Sam Preminger – Nailed Magazine https://nailedmagazine.com Thu, 15 Aug 2019 12:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 Poetry Suite by Dion O’Reilly https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-by-dion-oreilly/ Thu, 15 Aug 2019 12:00:18 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=17714 Poetry by Dion O’Reilly +++ Springtime: The Dog Jumps on the Bed and Bites You as We Fuck, And I Feel Young Again   Sometimes, I prayed for the return of my sins. Jesus, Let me sin again. I couldn’t help it. Look at the iconography of my tribe. Lean long-hairs nailed up like rock […]

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Poetry by Dion O’Reilly

+++

Springtime: The Dog Jumps on the Bed and Bites You as We Fuck,

And I Feel Young Again

 

Sometimes, I prayed for the return of my sins.

Jesus, Let me sin again. I couldn’t help it.

Look at the iconography of my tribe.

Lean long-hairs nailed up like rock stars.

Saints, starving like haute models. Half naked.

Full of arrows. The royal-blue beauty

of the crying mother. Arms crossed

over her bleeding heart.

Like the single mom I once was, bored

of my kids, tired

of staring at the slide, waiting

for an accident.

An eye watched me all day

as I bathed the filthy,

added cheese to dimpled wafers.

Night bulged, darker than water.

But today, the house is quiet. Just you

and the meddlesome dog, whining

like an archangel. Kick her off,

lock her out. She can pester the door.

Babe. Come back here. I don’t love you,

but I’ll pull you in—

my old body, dry as a copperhead.

Let’s fight

with pitted eyes and razor spurs.

Then sleep into each other,

until we’re grafted apple trees—

the softness of our petals

becoming wind. Let’s rise up again,

say goodbye to everything.

+++

Roots

Perhaps the most striking characteristic of roots… is that [they] originate and develop from an inner layer of the mother axis. College Botany, Volume-1 by HC Gangulee, KS Das and CT Datta

…i mean any word
traced to its origin is a small child begging for water. Sam Sax

 

I. Evolution

 

The few things that could kill us

when we lived in trees—

Snakes coiled in branches.

Falling. Others of our kind.

 

Whatever we find out about ourselves

under mounds in the jungle. Stone beds

of the dead, grooved with runnels

for carrying blood. Obsidian knives

to slice through breast bones,

lift our slippery hearts to the sun.

 

Certain smells like petrol and bitumen.

Toxic and appealing.

 

The sadness of orphaned prairies—switchgrass

and sideoats still alive under fences. Seed heads

in front of a plow—gloved hands

waving Goodbye,    Goodbye.

 

II. Generation

 

Memories of my mother’s rough palms

that she spat on

to clean my face. The smell of spit.

 

The thousand ways I was taught

to smile and shake hands.

 

My behavior in public. Words falling

like family china from my fingers.

 

Yellowy photos of broken men who loved me.

Knowing they ruined my children.

My children’s pain displacing my own.

 

III. Stories

 

Constantine changing his mind. The angel Jibrīl

looming over a dirt floor in Hira,

Mohammed watching, perplexed.

 

A herd miles wide we tried to

pile into bones. A blanket of fat pigeons in the sky

we wanted to prick light into.

 

An Archduke and Duchess, shot. The gorgeous head

of a mushroom cloud over Bikini Atoll.

 

Layered gelatin sparkling in compote glass

that made a Boer decide

on Apartheid.

 

The biggest lie about the past

is that it’s past. The present, a wall,

To keep history from swarming

the future.

 

Watch, as you lean against the redwood,

the starling flits, their flying matched

to any music you can think of.

 

The roots just below you

sending out their fingers,

trying to hold on to other trees.

 

+++

Roots

We live our lives in one place
and look in every moment into another— Jane Hirshfield

 

I used to beg my parents to drive through suburbs,

so I could stare at tract homes, the bland windows

and porticos full of tipped-over trikes. I liked

to parse the three or four different house models,

study the flourishes— garden statues of seven dwarves,

shrubs like poodles, wagon wheels

resting on white-quartz lawns.

It made me sick how much I wanted it—

a mom with fixed-up hair,

a dad in an apron holding a Hamm’s

and flipping spare ribs. A cul-de-sac

full of boys shooting hoops, little girls

holding hands because they couldn’t bear

to unbraid their shared delight.

Different from the dirt farm where we lived,

where I felt lucky to escape, for one day,

the slash of a horsewhip, where

I was told to carry my plate to the floor,

eat my dinner next to five sad mastiffs,

each of us gulping a slab of freshly-butchered bull heart.

I must have been crazy to return to that farm,

to raise my twins there, close

to the smell of mountain lilac and chicken shit.

The woman who looked itchy as she beat me

became a doting grandmother who fed them

homemade cheese on Red Delicious, bought them

pink and blue Oshkosh from catalogues,

walked them through pastures to touch

the nose of a newborn Jersey.

And now, more than half-a-century past, my mother

still stares out the window at the pigsty, curdles

her milk and stirs the whey with a wooden spoon.

And sometimes it’s hard to believe

I’m here too, slouched in the spruced-up barn

near dying oaks and a cow field,

drinking pots of bitter tea and looking at people

on Facebook holding up goblets of yellowy wine

or standing on Half Dome, arms lifted like gods.

I’m here so she can call me if she falls

or needs to talk about the hawk that drops down

and rips the neck of her pampered bantam,

her pain, almost too much to bear.

 

+++

This morning, a coyote

 

paced across the path, laughing at us,

light as a ghost, pink tongue resting

on his teeth. My terrier lost her mind

chased him down to the rocky bottomlands.

I couldn’t follow. Could only hear her screaming,

while buzzards tilted above me.

 

I covered my ears with my palms. Began

walking home. An hour later, she returned.

Limping. Riddled with burs and small punctures.

 

Why isn’t the well-worn trail enough?

It loops around a meadow. Pricked by birdsong. Live

oaks dripping like metronomes. Ancient pines

swimming in mist. I look back at my house,

and its red paint appears joyous.

 

Do I look happy? I gave up predators

long ago. Although one left a tooth in the tender

skin of my neck. Oh, stupid dog, I’ll never

blame you. Always looking for

distractions in the fabulous stink of pheromones.

 

Is Phoenix waiting for me somewhere?

A brick espresso house. An Alanon meeting?

I want more of his presents—

sketch of a mobius strip, tiny handmade

envelopes made of twenty-dollar bills, stuffed

with poetry borrowed from a Persian poet.

I want to hear his lies about my looks. Believe

I have chosen what chose me.

 

But he escapes. Down the slot canyon.

Stay. Don’t follow, Dion.

+++

Header image courtesy of Haley Craw. To view her artist feature, go here.

Dion O’Reilly has spent  much of her life on a farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She has worked as a waitress, barista, baker, theater manager, graphic designer, and public school teacher.  Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Sugar House Review, Rattle, The Sun, Massachusetts Review, New Letters, Bellingham Review, Atlanta Review, Catamaran, and a variety of other literary journals and anthologies, including an upcoming Lambda Literary Anthology. Her work has been nominated for Pushcarts, the Intro Journals Project, and was sent to the judges for The Folio Literary Journal Poetry Contest and the Peseroff Prize.

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Poetry Suite by Christina Yoseph https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-christina-yoseph/ Thu, 18 Jul 2019 12:00:11 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=17679 Poetry by Christina Yoseph +++ Night Out That night The train was crowded; We stopped downtown To wait out the rush On the platform; Mascara flecks mingled With your freckles, I played with the curls Growing over the nape Of your neck; Someone stopped To warn us Of the bad day ahead; We made it […]

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Poetry by Christina Yoseph

+++

Night Out

That night
The train was crowded;
We stopped downtown
To wait out the rush
On the platform;
Mascara flecks mingled
With your freckles,
I played with the curls
Growing over the nape
Of your neck;
Someone stopped
To warn us
Of the bad day ahead;
We made it home,
We relished the day,
But everything
Is not fine;
There is just
so much to lose.

+++

Self-Love

Ants once dispersed gather into small colonies
Across the soft mound of your belly where
Groupthink convinces them that your body
Is a network of tunnels to be excavated,
Your navel, a portal:

A moonbeam patterned after a wooden lattice;
A snapshot of an unrequited love dreamt up
Through the lens of a kaleidoscope;
A pearl of sugar cradled by a cushion of flesh,
Unsuspecting.

+++

The Baby Shower

You covered one eye,
And I covered one of mine,

And it wasn’t made clear that day
Who could see the other;

We each noted, at least, the trails
We’d side-by-side traveled

Their grooves impressed into
The surrounding foothills

As if by the prongs of a fork—
But, even then, only on one side.

+++

I Don’t Kick or Scream; I Lie in Wait

I like when I see a tall woman
In the grocery store;

I love a woman
With broad shoulders;

I give a fuck about Teddy Geiger’s
Engagement to her girlfriend
And no one else’s;

My friends don’t say the word
“Transgender” aloud;

I gladly let weddings, children,
And canyons come between us,
Tearing to shreds decades of
Intimacy and compassion;

The me with the reptilian brain
Knows nothing makes me feel
The cold of my own blood
Running through my veins
More than fast company does;

If I could wear a ring and
Have a piece of paper with
Two girly names on it,
Would I want to?

Maybe, maybe.

+++

Header image courtesy of Stephanie Buer. To view her Artist Feature, go here.

Christina Yoseph is a writer whose essays and poems have been featured or are forthcoming in EntropyGlass: A Journal of PoetryNailedPithead ChapelThe Rumpus, and more. She lives in California with her illustrator-musician girlfriend.
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Poetry Suite by Marjorie Sadin https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-by-marjorie-sadin/ Wed, 03 Jul 2019 16:00:12 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=17649 Poetry by Marjorie Sadin +++ The Wind Wind flicks leaves off the trees. The streets are filled with radios turned up loud. The sky is black. The moon pared like a slice of lime. The air cold as a morgue. I walk fast so that no one will follow me. Street lights blur, leaving haloes on […]

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Poetry by Marjorie Sadin

+++

The Wind

Wind flicks leaves off the trees.
The streets are filled with radios turned
up loud. The sky is black.

The moon pared like a slice of lime. The air
cold as a morgue. I walk fast so that
no one will follow me. Street lights blur,
leaving haloes on the sidewalk.

When I arrive home, I make a pot of tea.
You leave a message saying you’ll be home late.

I turn on the TV and there are more killings.
I still hear the wind rousing sleepers.
Children aren’t safe on the streets anymore.

+++

The Root of the Tree

That night when the root of the tree is no longer the root,
when the wind has ripped it right out of the ground.

The tree lies on its side with all its root
a tangle of dirt and weed exposed to the cold.

After big rain, there is a certain calm. The tree lies still.
The stars recede and the moon stands still.

The root of the tree shivers

in recognition. The earth and the sky have been pulled out.
The tree lies on its side.

This night, the wild roots swim in the wind, the night is a long
river, the river is a long dream, and from the earth, the whole

tangled root keeps waking. This night

when the root of the tree is no longer the root, the wind has ripped it
right out of the ground.

+++

My Dreams Are Real

I live with a man who pulls the covers at night.
I moan in my sleep when I dream.

He knows me like the sea knows sand.
He rolls over me.

I dream a woman entices me.
She is dressed in black.

He asks me where I’ve been.
I say where I learned to love death.

He breathes in his sleep.
It sounds like drowning.

+++

The River Meanders

The wind shivers upriver.
The moon wakes up late.
There is stillness
and breath.

Tomorrow is conjured by today.
Yesterday, tossed aside.

They say life is brief,
but not for the waiting.
They say life is fair,
but not for the losing.

And at its inception
the universe shrugged,
didn’t have any idea
what it would become.

The river embarks
for its destination,
arrives on time
by the clock of the moon
somewhere in South Texas
where it meanders to the Gulf.

The sun rises,
roams over the river.
Grows tired and sleeps
in the cusp of the moon.

Something is startled
by the rustling of birches
and the thought
that everything that is disappears.

+++

On Turning 65

My hair has turned white, though I color it brown.
I am admitted as a senior.
People give me seats on the metro.

I remember thinking
I would live forever—my childhood
riding a bicycle to the horizon.

My mother is in a stream.
Losing my husband will be like
going blind.

I have time to live. The bottle
is not empty. I get drunk
on what is left.

+++

Header image courtesy of Dario Calmese. To view his Photo Essay, go here.

Marjorie Sadin is a nationally published poet with poems in such magazines as The Little Magazine, Blaze Vox, Big Windows Review and Jewish Women’s Literary Annual. She has five books of poems in print including a chapbook, The Cliff Edge, and a full length book, Vision of Lucha about struggle and survival, love, death, and family. Recently, Marjorie published a new chapbook, Struck by Love.  She lives and reads her poetry in the Washington DC area.

 

 

 

 

 

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Poetry Suite by Megan Waring https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-by-megan-waring/ Tue, 04 Jun 2019 12:00:41 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=17590 Poetry by Megan Waring + + +   Beginning on Your Bed and Ending in a High School Hallway It took me months to tell you what happened to me in high school. First, I didn’t want to. Then, you didn’t want me to. And now here we are, sitting criss-cross applesauce on your bed, […]

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Poetry by Megan Waring

+ + +

 

Beginning on Your Bed and Ending in a High School Hallway

It took me months to tell you
what happened to me in high school.
First, I didn’t want to. Then, you didn’t want me to.
And now here we are, sitting criss-cross applesauce
on your bed, facing each other. You are staring
into my eyes. I am staring into yours. Your hair is messy.
Mine too. I am leaning against the headboard
because I am weak. You are sitting up straight
because you are flexible. We are answering
The 36 Questions That Make You Fall In Love.
We are already in love. You for months, me for longer.
It’s not a competition, I know. When I tell you, I wonder
if you will believe me. Or if you will turn into Rebecca,
standing by the lockers we always stand by,
in the fluorescent light we always see by,
before the bell we always obey. Rebecca who
tucked her hair behind her ear, said
Girls lie about that sort of thing all the time.
Rebecca who just turned, walked away, taking with her
sleepovers, tiny notes folded into squares, braids,
sex advice from magazines, college essays–
as if it was nothing. As if she couldn’t even feel
the weight of it dragging behind her.

-after Kim Addonizio

+ + +

 

Peach Ice Cream

The murder podcast I listen to while making
dinner for one, chats about the facts of Typhoid Mary,
a woman quarantined after people kept dying
from eating her homemade peach ice cream.
Asymptomatic Mary can’t believe it’s her, this disease
that turns people inside out. She feels nothing. They beg
her to stay out of the kitchen, cross her heart and–
stop cooking. Wash her hands. Stubborn Mary refuses.
The Podcasters say what the heck, back away
from the food. But I get it, handwashing was a new concept
and she wasn’t sick. There is pain in seeing things
as they are. Relatable, Stubborn Me thinks as I set
the table for one.
                            I keep coming back
to this nasty place inside of me that is waiting
for permission to be mad at you– got an old habit
of playing the victim. Delusional Mary made a vow, but went
back to cooking, killing– a murderer who can’t believe she’s guilty.
When you told me you weren’t
                            moving to Boston,
I cried so hard in my best friend’s shower I had to sit, couldn’t trust
my legs. Pushed my face into tile, pushed my tongue
to my teeth. Listen,                    I know it’s toxic
to hold on to blame, know this comparison to Mary is weak
but Colombia is just so far away and has shitty wifi. Yesterday
I tried to tell you that I missed our Trader Joe’s ritual
but my text came back: “undelivered”. I don’t even know
where Trader Joe’s is here and it’s fucking me up.
Listen, I know
                            that long distance isn’t murder
and that this is a shitty analogy. I’m just saying
sometimes the nasty bits seep in and attack
the healthy thing we are creating.
Listen, I’m just saying
                            I’m sorry. Come home.
I am so lonely I am relating to killers.
Listen, I’m saying I miss you.

+ + +

 

Landfill

The God of Waste came to me saying let me in.
I said the door is already open, the lock
broke years ago. The God of Waste broke
open her own jaw and swallowed the whole
seed of the house with me in it saying don’t
talk back. I screamed for help for twelve
days straight until my Throat quit, packing
her bags and leaving, saying Einstein would call
this insanity. So I resorted to clapping, hoping
someone would hear, someone with a rope, with jaws
of life. I clapped and clapped inside the God of Waste,
steady at first, but by day nineteen just a broken
faucet. My hands reduced to raw chapping skin
by day twenty-two. Bone-now-sand on day
twenty- eight. On day thirty, the God of Waste dry-
heaved me back to land. Said see, you have done nothing
but make noise, you waste, you Waste.

                                                            There is no God
of Waste. I am lying on my side, staring at the same spot
on the same wall.

+ + +


You’ll Be

Okay puts on her torn sleep shirt, lies in bed, six pillows high,
watches Hulu. Okay drinks corner store chardonnay. Throws
the shitty dinner down the sink and goes for take-out. Okay forgets
she promised herself to eat paleo this week, sneezes too loud
on the subway, cries on the phone to her best friend about how Cristina
left Meredith and it’s the worst death on tv. Okay loses seven pounds
and gains back three, buys yellow flowers and lets them wilt in a glass.
Okay wears flat shoes and cheap pants from Target,
but she throws them out when they rip. Okay does above average
at her job most days, but some days the clock just drags on. Okay
goes to work anyway. Okay makes frittatas every Sunday until she is tired
of frittatas and dumps the frittata down the sink. Okay watches
Sex and the City even though she knows it is problematic, still feels
so betrayed when Big doesn’t show, texts her best friend why not Aidan?
Okay drinks the coffee even after it’s cold. Okay cuts the bruise
out of the apple. Okay listens to Carly Rae Jepson in her earbuds,
that only work at that one exact angle. She puts her hands
in her pockets, finds the crumbs of a cookie and smiles.

+ + +


Beet Juice

I take a teaspoon to my childhood garden,
looking for something I lost.
My fingers crumble the soil
until they clench the coarse black hairs
of my first boyfriend’s beard. I tug
him up and watch him stand
and shake off

the years.

He pulls a cigarette out of the calla lilies.
Flicks his fingers to light it. Looks down
like he might devour me.

I thought you drowned,
I look up at him rising above me,
in your mother’s bathtub.

Who hasn’t? He says as he coughs
out a cloud of smoke and a single beet.
Be honest with yourself.

He hands me the beet and rambles
down the street, sputtering like his old truck.
I drench the beet with salt. Eat it for dinner
with a teaspoon. Forget to shake off the dirt.
The red juice stains my chin.

+ + +

Header image courtesy of Jay Riggio. To view his artist feature, go here.

Megan Waring is a poet, playwright and fiber artist who currently resides in Boston.  She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Virginia Tech and is currently earning her MFA in poetry from University of Massachusetts Boston.  In between degrees, she worked in education and non-profits in China and California. She is the honored recipient of Virginia Tech’s Literary Award and her work is forthcoming or published in Salamander, The Legendary, Pulp Literature, Aegir, and Germ Magazine, among others. Her second co-authored play, Archer and the Yeti, is being produced by Greene Room Productions in October 2019.

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This Mmm World with Ken Yoshikawa https://nailedmagazine.com/interview/this-mmm-world-with-ken-yoshikawa/ Tue, 23 Apr 2019 12:00:44 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=interview&p=17493 On 4/6/19, Ken Yoshikawa and I sat down at AFRU Gallery in SE Portland to discuss poetry, acting, bummers, sonnets, and his recently released spoken word album, Quiver.   To purchase the album, go here. To read Ken’s Poetry Feature, go here. + + +    + + +  I’m Sam Preminger, the Poetry Editor […]

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On 4/6/19, Ken Yoshikawa and I sat down at AFRU Gallery in SE Portland to discuss poetry, acting, bummers, sonnets, and his recently released spoken word album, Quiver.

 

To purchase the album, go here.

To read Ken’s Poetry Feature, go here.

+ + +

 

 + + +

 I’m Sam Preminger, the Poetry Editor of Nailed Magazine, and I’m currently being joined by Ken Yoshikawa.

 

Hi.

 

Hi. So for those who don’t know, Ken Yoshikawa is a shin-issee

 

-issei

 

Shin-issei/first generation half-Japanese American poet-actor from Portland, OR. He has been active in the Portland Poetry Slam community since 2014. He loves blue chicken taco trees and resents punctuation and grammar at his convenience.

 

Haha. Sometimes you just need a bio, right?

 

Yeah. I think my first question, because I’ve read that bio before and been curious, is what is a blue chicken taco tree?

 

It’s a reason to take grammar and punctuation not seriously. I mean, I love the color blue, I love chicken tacos, and I like trees.

 

That’s a shame, I was really hoping it was something that grew around here that I just didn’t know about.

 

What?! I think that’s the name of a restaurant waiting to happen.

 

So, you’ve just released your spoken word album – Quiver – any of our listeners can go hear you perform a chapbook’s worth of poetry if they want.

 

I’d love that. I’m so excited about it.

 

The first thing I was curious about is when listening to these poems and listening to you read especially it feels very close to your body and yourself. So is there ever a point where Ken Yoshikawa who’s reading the poems is separate from Ken Yoshikawa who’s sitting with me now?

 

Oh that’s a great question. I guess let me build into it because I don’t actually know the answer. I mean, obviously I’m still here. The guy who reads the poems on the stage into the microphone is also the guy who is talking to you now and is also the guy who needs to eat breakfast and likes chicken tacos and goes to the bathroom and this and that.

 

So when we hear a performance of your poetry, it is coming from you as a poet?

 

Yeah, I would say sometimes some things come through me, right? Like the best I can do is get out of the way. Or I hand myself over. How do I put this? Say the Ken who likes chicken tacos and uses the bathroom and wakes up in the morning is a part of me, but maybe each of us are actually way way way more limitless than the bounds that we give our daily, mundane self. I tend to believe that and when I perform I feel either A) that I am getting out of the way of something else to come through me OR I am being so potently myself that I can shine fully unabridged who I am in my immediate presence.

Or, actually, the way I feel about, the way I show up when I’m performing is that I’m making the connection to the people that I’m talking to. I think that’s the best way, the simplest way for me to feel that and the poetry helps me get over my own self in my brain so that I can actually just feel connected. That’s the best way to put that.

 

You brought up this idea of being potently yourself and acting as well, I was wondering about that. I often think of acting as deception almost, you’re trying to convince the audience you’re another person with another life, another mind whereas performing poetry feels somewhat opposed to that idea, you’re trying to convey a very authentic version of yourself, I believe. Do you find those two arts that you practice to be in tension with each other at any point? How do they inform one another?

 

First let me address acting. There’s so many schools of acting and I think there are many kinds of actors, people like Joaquin Phoenix or Natalie Portman, who just dive really into it, Glenn Close, they go go go go go, but at the end of the day you look at that person and you still see Joaquin Phoenix is right there. I mean, as an actor maybe I have that, which is to say you called it an act of deception, but there’s no way you can approach acting without being intimately connected to yourself, with the person that you are. I remember even Alan Rickman said “have opinions, have a strong personality, so you have something to show when you’re actually in front of a camera or on a stage.” You can’t be an empty person and just convince everyone otherwise; there has to be something real, believable. Every actor gives of themselves potently and honestly whether or not…I think the good ones do, they draw upon themselves.

As a poet, it’s interesting then, I am bearing things that are true to me as an individual that are written by me for me to share with the world, but often a lot of my poetry goes beyond who I am, you know? It’s big big concepts, things where I’m like what the hell is this I have to put this into a poem. Which eventually the only way I can do that is often to ground it through who I am and my experiences, so to share that is ultimately very vulnerable and very real to me. But it’s funny, I’ve been doing it so much that I am watching myself share the parts that are true about myself watching the audience catch an image of who I am on stage, right? This might be all a really roundabout way of saying that of course I’m probably creating a kind of persona of myself at the same time, but the key is to really just feel my body, you know what I mean? What is true to me in the moment? And when it’s simple it’s best, I think: I’m going to read a poem because I want to connect to you. Me. You. Connection. Poem facilitates it.

 

It’s much more direct.

 

It’s much more direct. And I like that a lot. I love making a connection to the audience. Does that answer your question?

 

Yes, absolutely. I think that comes across very clearly in the album. Now, I know you were in a studio, you weren’t with an audience recording this, but we can hear all that joy and anger and these very powerful emotions that comes through in your voice. I, personally, find it delightful – I love listening to it and feeling the sincerity of those emotions when hearing the tracks.

 

Thank you. I guess then as an actor, in order to do acting well, you’ve got to know how to be honest as best as you can so that you can be vulnerable – show the feeling, feel the feeling – which I think has helped me almost oil the gears, right? So that when I’m actually like what is it Ken is feeling as a person? Sometimes it’s simpler. It’s simpler than…if it feels right, feels good, feels right, then that’s me. That seems truly honest to myself.

 

So, speaking of honest with yourself, one thing I noticed listening to the tracks is that you do a lot of code-switching, you move back and forth between English and Japanese and in ‘Quiver’ I believe you said “my heart speaks Japanese”. Are those moments of switching speaking more sincerely, more authentically from the heart when you’re writing in Japanese?

 

Oh my, okay. My Japanese is not as good as my English and it’s the Japanese of a child. I learned Japanese as a kid and I was raised, but then away from Japan and my dad and retained it because my subconscious, my inner self, my child self, those pure places are coded in Japanese. For me, it’s really easy to tap into the little boy inside myself, to connect to that, the child, in Japanese. It comes through so clearly and also because of that, because my Japanese isn’t as good, it’s simpler than my English is. My English is really complicated an all over the place. I can dance and contort and do whatever with English which I’m still learning to work the language, but it’s interested…so code-switching? Yeah, I have to work harder to arrive at emotion in English than with Japanese where I can be like ‘gahhhh kuso’. It hits a spot that English can’t necessarily.

 

So if the Japanese is coming from a younger perspective is it then in dialogue with a more adult self when you’re writing back and forth?

 

I would say yea. I would say that I can destroy things with English. I can use English to wreck my emotions and thoughts. It’s very destructive what English can do in my brain. Japanese doesn’t necessarily do that; it’s a very pure, simple thing because it hasn’t be acculturated into any community long enough to be disillusioned except of course with the break-up of my parents. I also have an interesting relationship with Japanese because my dad always wanted me to study Japanese and I never felt it was necessary. I wrote about this recently in a poem. I think I had to find a way to reclaim that part of me and the English-speaking part of me had to learn to become more compassionate otherwise it would’ve become ashamed. I think that the shame around being different in this country is a big thing for a lot of people and re-claiming language and personal power and identity is a big wave, a big revelation I think is a better word than wave right now, a transformation that’s happening in a variety of people and that dialogue within myself is a true relationship, an intra-relationship. I just want to feel okay and loved really at the end of the day. Does that make sense?

 

Yeah, very much so. And you bring up that idea of re-claiming things, re-claiming power. I’ve heard you speak about this in interviews before actually, so I was thinking about it a lot while listening to the album and preparing for this. A lot of your poems center around the idea of reclaiming power from a culture around you that’s trying to whitewash the things that you grew up with an idolize and yourself and your identity and reclaiming power from this relationship with a mentor-abuser. Do you feel that you can reclaim power through poetry or is it a performance of what that would look like?

 

I absolutely think I can reclaim that through poetry. I believe that poetry allows me to re-code myself. I think if I look back on that relationship in particular, one of the reasons I was in that relationship in the first place was because I didn’t know how hold power at all, I just gave it away, it was too uncomfortable, it burned in my hands, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like responsibility. I just wanted other people to make decisions for me, that kind of thing. I think by writing in the first place, I give myself power to begin with, to reclaim myself, the parts of myself that I gave away, that I rejected. Then…how to say? It is the performance of it to because fake it ‘til you make it, right? But at the same time, you can’t go anywhere you can’t see in some ways. That’s probably an imperfect phrase, but like – Vision: I’ve got to see myself as being that centered, powerful human being who is able to create and do and make choices and love and care and fail too, right? Give myself the space to be weak and to fail and to be afraid because I think that when it comes to power, being a cis-man in this culture – I mean, any human of course – but there’s the demon, the ghost that cis-gendered people carry in their blind spots and I think that’s what I’ve seen reflected form the nonbinary individuals that I know. It’s like Yo, there’s something going on! Take a look at that! Stop neglecting or abusing that privilege. Which is to say…I don’t know what I’m talking about.

But when it comes to power and being a man, I guess, which in and of it those were two of the things that got me bound up with that guy: power, personal power, magnetism, sexuality absolutely. All of the deep-root things that drive you forward and make you feel good about yourself. Intimacy. All of that stuff. Fear. He mocked me for being afraid. He goaded me into it and he took advantage of me, it’s true, because I was so insecure and at one point I must have let him, but it’s not my fault. I guess that’s the key. That kind of person is going to take advantage of the people around them and then, of course, it’s their fault, but the thing that they can do is take responsibility for the pain that they now have after it and then just learn I guess. Or have power so that when that happens again, and it did, in a different person, and I was like This is not okay. I’m leaving right now. This is awful. I can’t. Very soon after that relationship ended, too. That keeps showing up until you can say Fuck off or Go away, I don’t want anything to do with that. I need to create a space for myself where I can be safe and I think after all these years – it hasn’t been too long – but I feel like I’m now able to really just feel myself. It’s hard to put a finger on. Eventually, one day I’ll cry and that will be nice. I don’t know when that will be though, it’s hard to say.

 

This conversation almost mimics what the progression of Quiver is where you seem to be working through this relationship and growing across these poems. On repeated listening to it, I’ve really noticed the shift in the speaker between each poem, this gradual building, and it really stands out when you look at say ‘In the Eye of the Devil’ where we have the metaphor of the fly which becomes  a practice of how you lure someone into abuse, and then you revives this later on in ‘Heaven’ where the fly once again appears and there’s this moment of vulnerability and instead of taking advantage of it the speaker, who is you we’ve established, decides to take that vulnerability as muse in a way. Are you aware of the growth that occurred while recording this album? Do you feel different now than when you went into it?

 

I do, I do. I would say to start out, I have been and remain very insecure about publishing and publicly displaying my work or turning it into paper, turning it into this and that and showing it to the world. Of course I’m afraid of rejection, I’m afraid of this and that and really distraught by the prospect of people not caring. It’s the thing that gets me – that they just don’t care. In order for me to of course do it in the first place I’ve got to get over that, I’ve absolutely get the hell over that and I think I heard that the people that care won’t mind and the people that mind won’t care or something like that; it’s a phrase like that. You do you and people will find you that love you and enjoy you and then the people that don’t really or can only go so far will be there. That’s the vulnerability for me that affects me emotionally the most in some ways and the process of recording this album has been to get over the sense that I am a nuisance to the world like a fly. The fly to me is a nuisance. It bothers me, it’s in my face, I don’t like it, what does it want from me, it’s going to eat after me and it’s not taking care of itself, it’s scavenging, or who knows what and as an artist maybe that’s how I feel about myself sometimes.

I didn’t write ‘Heaven’ thinking about the fly from the other poem which is interesting. A couple of years down the road it clicked in my head: What’s this fly doing over here? Oh my god, did I do that? I notice that in some of my writing. Down the road, years down the road, I’ll look back at something I wrote and it’s like “This wasn’t for me then, this is for me now” or “It helps me now”. I don’t like to think there’s too much purpose, but it serves a function. I guess looking at those two poems I realized they had to be connected because the first one is the fly that got swatted or flicked or something. I remember the day he showed it to me too. In the second one I remember that fly buzzing around and honestly what I ended up doing was I did turn out the light, but then I also put a headlamp on the veranda porch and I turned all the other lights out and I opened the doors and it just flew out by itself, but it didn’t want to leave otherwise because it really was wanting the light that day, it was really fascinating. You know, I didn’t want to sleep with the fly in the room honestly, but I ended the poem that way. Behind the Scenes! But yeah…That moment was somehow precious to me and I’m glad I got to bring it into words.

The relationship I have with myself is one that I think shows up a lot in my work and as I’ve grown as a poet and visually considered from piece to piece through time, absolutely I think my poetry is a way I come to terms with my own reality, loving myself, taking care of myself, helping myself accept myself. It’s very selfish, very self-centered work I think that I write, but if anyone else can relate to it then…well, yeah.

 

We’re talking about this process of revisiting work and finding that it has what you needed there and using it to explore these difficult experiences. So I was listening to an interview recently with Paul Tran, they were on VS. and they were speaking about the distinction between writing about pain and relieving yourself of that pain through the writing as opposed to re-living the pain through the writing. That very much brought your work to mind as soon as I heard it as you spend quite a bit of this album looking at very painful experiences. And while often the conclusion will move towards a place of gratitude, I think, and elevate yourself, you almost reach back and help yourself though the poems, I was wondering what the experience is like for you of both writing and frequently performing these pieces. Do you find that you’re relieved of that burden by sharing it or do you force yourself back into the experience?

 

I don’t force myself back into the experience, to answer the question. I think that’s important. Even in acting, you never actually – I mean some people do – but the best thing to do is to be honest in the moment, but not stay there and make it too vivid because then it actually takes away from the story when you’re on stage if you’re truly actually triggering yourself into some trauma. It’s very dangerous, don’t ever do that as an actor.

 

What about as a poet?

 

As a poet, I think that I don’t relive them. I think the poems… I’ve built them to be able to carry them along. Nor am I either – to answer your question – relieved. In some ways yes, but I think the key word is transmuted. All of this somehow is transmuted through the creation of art that is shared with others and seen as it is. It’s transmuted in the connection in the connection and relationship I build with the audience, that kind of almost absolution because even when you forgive great emotion, it’s still there it’s just different now. There’s less tension. Vocalizing something is amazing.

I remember I showed up to Velo Cult Bike Shop when we had the slam a few years ago, four years ago maybe, and I read ‘In the Eyes of the Devil’ and the crowd just embraced me and was really loving and I was thrilled and it was good and wholesome. I needed that. I needed that very much so. Yea…I don’t relive it. I let the words carry me through it and I think that’s what I mean because I’m someone who gets stuck on something and will just hold onto it for years obsessively and in some psycho-physical way I feel it in my body and I find myself always returning to it like it has so much gravity. I want to be relieved of it, but I think I have to return to the process of turning it to words, sharing it with the world, letting it transmute, and keep up with the process. I think this just going to be my life now.

 

So you’ve been performing this poem for at least four years then. Do you find that it changes over time as you perform it?

 

It refines. It’s become a structure that I can share of myself and I think that it does in its work accurately portray, and earnestly, the love and the fear and the hate and the frustration of that whole relationship. As easy as it is to despise that man, to be afraid of him or to want to have vengeance or to feel he deserves whatever ill might come to him for the things that he has done – not just to me, but other people as well – I am befuddled by the fact that I still love that person. I don’t understand that. I don’t understand. There is a deep fear and resentment, yes. There is the I am afraid of this person. This person may one day do more ill and I don’t know. But there is also the way I can’t help, but care and I can’t wrap my head around that. It haunts me in some ways and I don’t like that.

I don’t want to redeem him because he is a dangerous terrible human being who… I also see how broken he is in the ways I know him and what has happened in his life, but that does not excuse or condone anything. He deserves to be punished, I believe, but…I care. That relationship and the depths of the way that person was able to navigate my mind so intimately means that, well he told me this “Ken, you’re always going to remember me.” He was very self-aware of what he was doing and its effect of me and there are layers. I can’t even get into the layers of that in a poem as short as five minutes, but he knows that every day I think about him. He knows that. Maybe there’s a part of him that delights in that. Maybe not. And every time I share that relationship with the world it’s another way that I’m…I don’t know, maybe I’m not relieving myself of the burden, but transmuting that and returning the power to myself and taking away…the voice, his mouth is so very close to my mind and ear that it’s like…I’m putting another millimeter of space there, another centimeter of space between him and I, that the way that he talks about me, what he has to say about me, doesn’t define who I am. Anyway, so reading that poem every time is powerful for me and if people embrace it, I’m grateful. And also, it costs energy like a spell, but it also generates energy like a spell.

 

Thank you for sharing all that.

 

Oh sure, absolutely. I’m happy to talk.

 

To re-focus us on the poems for a second, I noticed that all throughout you seem to be inventing forms except for sonnets. You seem to have a certain love for the sonnet that keeps coming up. What is it about that form that is tempting you where others don’t?

 

Okay, that’s a good point, that’s a good question. I’m asking myself that question too. For one, I like…I’m in love with Shakespeare! I tell you what, I love Shakespeare. I think I always have as an actor and as a writer admired the work, the meter. I guess I have assigned myself the Shakespeare Challenge of writing as many sonnets as Shakespeare did. Which is just to do it, right? To give myself a moon-shot. Go for it. Be big. To just accept the caliber of my work as it is. I’m not trying to write Shakespeare sonnets, but write Ken Sonnets, right? And I’m always going to be in his shadow, I think that’s true. I very much feel a kind of wanting to live up to that, but a good friend of mine once told me that there’s no shame in being defeated by a master and so it’s like I’m letting Shakespeare be the big, like in a dojo the teacher who just throws you every time, throws you on your ass and you get back up and you practice. I see sonnets as an exercise, as a construction of, to go with the metaphor of Quiver, a bunch of arrows, ammunition, and as a Sagittarius – I’m an astrologer –that imagery is big for me I guess. Each one I make has a trajectory, has an aim. I’m still trying to understand the form itself and what it’s for. I think it’s supposed to be meant for love and such, but it has done so many other things for my brain, I wonder…I wonder. And having something consistent to return to that I’ve committed to like This thing, this thing. I’m just going to keep doing it, I don’t know why, but I’m just going to keep doing it, maybe that simplifies things for me.

 

Are there other forms that you’re interested in exploring going forward?

 

Haha not really. I guess I’m pretty stubbornly sticking to sonnets. I don’t think they’re very popular to be honest, but they’re one-minute performances – the good ones – and people like them. Other forms? I like iambic pentameter a lot. I’ve been playing around with haikus a little bit, or senryūs, even though they’re not about nature, they’re about people. I usually just write mostly from intuition I guess. The more I think about a poem the more structure it needs to have, I think. When I used to write I’d just write and write and write and I’d have these big winding things that were monstrous and not very good. I wanted to put more conciseness on my work and try to fit it and I think the sonnet it doing good to give me structure, something to follow me. Maybe it limits me. Maybe I do need to be limited sometimes so I can make creative choices without thinking too much. If I really just focus on this one thing ad nauseum almost who knows what might come up through that blow dart tube? It’s a specific projectile. I don’t know how to put it. Maybe underneath it all there’s a kind of self-worth thing to do with trying to be the best that’s ever been and I think that’s really destructive honestly. I’ve thought about this yesterday, there’s an old high school poem I wrote: To try to be the best above the rest expect the test from this lame duck life. My dad always said you’ve got to be number one, at least recently, especially as an actor, as a performer, you’ve got to work harder than everyone, you’ve got to be better than everyone and you’ve got to rise to the top, but I don’t think that actually works the way American entertainment is these days. You necessarily integrate into a community. All of that to say this is still back to my dad, I think. My obsession with structure, Shakespeare, all of this. I think it’s still connected. I haven’t escaped him.

 

Even though your father is largely absent from this album?

 

Oh yeah, he’s still there. He isn’t in this album. That’s why I have the second album which I’m just implying right now hopefully. No, he…I write way more poetry about my dad than I do, for instance, about my mother because my mother doesn’t present a problem in my life. You know, she’s very loving and stable and all this and I don’t know why I have a hard time writing about her. That’s a good question. My dad…he isn’t in this album because I decided to make this one more about my own personal journey in America and the disconnection from my father. Maybe the fact that my dad isn’t in there is actually a more honest description of myself because he isn’t around, he isn’t here. We chat once in a while, very briefly. There must be something to that. I’m thinking about that actually. He isn’t in this album, that represents me more.

 

For those familiar with your work, that absence is very distinctly felt when listening to this.

 

I mean, first of all, I really appreciate that you, anyone who reads…I used to be anxious of course about people reading my work. Every time I hear you say “when I’ve read your work, Ken” I’m get a little like They read my work it’s so nice! There’s a little fire in me that gets a little bit brighter. I’m a pretty solitary person these days, but audience members are the people I feel oddly enough closest to emotionally in some ways, but only in the context, while I’m performing. The moment the poem ends, things change immediately because of the context of the moment.

 

This is very much putting you on the spot then, but would you be willing to perform a poem?

 

Oh my god, yea, sure.

I didn’t wake up at dawn…I fucked it up already. See, it’s great, it’s great. Here we go, I’ll make it work. See this is real me. This is real Ken. Real Ken right here. As Ken as it’s going to get…

I never got up at dawn

to wake the valley up with music.

I didn’t play the trumpet,

just gave up the violin

because it was uncomfortable.

If my father told me

he saw a flying castle,

things may have been different.

Instead he did say that life is suffering,

that people are weak,

don’t expect money you’ve lent out to return to you,

study Japanese.

I didn’t believe him. Any of it.

Didn’t realize by ‘study Japanese’

he meant a storm was wrapping itself

around him

he meant no one is going to understand

so you won’t realize it matters

he meant build a plane,

you’re meant to fly;

come find me,

I am a true story.

And in this way I am like you, Pazu.

I too have a half-built prototype sitting in my living room

with pictures of impossible on the drawing board.

He’d be so proud of the way you believe:

りっぱだな, he’d say. りっぱ! (Rippa da na / Rippa!)

We both know what it means to fill in the gaps

made by too much time and sky.

And while by now I can see his point,

that life is painful,

I don’t agree that

just because they don’t make it

to the sky, that people are weak.

Maybe it’s true,

but can’t you see these

giant caverns in the ground

aren’t valleys.

They’re the old mines,

where the barons of the old world

took everything

all the iron and coal and tin

and copper and platinum and gold

so they could fly and live

above the world

in their fancy castles.

I think what you meant,

father,

is that people’s ways are hard to change.

You can’t get them to stop.

Cuz if you did

they’d be forced to admit,

that everything

has already been taken from them,

that the joke’s on them,

and who really wants to feel that?

Wouldn’t it be better to just keep digging?

 

Wow. Thank you. Is that going to be on the new album?

 

Maybe. I think I should put it on the new album. It’s very thematic.

 

Yea, I think you should put it on the new album and give us a release date.

 

Haha. Oh, sweet. Yea, I like Miyazaki and so that was a Miyazaki poem linked to Castle in the Sky. I think I’m really into bummers these days. I think there’s something really refreshing about it because they’re something real, it’s just something honest about the bummer that feels better almost. We need more tragedies. We need more tragedies in our entertainment. Maybe. Maybe we don’t. Maybe we have enough tragedies in our daily life, but I think tragedy is useful very specifically depending on the moment and the time. And the poem’s not necessarily tragedy, I don’t know why I’m talking about that. Thank you for listening.

 

That’s an interesting point. I’ve been thinking a lot about why we engage with tragedy. I was at a play recently and walked out miserable and was so grateful for it and since I’ve been puzzling over this idea of why do we go into that situation where we know it’s going to hurt us and we want that so badly? What do we gain from that? Why do we need to share that?

 

I think about this a lot as an actor at 1am. There are ways we can’t behave in life that are just not allowed because they’re destructive, they’re dangerous, they’re problematic and all of these things. As people, just because we can’t do it doesn’t mean it goes away, right? So like if you’re watching King Lear or Hamlet, I find that there must be…if we are moved by something in a way then we ourselves are capable of doing that and the play, I believe, relieves us of that choice oftentimes, I think, right? Even if it’s connected, I mean there are so many different aspects that the movement of that story could catch you at so many different angles, right? I think that’s what a good tragedy does, it brings everyone in somehow, because it’s Hamlet with all the different relationships or vengeance or personal power. You could take any way into it, right? And if it moves you, you’re given the space to feel that thing. Permission to grieve or permission to be angry or to feel this deep feeling to be in that liminal space as an invisible thing where it’s not…the attention isn’t on you, but you can be with it, you know? I think of it oftentimes like a hand that goes underwater to pick something up, you know? It’s like We don’t know what’s under here, but here it is! look at it! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. And then we can grieve and let it… because we can’t do that all the time, right? So if we’re not letting ourselves feel the way that we’re feeling ninety-nine percent of the time then that one percent or less than one percent when we’re in that theater listening to this piece of music or poetry we can actually connect to that finally where normally we would just be de-stabilized and…I don’t know though, I don’t know.

 

What have you been reading or listening to lately that’s bringing you to that place?

 

That’s a great question. Last night and went and saw Wolf Play at the Artist Repertory Theater and that got me pretty close. I haven’t cried in a while. Tender things make me tear up a little bit. I got really close when I watched a movie called The Boy and The Beast, it’s a Mamoru Hosoda movie, it’s an anime. It’s a wonderful, wonderful piece of film, I love it. A lot of the music that I’m listening to these days doesn’t get me there. Things I’m reading don’t necessarily get me there. The one time I really recently ugly cried I was actually hanging out with my dad. We were listening to Miyazaki songs like the songwriter songs where there are singers and all that. That was the time I ugly cried. I cherish that. Otherwise, not so much. I wish I could cry more. I wish I could feel that and go there, but something stops me. I stop myself, essentially that’s what that is, but I don’t understand it.

Haha ah jeez…what am I reading? I’m reading a lot of astrology books. I’m reading books on meditation. I’m reading Anis Mojgani. I’m reading Igor Brezhnev. All my friends’ poems too like Kate Leddy and Sage Lilac. I’ve been digging into that stuff more. I’m too slow of a reader to be keeping up with the world actually. I think that most people are, their brains are deet-deet-deet-deet-deet-deet compared to mine in some ways, so it’s…I read articles off Facebook. Haha get me off this thing! This damn phone. I wish I had a better reading list for you, but I don’t. I don’t, I really don’t. You should read, everyone should read Anis Mojgana and Igor Brezhnev. Kate Leddy’s new book is amazing by the way, that gets me feeling things.

 

Alright, well we’re coming up on the end of our time. I had one other question that I’ve been thinking about when reading your work. I notice that you will very frequently come around to Dungeons & Dragons on this album.

 

Yeah, sure.

 

Do you still play?

 

Oh, no. I don’t have the time, that’s why. I love D&D, I think it’s so much fun. My favorite character’s name is Mr. NipNap. He’s a chaotic good, black-furred catfolk who’s a rogue and he smokes nip and naps, right? He smokes nip and naps. And he nips. I like the word, it’s just stupid

 

Are you Mr. NipNap?

 

Me? Yea! I’m Mr. NipNap. I mean, for me, I don’t know. It’s just a character, but like…yea, yea, D&D…He was a [Dungeon Master] so that’s why it’s…but it’s difficult and it’s complex, complicated as everything is, you know? Do you play D&D?

 

I do, yeah. I love it. It does take up too much time though.

 

Oh, it’s so time consuming. If I had that stable job and that kind of thing – which definitely I don’t want that to be my life – but then maybe I’d be doing that. But I like my life as it is honestly. I’m happy with where I’m at, I’m struggling with the things I need to struggle with. I’m enjoying the people and the moment that I can and do and I’m making it work in such a chaotic world as this. I don’t know about chaotic world, but this mmm world. This Mmm world. It’s an MMM WORLD! I’m telling you! I don’t know what word goes there. A lot of words go there, but this place is such a mmm. Oh man, my friend, my friend, my friend. Thank you.

 

Yea, I’m glad that you are making it work.

 

Yea, thank you friend. Day by day. Day by day.

 

Well thank you so much for joining us and doing this interview.

 

Thank you, Sam. Thank you.

 

Of course! I really want to encourage everyone to go read your work, read Ken Yoshikawa’s work.

 

Please, come listen to my album!

 

Yes, absolutely listen to album. It’s called Quiver. Where can people get a copy?

 

It’s yoshikawaken.bandcamp.com.

 

Yoshikawaken.bandcamp.com

 

That’s right. Perfect.

 

Alright, anything else that you wanted to say or sign off with?

 

I would say….we are enough. I guess I want to say we are enough. We are enough

 

I like that. We are enough

 

We are enough. That’s all I need to say.

+ + +

Header image courtesy of Martin Carri. To view his Artist Feature, go here.

Ken Yoshikawa is a shin-issei (new-wave first-gen) half-Japanese actor and spoken word poet from Portland, OR. He graduated from Reed College with a B.A. in Theatre Arts. He is so grateful for his family and his friends for their love and support. He also has work published in Hapa Mag and floatOn’s Letters from the Void.

To purchase Quiver, go here.

To read Ken’s Poetry Feature, go here.

IG at @yoshakeawaken and @backflip.jupiter

 

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Poetry Suite by William James https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-by-william-james/ Thu, 28 Mar 2019 12:00:52 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=17443 Poetry by William James for Caleb Scofield (1978-2018) + + + [it’s a claw embedded]   It’s a claw embedded           in leather, a phantom dragged through oceans           of flame. It’s the sun, a liquid knife, a hellish           infection, a wraith […]

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Poetry by William James

for Caleb Scofield (1978-2018)

+ + +

[it’s a claw embedded]

 

It’s a claw embedded
          in leather, a phantom
dragged through oceans

          of flame. It’s the sun,
a liquid knife, a hellish
          infection, a wraith

of feathers & glass
          screaming out arrows.
It’s savagery & venom

          swallowed by the swarm.
It’s a rattle of snakes
          & teeth & eagles

rendering light into iron,
          melting their wings
to a shield. It’s specters

          on the horizon, deep
burning holes in the earth.
          It’s hypnotizing swells

& spirit anthems, a heart fed
          with fire & tethered
by the heavy grasp of god.

+ + +

 

[all the waters are warm as blood]

 

All the waters are warm as blood
soaked in hope. Crushing atmosphere.

Hollow sky. Heaven is melting
in sunlight & our throats are scattered.

Choirs of giants are chasing shadows
around empty graves. A prayer

whispered for every burning halo,
our hearts filled with heavy light.

+ + +

[endless liquid, violent angels]


endless liquid / violent angels / with nooses

for wings / silver in their marrow / eyes

the color / of blood / and god screams / burning

fire / lonely in his absence / again / such heavy

gravity / the jet blue glow / of death

from the guillotine / to the gun

our mother swarms / the vultures / stretch

like waves / of smoke / under tidal / skies

+ + +

[we’re dust until the light chokes us]


We’re dust
until the light
chokes us,

a choir snarling
in a sick red glow.

We’re vices
thrust into virtue,
flowers pushed up
through dark ash.

We’re ordinary
as atmosphere,

common
as black fleas
with filthy eyes

clenching
their rotting teeth.

We’re smoke
& haze & fog
& waves & stars
of fire

& ancient hordes
& temples burning.

We’re solitary
children,
tiny but tireless.

Our hearts & our scars
replaced by embers
& rain.

+ + +


[redacted]
 

Dear [        ],

          So here we are. It’s [        ] & I’m alone
again. Dwelling on the things we used
          to [        ] when we were [        ].

I [        ] to talk to the ghosts, but I
          can’t [         ], so instead I [         ].

I think it’s just a sad [         ], a charade
          to [         ] off the darkness. I was afraid
of [         ] then. I’m [         ] now. I [         ]

          myself that I [         ] my flaws,
but it’s a lie. Here are all my [         ],

          gutted & screaming. Don’t [        ] –
it will make you shake. Sure,
          it’s [         ], but that’s the way we grow.

I [         ] the moonlight or the needles.
          If I don’t [         ] a way to face my demons,

          I will [         ]. It’s a memory I can’t [        ].
I won’t [         ] another [         ] but I will
                                      always be your [         ].

                        Your friend,
                        [         ]

+ + +

[another blood moon. another haunted angel. the sun]

 

another blood moon. / another haunted angel. / the sun
a dead star / with an appetite for meat. / an omen.
a parasite. // & what keeps us warm / when this liquid
oxygen / crushes us with shame? / is it the light
in our eyes / or the music on our lips? // ashen
& fatigued / we write this new history. / claw at & cling
to / the tyranny of our past / with ink still wet on our hands.

+ + +

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

These poems are deconstructions of previously existing texts. For each poem, I have taken the lyrics to a different record from my music library, rearranged the words in alphabetical order, and restricted myself to writing the poem using only those words. The album from which lyrics were taken in each poem is listed below:

  • [it’s a claw embedded] – Zozobra, “Savage Masters”
  • [all the waters are warm as blood] – Zozobra, “Harmonic Tremors”
  • [endless liquid, violent angels] – Zozobra, “Bird of Prey”
  • [we’re dust until the light chokes us] – Old Man Gloom, “NO”
  • [redacted] – Cave In, “Perfect Pitch Black”
  • [another blood moon. another haunted angel. the sun] – Cave In, “Until Your Heart Stops”

    + + +

Header image courtesy of Constantinos Chaidalis. To view his Artist Feature, go here.

William James is a poet, aging punk, and train enthusiast from Manchester, NH. He is the author of “rebel hearts & restless ghosts” (Timber Mouse Publishing). His work has been published in literary journals, punk zines, and the occasional vinyl LP. You can find him online on Twitter (@thebilljim) or at www.williamjamespoetry.com


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Poetry Suite by Fleta Vincent https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-by-fleta-vincent/ Mon, 25 Mar 2019 12:00:14 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=17434 Poetry by Fleta Vincent + + + To Health This then is for your death and mine. My brother is dead I know it in the way he stares mindlessly into white. Space surrounds his existence. This then, my sister, is for your stone patience, your suffering that never was raised into anything of Abraham’s. […]

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Poetry by Fleta Vincent

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To Health

This then
is for your death
and mine.
My brother
is dead
I know it
in the way he stares
mindlessly
into white.
Space surrounds
his existence.
This then,
my sister,
is for your stone
patience, your suffering
that never was raised
into anything
of Abraham’s.
This then
my love
is for all
the tears
and horror
turned into
surreal black
laughter.

+ + +

Fatherless Father

My father never spread
his skirt over me, and
my cold skin shivered
to see the shelter
of his wings held
close to his side.

I scavenged

to satisfy the insatiable –
my need
to be a princess,
cherished and adored,
in the kingdom
of my father.

+ + +


Damsel

To be a damsel was my dream,
so I kept stuffing you, husband,
into armor that never fit right.
In my dreams, you bought
the perfect dwelling, balancing
the budget of our lives, but
numbers and situations
never add up right.

I never get to be
rescued. I open rectangular envelopes
with reluctant hands
dreading the figures I don’t understand,
insured with impossible deductibles
on maintenance of people and appliances
on last legs and prayers, hoping to solve
life’s mysteries and imperfections.

The path is dark, searching for a savior’s
hands while both knees fall
for guidance to lead sons
into manhood and all of its alien aspects,
I fall into ditches where there is no husband
to help pick me up, and when I arise
I apologize to God for what I will
say in spite of the fear of Him
striking me down with lightning,
like Eli’s sons when I tell Him
that the armor don’t fit Him right
neither.

+ + +


Intimate Rites

His face is a cold white moon
that looks down in matte
around my revolutions where
I have returned to earth –
ashes awaiting the feel
of disembodied hands,
disjointed rituals.
Submission is my oblation
in exchange for the brevity
of one unholy kiss
on each side of my neck.
I seek to stay the beginning
of skin traveling in recoil
from the reception of grunts
and sighs that creak missionary
style and his temporary
need that will end with the last
spasm issued until he deflates,
pads out like a cat
to wash and erase the smell
of my existence.
His return to is a hibernation
that begins with his granite
face turned toward the cave’s wall
while my timid hand crosses the distance
between us – the delicacy of a butterfly
searching for the sound
of his affection if it awakens,
even when sleep always
overtakes me,
my faithful lover.

+ + +

Header image courtesy of Jay Riggio. To view his artist feature, go here.

Fleta Vincent’s work has been published in Black Magnolias, Catalyst: A Magazine of Heart and Mind, Cottonwood, The Raven’s Perch, and Chantwood Magazine. Her work has also appeared in Ancient Paths Online, The Voices Project, Miller’s Pond, Bloodletters, and Voice of Eve. She is a native of Georgia and has a passion for writing poetry.

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Poetry Suite by Caroline Earleywine https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-by-caroline-earleywine/ Mon, 11 Mar 2019 12:00:41 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=17421 Poetry by Caroline Earleywine + + + Hatshepsut My childhood obsession. Egyptian Queen turned Pharaoh. When her husband died, she not only took his throne, but his clothes, insisted on being painted with a beard. I drew a picture of her coronation day for history class: Hatshepsut on a carrying chair held on the backs […]

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Poetry by Caroline Earleywine

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Hatshepsut

My childhood obsession. Egyptian Queen turned
Pharaoh. When her husband died, she not only took
his throne, but his clothes, insisted on being painted
with a beard. I drew a picture of her coronation day
for history class: Hatshepsut on a carrying chair

held on the backs of men, wearing facial hair and eyeliner,
everyone bowing to this rebel in a headdress, this temple
of unapology. After she died, a man tried to erase
all evidence she existed. When they found her
sarcophagus in 1903, it was empty.

The first time I confessed to having a crush
on a girl was in my journal. Hieroglyphics
barely legible, a language I refused to speak:
            There is               a girl
I didn’t dare call it what it was, couldn’t

bring myself to say lesbian. I buried it
in my childhood bedroom – pink and so typical,
in the boys I’d liked at a distance. They found Hatshepsut
in an anonymous tomb, the body identified
by a missing tooth, her mouth claiming herself

even in death. Now I use my mouth to kiss my wife.
To say Lesbian Lesbian Lesbian to strangers, in classrooms,
in poems, at my family’s dinner table, my body my own
temple of unapology, unburied and unwilling
to be silenced.

+ + +


Granddaddy’s Closet

So much had built up to this –
my 94-year-old grandfather across from me,
and between us, this secret.

His first response was a question:
Do you think it runs in families?

He then told me about his brother
who never married, who he always
wondered about.

After he assured me he thought no differently
of me, he asked if I wanted any of his old clothes.

My grandfather was always a practical
gift giver. Made us homemade hangers
for Christmas. Gave the girl cousins kitchen sponges

and the boy cousins pocket knives.
But on this day, he brought out a box

of his cardigans and sweaters,
his men’s flannel shirts. He laid them
out on the floor for me to look through,

to take whatever I thought
I needed.

+ + +

Ode to Flannel

You rainbow of plaid
lined up in my closet.
The only good part
of winter. I love you
in classic lumberjack
red, like the old shirt
my grandfather gave me.
A slight mothball smell
buttons on a different side
than I’m used to, fastened
all the way up.
Sleeves rolled mid-
way – ready to chop
some fucking wood,
or shotgun
a beer, or hold
a woman close
by a campfire.
I also love you
tied around my waist
like a skirt, or flag
I wave, a splash of texture
with my dark lipstick
all those lines inter-
woven like fingers
laced together under
tables. You queen
of the layer. Sometimes
a light jacket. Un-
buttoned. The perfect
transition piece
when the first leaf turns
gold. You were the only
cliché I could claim,
hanging in my closet
long before I came out
of it. Before I even knew
any of the stereotypes–
only that I didn’t
fit them.

+ + +


Doing My Mother’s Makeup

I try my new lipstick on her. Its fire
engine red sirens across her lips.
They look fuller, almost pouty.
Well I need the face to go
with it. She gets comfortable
in her chair. Closes her eyes
and leans into it. I can’t believe
you’re making me do this, she teases,
though it was her idea. I can feel the lonely

as I dab on concealer, shadow
her eyelids, finding parts of me in her
face. The green eyes. The sparse
brows. Tonight is Christmas Eve,
and she will ask my dad to pray over
the meal even though they haven’t
been married for years, even though
we never pray, her wifely duties
a phantom itch that resurfaces
in his presence, like the years I played
my part – kissed men who wanted me
with no thought of if I wanted
them. This year is the first time
I’ve brought someone home.

My future wife sits in the living room.
You both just look so normal, my mom
had once said. Which one of you
cooks? Who pays when you go out?
I’d tried to explain a world without
such rules. But how to explain
this unlearning? When I’m done

with her makeup, she disappears
into her closet. Returns with earrings
to complete the look. Admires,
for a moment, her reflection. I bet
no one will notice, she says. Then
walks back out to the kitchen to finish
making dinner.

+ + +

Self Portrait as a Hayley Kiyoko Music Video
                                                    After Danez Smith

I wear Hawaiian shirts. Not ironically. Not dad-
on-vacation style, but Lesbian Jesus style – impossibly
suave, the V of the unbuttoned fabric framing
my sports bra, hibiscus flowers rippling in the breeze.

It’s California, so the weather is always sunset
lighting, perfect for bomber jackets and slight
head nods to girls across the room, whole
conversations shared in the longing of a stare.

Girls are always meeting in bathrooms, not to fix
makeup or gossip, but to lick the salt off
each other’s necks, mouth desire there
like secrets that break against the shore
of skin again and again.

A swagger of women dance. They conjure
the swoon from each other’s hips with just a smirk,
know how to touch a woman but make her wait
for it, tease the air between them until she’s dizzy
with wanting.

There is always a pool table, perfect
for dancing against with a girl
I never kissed but wanted
to. Here, I don’t even wait for the closet
of a bathroom. Here, I kiss her in the living
room, right there in the open
where everyone can see.

+ + +

Header image courtesy of Bo Bartlett. To view more of his work, visit his site here.

Caroline Earleywine teaches high school English in Central Arkansas where she tries to convince teenagers that poetry is actually cool. She was a semi-finalist for Nimrod’s 2018 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Legendary, Words Dance, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Queens University in Charlotte and lives in Little Rock with her wife and two dogs.

 

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Poetry Suite by Angel Kofsky https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-by-angel-kofsky/ Mon, 25 Feb 2019 13:00:17 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=17376 Poetry by Angel Kofsky + + + Sundried Caesura Somewhere over the rainbow way up high… If I could be a song I would want to be my favorite song, so I would be Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I’d be sung by Pink, my favorite singer, because Pink sings like the slow realization the whole […]

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Poetry by Angel Kofsky

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Sundried Caesura

Somewhere over the rainbow
way up high…

If I could be a song
I would want to be my favorite song, so
I would be Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
I’d be sung by Pink, my favorite singer,
because Pink sings like the slow realization
the whole rest of the world knows how
to be happy in ways she never will
and, in this, Pink is the color
of every sunrise, Pink fills the gaps, lining all my dark
clouds and ‘she’
is the color of everything I wish
I learned to love in myself.

I used to fall in love with every woman
I dreamt I might’ve grown up to be
And, in a world less black and white,
I might have loved me, too,
but there is no room for bi in this world of binaries
and the cult of man has always so savored
its pastime of cracking open a boy with the cold ones,
so I grew up to be a played-out poetry trope, cliché
held together by a murky maritime metaphor,
          which is to say:
My ribcage is an ocean of butterfly tears
drowning in their own stardust,
a mouthless caterpillar
who might mill the bitter milkweed it was given
into something sweeter than poison if only it ever knew how,
but no one ever wanted to hear a sea shanty about butterfly tears.
Instead, I learn the song of swallowed tongues,
          which is to say:
My ex fiancé said she could never love a bi man
and even gay men love me better
when I croon them cis and straight, so
I cut my vocal chords
until they bled the way a boy is meant to
and oh, how I bled for them
with their scalpel hands and bone saw bodies
cutting out all the softest parts of me
and putting me back together
into something they could stomach the sound of.

When I was eight years old,
I read the story of the Chimera. I thought
same.
Isn’t it amazing how we are everything at once?
How we do not feel the need to choose
between the lion, the lizard, and the lamb,
and for this they call us disaster
omen and fire breath
as quickly as they call us myth.

My whole life since
I’ve wanted to write us a new verse,
sing a love song to our queer and broken,
but I always seem to get stuck on the last note
it gets caught on all the shame stuffed down my
throat by every hand that failed to love me.
I choke.
Our acapella comes out silent,
this stuttering sobbing breath
and in this all too familiar moment
I hate myself in all the ways they taught me I should.

But there is a place
with ears that love to listen
far from the two worlds who tell me I am nothing
so long as I choose to be everything
and though I have not found it yet,
one day,
far from this city, somewhere
above the chimney tops
where troubles melt like lemon drops

that’s where you’ll find me.

+ + +

Sepideh

Deep-sea masters of disguise, the cuttlefish
is the queerest fish I know,
shifting textures and shades
to match the safest places in their environments
and I don’t think they get enough praise
for how wildly unique they are.

For instance, when kept in captivity,
most aquariums have something they call
“cuttlefish enrichment hour”
during which strange objects and puzzles are introduced
to the tank to keep their comically large brains occupied
because if they don’t, and I am not making it up
they will develop ‘cuttlefish depression’
which is like regular depression, but cuter
and with more tentacles.

Despite looking much like a squid
and having a similar ink-based defense,
the cuttlefish never evolved out of their shells,
only, instead of cowering inside, cuttlefish shells hide
just beneath the surface of their skin, like a suit of armor
no one else knows you are wearing,
but you very much are, so you drift,
you float
appearing to be all seafloor and softness
while under it all
you have buried the hardest part of you
so deep inside of your body
you could never come out of your shell
even if you wanted to.

I read in a book once
about how a male cuttlefish
has four sets of tentacles
while a female only has three;
In the presence of a dangerous male, male
cuttlefish will hide two tentacles
binding and tucking them out of sight
to mask their ‘true’ gender
thereby avoiding any possible confrontation
and when I think about how quickly
a bathroom stall could turn into a bar-fight
I have never identified more
with something so small.
Isn’t it always going to be easier that way?

Most days
I try to blend into the background
pretend to be whatever I think
will keep me alive that day,
I tuck
all the dangerous parts of me
close to my chest,
perform a gender that covers
my most vulnerable places
so only safe people will see. I hide
behind a wall of ink. It says I must be a soft thing
– how good I have become at hiding –
but when the nights are empty
I tangle myself, touch-hungry and desperate,
around every strange experience that slips in,
I unravel
people like puzzle boxes,
governed by a single
all-consuming mantra:

Survive.

+ + +

La Croix

Descriptions of what La Croix actually tastes like:

          Like a Sprite laughed into a paper bag two weeks ago

          Seltzer water, but bottled on a Halloween
where everyone dressed up as mangoes

          Like someone took a sip out of it
while delivering the eulogy for a grape

          Going on a date with a peach,
then finding out they voted Republican

          Orange, but like, Donald Trump Orange

I’m lying in bed
writing descriptions for a product
famous for tasting like soda with the volume turned down
trying to figure out how to explain my feelings about my
gender and I just don’t get it,
how someone handed out bottles of fruit scented hairspray,
told us these were refreshing beverages
and everybody just ran with it.

I’m in a coffee shop
trying to explain to an irate hipster
how their favorite soda isn’t quite for me,
only to be treated to a lecture about ‘having an adult
pallet’ and ‘giving things another try,’
meanwhile, somewhere,
someone like me is on a date with a Georgia peach
finding out they are homophobic.
A pastor takes a sip out of me
while delivering the eulogy for a boy.
An orange-skinned man pours legislation
down the back of my throat, all as my hand is filled with a can
of something artificial
trying to convince me it tastes like strawberries
because some lab coat in a sterile room slapped that label on it
and if you ask me, they all taste the same.

None of this is to say you can’t enjoy your favorite soda,
but there are so many other flavors to choose from
and the beauty of autonomy is in how the same freedom
which allows you to celebrate your love
of the first flavor you ever tried
also allows me to choose.

So you can drink La Croix, while I drink water.
I can eat my steak rare, while you eat your steak
medium
or you can even choose not to ruin
a perfectly good cut of meat
and become a vegetarian, or a vegan:
those are so in right now! Factory farming, it sucks.
My point is, for me,
the word ‘man’ has always tasted like a heart
with the volume turned down
and also,

La Croix tastes like fucking hairspray.

+ + +

A Reclamation of October 31st

Long ago
on Samhain
it was said the spirits of the dead
return to inhabit the places
they were once meant to live,
and so, what better day than this
for the drowned ghost
of a queer southern Baptist
to return to their body.

At first glance
nothing looks as it should
and I get the feeling
I am no longer welcome here,
but you and the rest of your party
seem to have made yourselves comfortable
wrecking the place,
stomping around my insides,
renaming all my furniture,
you paint over all the hints of pink
in my nursery
all the while asserting
my kind are the ones
made of stormy night violence
and thunderclap howls

When I finally make myself known
you tell me you don’t believe in ghosts,
but I don’t recall asking you
and it’s Halloween, so
while you debate my existence
I will get to work.
These ghastly hands
will tear down all the words
you have decorated my home with:
snowflake, biological sex,
boy, and I will bleed
reclamation all over your baby blue wallpaper
when you call this a haunting,
as if I am the one who does not belong here,
I will stay strong,            as in
I will stay kind –
resist the urge to harvest tears for the salt,
to make a fist,
to prepare to battle the only monster I see.

Instead,
I will harvest flowers from the grave,
I will weave them into my hair, like an offering
from all the crumbling tombstones
with the names written on wrong,
and once I am done
I will pick the dirt of you out from under my nails;
whisper spells into a cloud of sage
as I lace up my favorite dress in the dark,
and you, the coward, the wolf in sheep’s clothing
will tremble with fear
like I am preparing for a doling out of justice
that tastes like a reckoning
and I assure you,
I am,
but when the clock strikes three
and you speak my dead name
three times into the bathroom mirror
I will not come for you…

I will come for me.
Offer myself a spectral hand
that says our banshee blast
has always been a salvation,
a keening song for all that has been lost,
and a reminder how we
like joy, like rebellion
like all the other invisible things
which will not be erased,
are not beautiful because we have been sanctioned,
but because we continue to exist
even after we are told we are not allowed to.

Maybe someone should have warned you
how every pen and page is our phylactery,
how people like us
with our poltergeist tongues
with our voices a rattle of chains
can write ourselves back into our own skins
just as quickly as you move to take them from us,
our words, a lich cauldron truth
that will outlive your ignorance,
so even if you try to kill us over and over
and over
and over
our stories will rise from their graves
and we will flood the streets
with the bodies of those who refuse to die.

Because a body is nothing
if not a home belonging to spirit,
and we do not need your permission
to be here.

+ + +

Header image courtesy of Matthieu Bourel. To view his artist feature, go here.

2018 JavaSpeaks Grandslam Champion, Angel Kofsky is a nonbinary poet based out of Atlanta, GA, who recently embarked on their first out of state tour. Angel started writing poetry at the tender age of 10 after a battle with a severe illness forced them to come to grips with their mortality. Unable to relate to other children, who weren’t due their first existential crisis for another 10-20, Angel found solace in the secret world of poetry. Kofsksy’s work on stage has been described as “raw, open, honest, and deeply vulnerable,” and through sharing it they hope to create resonance, and help people feel like they are not as hopeless or alone as they feel.

“Growing up queer in the Bible belt could be so isolating. I was taught not to question anything, while I was a mess of questions with answers I was told were all ‘sin.’ No one should have to feel that broken, wicked, or alone, but the beautiful thing is: I wasn’t, and we aren’t.”

Insta: @angelkofsky
Web: Facebook.com/angelkofsky

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Poetry Suite by Robert Lashley https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-by-robert-lashley-4/ Mon, 11 Feb 2019 13:00:26 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=17355 Poetry by Robert Lashley + + + Homie Didn’t See The Wheel: Diary Of A Set Up. (I mess with Ezekiel again) The brat packer’s baggie is an invisible eclipse, a bag of invisible spirits, a tribunal transparent, yet opaque in drive through corner dope lanes, a blind god of wilderness always two feet away […]

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Poetry by Robert Lashley

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Homie Didn’t See The Wheel: Diary Of A Set Up.
(I mess with Ezekiel again)

The brat packer’s baggie
is an invisible eclipse,
a bag of invisible spirits,
a tribunal transparent, yet opaque
in drive through corner dope lanes,
a blind god of wilderness
always two feet away
yet perilously
perilously close.

Through its white shadow
(from the face arc of the ground)
the bus stop pole unearths
from the gravel to the sky
and the boot expands
to a dirigible
distances from the corner
to home
become unmeasurable
the slick polo sophomore
is a cruel hipster Solomon
and there is no one to plead
in the gravel.
                       Not mine
                                      that one
 Spread em! Ground! Now!
            Head to your shoulder bone
    In the gravel
    Then your shoulder to your knee bone
    Broke down
    Then your knee to your thigh bone
    Broke together
    Then your knee to your thigh bone
    Broke down
                        Round up
                                      lock down
Up state! Do time! Done time!
(This letter sets forth the full and complete plea offer to your client)
Your
(hereinafter referred to as “your client” or “defendant”),
               Boy
from the Special Counsel’s Office (hereinafter also referred to as “the Government” or “this Office”).
                            Is
(hereinafter also referred to as “the Government” or “this Office.” This plea offer expires)
                                                Sons of God, will dead bones live?
                                                Your rattles above the valley lead
                                                to overflows. Breaths, prophesied
                                                by winds of sunken idols are elusive
                                                in the shadow of your weaponries.
                                                Your commands turn to rattlings,
                                                turn to graves yet unopened
                                                as skies and spirits are cracked,
                                                as dead bones become alive
                                                and live bones start dying
                                                in memory’s unrelenting gleam.
                                                The last shall be the first in remembered
                                                fate, the dope baggies’ arc
                                                turned lasting dope trauma dream.
                                                Vision fails amid things unseen
                                                and spirit’s words give no salve.
                                                Bones will inter, but will prayers raise?
                                                Sons of god, will dead bones live?

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To The Proud Boy Cop Who Harasses Me At Freightouse Square

You and I, blood, are both down at the river.
I’ll go, yes, but then they’ll get you.
Your blind god brought my body. Your Caesar
delivered in new codes and old torches that skew
toward oblivion and its sets of convex mirrors.
Your Heaven is a two-headed hydra that spews
blood the deluded mistake for angel dusts.

Call on your blood, but blood won’t keep you.
Call on your rocks, but rocks wont hide you
as you dream of my head for your freedoms,
as you mistake the ropes that your see as robes
dipped in mixture of upturned soils,
as you clean the white linen of second lives
in your mind, (your dream saint exit),
as you dream of Eden’s paved over pasts
under north stars too distant slivers,
as you command to blur all slave and free
while people and cars start to circle
you at my head, in your troll city city sweeps
that break, but can never blow
our shared bones, the interred uniforms
your blind god deemed expendable
and your Caesar made perversely new.
You and I, blood, are both down by that river
I’ll go, yes, but then they’ll get you.

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Landscape With Aunt Virginia, After She Smacked The Shit Out a Nigga For Macking at Women At A Funeral.
(After Antigone’s first monologue)

Here is the comforter
who smacks the comforter
who smacks his lips
at the grieving girl, obvious
from four or fifty pews away.
            If this what the nigga thinking
then we shouldn’t have placed his ass there,
not even asked the nigga to come.
He made his choice to wear them plaid pants, not wash his ass
and slobber on that young girl.
He can be what the fuck he wants away from my babies
but we got to bury this boy, and if he must
come here looking like his Zulu name
is “Kehemet with the fake gold chain neck.”
then I will say this ass whipping is holy.
I shall lie down with the nigga in death
and make him as dear to me
as the porn and the MMA bill he puts in his baby’s name.

            It is the living
not the dead niggas, that make the longest demands, Bobby.
            Niggas die forever
but negroes do as they like
as the laws of god or love mean nothing to them.
in the scope of them getting some shit.

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Swanky Value Village Love Poem.

Old Jackets don’t fit, love. (but did they ever?)
Insignias and hats fade in the discount Judgements
of cyclical racks. Jerseys and spanks
contract arbitrarily, and scarfs hollow
without the heads that gave them meaning.
Age and price may dictate our shape,
but wherever you are is the boulevard.
My dear around-the-way girl,
dance with me by sale colors
time may erase all style to memory,
but the intercom is playing our song.

Outside us, rich scavengers
seek the trap, but not the twitch,
the thing without the something
that lingers beyond time.
(Ignore them and take my arms.
Sanity is a struggle for reliable forms
In our spaces sold as trauma and stupor.)

Let me adorn you a crown of price check rosaries.
Let my love be the alms that never signal
for without you, hoop hearings are just metal,
extensions just threads away from their orbit,
away from their center and star
so seek the reframe of an old globe
in the feeling of my hand.
Let them price to infinity
the posters and memories
that draped our departed walls.
Let them splice the hood
to the meridians of invisibility.
In my arms, you are never gone.
Take what is left in me,
take what you need
to go on if you can’t go home

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Header image courtesy of Kehinde Wiley. To view his artist feature, go here.

robert lashley poet writer2016 Jack Straw Fellow, Artist Trust Fellow, and nominee for a Stranger Genius Award, Robert Lashley has had poems published in such journals as Feminete, Seattle Review of Books, NAILED, Gramma, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, and The Cascadia Review. His work was also featured in Many Trails to the Summit , an anthology of Northwest form and lyric poetry, and It Was Written, an anthology of poetry inspired by hip hop. His full-length books include THE HOMEBOY SONGS (Small Doggies Press, 2014) and UP SOUTH (Small Doggies Press, 2017).

 

 

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