The Purpose of Ritual, by Melissa Broder
When you fled I disappeared
into the abscesses of my brain.
We are both impulsive humans
and perhaps my disappearance
was premature. To reappear
I had to grow younger. I began
consuming images of boys
at a very rapid speed, never
their bodies just reflections.
I distorted all the mirrors
in mucus, oil and blood.
When I say that I consumed
I do not mean that I ate the mirrors,
only that I stood beside the boys,
dowsed the glass and incanted.
I chanted you love me you love me
to 3000 boys but none said yes.
What does it mean to be so sick
with want that you create rituals
which lead nowhere? Only to be
human, I think, and less ok
than animals. I don’t want
to be human anymore
so I have covered the mirrors
in blankets. You returned to me
but never uncovered them.
Lessons from a Mirror, by Thylias Moss
Snow White was nude at her wedding, she’s so white
the gown seemed to disappear when she put it on.
Put me beside her and the proximity is good
for a study of chiaroscuro, not much else.
Her name aggravates me most, as if I need to be told
what’s white and what isn’t.
Judging strictly by appearance there’s a future for me
forever at her heels, a shadow’s constant worship.
Is it fair for me to live that way, unable
to get off the ground?
Turning the tables isn’t fair unless they keep turning.
Then there’s the danger of Russian roulette
and my disadvantage: nothing falls from the sky
to name me.
I am the empty space where the tooth was, that my tongue
rushes to fill because I can’t stand vacancies.
And it’s not enough. The penis just fills another
gap. And it’s not enough.
When you look at me,
know that more than white is missing.
Radar Data #12, by Lytton Smith
It was in the absence of light
as when near new moon and
no moonlight; as when a part
of a picture is in shadow (as
opposed to a light); as when
in the condition of being
hidden from view, obscure,
or unknown—in concealment,
or else without knowledge
as regards to some particular;
and of the weather, season,
air, sky, sea, etc., characterized
by tempest; in times, events,
circumstances etc. subject to
tempers; inflamed, indicative,
predictive, or symbolical of
strife (harbinger of coming
trouble)—a period of darkness
occurring between one day &
the next during which a place
receives no light from the sun,
and what if it is all behind us?
I no longer fear the rain will
never end, but doubt our ability
to return to what lies passed.
On the radar, a photopresent
scraggle of interference, as if
the data is trying to pretend
something’s out there where
everything is lost.
Forever War, by Nate Pritts
In studying the anomaly
it was determined that holiday decorations
look sad out of season,
that there’s no excuse for the mistakes
of my people. Red paper hearts
on the front door into April,
a cauldron that doubles as a planter
in summer. Always the starscape
to help keep me honest, to remind me
that distance is easy to cross.
The analytic belt I’m equipped with
reminds me of an indescribable autumn
from one hundred generations ago
though even last year
I was someone else.
I was faced with a choice.
Proceed with the same core
or blow it up to restart
& maybe go further. Most of my programming
has survived into this new battle.
I can smell faint ocean
salt on the breeze & I have different
reactions for its presence or absence.
Now is the time to overcome problems.
I debate the finer points of being desperate,
of wanting things to remain
as they are, though they can’t.
I’d rather not go into details
since specifics make me queasy,
like in pictures when people put their heads
too close together. How can they stand
such forced intimacy?
I take off in search of my home planet.
My resolve is stronger than ever.
Vespers, by Louise Glück
In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.
Drawing from Life, by Reginald Shepherd
out of this room’s air, I’m reading suppositions into
summer’s script snarled on a varnished floor.
It looks like a man. That knot’s his hand
waving good-bye, that stippled stripe of grain’s
the stacked-up vertebrae of his turned back.
Small birds (sparrows or finches, or perhaps)
are cluttering the trees with blackened ornaments (burning
in the remnant light of August eight o’clock), and noises
I can’t hear. Chirring there, chittering. The window’s closed.I am assembling a lack of sound
in this locked box, and dotting all the i’s
these floating motes present (my composition), I am not lonely
for the palpable world (midges I dap hands for
and kill), shivering into darkness underwater outside glass:
what’s left of light sinking from zero down to less,
cobalt down to zaffer, deeper to purple-black
where divers drown. The swimming landscape’s
all mistake (one world that shuts air into
my submerged terrarium), and I am luck.