Self-Portrait as Coral Reef
I’ve sunk down to the depths of the blue,
a little corpse drowned eons ago when my head
was forced under. The air burst from my lungs
and my stinging eyes were glued shut.
Millennia have passed since I’ve succumbed
to the tides, and with them the land masses
have shifted, the waves rock the world
in a nightly lullaby, and yet here I am still, and
I haven’t moved an inch. But my skeleton is no tragedy,
where I lie is no graveyard. Tear open my cages
and find in my crevasses and deepest recesses
that I am teeming with life in its most beautiful forms.
Fish of all shapes and sizes swim through what once
was my nose and behind my eyes, raise their families
in my bountiful lungs. The starfish attach themselves
to my ancient skull, kissing me daily and whispering
their thanks. An octopus coils his many tentacles
around my pelvis, looking for whelks and krill to feast on.
My arms are eternally outstretched—give me your lost
and your homeless, oh Mother, let them find in me a haven.
I want to build planets inside me, and layer my deadened bones
in softest beauty, in color, in life, forever and ever.
Wanda Deglane is a freshman at Arizona State University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Her poetry has been published on Dodging the Rain, r.kv.r.y, and Spider Mirror, and is forthcoming from Porridge Magazine and elsewhere. She is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants and lives with her huge family in Glendale, Arizona. When she isn’t writing, she paints and spends time with her dog, Princess Leia.
an all so cancer
—of course, my inky angel. it’s really surgery.
who made the world have time? but we love you;
the horizon’s just an old blue morning
on the decay: the spangle of song in the air,
the wind crawling to smoke the newspaper birds.
so work, how to be building sizzling objects
or a lost churn. you can’t take your things into the new:
the season of a purr, not the forest
of butter and the country west of your pills.
the lightning clouds close in the gods
and the presidents of conversations.
i want to be while i am dreams
across the sunset night.
you’re a cat with cancer,
and all was a little place, you say.
B.J. Best is the author of three books and four chapbooks of poetry—most recently, Yes (Parallel Press, 2014). He lives in Wisconsin. His poem is a collaboration with torch-rnn, a neural network library that writes words one character at a time. The neural network was trained on Best’s own body of work from the past twenty years. The resulting poems, therefore, are his own writing rewritten by a computer, then edited by Best. Torch-rnn was created by Justin Johnson, based on work by Andrej Karpathy. It lives on GitHub.
Not as a Sheriff
On a line by Sandra Simonds*
The way I love you is not as a sheriff
who could round you up, lock you away
for safekeeping. The way I love you
is not as a preacher, ready with a sermon
or even forgiveness, and not
as a mechanic who could make things
run more smoothly. Not as a gardener,
a spray of blossoms in my hand
like a flimsy apology.
The way I love you is not as a rock.
I’ve never been that certain of anything.
And not as a house that can give you
shelter, a window that lets you look
in or out. The way I love you
is not as a road that knows where
it’s going or what it’s left behind.
I love you like a dream you’ve forgotten
we’re in, light knifing through the canopy,
rain drumming on corrugated tin. I love you
like an hourglass, a needle, a flame,
a whim to which you’re suddenly inclined,
a taste of fruit, familiar but strange,
a tune you can’t get out of your mind.
*“The way I love you is not as a sheriff…” from “Poetry is Stupid and I Want to Die” by Sandra Simonds, American Poetry Review, Vol. 43, No. 5.
Antonia Clark has published a chapbook, Smoke and Mirrors, and a full-length poetry collection, Chameleon Moon. Her poems and short stories have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including The Cortland Review, The Missouri Review, The Pedestal Magazine, and Rattle. A medical writer and editor, she has also taught poetry and fiction writing and manages an online poetry forum, The Waters. A logophile, Francophile, and oenophile, she spends her days using words like schistosomiasis and supraventricular, and her nights sipping Côtes du Rhône and playing French café music on a sparkly purple accordion.