“Milk” – Kevin Pilkington

On a warm night in upstate
New York during the summer
of 1948, Charlie Parker got out
of a brand new Pontiac, the bass
player from his quintet was behind
the wheel. Clubs along 57th Street
were an hour behind them. Parker
had grabbed the case with his sax
in it from the back seat and walked
out onto a field. He was off drugs,
clean for at least six months
but knew he’d never be clean
as the air he breathed.

A herd of cows watched him walk
in front of them, place the case
on the grass, open it and take out
a bent piece of sky the color of dawn.
Then he blew on it as his fingers
like a flock of small dark birds flew
up and down. The cows listened, stopped
chewing but couldn’t prevent their tails
from swinging like the Basie rhythm
section. Sounds they never heard
came out of a hole in the sky.
Then it stopped. He placed it back
in the box and walked away. Within
hours the green grass they began
chewing again turned the milk in
bellies white.

“On Cold Days Like This” – Kevin Pilkington

I hear a cape flapping over
my head, convinced this time
it’s Superman. When I look up
to greet him, it turns out to be
the flag over the doors of the Second
Avenue Post Office. The wind
is so strong I notice it lost a star
and wonder if maybe Utah is now
floating over New Jersey.

The traffic is heavy as cheesecake
and sounds like the Basie horn
section tuning up before a gig.
A guy walks over with a cigarette
in his mouth and asks if I got
a light. As I search my pockets
I notice his boots and cowboy
hat and figure he must be from
the West Side. I can’t find any–
consider the torch I’d been carrying
around for my ex but remember I put
it out a few days ago, tell him sorry.

And she was the same woman
who told me if we ever broke up
I’d be lost without her. Before
I got involved again, I made sure
to know every section of the city
until I knew it like the back
of my hand or when most of Second
Avenue ran down my index finger
towards my wrist. On cold days
like this, I can warm up my hands
and at least thirty blocks by simply
putting on my gloves.

“In Detention” – Chris Van Wyk

He fell from the ninth floor
He hanged himself
He slipped on a piece of soap while washing
He hanged himself
He slipped on a piece of soap while washing
He fell from the ninth floor
He hanged himself while washing
He slipped from the ninth floor
He hung from the ninth floor
He slipped on the ninth floor while washing
He fell from a piece of soap while slipping
He hung from the ninth floor
He washed from the ninth floor while slipping
He hung from a piece of soap while washing.

“The Truth About Paris” – Kevin Pilkington

Most of my relationships
last as long as a drag
on a cigarette. This time
I gave up on Christ
then Buddha but now
pray to Elvis since
he died for our songs.
And when a friend said
I have a big appetite
I told him he should see
how cancer eats.

In the bakery across
the street there are loaves
of a bread lying in a pile
in the window like baseball
bats. Today I bought one
then headed to the park
to hit a few balls out
or get into a game.

By the time I got there
I had eaten most
of the loaf, until it fit
in my hand like a club.
So I took it home to make
a sandwich, knowing
this way I’ll never get
to first base.

The truth is I like to travel.
Last month I met a woman
with a small birth mark
on her thigh that’s shaped
like France. How easy it is
to go there now, if only
to touch Paris with my tongue.

“A Bird, came down the Walk –” – Emily Dickinson

A Bird, came down the Walk —
He did not know I saw —
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass —
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass —

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad —
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. —

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers,
And rowed him softer Home —

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.

Wallace Stevens Said

“Words add to the senses. The words for the dazzle
Of mica, the dithering of grass,
The Arachne integument of dead trees,
Are the eye grown larger, more intense.”

— from “Variations on a Summer Day” by Wallace Stevens

“Cattails” – Nikky Finney

One woman drives across five states just to see her. The woman being driven to has no idea anyone’s headed her way. The driving woman crosses three bridges & seven lakes just to get to her door. She stops along the highway, wades into the soggy ground, cuts down coral-eyed cattails, carries them to her car as if they might be sherbet orange, long-stemmed, Confederate roses, sheared for Sherman himself. For two days she drives toward the woman in Kentucky, sleeping in rest areas with her seat lowered all the way back, doors locked. When she reaches the state line it’s misting. The tired pedal-to-the-metal woman finally calls ahead. I’m here, she says. Who’s this? The woman being driven to, who has never checked her oil, asks. The driving woman reminds her of the recent writing workshop where they shared love for all things out-of-doors and lyrical. Come, have lunch with me, the driving woman invites. They eat spinach salads with different kinds of dressing. They talk about driving, the third thing they both love and how fast clouds can change from state line to state line. The didn’t-know-she-was-coming woman stares at she who has just arrived. She tries to read the mighty spinach leaves in her bowl, privately marveling at the driving woman’s muscled spontaneity. She can hardly believe this almost stranger has made it across five states just to have lunch with her. She wonders where this mad driving woman will sleep tonight. She is of two driving minds. One convertible. One hardtop. The driving woman shows her pictures of her children. Beautiful, the other does not say. Before long words run out of petrol. The woman who is home, but without pictures of her own, announces she must go. The driving woman frets & flames, May I walk you to your car? They walk. The driver changes two lanes in third gear, fast. The trunk opens. The Mario Andretti look-alike fills the other woman’s arms with sable-sheared cattails. Five feet high & badly in need of sunlight & proudly stolen from across five states. The woman with no children of her own pulls their twenty pounds in close, resting them over her Peter-Panning heart. Her lungs empty out, then fill, then fill again with the surge of birth & surprise. For two years, until their velvet bodies begin (and end) to fall to pieces, every time the driven-to woman passes the bouquet of them, there, in the vase by the front door, she is reminded of what falling in love, without permission, smells like. Each time she reaches for her keys, she recalls what you must be willing to turn into for love: spiny oyster mushroom, damson, salt marsh, cedar, creosote, new bud of pomegranate, Aegean sage blue sea, fig, blueberry, marigold, leaf fall, fogs eye, dusty miller, thief-of-the-night.

“Van Gogh’s Bed” – Jane Flanders

is orange,
like Cinderella’s coach, like
the sun when he looked it
straight in the eye.

is narrow, he sleeps alone,
tossing between two pillows,
while it carried him
bumpily to the ball.

is clumsy,
but friendly. A peasant
built the frame; and old wife beat
the mattress till it rose like meringue.

is empty,
morning light pours in
like wine, melody, fragrance,
the memory of happiness.