Chicago

Excerpt from "American Girl Doll" by Naomi Washer

America, I used to sit in my bedroom in the suburbs in high school listening to Allen Ginsberg’s “America” set to “Closing Time” by Tom Waits. I listened over and over as the music swelled and I felt an uprising in my chest, America. Do you know how lonely it is to feel an uprising in your chest in the suburbs, America? This was my poetry. It was the late 90s and the start of a new millennium—we didn’t want to hear any female voices yet, we weren’t uncovering the roots of our devastation. America, I am grown up now, cooking a 1950s recipe for Mexican Chicken, can you imagine how truly Mexican that recipe could be? America, I barely speak Spanish. America, I thought my heritage was Irish but it’s actually Scottish. America, white people in my generation don’t know a thing about their heritage but love to claim whatever could be theirs. America, I thought I was Russian-Romanian but my people are from Warsaw. We’re from a place near Loch Lomond, a place close to home. America, do you know that Poland tried to erase its devastation of its own Jews? America, I am troubled, and so are you. America, I had been in college for two months when the first black president was elected. Everyone ran drunken screaming happy through the streets. America, I used to call myself a-political, can you imagine? America, I was on a school trip in France when Bush declared war. It was the middle of the night in Paris, we were 12 year-old kids, we woke up to watch the speech on TV. France didn’t want to get involved in this mess, America. Can you blame them? It was confusing for us. We were 12 year-old kids watching our country declare war, far away from our families in America. But then we realized this meant the airports might close; we might not be able to get back home to you, America. That was confusing for us. We didn’t know how to feel about that, America. There were rumblings before we left for France. Most families didn’t let their kids go, America, but not my parents. My parents weren’t afraid, America, they wanted me to experience Real Culture, and Real Culture, America, always skirts the edge of danger. 
//
America, the whole idea of war didn’t seem like a very good idea. It wasn’t the best idea you’d ever had, America, but it is the idea you always seem most famous for.
//
America, the first bar I ever went to underage was McSorley’s. I was 18, they served only “light and dark beer,” I didn’t know which one I liked or how to order, it was Valentine’s Day in the East Village, I was sitting in McSorley’s, this formerly “Men Only” pub, do you know what that meant to me, America? To be sitting in McSorley’s when outside it was indeed New York and beautifully snowing? America, I bought my copy of A Coney Island of the Mind from a bookseller hidden in a corner of Boston. I read “I Am Waiting” sitting on a bench next to a homeless man while a white man dressed in Revolutionary garb led a tour of schoolchildren through the city. America, my favorite Girl Doll was Molly. She had long brown hair and glasses. She read books and she looked like me. My grandmother made us matching smock dresses. America, do you know how much cigarettes cost these days? Do you know there are people my age who can afford to feed themselves but never bother learning to cook? What would you say about this, America? America, I have lived in San Francisco, do you know what your children live like on those streets? Do you know how many still seek in California the American Dream? The American Dream in California is a multi-million dollar apartment with flimsy walls, America, it’s a shared front lawn the size of a stamp filled with brands of imported cactus.

America, I was born in the South and raised in New England, don’t know where I should be.
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Naomi Washer is the author of Phantoms (dancing girl press, 2019) and the translator from the Spanish of Sebastián Jiménez Galindo’s Experimental Gardening Manual: create your own habitat in thirty-something simple steps(Toad Press, 2019). Other work has appeared in Court Green, Pithead Chapel, Asymptote, Sundog Lit, Split Lip Magazine, and other journals. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center, Studio Faire and Chateau d’Orquevaux in France, and Columbia College Chicago where she earned her MFA in Nonfiction. In 2019, she was named one of 30 Writers to Watch by The Guild Literary Complex. She lives in Chicago where she is the editor and publisher of Ghost Proposal.

"Every other summer our house would get hit by a tornado" by Joshua Bohnsack

Every other summer our house would get hit by a tornado
That would dip into the valley of my parents’ backyard.
The first time my sister was paranoid because she lived through one
But I shrugged it off until the closed windows swoll and the plate flew out of the closed
     microwave.
& it opened us up to what can go wrong in our world as the dog was sucked up from the deck
     and I watched it through my basement window and told my little brothers, Don’t look out
     there.
Their swing set was wrapped back to a tree and the trampoline floated down the
Mississippi
& it might still be there
I don’t know.

& they kept hitting.

& I went to Ireland
& didn’t hear from my family
But saw the pictures.
My mom wrote me
She had a bad feeling
& moved my records from her den the day before
The basketball hoop would have splintered the vinyl
Where it landed through the window
& I would have never came back.
-
Joshua Bohnsack is an MFA student at Northwestern University, a reader for TriQuarterly, and the managing editor for Curbside Splendor Publishing. He is the author of Shift Drink (Spork Press, forthcoming 2018) and Burnt Sienna (Throwback Books 2017). His work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hobart, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and others. He ran an ice cream shop in rural Illinois until he moved to Chicago. @joshuabohnsack

"Prayer Peaches" by Matthew DeMarco

     after Plath

All day walking in Austin, then peaches,
ice-dewed in a silver bucket.

Their flesh was sealed but soaked—
dense-haired, close-mouthed Ziploc,

unpierced. They sat piled across the street
beside a flushed and beaming persistent woman

who waved one wandlike arc of hand
toward the six of us, insistent.

Purple magic marker on the ramshackle
cardstock sign: FREE PEACHES! FREE PRAYERS!

There are peaches when it is hot
in Austin, preciously secured in private,

cold buckets, secret sweetness behind their seals
across the street. The woman wanted

to pray for us, I wanted a peach, and Erik
wanted to bow his dry sober shut mouth

in humble silence while her hand acquired
the whispered drying saltwater of his skin.

They were already bathed. So easy to slide sharp
flat tooth into fruit, render askew

ropes of slippery tissue from the waxy rind
of peel. So easy, with a blessing and sticky lips,

as sand salamander streaks congealed down my wrist,
to pitch a pernicious pit into the gutter of the bridge.

Pray the nectar that remained in ribbony veins
on the stubborn hard stone would secrete a scent

to provoke, at least, one in the millions
of the city’s nightly bats.
-
Matthew DeMarco is a writer, editor, and educator living in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago. He is a recipient of the Eileen Lannan Poetry Prize, for which his work has appeared on Poets.org. His poems can also be found in Opossum and Columbia Poetry Review. Drop him a line at matthewpauldemarco@gmail.com.

"...and we won't give it a name-" by Dana Jerman

after Alan Watts

It begins how it begins-

your voice a broken gong.

A shuttle in the rotations of laughter.

An unhurried bliss- not even as cocksure
as the notion that poetry can't change
your life unless you read it.

Alone goes the magnificent candor
of that which is fathomed and not
fathomed.

Roads lost to the restless
evening and you- horseless
and no night class-
head too filled with your own spine.
A leaping rope.
A woven hookshot.
Each vertebrae a stanza too lonely. Too true.

Loose, see.
Sky, diamonds, city lights
to rearrange all your tonight faces.

Noir say noir.
Broken gong, say heart.
Blight's beauty song.

Rock and rhyme in the modern wilderness.

Vice and rage- a nowhere kind of freedom.
Strategy troubled by its own unwritten erotic.

Begin here.
-
A native of Western Pennsylvania, musician and writer Dana Jerman has been published multiple times in print in the US and abroad. By way of an artist statement, Dana likes to use writing as a way of re-appropriating memories to create an alternate history or a loose space for magic featuring primarily a configuration of the varied voices of spectators. Mostly though, she writes about love. Her chapbooks include Sins in Good Taste featuring poetry and drawing from Back To Print Publishing. And the self-published Briefly, The Heart. You can see more of her literature and photography on her blog, updated monthly: BLASTFORTUNE.com.