Issue Twenty-Three-April 2014 (curated by J. Bradley)
The quality of a break up poem is dependent of the writer’s emotional maturity. Here is a brief timeline of the poems I wrote after various break ups.
What I Used To Be
What I used to be
A fool with a heart.
I just can’t see
The point of being torn apart.
I can hear the voices in my head
Speaking words of death and deformity,
I just can’t take the fact that my soul is dead
And to take its place is morbidity.
I wish I could have the lover I need
And my very mind would stop weeping.
I can’t stop my soul’s bleeding
But I wish I knew what Cupid was keeping.
I wrote this when I was 16. Everything is amplified at that age where not being kissed or fucked feels like a death sentence. This was also when I started writing poetry. My influences at the time were the Smashing Pumpkins. If you were an angsty teenager in the mid-90s, Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness was your jam.
it’s at the edge of sunset
where reds, blues, yellows, oranges
melt into each other, painting the color
of an open wound
onto the horizon.
i walk around the park,
watching this happen
and i hold out my right arm
so the breeze can gently bite
my empty hand.
see couples, families,
laughing, talking and
holding each other
into the night.
what’s the sound
of one heart breaking?
if no one is around to hear it,
will it still make a sound?
i wanna run.
i wanna run 88 miles per hour
so i break the time barrier,
changing the past
to fix the present..
i wanna run
until i’m out of breath,
out of energy and
out of tears.
i wanna run
until i stop missing you
until i stop loving you
until i stop
but my legs
refuse to carry me that far.
they know something
i am on the edge
regretting letting you
i wanna scream
until my heart and throat
what’s the sound of one heart
it sounds like glass exploding
as it hits the floor
it sounds like
the howl of a lonely child
it sounds like the death march
of an EKG telling you
you are about to flat
if there is no one
around to hear it,
will it still make a sound?
i live with hearing it everyday
when i think about
when i feel
when i hear echoes of your memory whispering
‘i love you’
the wound in the sky
has stopped bleeding,
and no one is here to take me
was carved into your
are not here
am not with
i am wandering in this park,
trying to figure it out.
i am lost in this life
and i wish you could please
I was 22 when I wrote this. At this point I was in an on-again, off-again relationship. I was also getting into slam poetry as a performer and as an organizer. The writing got better from 16 to 22 but there is a escaped firehose effect when I read this. You might feel sprayed, too.
is moving day
and the boxes,
the skeletal remains of bed frames
and other furniture
are not a strong metaphor
to the packing and stacking i have had to do
in my chest
and in my head.
is no longer a home
but a mausoleum
littered with ashes of memories,
cast off kisses,
and fingertip tickles
left behind in every space.
this was supposed to be our first place
it has become our last.
today is moving day
and the shouts between lovers and families
are not loud enough
to get me to say anything,
to stir me into beating my fists and tongue
you have become the iceberg
that carves through the hulls of ships slowly
as you watch them sink.
the harder it is for me to speak to you
the easier it is to live without you
because all the goodbyes i had left
have been spent.
there will be no resurrection,
nothing left but the opaque wall of silence
so there would be no second thoughts
about looking back and saying
today is moving day
and i have replaced my heart
with a moebius strip
because i have realized that love and loss
it's learning to hold on to love for as long as you can
before loss takes it away
that's the trick.
you should always enjoy saying
but always remember
that you will have to say goodbye
I was 24 when I moved in with someone I was dating. It was the first time I lived with a girlfriend. I pushed her into opening up the relationship. She and her new girlfriend kicked me out of the apartment. The firehose is less here. However, I see the melodrama in the line breaks, the ooze of emotional fat.
It didn't take long for Paul to make my wedding band into a bullet. He handed me the round and an unloaded .38 Special.
"What are you gonna do? Sign the walls of your master bedroom like a divorce decree?" Paul asked as I chambered the bullet.
"This isn't a Lifetime movie", I aimed toward the nearest mirror. "Something, not someone, needs to wear this forever." Paul shrugged his shoulders as I walked out of his apartment, the barrel pressing against my pelvis.
When you only have one round, you have to think about your target carefully, filling in the what and the where before you wear the powder burns of how on your palm like a rough handshake. Anything related to weddings or marriage was off limits. There's an ostentatious obviousness of shooting the married couple standing frozen atop the steeple of an edible cathedral or cracking the camera lens caressing the bride and groom into something close to perfect. Anything related to her and I was out, too, like puncturing our bed like a heart. Trying to shoot God in the face was ridiculous; we had a secular ceremony.
The barbs tried mainlining tetanus as I made my way over the fence guarding the apple orchard just outside of town. I slowly drew the .38 Special out of my pants and aimed toward the nearest apple tree. The bullet burrowed through the bark and into the trunk like a seed. Some day, I hope a little girl bites into one of these apples and coughs up the princess sleeping inside of her stomach.
My ex-wife and I were together from 2004 until 2010. The day after she started moving out, I wrote this. I started documenting my grief and recovery from the divorce, which resulted in The Bones of Us. I don’t know if I could have written something like this when I was in my 20s.
The mission of this issue was to show how writers use heartbreak as part of their skill set, whether to process loss or to throw jabs at a now ex-significant other. I hope you enjoy these poems as much as I have.
Amy Lewis - Poodles
Sometimes I miss that squint you get
when you aren't sure whether or not to believe me.
When I left, your eyes were slits,
like I got you in the face with hairspray.
If I were a writer I would paint you in a window,
standing full on the sill, arms stretched to the jambs.
We met during my Raymond Chandler phase
when I couldn't stop imagining the victims with your face.
There were days when I wanted to diagram your every sentence,
lingered in mirrors to catch your reflection.
You couldn't believe this much Welsh hotness could be contained in one small body.
I couldn't believe that all the really interesting serial killers operate in California.
You told me you wanted an apricot standard poodle
and I knew it was over. I'm prejudiced against poodles,
and root vegetables larger than my skull.
I left, months later, reading Evelyn Waugh
when all I could think of was dead faces,
reconstructed with makeup like my own.
Amy Lewis is a librarian living in San Antonio, TX. She has an MFA in poetry from the New School.
Robert Alan Wendeborn & Krystal Languell - from Diamonds in the Flesh
You’re a scorpio and adragon, so I don’t know
if we can be friends, bruh. Hotlanta? You need time
to digress is what I’m saying. Hedonism is still
valid. You’re not
I hear the ocean, no, the gulf, and a baby. I didn’t
tell my boyfriend alternate side parking is suspended.
The valet said I was the first poet he’s ever met.
In the cool morning light, which breaks through the blinds,
I take the day’s first selfie. The distributive property
obscuring itself properly. It’s not narcissism if you still
Wake up and start crying. Hello Blue Monday. I will
never be mentally stable enough for us to consider
being together long-term. The sound of a body in love
A witch in wolf’s clothing. The bank says it’s pony time,
and there’s always coffee at the bank. Set the alarm and
get to charming. Disambiguate chemicals from feelings.
That was a very Chris Brown thing of that alien to do.
My chair is yours, captain. Your playlist is really heavy
on the first half of the alphabet. Apparently, I’m the only
one invited to
the body party.
Mirrors are just one sided windows. I don’t know if
this counts as a breakup. Make my fucking way. A
doldrum of diction. I don’t remember writing this:
A dead sea of champ-
agne corks exfoliating.
Back on the depression cycle with too much sleep.
Aren’t you thinking about champagne? It’s the end
of a year. I will not get married in 2014. I will drive
in a demolition
I feel like I've died and am waiting to be told how
it happened. Just wandering twice daily through
the supermarket. New business plan: Forever
Robert Alan Wendeborn's poems and reviews have been published online and in print, including PANK, > kill author, and Ghost Ocean Magazine.
Krystal Languell is the author of Call the Catastrophists (BlazeVox, 2011) and her work has appeared in esque, La Fovea, DIAGRAM and elsewhere.
Dan Chelotti - Pile of Swords
The quarry wall cries like some
Painting without a placard.
I search for an explanation
Anyway. A spray-painted 4:20
Doesn’t help. I rehearse the past
To curl up against it. A fire here.
A guitar. Empty autumn cold.
No one swimming. No one
Considering the plunge.
Three years here. Seven there.
The tiles of memory overlap
So that in the imbrication tense
And case unhinge – thumb
Curving around the lip
Of which lover? I’m not
Convinced it is you, or you,
Or maybe this hasn’t yet
Happened? I’ll forget the future
As it comes and when it comes
You will in late summer
Surround your head
With the tiniest flowers
And we will ache with conversation
Until the stars come
And we walk the rise.
Nothing said stays
But we will say it like it will.
And when it is done
I will come here
And regale myself
With a story called
The Economy of Glances,
The epic tale of how it began
And what it undid,
Dan Chelotti - On the Shores of the Contoocook
Two years past I stood here
Destroyed by indecision. Andy and I
Climbed the steps to the town
Hall and pondered the cannons.
Andy said some town in the Midwest,
Studying their budget, noticed
That they had been granted a drone.
They said, We do not need a drone.
But they did. Just like I needed a drone
Hovering over the back roads
Of my quotidian on that night.
Now, returning, the munitions
Spent and memorialized on my
Commons I come to connect
The landscape with the quiet
Of the sky. Marriage. Divorce.
The politics of distance and online
Discourse. Privation. Children,
One of them. The memory of loss
Is loss and so I return to the moment
Before the war and grow nostalgic
For the war to come. It is a sullen
Madeleine, but a madeleine
I will use in order to stand in front
Of an audience and say how unwearied
I’ve been in their service, lighting
Candle after candle against the fading
Light, hoping my thin streams of smoke
Will amaze, will gather against the yellowed
Ceiling and form a song I can keep
In my pocket, that I can pull out
When the river I once refused to weep by
Calls me to Peterborough once again.\
Dan Chelotti is the author of x (McSweeney's, 2013) and a chapbook, The Eights (Poetry Society of America, 2006).
Amy David- Don’t Believe Anything I Say
The truth is the crescent moon
was a toenail clipping
and some careless celestial smoker
had burned stars into the corduroy sky.
The truth is there was no music.
We danced to the garbage can rustle.
The truth is the wine was cheap
and the waitress cheaper.
Is heartache just the moment
you took away the lies?
The truth is it took me months
to tongue the taffy from my molar.
The truth is promises are a treadmill.
My heart is a busted oar.
My six-year-old-self dreamt of life
in a castle. The truth is the hummingbirds
are drunk. You wink like a filmstrip
and turntable in your sleep and missing
you feels like always needing to pee,
but anything that could melt
in my mouth doesn’t belong in my hands.
When I think about you now,
I have had it with poems
about the smell of rain.
Amy David- Circumstantial Evidence
A 64-year-old Florida woman call the emergency dispatch to report that she was having medical issues. When an officer arrived at her home, she admitted that she had just called because she was lonely. She was subsequently charged with abuse of 911.
If I’d known that loneliness was a crime, I’d have a closet full of jumpsuits, orange
as the ring of rust where the elastic grabs at my thighs, my nails, jai alai long
and trained to pull a blade from a bar of Irish Spring. The bail money: a stack of Franklins,
deep, in the passenger’s side nightstand, the arm’s reach so empty, good as buried
in Jimmy Hoffa’s tie clip. A once-in-a-while friend buys me a $2 draft but the tab in his name makes for a lousy alibi. The district attorney looks strangely like the first man to kiss me,
or actually, the boy, in green plaid Converse All-Stars atop the storm drain cover where we met up
between free swim and horseback riding. Remember Hi Tops? Remember thinking
that a boyfriend would mean a better seat at the lunch table? Remember when it did, for a while,
and that summer I learned what a hand job was, not from him, from the girls
in my cabin who teased Becca Markovitz for squeezing so hard he cried, the same boy,
but after I had told him no, or really, made Cara tell him while I hid on my bottom bunk, insides
pounding like a dessert spoon in the garbage disposal. I wonder now what became of him,
the boy with an Israeli accent, the innocent stand-in for every re-corked bottle, every joke
that didn’t get a laugh, every wire violently stripped of its colored coat. Of course I wonder, now
that I find myself untouched, not in the way that means I’m always on time, or the way
that gets me auctioned off to some magnate from a country with a shortage of brides,
but the way that turns memory into the exact change I need for a can of Diet Coke, the way
I keep checking the fuse box when all of the lights are on, the way I late-night cradle a stuffed
bear who in turn cradles a velvet heart stamped with those three obvious words never said
by the man who gave it to me. I am certain of nothing I have done, except that I have done those things. I have dropped all of the teacups but none of the saucers, swept the woodchips
from the bottom of the slide, written my magnum opus on an Etch-a-Sketch just before
the fasten seatbelt sign. 3am smells like milk gone just a tiny bit sharp and hurled
anyway down the sink, the way un-soaked cornflakes stick to the roof of my mouth.
I am a vegan’s steak knife, a teetotaler's flask, the wristwatch on a death row prisoner.
Amy David- Anyone Worth Doing is Worth Doing Madly
When you told me it was over, the bedsheets tumbled
inside-out on the mattress and the hot water
bill tripled in a single day. I put your lips in a jar
and marked them for sale with a sign that said Gently Used
and Sometimes Roughly Used, set
the asking price at thirty-one doubts
or best offer and got the chance to fit back into
my skinny jeans. I told myself that you are doing
even worse, it’s an easy lie, but one
with spurs: this is me you are talking to
this can still work, let me turn all the clocks
forward an hour and hand you the daylight.
Say which inch of me sounds like a minor key,
I will tune myself black and blue. The book of poems
you gave back to me is even worse
for the wear, barrelled into you pocket, yielding
spine, at least you once said you loved it. I knew
you would, like I knew you’d chew through
the brake lines. Dummy, I failed the crash test. I have
no right to be this parceled, we didn’t even make it
through a pack of birth control, the life
of a mealworm, the money-back guarantee
on a new set of tires. I am pretending that it started
when you asked, that we were hand-drawn
in all the months before, and even harder
I am pretending we will be again: flat
and with obvious edges. Did you know when
they animate a character, they only draw her
torso once? It saves time that way, to slap on
different limbs and twistings of her face
so she can lindy hop and gossip and fuck and sob
but the core of her never changes. I meant
it when I told you I’d do it all over again: the lost
hours of dreaming, Christmas Eve shivering
with anger, the shoes that were practically
never worn, and still, the meteor shower,
that first night together on the beach, waiting
in twenty degree windchill for something
to flash across the sky; I wanted you so badly
to believe me. And when the first point of light
finally tore through the midnight canvas,
it was an opening for the two of us alone.
I said the Hebrew prayer for creation.
Amy David writes and performs in Chicago. Her day job has nothing to do with poetry.
John Paul Davis - There Is Water At The Bottom Of The Ocean
Rainwater, saltwater, tapwater, freshwater, snow. The deep black cold of the water
our well gathered up & spluttered out in our old old house, the one where we left
each other while we both still lived there. Water running in place on the tin roof. Water left
on the nightstand all day long collecting an afternoon of dust, tasting
of forgetting. Our last kiss in the car, day of the divorce, your tears
sweet as your sweat had always been, mixing
with my spit. Quiet water hunched against the curb in the sunlight
& dog song after the gale & lightning has gone. Water swelling up stalks of flowers. Water
the pipes in the basement. Chilly damp
on your palm as we held hands the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean. How many times
did we run under summer thunder? Laughing, pulling off our rain-heavy clothes? Tears. Let's not
tears. How can I be expected to forget your wet eyes when you promised & then I promised,
using words whose meaning we could not comprehend? I'm certain I promised
always. I'm certain I can't be certain if the way my heart felt like a boy
jumping into the deep end when I watched you sleep was love or some other scramble
for miracle. The damp gooseflesh of your hip-bone after I suckled it. Coal-grey
ice waiting for speeding cars. Ice chips I had to eat when I couldn't drink
in the hospital after the mugging when I steered my way back to life
by the sound of your voice like a sailor praying to a lighthouse.
Loud water applauding from a cliff on the side of the volcano where I jumped
eighty feet into a black pool. It was like falling into winter. It was like spacewalking
naked. Water I was pushed into when I was six, the deep end, the panic,
the hand without a face that pulled me alive. Water corking my ear. Something like water christening
my beard, the taste of you on my lips. Water from the shower, reddening my skin as I lean into tile
those mornings once things were bad crimping my tricep trying to remember
the nectarine scent of the sweat in your armpit, the clean water that blossomed
on your forehead when I did things to make you say things you never said
anywhere else except the bed where we swam together.
Water the vicar sprinkled on us before pronouncing us. Water the pastor
dunked me down into when I was six. Promises made in churches. The panic.
The deep end. Under the water I promised
to love you. That's the one I never broke.
John Paul Davis lives in Brooklyn, where he writes poems. You can find out more about him at http:://www.johnpauldavis.org
Ryder Collins - after your city collapsed you’d build another
i’ve been studying the small defense of
a baby's yawn & the small hypocrisy
of the fontanel & the ice sliver
fingernails in my manhattan now &
the maraschino juiced cherries floating
&...you never gave me reason for abortion
& i should be happy bout that but i am
bed-hopping with reusable bags
i have folded myself in to canvas hopes
you liked plastic you smoked cigarettes
you doughnuted & spun out just to leave
carbon marks you have a son but
you just don’t care like i do once
we had breakfast the three of us i brought
organic blueberries & you thought that was
elitist & your three old said, fuck this
napkin & we laughed even though we knew
we shouldn’t & that was how you & i
always were: fucking, washclothing spooge &
juices, knowing we might be making things
we shouldn’t like love or chilluns or some-
thing cos it all ends burned up or out
or folded upon or in the bin the mess
of bibs & jimmies & cribs & day cares
it’s snowing again & your boney bones
never angel, never creak but sing of
your need for needles & nicotine & mine for
alcohol all in your bed of babies waiting
Ryder Collins has a novel, Homegirl! Her chapbook, The way the sky was now, recently won Heavy Feather Review’s first fiction chapbook contest.
Nikki Magennis - haiku/Patience/Crossed Lines
hugging your jacket
nothing is as I had thought
it is almost warm
NikkiMagennis is an artist and writer. She lives in Scotland, between the mountains and the sea. www.nikkimagennis.com
JeFF Stumpo - Broken Railing
Tears streaming down his face, laughing hysterically, the old priest exclaims, "It says celebrate!"
When the escalator goes out: Stairs, sorry
for the convenience. When the elevator
refuses to end its cocoon, holds fast
its passengers: stories incubate.
Someone gives birth in florescence.
Someone else is conceived. Someone
nearly dies of thirst. Someone finally
talks as if words prevent the leaving.
But when the stairs decay? A foot strikes
through a step, learns to test each advance.
A railing gives way, clatters and crashes
into the dusty past. We are tempted
to turn back. But if we keep climbing
we might even convince ourselves
that we have been flying, that our nerves
are not always splayed like gouged wood.
Then we look over the edge, how high
we have come, the stairs spiraling smaller,
the air thinner in our brains, giddy with height,
yes. Yes, we exclaim, yes, we can fly.
JeFF Stumpo wears a lot of hats: part-time professor, bookstore owner, performer, poet. Check out his website at www.jeffstumpo.com.
Molly Kat- Your Harp Song
It runs deep. I quake at touch. I am volcano, icicle, murder weapon, trigger finger. You undone me. You broken me. You upside down me. I left a rooster head in your mailbox when I left because I knew no other way to say goodbye. Your whiskey mouth, whiskey code name for gin or scotch. You scotch me. At the bar, soften at the sight of me, love me brutal, love me cripple, love me bruised and bent over a pool table. You love me just put it back in your mouth. You fifth floor window me, you thirty seven pills me, you flatline me. Your voice, nails claw down my insides, you sinking me. I let you see me small and precious, let you see how soft I am, why I harden, what I have to protect. But there’s a full moon rising. You pieced together all the beauty of song and art, of paint and blood spill, of harvest. I wrapped his head in a note that said I still love you. Despite the yellow counter, the potatoes and pumice in your tone, the way hair stood on my neck when your angry voice spoke me. You spoke me into a worse being. Articulated me cold and big eyed, talked me into a trapped self. You are the sickness inside of me, I cannot forgive myself.
Molly Kat lives in the woods in an intentional community in North Carolina. She likes exploring abandoned buildings, walking the railroad tracks, and climbing trees. Geeking out on the abilities and inabilities of words excites her. She is drawn to extremities, loves to watch things burn, and gives the best hugs. She earned her Masters at Binghamton University, where she served as poetry editor for Harpur Palate. Her work has been published by Foothill, Toad the Journal, H_NGM_N, and other online and print journals, and she is a contributor for selfiesinink.com.
Tessa Barber - Calista -- or the disinterested attachment. A lesson for young ladies
I take up crayons and pudding and hair shears
in your absence
& money and buttons and sleeping and phones
and a dildo named black jack
or just black j
(and these movies.))
and you take up your bag of rituals
and your neurologist and your tv tray
and your blackening teeth.
the weather gets warmer, and then cold again.
my mother attends my colonoscopy as planned.
jack nicholson stars in a little prayer of mine named The Terror.
What kind of woman are you?
Who are you?
Where are you?
Tessa Barber lives and worries in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Emily Skillings - CAPRICORN
for Adam Fitzgerald
The you in the tapestry is a golden you
Horns alight, the musk of newness inside
maroon and cream-colored spots of you.
If there is some semblance of meaning
in these symbols we obsess to,
we’ll go looking for it in the inch of seaweed
above the shark’s fin, where danger hovers
with zoomorphic particulate.
This year is the worst recorded year.
We actually had it notarized. These wings are brutes.
We’ve been reading apocalypse from our plate-bottoms.
The lilies are not out to give circles to our
white necks, nor did the Holy Spirit become a dove
and make nests in our hair.
The deceased composer declined to become our blessed Nana.
The museum denied us entry to visit our friends, the Walls.
Some dolphins we trusted drew us into their caves.
Just give me a few seconds and
I promise to light you up like a church at night.
You can always give me your feet, especially the heavy ones.
The thickest gel of me turns purple and glad
to take in the weight.
We look over the Saturn lake and proceed in way
that feels much like standing and waiting
for warmer coats to arrive.
Emily Skillings is a dancer poet poet dancer. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is a member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, a feminist poetry collective and event series. She recently co-curated the exhibit John Ashbery Collects: Poet Among Things at Loretta Howard Gallery.
Carmen A. Aiken - Oracle
The night after the morning he tells you his betrayal a dog dies in the street.
This is the omen.
More than an omen it is awful
more awful than pulling on jeans on swollen thighs, crashing out his door
or the hot bones boxing ventricles,
or the ruthlessness of clandestine infatuation
how bodies mutiny and exile prudence
or at least sense.
When the dog is killed that evening remember
the realization of other fucks appeared on a hunch
weeks before. Like overcast burnt away.
impossible to not see arriving
Still, there’s work in recalling the classic doleful arcs and their play
in overlap, when common.
To avoid oaths, to keep words locked
invites treachery--the signs?
Before: in the snow, in theft.
The dog is the howl to avoid the rest.
The howls that night when the car doesn’t stop
when the sidewalk crowd all about to face their own summer catastasis
waits for the garage show, weaves into the street, stops.
Calls are made and everyone keeps each other from the curb
the slow bristling, blood, beat.
The wife of Herakles knew it, and the centaur. Brutus, Macbeth.
Comets, roosters, jealous eyes and being born on a bad morning.
Later, after this, keys and birds will be important. They always have been
as they are for every heart ever irrevocably rent by men.
When he hears the story of the dog, he shudders, then forgets.
the lack of loyalty to loss
the signs singing the end.
Carmen A. Aiken - Speculation
If this is the comic book movie then I gather my weapons.
If this is Buster Keaton the weeping bounces, flouncy. If this is
French art house the crying thrums in backlit beauty. If this is
a Pedro Infante, then we’re waiting to saddle the horse. If this is
a porno there’s gang bang solace in the building’s basement.
If this is internet porn a giggling girl roommate will appear
in the kitchen. If this is a documentary the strings go plaintive then swollen.
This is poetry, though, and so fury.
Carmen A. Aiken is a writer living in Chicago. She has been published in The Walrus, This Recording and The Billfold.