Belmont University

"civil engineering"/"Peine forte et dure"/"Begotten" by Blake Pipes

civil engineering

i move gravel around in my mouth
somehow under the impression
the flavor will lend order
between death knells

around me
cranes swing forth skyscrapers
          just as predicted
by the street corner

          nobody wants to have fistfights

so stay asleep as long as you can

the tallest men just sling papers
and forge ink replicas wrought to
choke our animals

this sunday
i shepherd the hammer through
the television set, fatigued finally
by god’s slippery slurs,
and in my hand, glass glints
like so much fish flesh

          i have wanted atonement
          ever since i was a little

my lithium-ion blood
staggers like coal clumps
into the furnace

and i thin, i thin

Peine forte et dure

The water in the fishbowl gets lower
and lower. I think about draining it,
but never do. The fish floats around
the bottom, still dead. This week, I took up
boxing in hopes of being hit in the head.
So far, no luck. Yesterday, I heard

a man clad in sandwich boards
screaming on the street for a new law
that would force every major leader
to demonstrate signs of the stigmata.

Wading through the crowds listening to
him had me late to boxing. American life
is starting to feel like one big reboot
of the witch trials where participation is
mandatory and advertising more streamlined.

News stations call for witch blood,
demand retribution from the
covens marching in the light of day.

Do you want to be the witch
or do you want to be the accuser?

I sleep in the grass tonight, wake up
come morning. No one notices the deviation
from the script. I check the mail and walk inside.
There is leftover soup in the fridge,
but I think it’s gone bad. Out the window,
the neighbors have a fire going,
preparation for another trial.

I empty the fishbowl and
put on my boots.

     For Sleep Paralysis

I wish you would stop choking me
while I sleep, stop lingering at my
back. This morning, I found broken glass
in the bathtub and I laughed
because with a crooked eye, it looked like
those ballet dancers
with their rubbed red shoes
and fine appetite.
Remember that one we saw last summer

whose pirouettes drooped like the death
of a spinning top? This month, she washed up
dead, no spinning top. Since then,
I have disabled every decoder ring in America.
Here is a portrait of myself
when I was younger. The story of my survival bleeds
out of both nostrils—you may have heard
that I

can’t see the future anymore. Days like now
I’m skittish. I try to position my body
so nothing is touching it;
the best I can do is stand straight,
a willing sacrifice of toes.

Yesterday, I painted the walls with a substance
that will not accept light,

each swath dressed beneath a fattier swath.
I watched the swaths propagate
and pin thick layers across my artifice,
my body of hollow columns.
Tonight, the carpet digs quietly against my face
and the dead dogs come out like switchblades.

No number of windows can protect me from the sky.

They just keep howling.
Blake Pipes is a recent graduate of Belmont University with his sights set on screenwriting. He has been published in Drunk Monkeys and was the recipient of the 2015 Sandra Hutchins Humanities Symposium Award for Poetry. He likes Nine Inch Nails more than you do and is currently attempting to read Blake Butler's full bibliography.

"Zodiac Killer" by Naomi Bartlett

Always            through glass you screamed into yourself

before            July knew you before Newports before morphine and blank-slate

catharsis         through county fair dry heat wet cotton candy vomit on asphalt and there

Daddy             sweats oils and carcinogens shrieks fury bellows candor he

echoes            holy illness he is chapped and necking with indigence he is

fifty                  years old and holding you by the wrist taking you to heathen

gods                who breathe peek-a-boo, you are doomed and you’re salty in susurrus sobbing

honey              gumming eyelids viscid and glistening glazed like windows like his eyes after –


I                         am sorry

jarred                childhood on the carousel and

killjoy                filler remember black dahlia remember lust remember bottleneck choke and tang



let                      you be sawtoothed let you soak in stagnation let

my                     hotels grow stale leering through peepholes pillow mints melted face

neighbors         coughing phlegm lungs all rot and entropy so you

overdose          on lullaby and angel dust smoke disassociation

pathologically   drowning transience in a flash flood of ether

quickly              gorging yourself on lapse and navel-gazing you


ran                   laughing into the arms of

some               soft eggshell canopy where mother waits smelling of

turpentine       like when you were a child and played God

under              the nothing sky coyote song tearing holes pulping life becoming

vacant             and after rats there were Gilas and then jackrabbits and finally

women            preening then sloshing beautifully to the soft eggshell floor brittle limbs now

xenophobic    membranes ripped apart thorax and abdomen merging

you                  said death will know us all you dissolved into trees you dissected yourself

you                  sat down on the Ferris wheel rode it to its

zenith              and you rode round and round round and round all through the town.


Naomi Bartlett lives in Nashville, TN. She spends her days writing, painting, playing the drums, and plotting her escape from the food service industry. She is currently working on completing her BA at Belmont University.