The Country Dog Review

Fall 2010

Lightsey Darst

Femme Fatale

 

Later—as if we were our own again.

 

      Cut apart / then reassembled in the style

of a later decade—Klimt’s fin de siècle Vienna. You

were good—nodding head, arched fingers of a figurine,

fresh-lacquered & glossy in the light, your body’s hidden harp

      intoning sweet thing, darling. . .                There are poisons

 

in those perfume bottles. . .

See the caged girls as they contort and check

their watches / the cheap garter part of the fantasy

      like that bored mouth, loose writhe of everyone out this late—yes, you are

the smooth apple always willing (whatever

the cock-red mouth, the manners) on the branch

 

his broken strand of pearls

 

      And you have power: Judith with the head of

if you are willing to use it

while the music plays


Originally from Tallahassee, Lightsey Darst writes, dances, writes about dance, and teaches in Minneapolis. Her book Find the Girl was published by Coffee House Press in April 2010, and her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Minnesota State Arts Board. She also hosts the writing salon “The Works”.


***


Renee Emerson


 

Heber Springs, 1996

 

Full suspension

and the hands glide

forward

 

twin fish smooth

in the water.

 

Cold current

then a colder.

 

Strange lake

muck

when toes touch

bottom.

 

Lithe usefulness

of the body.

 

Weightless

like a child's, like

a child's loved.

 

To swim is to want

to live,

head above water.


Renee Emerson has her M.F.A. from Boston University. She has published in Big Muddy, Tar River Poetry, The American Literary Review, and Crate, among others. Her chapbook, Something Like Flight (Sargent Press 2010) was released this past February and can be purchased at www.somethinglikeflight.wordpress.com.


***


Mark DeCarteret


The Routine


You’re inspecting me for ticks again,

their body-specks thrilled with my blood,

these asterisks reminding my skin

how it was made for many meanings.

All morning I had gorged on the sun

where the grass had forgotten its stance

giving in first to mud and then thicket before

seeing to where the berries filled up on themselves.

Now I look six with my socks like this, 

like I’m somehow diminished, this hoax,

your fingers having found me out again,

legitimizing my place while they dwell on me

till I’m left to myself and that recovery of feeling—

the other poison of not having anything made of me.  


Mark DeCarteret’s work has appeared in AGNI, Boston Review, Chicago Review, Conduit, Cream City Review, The Del Sol Review, Hotel Amerika , Killing the Buddha, Mudfish, New Orleans Review, Third Coast, and elsewhere, as well as the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press), Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader (Black Sparrow Press) and Under the Legislature of Stars—62 New Hampshire Poets (Oyster River Press) which he also co-edited.  Last year he was selected as Portsmouth New Hampshire’s seventh Poet Laureate. 



***

Andrew Kozma


Illusionment

 

                …men do not really look like trees at all…

                                                ~Newly-sighted girl, quoted by Annie Dillard in “Seeing”

 

There’s no such thing as beauty.

Whose hands entomb my waist?

Snow is a rain of feathers

until the backdrop is lowered.

 

Whose hands entomb my waist?

I, too, am descriptionless

until the backdrop is lowered.

Before, there was no darkness.

 

I, too, am descriptionless.

Please, close my eyes.

Before, there was no darkness.

They said they gave me eyes.

 

Please, close my eyes.

Snow is a rain of feathers.

They said they gave me eyes.

There’s no such thing as beauty.


Andrew Kozma received his M.F.A. from the University of Florida and his Ph.D. in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston.  His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Zoland Poetry, Subtropics, AGNI Online, Comstock Review, Quiddity, and a non-fiction piece has been published by The Iowa Review.  His first book of poems, City of Regret, won the Zone 3 First Book Award and was released in 2007.




***


Teresa Leo


Virginia Farm Haunting

 

             In memory of Sarah Hannah

 

Just when I thought I could take it,

put it away,

 

find some esophageal strength

to swallow it down,

 

her scarred image breaks through—

it can’t just rest

 

in the trachea, the back of the throat,

it has to rear up and swoop down

 

the way the hawk after last night’s rain

intended to grasp something running in the field,

 

but the field I see is charred and black;

even the cows are missing,

 

maybe loaded into trucks

to herd and wander elsewhere.

 

I’m left at this window in the barn

to watch the imperceptible blades

 

trying to push through again,

but know they’ll only get so far,

 

not even to the surface, let alone

to the compound’s wooden gate.

 

What tree could honor her?

Catalpa, dogwood, maple—

 

none could rise up far enough

to reach what’s left

 

of the dark, dark sky.

At home I could plant flowers,

 

perennials that double their presence

by coming back year after year,

 

gathering force in winter

to break spring’s hard ground.

 

But I’m here, the place

where we first met,

 

and I look perhaps too closely

at each mockingbird or blue-tailed skink,

 

the dragonfly that hovers

at the picnic table

 

as briefly as a slap across the face

brings blood beneath the skin

 

to one place, then retreats

without a trace. Suddenly

 

the field is green again,

the cows back at the fence.

 

Tonight, I’ll wait by the gazebo for her

long after everyone goes to sleep.

 

Each tree makes its futile attempt,

in every turning leaf I hear her name.


Teresa Leo is the author of a book of poems, The Halo Rule (Elixir Press, 2008), winner of the Elixir Press Editors’ Prize. Her poetry and essays have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Women’s Review of Books, New Orleans Review, Barrow Street, The Florida Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. She has been a resident at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Vermont Studio Center, and has received fellowships from the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, the Leeway Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She works at the University of Pennsylvania.



***


Jason Mccall


 

Job Description for Potential Hero Applicants

 

It’s temp work, really, no benefits

or schedules. At any time, we may discontinue

 

our offerings to the gods or build a computer

that will surely go rogue and threaten humanity.

 

You will not be consulted on these decisions,

but we expect you to respond to them immediately.

 

It can be hard, but you’re an orphan—

more likely than not—so roughing

 

it shouldn’t be anything new.

If the forest is safe and that weird

 

cloud does not turn out to be an alien

assault armada, don’t expect to hear from us.

 

We’ll keep your name on file, though, scribble

it on neighborhood walls in case

 

anyone needs a hydra removed on short notice.

And if a job comes along and you manage

 

to save our town with your army

of gadgets you haul from quest

 

to quest because only full time

members of society have storage privileges,

 

we will give you a pat on the back

with the same hand we reserve for garbage

 

men and janitors. We don’t value you enough

to offer you a stable position, but don’t give up.

 

Keep that sword strapped to your back;

keep waiting for us to remember your name.

Jason Mccall is from the great state of Alabama, where he currently teaches English and Literature at the University of Alabama. He holds an MFA from the University of Miami, and his poetry has been or will be featured in The Los Angeles Review, Cimarron Review, New Letters, Mythic Delirium, Fickle Muses and other journals.


***


Jake Ricafrente

 

Fayette County, Texas

 

Past the bale-stippled fields beside

71; the roadside stall

Where clover honey and bread-

And-butter pickles, vacuum-sealed in Ball

Jars, are sold; and the red

Barn at the Frerich family farm—the leaves from the tall

Pecans on my mother’s father’s mother’s land have died.

 

Conveniently, I conclude. Inside, she tells

Me, per usual, pulling out two sets

Of dominoes to play,

How much I’ve grown. “My little…”—she forgets

So many things these days,

But smiles as if to say, Such as it is, or, Let’s

Move on. She offers a cinnamon roll, which smells

 

Of Southern self-indulgence—lard,

Brown sugar, and butter—but then she serves me

Shit-on-shingles, pan

Gravy on toast. It isn’t breakfast, though we

Act like it is: a man

And forebear playing little games. When she moves, her knee

Crepitates, sounds like a neighbor raking up his yard

 

Or an old-fashioned rub-board. The pips

Aren’t adding up. So “Maybe tic-tac-toe

Instead?”— a game with rules

She can remember: an X and then an O

In turns until she fools

Me with a win, then four, then sixteen in a row.

“Seen Alma lately?” I ask. She licks her waxen lips.

 

 “Came Friday.” The words come especially slow.

It’s late and the sun is setting behind

Some nearby cypresses.

She says she misses everyone and wouldn’t mind

Seeing me more. She presses

A letter into my hand. It’s clear. In games, we find

The terms: bones, rules, and a neatly penned xoxo.

Jake Ricafrente holds an MFA from The Johns Hopkins University and is pursuing a PhD at Texas Tech University as a Chancellor's Fellow. He will spend the next year in residence at the

University of the Philippines as a Rotary Scholar. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cincinnati Review, South Carolina Review, Barrow Street, and elsewhere. His work will be included in the Best New Poets 2010 anthology.


***


David Salner


For Ralph Dickey in the City of Poets

 

You came from the Motor City, driving a T-bird off the line,

arriving in Iowa, in the city of poets. At your first party,

you played jazz on the piano and wore a derby. Afterward,

 

we walked outside—two city boys, the small-town night.

The drunken halos of the street lamps—Van Gogh moons—

buzzed on and on, on that still street, lined with parked cars,

 

sleeping poets, and the spot where the T-Bird should have been

left empty by the repo man. “I made that car, and yet”—

you paused, deadpan—“They expected me to pay for it.”

 

In San Francisco, you lived in a warehouse with a roll-down door,

put a chair on the sidewalk, read novels in the original German.

I’d stop off after work on the docks, and you’d show me

 

the translation of Celan you’d been polishing for years—

and a poem with a story too dark for me to understand.

When they shut off your lights, you worked by the sun, such as it was.

 

When the rent ran out, you put your notebook under your arm

and tipped your derby, like you were getting ready

for something easy. They found you on a park bench in the East Bay,

 

no T-bird, no jazz, only that line from Celan: the black milk.


David Salner received an MFA from the University of Iowa then worked for 25 years as an iron ore miner, furnace tender, and machinist. His second book, Working Here, won the Rooster Hill Press 2010 competition and is now available. His poems have appeared in recent or forthcoming issues of The Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Fourth River, and Innisfree Poetry Journal. He lives in Frederick MD with his wife, Barbara Greenway, a high school English teacher.

***



John L. Stanizzi


 

Mock Crash


                       

    VLADIMIR:

                                That he'd have to think it over..

                                …Before taking a decision.

    ESTRAGON:

                                It's the normal thing.

    VLADIMIR:

                                Is it not?

    ESTRAGON:

                                I think it is.

    VLADIMIR:

                                I think so too.

 

    Silence.

 

                                Samuel Becket, Waiting for Godot

 

 

If you're capable of believing

in a God who knows all,

sees all, plans all,

quaquaquaquaquaqua

then you're capable

of believing this:

I saw Him practice once

before taking a decision.

 

7:40 a.m.

Two cars placed together

head on

in front of the school,

members of the Drama Guild inside,

flopped, drooped,

lollygagging

made up with theater blood,

rubber scars.

 

The alarm sounds

this sunny May morning

and the entire student body,

a little groggy,

vaguely interested,

is traipsed outside to watch.

 

Police cars bolt to the school,

all lights and noise,

followed by two ambulances,

tires wailing.

 

The students move in a little closer,

interest turning to fascination                       

as the actors,

playing hurt,

playing dead,

are removed from the broken cars

by the Jaws of Life.

Then the snarl of Life Star

kicks up sand, candy wrappers,

discarded assignments.

One actor is placed in the chopper,

two in the ambulances.

 

Then amid the dust,

the chafed voices of walkie-talkies,

the whole frenetic display,

a hearse comes slithering in

black and shiny,

slow and silent,

glides up to the actor

placed on the pavement

and covered with a blanket.

He has hit his mark perfectly

and is absolutely motionless.

They place him on a stretcher,

slide him into the hearse.

Later, someone would say

they heard Matt whisper to Chuckie

Sucks to be him.

 

The students are then herded

into the damp auditorium

to watch the faces of dead kids

projected on a screen

while their sobbing mothers

beg the audience

for the implausibility of caution.

 

Next morning.

 

7:40 a.m.

Two cars smashed together

head on

in front of the school,

four kids inside,

flopped, drooped,

bloody.

 

The alarm sounds

on this sunny May morning

and the entire student body,

a little groggy,

barely notices

as another day in high school

grinds to a start.

 

Police cars bolt to the school,

all lights and noise,

followed by two ambulances,

tires wailing.

 

Danny runs into my room.

“Mr. Staniz, did you hear that crash?

It sounded nasty.”

 

My interest turns to fascination.

Outside, kids and teachers

are running to the front of the school

where the Jaws of Life are.

 

Then the snarl of Life Star

kicks up sand, candy wrappers,

yesterday’s memories.

One kid is placed in the chopper,

two in the ambulances.

 

Then amid the dust,

the anxious voices of walkie-talkies,

the whole fantastic affair,

death comes slithering in

black and shiny,

slow and silent,

glides up to the kid

placed on the pavement

and covered with a blanket.

He has been hit perfectly

and is absolutely motionless.

He has slipped away.

It’s Matt.

 

The faces of dead kids

are projected in my mind,

their sobbing mothers

begging for the implausibility of caution,

as the last words

I think about Matt saying

flicker over and over

on the dark screen of my memory.