"What power is: the palm of a grasping hand, & the way I secretly want you to name me."

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BobSward's Writer's Friendship Series


Needto Know



Issue9: The Missing Body

Issue8: The Lily

Issue7: Passages

Issue6: No More Tears

A quick list to poets featured in this issue:

Quan Barry

Cal Bedient

Joshua Bell

Nadia Colburn

Carolina Ebeid

Odysseas Elytis

Nathalie Handal

Connie Hershey

Timothy Liu

Drago Stambuk

Franz Wright

Quan Barry

house fire as bildungsroman

The windows are the first things to break.

Cut to lightning. Cut to the cycles in the body. How Hajime took our picture
          in the Forbidden City, the wall so red & pleasing Mie stopped & cried,

After it’s out, you come back w/friends, empty boxes. Your life is every ocean on the moon—
          Mare, pocked & airless, dry.

When I woke up on the floor I saw the afterimage—the light smudged around the bulb,
          the whole bed in agony.

What would you take w/you?

Cut to a blackboard filled w/conjugations. Amo, amas, amat. I wanted to raise my hand & sing.
          Then I remembered the flames, my feet small & unprotected as brush. There was nothing
          else to do.

Did I say pocked & airless? Did I say dry?

The man who can’t talk. The girl who can’t see the painting of the young bride. My nephew,
          the aides deep in his ears. The ones who can’t move, the snapped stems
          of their spines.

O dark knowledge! O terrible glories!

Everything you are.


figurative poem as psychostasia

Or do we each draw a particular death—the spider web trembling in the window.

How my cartouche will read: small yellow boat; bird; bird.

When I die what part of me will become light as truth, a single ostrich plume?

& the spider web trembling in the window: each spun cell a portal—
          something to live through.

Let me believe in it all—infinity, pain, & the things we see in mirrors
          in dark rooms at night, the moon hermetic & shifting.

Will there be a reconfiguration? Will there be a papering over
          of names?

At the weighing of the soul, the heart is placed on a balance & everything is gleaned
          in profile, our stories painted on reeds.

So much wrong.

Small yellow boat; bird; bird.

& behind the ibis-headed recorder, the Devourer.

Scribe, what did I mean to me?


Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” as Infatuation

What is it about movement?

On the horizon, the growing wheel like something forged.

I want that feeling—the water’s eagerness to respond, to be touched
      as if stroked by feathers.

Because that moment is a living death—borderless, the light
      its own season, & because such things can only happen

What power is: the palm of a grasping hand, & the way I secretly want you
      to name me.

Or how once far away I woke up under it & wrapped myself in a sheet, the dirt floor
      bright & skittering, the night riddled w/satellites, w/things
      that can’t escape.

& at the same time my amazement—that I too could be lulled into dying, that this
      could be written on my body
      in such dark script.

The way I feel you in my sleep—face textured, cleft.

I saw it written & I saw it say:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Everything has to happen once before it can happen
      again & again.


Motif #1 as Location
                     Rockport, MA

This is what the afternoon said: content begets form.

The trick is to capture this in words—the shed’s doors covered
      w/lures, traps, ropes.

& the late summer sun over the eastern bluffs, the dune grass serrated & whipped,
      the sound like an insect swarm.

& the light glittering on the harbor, the shed’s clapboard siding
      seasonal, rusty.

The first time we met there was nothing to say—the way this fishing shack
      is its own image, which means I took you for the thing itself—
      hands like nets, the small scar at the corner of your eye.

What happens when the beginning of a story is no longer told?
      How did I come to feel this way?

Because this is what the afternoon said—the structure red & mythical,

When you think of me this winter, please think of me
      as a space.