lightning Struck the Festival
The Lights Strung in the Trees Popped like Ladyfingers.

He was auditioning for the role of Man Hit By a Bus. He had to wear Coke-bottle glasses
and was asked to walk as if on a raft rocking in the middle of a lake.

Smile, they said. Round your vowels like a Wisconsin housewife.

Except they had no script, so he had to improvise.

He decided to say whatever had happened: “When lightning struck the festival,
the lights strung in the trees popped like ladyfingers.”

The words wrote themselves out in the air before him, finishing themselves off
before he could speak through them fully. Time was moving on
without him. Something electric and heavy.

He nailed it on the second take.

Playing Poker with the Gods

The Gods say raise your hand and repeat after us:
drink this kool aid, wear this fig leaf,
try on these rockets and missiles for size.

Is everything wrapped in a womb of red velvet?
Even the hedgehog? The Must-Be Gods.
The Gods of Bit-by-Bit.

These gods are killing my teeth
like a tray of revolving sweets. The insect’s
mandibles should be reminder enough

not to tip these undertakers on our way out.
Is every god a stranger? Are they just
wanting money as the seasons demand? One god

says you’re a big sissy, another wears a cologne
called Tourniquet. Look: there’s calcium bicarbonate
on your new white shirt. The gods

fat and stupid change their minds like pigeons.
Fortitude: testicular. Coleslaw: stolen.
Here among all creation, I get a splitting headache

because every night I have to come down here
and devour all these ashes.
Please, what am I supposed to do?

He Lived in X

Its oligarchy of mayors.
Its shitty country music.
Its backwards hat wearing riding around with gun racks and rebel flags.

He thought X was trying to erase itself because it preferred parking lots and fast food
20 oz. refill chicken bucket strip-malls plowing relentlessly through.

Like preferring no history at all.
His any given night riverfront casino desperate and despondent drunk wandering.
His grotesquely gurgling carp thrown up on its muddy banks.

He didn’t go to church.
He didn’t think nailing the Ten Commandments to your lawn was a good idea.
He wasn’t into morbid obesity or brain sandwiches or lovers with exes with restraining orders out on bail.

The only time he felt suicidal was in X. He went to the pawnshop to see how much
for a gun.

Then he went to the emergency room.

What’s the problem?
I want to kill myself.

You need to make an appointment for that. The earliest we can see you
is in three weeks.


Nietzsche had a mullet

Finally, The Printer

Finally, the printer decided just to drag, jig-saw, Swiss-cheese, or otherwise mince and shred in its jaws every memo, resume, and refusal-of-credit letter to a stubble-mulch lettuce.

Something had to be done.

Debbie distracted the printer with paper clips and a fresh ream of paper. I dialed the company’s emergency hot line and whispered the code word: hamster.

I’d barely hung up the phone before the SWAT Team was there, rappelling down from the roof in a shadowy flux.

The printer sensed something was up.

Black ink and toner fluid drooled from its cream-colored face. Its digital readout was speaking in tongues. It flashed a seizure of red and green lights.

“Debbie,” I said. “Take my hand.”

This was the go sign. The SWAT Team came swinging crashing through the windows, their laser scopes trained with terrifying precision.

In no time they had the printer blindfolded and unplugged.

The grizzled CO lit up a cigar. He set his jaw and gave a look of deep reproach while in the storeroom two of his boys went to work on the printer old school, one with a pipe, the other with needle-nose pliers.

“We’ve seen this type of printer before,” he said.

© Copyright 2007 Matthew Guenette

01 August 2007

Featured Poet: Melissa Severin

Ars Amatoria

Though the mysteries of Venus are not buried in a box,
nor echo in the wide air to the clash of cymbals,
but are busily enjoyed so, by us all,
they still wish to be concealed among us.

--Ovid, Ars Amatoria

My life repeats,
bobs in and out
of water, misses night's

seaward drag against stomach.
Lungs won't take prisoners
but this mouth that sops kelp
slush, an open window on my face.

This is the thunderhead.
Hurricane. If the ocean turned
to snow we'd have an avalanche
of pine needles to sew shut out jaws.

with breath, lassoed
voices, deteriorated word ropes.
Against the molars,
Morse code
of my name once spoken.
Becomes it, once spoken, untrue
for the grave love made; soliloquy
stuck in the tongue pit, monstrously

Said yes too much,
licked clean plates clean,
watched skin go slate,
made specious excuses

for failed concoctions
best left to chemists,
undertakers and impressionists. They see
a thing distantly: heart beats in calligraphy
on a compass, the measure of a termite wing
ductile and trapped among cilia,
taxidermied dromedaries just to show us
what they're made of. Sequels
scalpeled into the skin like secrets
now obsolete.

Call brush strokes obvious,
the use of plastic, morose.
When he gives you a rose,
do not knit him a blanket.

Unsleeping Fragments

(collaboration with Jared Weber)

It's not when but
you come to it, mutable;
a conversation suddenly shifted
to a foreign language.

that knowledge no one really hears
what they can't comprehend, just fragments hung

between elevator doors. Panic
sounds like a ring
for each floor, a sentence
rising in the throat, a choke
on a cherry pit, aril sweet
around the stone.

Nervy taste
on a broken tooth, tart,
the pain of pushing
a hangnail, the red swell,
infection at the root.

Doesn't exist
until flesh-a hand
against a neck-accidentally
means yest.
Arms become
drape the wall
of a back. In this light
that t-shirt looks like a cast
holding back the chest;
it buckles with a heavy breath
And "it" and "how" are never
or in lowest terms all setting

and take back the take back
as cotton hold whatever well

you get it don't you right?
More or less
a game a technique being entertained,
privacy alleged as mystery extensive unabridged
lyrics so-called mystery as detained
answers writing ars in the arse
we lie down,
we wake up,
we never rise,

we uncover our legs but stay under
the blanket like it's a body almost
holding what is preset
and inherent to out call
and answer
is he who begins holds response
control in the breathable epic

blanket we hold on
glad for the grip.
But did you hear my sleep,
its oak grasp my mouth

wishing it could kneel
next to night,
hands in ribs

because we're just sleeping
I venture

I hear clinically taste preliminary

slumber in committee but what has the discovery
of groups ever brought about
but the expense account? Important to my listening

is my anchored protocol an asset
accredited meaningfully to a groundbreaking emotional screening:

staying in our suite to identify
survival's flexing muscle
express tower * The bed

is a bell tower chimes
on the hour. It's better than water,
the rain in the attic, counting off thunder
counting eyelashes, coffee grounds
and phases of the moon multiply
sex in unnamable numeric succession

leaving blanket on body body covers false ribs

& double rib equals rain
the universal metaphor
for everything except wetness.
When you're

ready for it, there's a wing I keep

with me, I wake it at 5am.

Take it. Then take me with you. This summer's spine

turned to butter;
what melts is made stronger
by the stranger lying here. In another time zone
communal grammar aerates your lumbar,
tips off the amorous suitcase:
the moon likes to build a utopia & immediately
burn it down
I've told the truth
I've believed in the low
value and elevated fee of wings unique

to my wishes but you * how much lowing and license can you take?

How much now can I pack
in my fist?
There's a silver grief trailing behind:
a comet's tail or trace of bullets.
And I've asked lord
willing to wear uncomfortable clothing @ 6AM

I do not believe memoir
will uncover a prologue toward a god
a god who if it
was truly intelligent would've offered
more than an interlude,
the second a mirror cracks,

the dryness of an elbow is the burden of want.

Taste the slack of ropes. There is a coast for me to wash toward,

a dark I've not slept in yet,
a sleep I've not slept;
because my hair is a wick and I'm unlit,

I'll take a bit
and harness, a lantern,
flourescent overhead. Tonight,
the radio on my sash is the moon,
a Japanese economist saying,

There's an unconscious risk in the world.


I love unplugging things. When I
unplug the lamp the light comes on
and I don't think of it as confusing
but more of an airplane or a zeppelin
in a tiger's mouth, a plaything.
When I play, when I see a play,
when I block backs
to the audience, you can see
their faces better. Your back
gives me my back, back.
Giver. Give me my money back
because it's too tight around this wrist
and I can't make a fist without it.
Cut off my circulation. You're circulating
the room, searching for a torso
to climb. Sun in the shutters
shelters your face from looking ugly
but you're ugly anyway. You're
my type of ugly. On the inside, I'd ask
why you're sitting here
except that I see your ugly
and plug in.

© copyright 2007 Melissa Severin