We, The People

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Hey Folks! Cutbank’s new Online Team coming at you loud and live(-ish).

Since this is our first Burn Pile post in a while, and a defining moment for us greenhorns, I’d like to take a moment to thank our dear friend Barry Maxwell for his success with the Second Wind Reading and for all his hard work on Cutbank’s Online source. I know it was it was hard work because now I’m doing half of his old job, and some forms of media are just Not. User. Friendly.

AND NOW, an Editorial

When regarding Freedom of the Press, no law may be passed that interferes with the people’s right to assemble, to print the press, or that causes the abridgement of free speech. But here’s the problem with the constitution: it is vague. In this instance, it’s the carefully worded language that “No Law May Be Passed” which leaves wiggle room for all other interested parties. There is nothing to say that a pitched battle cannot be waged over what the “Truth” is, only that our elected officials cannot infringe upon our right to debate and question it. I’m not a legal scholar, and it would take one to navigate the byzantine workings of modern governments. I will say this though: We Need the Press.

Let me back up and bring something into context here, it just came to my attention that the local alternative/Indy Newspaper here in Missoula was just shut down, as in is no longer printing the press. Well it can be hand waved as another arbitrary tide of the Free Market, or I can take this opportunity to state that the Newspaper is a dying industry. I’m a newcomer here to Missoula, so I don’t feel it’s my place to jump right into local Politics, yet if diversity of the press dies—if we, on a national level, lose the option of options, then that does not bode well for the foundational elements of a Democracy.

Plainly put, if our only options were to turn the television and choose between MSNBC, Fox, and CNN (as it is right now), we’re going to trick ourselves into thinking that the world is much smaller than it is. Problem A is that national level news outlets only care about national and international level news, servicing a ratings-based agenda. Problem B? Severe Conflict of interest. Over a year ago, it became a point of water cooler discussion, back where I’m from, about Sinclair Broadcasting Group buying up state and local level television news media. Don’t believe me? Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khbihkeOISc. It’s not quite the Orwellian nightmare of the novel 1984, but I find it alarming, and I hope you do as well. Is that all the problems I see? No, but they are the two-most relevant topics to this flash opinion piece.

What I’m getting at, folks, is that journalists take it upon themselves to go out into the world and question the ethics of the society we are living in. Do they have their own self-interest? Yes, and I would not trust anyone that did not operate in their self-interest. As they protect us from infringement upon our rights, safety, and morality as citizens, so too does a diverse range of reporting protect us from the private interests and agendas of journalists. To perform their functions as moderators and truth seekers, they need our support as consumers of their newspapers, and no, the truth is not something concerned with output we find agreeable to our tastes and philosophies.

The “truth” is about taking a skeptical look around us and asking earnest questions: is what is happening in our best interests as individuals? As a society? Hell, what even is our best interest? That answer comes from having thoughtful discussion, and to do that we need to be an educated and informed population. Do I have a plan to save a fading yet critical industry? No not entirely. But I hope these words get you started thinking about your own local news industry.

We’d love to hear back from the community. If you know of some local writers or journalists who worked with The Indy, send them our way.

 Click the Caption for the Original Article on the Missoulian.

Click the Caption for the Original Article on the Missoulian.


Andrew Martin to judge this year's Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest!

We're excited to announce that Andrew Martin will be the guest judge for our Big Sky, Small Prose: Flash Contest! His novel Early Work was just published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and his stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Zyzzyva, and Tin House’s Flash Fridays series. His nonfiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and The Washington Post.

Submissions are still open, so get your best short prose into us by September 30 for a chance to win the $500 first place prize and publication in CutBank 90. 

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Early Work

A Novel

by Andrew Martin

“Marvelous . . . Read [Early Work] on a beach for the refreshment of a classic boy-meets-girl plot, or turn the pages more slowly to soak in some truly salty koans and morally insolvent characters . . . It’s an accomplished and delightful book, but there’s no hashtag for that.”
Molly Young, The New York Times

“[Andrew] Martin introduces characters in sharp, funny flash-portraits that declare the book’s intention to perch, vape in hand, on the border of earnestness and satire . . . Early Work is a gift for those readers who like being flirted with by thoughtful and interesting people, and who like observing such people as they flirt with each other.”
Katy Waldman, The New Yorker

“[The] story of a love triangle . . . Martin reinvigorates the form, transposing its chords and riffing on its most familiar melodies.” Max Ross, The Paris Review

“Compulsively readable . . . [Early Work] asks big questions about ambition and success and art and love, but it's also a story of a love affair, delicious and horrible in equal measure.”
Emily Temple, Literary Hub

“Stunning . . . whip-smart and rather disturbing . . . [Andrew] Martin has a remarkable ear for natural dialogue and pitch-perfect, witty banter . . .”
Dana Hansen, Chicago Review of Books

“From a simple boy-meets-girl premise and from the most basic dramatic ingredients—ardor, art, alcohol, anxiety—Andrew Martin has concocted an exceptionally funny and disturbing first novel. I found myself thinking of Goodbye, Columbus and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh—from its title and its opening sentence on, Early Workachieves the feel of a classic debut.”
Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special

 “The people in Andrew Martin’s Early Work have it all—youth, intelligence, ready wit, readier irony, terminally knowing tastes in books and music, affordable rents, abundant abusable substances, prolific sexual lives, even endearing dogs—and it’s perversely exhilarating to watch them, despite their fits of good-heartedness, turn a bucolic bohemia into a hipster hellscape. This is one smart, funny, scary novel.”
David Gates, author of Jernigan and The Wonders of the Invisible World

 “What a debut! Early Work is one of the wittiest, wisest (sometimes silliest, in the best sense), and bravest novels about wrestling with the early stages of life and love, of creative and destructive urges, I’ve read in a while. The angst of the young and reasonably comfortable isn’t always pretty, but Andrew Martin possesses the prose magic to make it hilarious, illuminating, moving.” —Sam Lipsyte, author of The Fun Parts and The Ask

“Beautifully executed and very funny, Early Work is a sharp-eyed, sharp-voiced debut that I didn’t want to put down.” —Julia Pierpont, author of Among the Ten Thousand Things and The Little Book of Feminist Saints

“To ignore Andrew Martin’s Early Work—a wry and pitch-perfect novel about late-twentysomething writers and lazy, progressive creatives in varying stages of existential crises—because of any painful familiarity is to do yourself a disservice.” —Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed

Andrew Martin’s stories have appeared in The Paris ReviewZyzzyva, and Tin House’s Flash Fridays series, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New YorkerThe New York Review of BooksThe Washington Post, and other publications. Early Work is his first novel.

Early Work, by Andrew Martin, was published in hardcover by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on July 10, 2018 (ISBN: 978-0-374-14612-2, $26.00). For more information, please contact Lauren Roberts(212-206-5325, lauren.roberts@fsgbooks.com).

Events

7/10 – Harvard Book Store – Cambridge, MA

7/11 – Labyrinth Books – Princeton, NJ

7/12 – McNally Jackson Books (Williamsburg) – Brooklyn, NY

7/14 – Politics and Prose Bookstore – Washington, DC

7/17 – New Dominion Bookshop – Charlottesville, VA

8/21 – Point Street Reading Series – Providence, RI

9/27–30 – Montana Book Festival – Missoula, MT

10/01 – Powell’s City of Books – Portland, OR

10/13 – Boston Book Festival – Boston, MA

10/14 – KGB Bar – New York, NY

A summertime side trip to the Bitterroot with Peter Papathanasiou

"This is rugged cowboy territory, terrain for game-hunting and songwriting. It reminds me of home in many ways, of the vast, panoramic outback of Australia, which has big skies of its own."

Photo by Peter Papathanasiou

Caught by the Bitterroot River

by Peter Papathanasiou

And so, I find myself caught by the Bitterroot River in southwestern Montana. My mentor, Irv Weissman, is a world-renowned scientist who owns a ranch there, and every summer takes his entire research group for a retreat. It’s a chance to unwind, to eat barbecue and drink beer around a campfire, and also to fish in the pristine waterway that cuts through the Bitterroot Valley.

Photo by Peter Papathanasiou

Irv is the son of a hardware store owner and grandson of a fur trader. His grandfather emigrated from Russia a hundred years ago to avoid being drafted by the czar during the First World War. Arriving as an immigrant at Ellis Island, he made his way west across America, eventually settling in Big Sky Country with family. Born in Great Falls, Irv’s great love is biology. It’s been his career and helped him see the world. He’s published over eight hundred scientific papers, given testimony before the US Congress on the merits of stem cell research, and even spoken with presidents on the topic. But even then, Irv still seems to prefer to talk about fishing, and especially in his beloved Bitterroot River.

After a short early morning flight from San Francisco to Seattle, and an even shorter flight to Missoula, our group is bundled aboard a long yellow school bus and taken to the ranch. On the way, I see enormous mountain ranges and pickup trucks, and stores in Hamilton selling guns and guitars. This is rugged cowboy territory, terrain for game-hunting and songwriting. It reminds me of home in many ways, of the vast, panoramic outback of Australia, which has big skies of its own. Alighting from the bus, I hear wild rushing water splashing over rocks, and feel instantly at ease. Our host is already down by the water, clad in his trusty stocking-foot waders, indulging his love of fly fishing. I’m anxious to go down and see the indomitable river that Irv has spoken of so fondly but am instead given instructions to unpack, change into outdoor gear, and return to the bus. Is this a retreat or boot camp?

We’re soon trucked to the nearby Bitterroot Range, which forms part of the imposing Rocky Mountains. It’s a tiring two-hour hike to the peak, past fallen pine trees and isolated lookout towers, but the views from the top are sweeping and spectacular. Craggy peaks, snow-capped even in the middle of summery August. There’s very little snow in Australia, and it’s gone by spring. Squinting into the distance, I think I can see Idaho. Raptors circle majestically overhead, grand, exotic birds with broad wings that I’m only familiar with as national symbols, bald eagles and hawks and falcons. It’s an unexpectedly awe-inspiring sight. For a brief moment, America makes a little more sense to me.

Photo by Peter Papathanasiou

Knees aching, we descend the mountain, badly sunburnt and slightly dehydrated. A few of my more weary colleagues fall asleep on the bus on the drive back to the ranch. They retreat groggily to their beds on arrival, in need of an afternoon nap before the evening’s festivities begin. The rest change into swimmers and wetsuits and grab truck tire inner tubes for a float down the river. But I don’t. I grab a water bottle and notepad and go sit by the water’s edge to watch a master at work.

Photo by Peter Papathanasiou

Clad in khakis, long-sleeved blue shirt, baseball cap and fishing vest, I find Irv up to his thighs in river water. Over his shoulder, ring-necked ducks float gently across the surface, occasionally plunging their heads under for a fossick and feed. The afternoon sun reflects off the river, making it shine like glass, slick and solid, but silky and wild. I kick off my sandals and feel the day’s residual warmth in the smooth white river stones beneath my toes. The sensation is not dissimilar to a relaxing foot massage, and instantly makes me smile.

Irv sees me, waves; I wave back. I decide to keep my distance, to observe the proud Montanan in his element. He flicks his wrist expertly, back and then forward, casting his line out before lowering it down so that the grasshopper fly lands precisely as desired. I’m reminded for a moment of my late father and his own love of fishing. I was only a young boy at the time, being dragged reluctantly on excursions to lakes and rivers, to sit and watch Dad do nothing for hours on end. At the time, I wanted to run and jump and ride my bike, and didn’t understand the invisible tug-of-war at play, and the understated appeal of man versus nature. My current day colleagues don’t seem to grasp it either; having successfully obtained paddles and pale ales, they soon disappear down the river on their inner tubes, their sprightly voices growing fainter as the current carries them away.

I see Irv smile at their boundless youthful energy before returning to his more peaceful pastime. Now approaching eighty, he no doubt sees life is a marathon, not a sprint, and knows that moments are best savoured when the pace is slow, unrushed. My dad, who lived to eighty-six, did too. And besides, all that noise and activity was scaring the fish.

Photo by Peter Papathanasiou

The US government classifies the Bitterroot River is a Blue Ribbon trout fishery, with a healthy population of native rainbow and brown trout. Cutthroat trout are plentiful too, so much so that they gave Irv’s homestead its name: the Cutthroat Ranch. Many glorious cutthroat trout have found their way onto his line over the years, and I try to picture them gliding like eels beneath the waterline, tempted by the brightly coloured lure drifting tastily above their heads. But none take the bait on this particular day, which leaves Irv bereft of both a catch and a story that he would otherwise have retold around the campfire. The seasoned angler strokes his irongrey beard, eyes the angle of the setting sun, checks his watch, and reluctantly calls it a day. With darkness approaching, pairs of glowing eyes will soon start appearing beside the river, most likely deer, moose and elk, to lap at the cool, clear water. Irv doesn’t want to be around in case those eyes should happen to belong to a hungry grizzly bear otherwise in search of its own haul of robust Montanan trout. And nor do I.

Pocketing a few smaller river stones as souvenirs, I make my way back to the ranch, following a respectful distance behind Irv who walks slowly with fly rod slung over his shoulder. I suspect he knows there’s always tomorrow – another opportunity to chance his luck in the mighty Bitterroot River that flows through his very backyard.

 

*

Pete and his Stanford University research mentor Professor Irving L. Weissman published five research papers together between 2007 and 2015.

Peter Papathanasiou was born in a small village in northern Greece and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His writing has been published by The New York Times, New York Post, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, The Canberra Times, The Herald Sun, SBS, The Huffington Post, Neos Kosmos, Frankie, The Pigeonhole, Caught by the River, Structo, 3:AM Magazine, Elsewhere Journal, Litro, Meanjin, Overland, Going Down Swinging, Verity La and Tincture Journal, and reviewed by The Times Literary Supplement. He holds an MA in creative writing from City, University of London, and has lived in New York, California, London, Greece and Australia.

The Bitterroot along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, near Lolo, Montana. US Forest Service photo, by Roger Peterson


EDITOR'S BOOKSHELF: Woods etc. by Alice Oswald

By Anna Blackburn, CutBank poetry editor

The woods of Alice Oswald’s Woods etc. at times yield pathways like those I walk here in Montana. Glacial creeks cutting through the abrupt yellow tamaracks, giant Scots pines fur to the tailbones of mountains; in her poems we are sensitized to the immensity of granite and ether. Yet at other times I find myself in landscapes like the deciduous northeast, where each curled fern and dislodged rock seems wakeful to my presence, in the way that a dull stone becomes luminous if dipped in water. Amidst the simple objects of Oswald’s terrain the mind opens into surprising chasms of feeling, those insights “like glass, concealed but not lost in light” (“Poem for Carrying a Baby Out of a Hospital”). Through her organically pitched rhythms, we are shuttled into deeply inhabited lyrics of the natural world, untethered mythologies, and whimsical fable-like meditations on the circularity of life. Poems of earthiness and imaginative reach.      

Oswald’s logic is ecological: consciousness migrates through animal, vegetal, and mineral forms. As metamorphosis counters the gravity of death (a stone becomes a flower becomes a circle of light becomes…), we feel the tension between the eternal whole and the perplexed groping of our lives; in these poems the individual must travel “the whole series of endurable pains” (“Autobiography of a Stone”). Oswald summons elemental personalities with violent intimacy:  

              This is the dandelion with its thousand faculties

              like an old woman taken by the neck and
              shaken to pieces.

              This is the dust flower flitting away. 

              This is the flower of amnesia.  It has opened its
              head to the wind,  all havoc and weakness,  as
              if a wooden man should stroll through fire… 

How fragile our connections, she argues.  Like “the wind-bitten dandelion,” each thing “a flower of no property… / worn away to its one recalcitrant element” (“Head of a Dandelion”).  

Yet, as Simone Weil writes in Gravity and Grace, “stars and blossoming fruit trees; utter permanence and extreme fragility give an equal sense of eternity.” Reading these poems, I feel myself invoked in states of acute limitation (as Sisyphus, who “has to think one pain at a time, like an insect / trapped in a drop of water”), even as I am asked to occupy the field (“Sisyphus”).  The field may be an artery of consciousness, a birch grove, a system of galaxies.  Though full of their own voices, such spaces assert the pressure of silence. This silence functions like the creative landscape of a canvas; though the world in its instability is the medium of exploration, Oswald’s poems also celebrate the void between forms, the potential underlying each expression. Against this eternity we feel the awe and humility of mortal life: traversing “Five Fables of a Length of Flesh” and floating with Voyager 1 “among those homeless spaces gathering in that silence / that hasn’t yet had time to speak” (“Sonnet”).


Anna Blackburn is an MFA candidate in poetry and a writing instructor at the University of Montana. She grew up in Vermont and earned a B.A. in Writing and Literature at Marlboro College.   


Flash Prose Contest Submissions are now open!

Big Sky, Small Prose: A CutBank Flash Prose Exclusive

CutBank Literary Magazine is seeking interesting, compelling fiction and nonfiction prose - in 750 words or fewer. Lyric essays, prose poems, short essays, vignettes - send us your best, most dazzling short form prose. Please feel free to include original photography or art.

Big Sky, Small Prose will be judged by David Gates, author of A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me (2015), The Wonders of the Invisible World (1999), Preston Falls (1998)and Jernigan (1991), a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Gates also teaches at the University of Montana and the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Contest Submission Guidelines:

  • Submissions will be accepted through the Submittable submission manager. Print or email submissions will not be considered. Please include a brief cover letter, biography and contact information in the form provided - please do not include identifying information in the body of your submission.
  • Submissions must be previously unpublished.
  • Simultaneous submissions are certainly welcome; however, please withdraw your CutBank submission immediately via Submittable if it is accepted elsewhere.
  • Submissions should be double spaced, no more than 750 words.
  • Submission fee of $7 includes consideration for CutBank's $500 flash prose prize and publication in CutBank 84. Two runners-up will be awarded $50 and publication in CutBank 84. All other submissions will be considered with submissions for the print edition of CutBank Literary Magazine. Submissions including photography or art will be considered for the CutBank 84 center spread.
  • We will accept submissions for Big Sky, Small Prose between August 10 and September 1, 2015.

Click here to submit to Big Sky, Small Prose. 

All Accounts and Mixture: Poetry by Gail Hanlon

SHE LOVES YOU

She hadn’t finished her dream,
so I finished it for her.
I wanted it to be lucid.
So that she could move there
as she couldn’t otherwise.
I wanted to give it to her
as a gift, so I worked
all night on it. I made
her able to fly.

 

PUSH-PULL SUMMER

In the silence, small planes
purr along the coast

dragging banners of DARLING
over Shelter Island.

Clear decisions, Clare says, squinting
at a landscape of tiny red figures.

She bows over her laptop with a stack
of index cards full of sloppy Japanese.

Where’s the heat? Jamaal asks. He knows
the answer. In the repetition, he mutters.

His cherry-haired boyfriend sleeps with his ear
against a long cafe table, remembering a kiss.

His wet glass making the second figure 8 I have seen
today. Another infinity. The first was a blue 

rubber band twisted at Sunset Beach
where my sister pointed out a double rainbow

over the ocean. What’s it mean?! she asks
the Ethiopian driver standing next

to a long black car. What’s it mean?!
He shrugs. He could be

ferrying the dead. No,
he says. No secret.

 

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Gail Hanlon’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, New Letters, Thrush, Cincinnati Review, Verse Daily, and Best American Poetry, among other journals and anthologies. She has a recent review in Tarpaulin Sky, published a chapbook, SIFT (Finishing Line), and was a finalist for the Iowa Review Award (2013). 

All Accounts and Mixture: Poetry by J.R. Toriseva

Visitation Pyre

No need to bore a hole,
set up a candle and peer through

Only minnows—
No need to dig in snow banks

for words, for worms.
Somewhere else this pond

would be ocean
and I would be cloud

The ice is that way, a shard
pushed into my center

Dark pond and I this far inland,
have only ourselves, each the other;

to remind ourselves where we are in
there, other than here.

This pond, frozen, has me
And I have chosen it,

for my lover, for my necklace, for my hand.
Dream the clamped podium.

Tear the collage of victims.
This pond my tarot card,

my altar, my ammunition. This pond my singing bowl,
sequestered from me, cornered by triple rows

of barbed wire, triple lines of corn, the intestines
of a silent fight looped around

the post. This pond across the property
line, a reverie, in a double time of rage.

The one who taught me that war is a strange sort
of laughter that can come at you years later in a corn crib,

who taught me how to place the stick perpendicular
to stop the wolf jaw from snapping down; who taught me to cut boughs

on place them on my back, to circle the pond, not walk straight across the ice
to prevent the wolves from attacking from behind at night,

for the first time his white china cup is cold. He’s not slapping black flies,
or whittling at the long dining table. My limburger eating, gray wolf quick

grandfather lies supine as if floating. Is it him? I’ve only seen him in motion,
watching orioles and song sparrows, sugar cube between his teeth, sucking

coffee, full of bracted honeysuckle and yarrow. Now, on the stretched water
surface of the pond, the blurred weave of the wool

shirt the polished sarsaparilla skin pulled tight over cheek bones away
from lips, his whole body larger in death, than life. The water buoying up the brown

shoulders, the leanness of his size. Reaching out to touch him,
I smile as his last words enter my palm. He sheds his skin, his scratchy shirt.

He rises, mist moving off the pond, a dragonfly splitting
its carcass. He rises where I can watch him. Eye on wing,

rough humming in the ear, the constant smooth, smooth, smoothing
of his palms available to me now. Here in the water is the chair where he sat.

Now only smooth wood. Is that you? Wearing your wool scratchy long johns?
Where are your rag weed pulling hands, your quack grass pulling thumbs?

Where are your straight lines of two-speared corn? Your high climbing
pole beans? Oh, here it is. Right here. I see my toes. It is. It is me.

 

Exodus: Amend 

Spring was here, then plunged: 

1. I know this road by heart 
2. even on a night broken brighter than day due to moon

3. Minnows 
4. my foot on iced gravel 

5. sound ricocheting across the crystal folds of fields 
6. 3. I came to listen to the water—foam 

7. the wind the rain came in on 
8. the wind on the frozen drum of the pond 

9. The form of the pond 
10. changes. Not in my mind 

11. But in front of my eyes 
12. My ice and slush expand 

13. to include arrival of bird, 
14. To the awakening of the fish 

15. To the invoice of cat tails. 
16. My mind holds all the cards 

17. My pictures of January holding 
18. the pond in white from the fierce 

19. sleep of February to the yawns 
20. of March. April’s shredding, the 

21. surface of the pond is unraveling 
22. It is cracking into a puzzle. Bordered 

23. by mud. The howl of the 
24. center, framed by dead grass
 

Unknown Things About Rain

Fresh from the gravel parking lot ritual in town, I brought death to the pond.
Slowly, holding the funereal cake. I left the white dissolving on the bank.

There is a window in my pond, the right pane shattered,
the glass shot through my de-iced voice, my knees mud-high in chore boots.

The cows come slowly forward, lowering
their heads to draw snow slush, nudging the cake to get to

the water streaming up their broad nostrils.
These walking mud puddles

sides matted with spring, the groaning of
the lilac crocus emerging, heads up

through the snow—much too early
and then turning translucent in the freeze

with their broad noses
they nudge in Spring,

with their wide hooves,
they skirmish through the pasture.

Wide enough for me to follow
winging oats, rolling ragweed, spreading rye

for bedding. Feeding the grey squirrels, lowering the light
Layering the darkness, adding to the roundness of the land. Death, now crumbs.

 

Water Mechanics

Here I am osprey and eagle
Here I am ladywalker and pikebug
Here I am amplified, a sound wave touching the far grass
Water, heal the split in my eye.

Let me be the water
away from the steel sink,
away from the certain mail box,
far from the rows of leeks.

Outlawed from the radish
this is the subway stop;
this is how I get home
where the mica shines.

Through the chalk and the small crushed
bones of squirrels
and snail shells;
this line cuts through the clay.

Leaving the gemmed skulls
and the footprints of foxes,
left unscarred by the plagues, the famine or the flu,
this is the stop

that signals my return home
this loop of water, a handgrip that my fingers have
sleeping out the cold
reached for, but never touched.

 

Case of Water

Memory skates below the surface
transport here, there, beyond & back. Aquifer.
Years forward. Years spilled. States of matter.

Hint of remembered. Far beyond the Ramblas in Barcelona,
she laughs the frontier and I step to
the round smooth pond of her face

her eyes, fish jumping, her mouth
the water lily, her nose a minnow
hooking round the bend, to look, to see,

where she smiles, I swim. Adherence. From the bottom
of the pond I looked up and saw an upside down
cathedral in Madrid. I saw the Alhambra

inside out. This fountain was fourteen paintings
from the Prado, a light bulb waiting to be screwed
in at the 14th step of a stone staircase on 21st calle,

this pond a faucet in the Call; periphery drawn by
others and ice. The boundary visible only to despair. This pond
glides underneath me everywhere. Meniscus. This pond calls me home

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Awarded a waiter scholarship to Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Mary Merritt Henry Prize in Poetry from Mills College, J.R. Toriseva has taught for Mills College, California Poets in the Schools, San Francisco WritersCorps, and Literary Arts of Portland, Oregon. 
'Strip Uno' was published in Close Calls: New Lesbian Fiction, Susan Fox Rogers, Editor, St. Martin's Press. 'Encyclopedia of Grass' was selected for Best Canadian Poetry in English.