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.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

DAN O'BRIEN—"THE FUTURE" (Issue 20)

THE FUTURE

Stopped paying my bills. Stopped filling my cavities, writing my poems
and  plays,  etc.  No  more  prizes.  No  more  mortifying  myself  with
drinking, running, porn. The sexual experiences I’d never experience
now. Reading made me sick; I watched the screen. Unable to encounter
my own daughter deeply. Instead I set my mind against the whetstone
and limped around the ward, wheeling my blinking beeping luggage of
dangling  fluids.  Living  in  the  minutes  between  thumb-pumps  of
Dilaudid. Injections of Ativan. Visitations from the 3 a.m. vampire
-phlebotomists. Blowing into the plastic flute to levitate the magic ball
that forestalls pneumonia. My wife came and went. Through windows
the desert khaki all but blinding. The arterial freeways ferrying masses
into the mountains. When was my first real step after? When will be
my first word?

 

ABOUT THE POET 

Dan O’Brien’s three poetry collections, published in the US (Hanging Loose Press & Measure Press) and in the UK (CB Editions), are War Reporter (winner of the UK’s Fenton Aldeburgh Prize; shortlisted for Forward Prize for a First Collection), Scarsdale, and New Life. His fourth poetry collection, Our Cancers, is forthcoming from Acre Books (University of Cincinnati Press) in 2021.

 

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.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

CHELSEA DINGMAN—"AT THE INSIGHT ULTRASOUND LAB FOR A BREAST CANCER SCREENING AFTER THE MAMMOGRAM FINDS IRREGULARITIES" (Issue 20)

AT THE INSIGHT ULTRASOUND LAB FOR A BREAST CANCER SCREENING AFTER THE MAMMOGRAM FINDS IRREGULARITIES

Imagine this:
white petals spilling from the walls.

The breast over the heart, exposed.
What can enter the heart, what cannot.

A family history without cancer.
Where I’ll be in a year. Where I won’t be.

The sound of the ultrasound machine, ticking
over each bombed-out cell. This room,
the calm gray-scale of a spa treatment center.

How technology breaks the body
into pixels. Into patterns. Into dim light.

My husband, not allowed in, waiting outside.
The hand that writes this. The wait & weight & wait.

The quiet before our lives change forever like the seconds
before a car crash.

The body’s wreckage. The beauty of it.

This record as archive as testimony as trivial.
How we’ll tell our children. How we’ll be remembered. How?

It was once thought possible for people to fly.
Heaven is a place I can’t imagine.

All the years I hated my body. The mirrors. The life it gives me.
A reason not to mourn. Any reason.

Five of us, together in future photos,
our bodies silhouetted by the sun.

 

ABOUT THE POET 

Chelsea Dingman’s first book, Thaw, was chosen by Allison Joseph to win the National Poetry Series (University of Georgia Press, 2017). Her second book, Through a Small Ghost, won the Georgia Poetry Prize and was published in February 2020. Her recent work can be found in The Southern Review, The New England Review, and The Kenyon Review, among others.

 

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.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

SHELBY HANDLER—"BUY THE KNIVES" (Issue 20)

BUY THE KNIVES

All the girls at recess are a gaggle
of little mothers. They’re being horrible
to each other. Imagine them as parents,

punishing their adorable future horribles.
This whole set-up is a set-up: being born
to folks who must betray us to keep us

alive. We end up first-in-line to shovel
soil over their breathless bodies. It’s like,
I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN!

is valid critique. Think about it: what’s not
coercion? Yesterday, I resented the sunset
in my eyes and squinted. Today, I ate splinters

of cold butter and sunflower sprouts on toast. Still
dark outside: this is breakfast in winter.
This is the life I was amputated

into. My mom sighs, Don’t have children. I can’t
love anyone else.
Love is an exhausting business
model. A pyramid scheme. We get so far in,

instinct forces us to buy the knives, find stuff
to mince. As a kid, I learned, distraught,
my death will happen on a normal day.

It’s not fair. Life is so full of shit
we love, any blade is too dull to carve us
cleanly out of it. This is the thing

I can’t remember: what my mother said
when I couldn’t stop crying about dying.
Whatever it was— her hands held my face.

She followed it with a question, You wanna go
take your bath?
I didn’t have a choice. I nodded.
Yes, I felt myself choose it. I stayed in the tub

until my tiny hands puckered, suddenly ancient. 


ABOUT THE POET 

Shelby Handler is a writer, organizer, and educator living on Duwamish territory/Seattle. A 2019 Richard Hugo House fellow, their recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, Pacifica Literary Review, Homology Lit, 3Elements Review, and the Write Bloody anthology We Will Be Shelter: Poems for Survival. Follow them: @shelbeleh

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 seven 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.