Monday, April 12, 2021

OMOTUNDE OREDIPE—"IF I DON'T DIE." (Issue 21)

IF I DON'T DIE

News reaches us of men burning

at home. The police disperse

the crowd with tear gas and bullets.

We have all seen the footage. I can

still smell the fear, that Saturday afternoon

when the air crackled as the rifles chorused.

My father told me that during the war

the children were told to dive into the

gutters if the ground tremored or planes

roared overhead. I imagine my father

in a ditch somewhere, his skinny arms

flat in front of him, his nose in the dust,

as I hold my own breath under the bed,

in the dimming light of the guestroom.

Father Lord, If I don’t die

I promise to tell daddy about the TV stand I broke.

Amen.


 

ABOUT THE POET 

Omotunde Oredipe was born and raised in Lagos and studied at South Carolina State University, where he served as the Poet Laureate (2016–2017) and founded the Poetry & Ideas Organization. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, The Southampton Review, and The Carolina Quarterly.

 

ABOUT SUGAR HOUSE REVIEW 

We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

JOHN GALLAHER—"THE PERFORMANCE (ARCHITECTURE 28)" (Issue 21)

THE PERFORMANCE (ARCHITECTURE 28)

Mother. Noun. My mother died piece by piece. It took
a decade. And now I get a replacement, going through adoption records.
“Better not fuck this up,” I tell myself, because I think I’m funny,
which means I’m always apologizing and realizing I’m not so funny,
like how I walked into the dance studio just now
to say hi to Robin and Natalie before the high school football game,
and without taking the temperature of the room, which only
occurred to me later to imagine, I made some comment
about Natalie’s dance makeup, which turns out to be
just the thing she and Robin had been stressing over an hour,
because makeup, for halftime dancers, is ¾ of the world,
and I just blundered in with “Ew” or “Ugh,” funny dad,
look how funny I am, and so Natalie leaves saying “I hate you”
and Robin won’t talk to me. And I know this. And what the fuck
is wrong with you, in this town, in this world, saying “ew”
about this makeup that she didn’t want to wear in the first place,
but the dancers have to wear the makeup the theme committee
comes up with, and The Incredibles is stupid, of course it is, yes,
everyone knows that, but to say so is—we must not say so
and why didn’t I already know that, why do I continually
not know that? I’m trying to think here. Let me think.

I’m sitting in the stands with Robin. It’s halftime. The dance team
takes the field, performs. Natalie has a trick where she
stiff-arm rolls forward and then flips over the backs of two
other dancers who lean forward. After, she comes up
to where we’re sitting to say hi, and she’s all smiles.
“I usually slip the first time I do that trick,” she says.
“And I didn’t slip in practice, so I thought for sure I would
then. But I didn’t.” And so everything is fine. Ha. Funny joke,
this shape we take, as water takes shape, that we rise to
and fill. As all the years there ever were are right now.

 

ABOUT THE POET 

John Gallaher’s most recent collection of poetry is Brand New Spacesuit (BOA, 2020). Recent poems appear in American Poetry Review, The Missouri Review, Crazyhorse, Pleiades, and elsewhere. He lives in rural Missouri and co-edits The Laurel Review.

 

ABOUT SUGAR HOUSE REVIEW 

We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

KATHLEEN LOE—"CIRCLE OF TEETH" (Issue 21)

CIRCLE OF TEETH

who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s heart when
caught and tangled in a woman’s body?

—Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”

come summer, mama’s home
and all shoes are off
she sets our roving borders
according to risk
and then she sets us free—
west to the tracks and east
to deep creek, no crossing blind
highway of course and no one
goes past jubilee’s.

i’m too skinny, but i’m fast
and hate to be asked
where i’m going, escaping
on my spider’s legs across
the blistering blacktop
cutting my un-calloused soles
on the rocks to the woods—
dense sentries of loblolly pines
with a thousand thin fingers to point.

summer-heated resin singes
my hair—its hot scent hangs
in the piney lunes i squeeze
through, lugging smuggled
volumes of saved-up-for sonnets
and a column of crispy saltines,
into the shaded, quiet, clicking
of insects unseen—private
orchestra of the understory, invisible
witness to my hidden weather.

alone in the family
of the fallen cones, i lay
my circle of their dark blunt
teeth, their emptied skin
paused on my palm—
let them keep their lion’s share
of light, these are my scattered
shards, falling all around me
like spells—my thin skin cools
and encircled unseen, i read
until the twilight echo of mama’s
car horn calls us home.
the tiny flare of her lit cigarette draws
its slow arc in the darkening driveway.


ABOUT THE POET 

Kathleen Loe is a poet and visual artist living in Hudson, NY. She teaches poetry at the The Writers Studio, Hudson Branch. Having grown up in one house, in one small town in the deep South, a desire for change has been a big feature of her life: she has moved 32 times, and the resulting discoveries, chaos, and longing for home are at the center of her work.

 

ABOUT SUGAR HOUSE REVIEW 

We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

JOHN SIBLEY WILLIAMS—"THE MOON IS TWO HALF-MOONS JOINED TOGETHER" (Issue 21)

THE MOON IS TWO HALF-MOONS JOINED TOGETHER

Her body still // yoked to histories retold // so often even her great
grandmother, who lived it, cannot // remember the river’s name she
// crossed to get here. Tigris. Rio Grande. Euphrates. How the men
& more // men & when the men were done, they’d touch finger to
forehead to chest to shoulder & zip up their flies. How sometimes
the world // works like that. The bullet passes right // through & on
the other side another // language to learn, another god to // feed, &
a child that wears half your face. Try not to take it // as a sign, how
they see // you, momma says. The books the kids don’t read don’t
mention it. This name. That first name. The constellations it takes to
turn // sky into map. How boys still // rock-paper-scissor their way
to cruelty, which hurts // less than their taking her // as white, which
at least means they love // what they see. & a red clay stain that once
was a river.

 

ABOUT THE POET 

John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize), and Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize). A twenty-three-time Pushcart nominee and winner of various awards, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review, teaches for Literary Arts, and is a poetry agent. JohnSibleyWilliams.com

 

ABOUT SUGAR HOUSE REVIEW 

We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

MICHAEL MARK—"IF I SAY, THE BUTTERFLY IS BEAUTIFUL, DAD," (Issue 21)

IF I SAY, THE BUTTERFLY IS BEAUTIFUL, DAD,

he’ll say, it’s a bug.

If I say it likes him,
he’ll say, who needs friends?

If I say, once it was a caterpillar,
he’ll say, next it’ll be dead.

If I say, it’s a symbol of change,
he’ll inch his butt to the bench’s edge,

rock back and forth, back and forth,
like the physical therapists taught him

to get momentum, to stand safely,
then after three settling breaths

he’ll turn and start shuffling
towards the car.

If he’s feeling steady enough, if
the breeze isn’t too hard, he might

spread wide those bony elbows
look back at me

and flap them.

 

ABOUT THE POET 

Michael Mark’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Arkansas International, Copper Nickel, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pleiades, The Southern Review, The New York Times, The Sun, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Waxwing, The Poetry Foundation’s American Life in Poetry series, and other lovely places. MichaelJMark.com

 

ABOUT SUGAR HOUSE REVIEW 

We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

NATALIE LOUISE TOMBASCO—"DONUT SHOP PANTOUM" (Issue 21)

DONUT SHOP PANTOUM

“It’s a sad day,” the counter girl says, “we’re all out.”
But even on National Donut Day it don’t matter to me; sticky
sweet goes down like a jagged pill without water. The orange
of this place—Golden Gate Bridge, persimmon—a pigment

of anguish. A national holiday? I’m here only to rhyme dough
with Rimbaud, to be alone with Mrs. Butterworth & styrofoam.
The cash-only sign’s color is that of Carrot Top, Mario Batali’s Crocs.
I never read The Odyssey, but I think I get the gist

as I swim alone in a sea of styrofoam & high-fructose corn syrup.
In this Indiana trash town, I watch coffee drip from delicate
instruments, thinking of Homer Simpson with a fluorescent lyre
& deep-fried, glazed hole of d’oh! yelling O small,

tortured town, you are the apricot-stuff of poetry—machinery-gunk
color like circus peanuts, bad spray tans, prescription bottles.
Empty trays of glazed O’s behind her, she goes for the jugular:
“It’s a sad day,” the counter girl says to a regular, “we’re all out.”

 

ABOUT THE POET 

Natalie Louise Tombasco is pursuing a PhD in creative writing at Florida State University and serves as the assistant interviews editor of the Southeast Review. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Butler University and grew up in Staten Island, NY. Her poems have appeared in The Minnesota Review, Antioch Review, Southwest Review, Sonora Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Meridian, Salt Hill, Third Coast, The Rumpus, and The Boiler, among others. She was a runner-up in The 2019 Pinch Literary Awards in Poetry.

 

ABOUT SUGAR HOUSE REVIEW 

We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

MARY ANNE ROJAS—"THE STORY" (Issue 21)

THE STORY

they never thought it would happen. that it would ever leave
its house, free and wandering. that it would visit other
people’s homes, drink coffee with them, read a poem aloud to
their lover. the white people thought it came in bouquets, like
wrapped flowers with uneven edges. the white people thought
it would have a bow that you can unwrap gently. the white
people dreamed of the anticipation—how it would be like to
watch it flutter with ease, increasing volume with air. the
white people thought it would have sounded different, like
something more formulaic, like notes to hymns, or the way
one reads how to put together a table. the white people
thought it was dead and that language doesn’t come from dead
things. the white people thought it was a ghost. the white
people thought it would have warned them before arriving.
the white people ran to church. the white people thought it
wouldn’t have taken up so much space. the white people
thought it would have stayed in her office. the white people
thought they were free. the white people thought that it would
have sounded different. the white people thought it would
have behaved. the white people thought it would sound like
them. the white people thought it could be softened into
baby’s breath and lilies. the white people thought there
wouldn’t be smoke. the white people thought that thunder
only came from earth. and then, one day the white people
said, “Did you hear that?”

 

ABOUT THE POET 

Journeying from the womb of the Bronx, New York, Mary Anne Rojas (she/her/ella) is a woman of the African diaspora, a poet for justice, and a cultural mediator. She is the founder of The Gift Foundation, Inc. and The Protest Review since 2020. Her undergraduate work is in English and Africana & Latino Studies from SUNY New York College at Oneonta, and her graduate work is in transnational studies, concentrating in Caribbean and Latin America studies from the University at Buffalo. Currently a graduate student of Global Public Health at New York University, Mary Anne spends her time understanding how social and cultural factors can contribute to the health of a community through the intersection of joy and resistance. When she is not reading, she is navigating multiple worlds, drawing thinking-system maps for radical social change, engaging in community protest, and writing poetry as a tool for breaking silence(s).

 

ABOUT SUGAR HOUSE REVIEW 

We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

JENNIFER GARFIELD—"MOTHERHOOD" (Issue 21)

MOTHERHOOD

 "Who by fire? ... Who by barbiturate?" 
—Leonard Cohen

I’m keeping a list of all the bad things that can happen to the people I love.
There are, for example, 67 ways my children might die in a house fire,

even though we play stop, drop, and roll each night before bed. Remember
the Arizona twins who drowned in the canal when their mom lost control

of the stroller while swatting a bee? See what I mean? It’s like a tragedy
cornucopia, each fruit its own sweet horror. Pick dismemberment. Pick

poison. Pick sexual assault. And we haven’t even begun to explore
the medical options. Leukemia is a big one. That Jewish disease

that makes your pee like maple syrup. Don’t forget measles, though I, too
had forgotten that one, until I learned our neighbors are anti-vaxxers.

And then there’s the gun-owners on the corner, and I don’t even need
to write that one down, since the entire world is a list of ways to die

by bullet. I’m a teacher. I keep umbrellas in my classroom to use as weapons,
sit the rugby players by the door just in case, and every so often I wonder

which doorway the shooter (shooters?) will enter from and will it be
while we are talking about metaphors? Will I have the guts to do

what the police officer advised at the training—(Pull his motherfucking arm off)—
which didn’t make me feel empowered or in control of my destiny at all?

In Lexington, I heard their police shoot blanks during active shooter drills
at the high school. Teachers must decide to shelter in place with their class

or run based on how close they think they are to death. If you make the wrong
choice, a cop will leap from the hallway corner and say bang. You didn’t make it.

This is the stuff I’m talking about. When Jamie Closs was found
after being kidnapped and held captive by the man who murdered her parents,

my first thought was, this is quaint. He had a single weapon: one lonely,
innocent rifle. It was a comfortable, old-school crime. A back-of-the-milk-carton

crime. When we were mugged and the baby was 2 months old,
my body and mind detached and everything happened in slow motion,

like they say it does. The pockmarked man drew his knife, hours later
held it above my head, and it was an eternity or two before that blade

swept the air above the stroller. I remember it glimmered
in the early morning sun like a jewel. Perhaps I was thinking,

You don’t have a gun? Remember when the JCC’s had all those bomb threats,
and the preschoolers, who were swimming, had to carry the babies outside?

They didn’t have time to get their towels. I picture my daughter
in her pink flamingo one-piece, frog goggles, wrinkled toes, those drops

of chlorinated water that gather on her upper lip. Then her thin, shivering arms
wrapped around someone’s baby, four feet dragging across the snow-dusted ground.

My Bubbie believes terrorists are building underground tunnels leading
into elementary schools. She honestly believes this is happening as we speak.

What terrorists? I ask. You know who I mean, she says. In my mind,
my daughter blows a bubble and someone bursts it with the tip

of an AK-47. I feel a little better writing this all down. My kids are asleep.
I just checked, and they are still breathing. The default, I know, is to live.

 

ABOUT THE POET 

Jennifer Garfield’s work has been published or is forthcoming in journals including Salamander, Frontier, and Threepenny Review. She is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Literary Grant and Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing Parent-Writer Fellowship. She is a high school English teacher near Boston.

 

ABOUT SUGAR HOUSE REVIEW 

We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.