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Journal

JOURNAL

Why I Need Paper

Artist: Chemiko
Instagram: @bleu.chem
This image is in Issue Three courtesy of the artist as a 4x5 print.

I don’t remember when I stopped reading books under the cover of quilts and night. I started with Little House on the Prairie, as almost all the evangelical girls of my1990’s did; they were the only non-religious literature allowed. The story of Ma and Pa and Mary and Laura was secular sure, but they themselves were religious and so the books sort of counted for the Great Library of God.

After I finished them I moved on to The Happy Hollisters, my flashlight shining on the thick ragged edged pages until one week or perhaps month I slowed, reading fewer minutes each night, skipping a day or two. Then I stopped completely. I suppose if you could reading Russian textbooks in university you could make the argument I continued my late night rendezvous with books in bed well into adulthood. Still, the intention was never the same as it was in those hazy years between eight and fourteen, and that intention was the one all children unintentionally set whenever they open a novel: to know a book and thus be known by it.

I have tried time and time again to pinpoint what exactly it is that makes reading such magic. I have come to the conclusion that it must be the paper. To turn a page is to, to reference that childhood series by Edward Packard and R. A. Montgomery, to choose your own adventure again and again. It is to employ the body, the fingertips, to say, “this story, once more. Now again. It is you I will not quit, us to the end, again.”

Earlier this year I took an accidental break from publishing new poetry online. I couldn’t figure out what was keeping me from wanting to read other’s work posted on platforms like Instagram and Medium. I love social media for its ability to democratize writing spaces that have, for far too long, been dominated by the voices of the wealthy, the white, and the male. However, I found that every time I tried to read something shared there I would pull away uninspired. I finally realized what the issue was. I missed paper. I missed turning pages and reading something which had been edited and pored over by a dozen people before me. I missed long form and essays and poems with meter. I missed the amount of energy and work that goes into creating a product that goes to print. I missed the effort. So imagine how excited I was to come across tiny indie journal Unvael, which just sent its third issue to press. 

Unvael is a periodic journal showcasing emerging artists around the world. It includes art by sculptors, architects, photographers, painters, and chefs. Curator and founder Michael Ash Smith states that the journal is part coffee table book part magazine and that’s a perfect description for it. It is definitely the kind of paper one can read by morning light or magic hour light or, if you’re me, by flashlight. Each preordered issue comes with prints suitable for framing, making the price a steal. If you order a copy feel free to use my contributor discount (I have a poem in Issue Three) for 10% off. You can purchase it here, and the code is @sarahrosangela. 

Letter to Jan

Jani. You send me dimly lit photos from Wurtzburg and I wonder if the sky is always so grey, or if it is still just you. We talk every day now and when I say I’m doing alright you always reply that I can leave North America and her bright wide way whenever I wish. I turn the idea over in my mind and try to imagine you on cobblestone roads. I cannot. We are asphalt kids, children of merchant marines. Mohawks and muscle tanks, sailing practice set to Lars Frederiksen. A couple of bastards. Do you ever think of the docks? I swear, sometimes I can still smell the brine on my hands. No ivy league degree seems to get it out. No poetry workshop knows what I know about a changing tide. We are both so far from that island now and yet the more Michelin Stars you earn in Germany the more I think of it. What does it mean to be of a place? To have marsh water blood and Bawlmer woes. What language are we? 

Tide’s a low 0.2 feet now and rising in Fells Point, but the Baltic does not respond to diurnal tide forces and so it remains unchanged. Even the moon can’t control Eastern Europe. Ask your old man how a catboat would fare there. Ask your old man if a son on the Baltic Sea can ever be moved.
I should pull the old photos from the basement before we are too old to find ourselves in them. The portal through them is the only way either of us will ever go back.
It’s like Alex said after he yelled goodbye to Lenin; try not to forget.The future is still in our hands, uncertain and promising. 

Goliath
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In first grade Santiago Snalgross kissed me in the reading corner and gave me a skipping stone, so I told him I would love him forever and I did. Past the mountain laurel fencing in the schoolyard, past blacktop fairness to fourth grade when his family moved north and free, to fourth grade when authorities found Antwon's body hanging from a tree in his front yard and I asked my mama how he got there and she prayed the rosary over my head and wept. Holy Mother hold my daughter. Our Father let our sons be fathers. Wed mind to body and entwine with river reed amen.

Santiago was found held by the water in eternal baptism in the bottom of a Tennessee lake. Past blacktop fairness, past the intersection of youth and understanding,  to where I stand on the shore and pray. Sacred southern land of milk and honeys bless this stone. And from the wrist of a first grade girl it sings across the surface I am the son of the servant.

the gallows
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I still see you on my ceiling. From my back on late nights when the sinning is done. Streetlight slinking white and naked between the blinds. Across the crack in the far corner. Across the crack that runs through everything. Full bodied and lusty. In which outside gets. Welcomes a stink. Pools in corners. Leaves a ring around the tub. You hang above it like a vapour. Like a web in which you wait.  

to all the men I've loved before (or, for Shervin, who never let me quit) ///

Moszkowski moves from the record player across the floorboards. We sigh in almost perfect unison. Outside, snow and gathering snow. You refuse to speak to me when I refuse to write. A lost voice and no lozenges. A severed tongue like red wool socks peeking out of boots. I take the shovel from the hall closet and head out into the yard to dig a hole in the frozen earth. It is impossible work. The shovel finds only stones, permafrost, more stones. Years ago flighty birds left feathers to signal where I should migrate next. Now there are none. I fall to my knees and am sick, burying it in the hole. Looking up, I see you standing in the open doorframe, backlit by bully fluorescent lighting. I plead for you to open the piano, play me a yellow bird who builds himself a window. You turn back inside, and do.

Variation 2

If you leave the world will get another book out of me. Hardbound with gilded edges. Dogeared and goddamned. There is a fable of a fish who gave her voice for the mouth of a man. Love transformed her into a door that leads nowhere but opens and closes with ease. I set my letters adrift and lure her to the shore. I tell her to write poetry is to sing without sound. Teach me the siren song and I will never write again. She opens her mouth and I pour my words in.

 

Variation 1

If you leave the world will get another book out of me. Twenty-six letters repeating through time tell 5,805 miles they know nothing of distance. Neruda's tomb is but the whole of all of our wicked hearts and I am set to roll the stones away. Whitewash them an amber honey colored long kiss. The kind we shared under the cover of night, when even we were not looking.

 

albatross antibodies

the way to carry a burden is with the top pointing down so that a little bit leaks out as you walk from empty corridors to art museums. there's no coat check for this, no tucking the bulky beast away so that you might move about freely and with ease. #417 and a slip of paper. it must be dragged. reluctantly and with concerted effort. like some dead limb, lichen covered or full of phantom pain. leaving a trail of sick behind, pooling deep in corners. from the oily mouth will spill a siren song, promising. comraderie's pain addition is simple subtraction. the more added from others the more it's all lessened.

reverie

I know no beautiful things
To get there even
    across temples, cheeks
light falls, see
beneath, this shouting grass lies
waterlogged bodies with lungs full of earth
a boy, a blade of grass in his mouth singing
when Johnny comes marching home.

I place my ear to the ground and listen.
I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill
You hold me like a flank
but I know
the laurel wreath is ready now.
Place it upon my head
kiss me while we still think we are free
until morning when
the dead boy will play reveille.

reverie

I know no beautiful things
To get there even
     across temples, cheeks
light falls, see
beneath, this shouting grass lies
waterlogged bodies with lungs full of earth
a boy, a blade of grass in his mouth singing
when Johnny comes marching home.

I place my ear to the ground and listen.
I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill
You hold my like a flank
but I know
the laurel wreath is ready now.
Place it upon my head
kiss me while we still think we are free
until morning when
the dead boy plays reveille.

شروین

have you never found trapped
a triangle of sunlight in the small pool of your collarbone
a sliver of your ear in a mirror
     (it tells all secrets to the constellation of freckles across your left shoulder)
a map beneath matted curls
oh son of Adam, between your ribs
I have stored
the soft bodies of yellowed dreams
and future lives now passed
I am sorry for the weight. 

to all the men I've loved before V ///

You stood at the end of a grassy cul de sac in salmon coloured shorts with your left arm raised up in the August humidity. My right hand rose to greet it in response. This was after I knew you paid your todays in tomorrows and before we lost the baby. That night I waved you away while the Mexican nurse prayed the rosary between my thighs. I recounted the season we slept like kidneys in the yard, clay soil marrying sweat on our necks. There, the Big Dipper and the Little. A ladle for you and a spoon for me. Can you feel this? You tell me the story of the scar across your face, a knife, Amman. I run my fingertips in its valley. This is going to hurt. Try to smell the honeysuckles in the garden. It will not be this way for long. Jesuchristo so much blood. Just stay with me.