Ritual for Clearing Your Head
Light a cigarette on a rainy morning and let your car fill with smoke.
If from your forehead doves pour in a mournful wonderful stream
let them feed from your mouth.
Roll down your windows.
Join the walking flock of weeping things in the wet green median.
Bathe in the swishing of cars.
What are all the things you have been? It doesn’t matter.
The memory of the flock is short.
Worms are long.
Worms are so so long.
Ritual for Mourning While the Dead Watch
Put the urn on the counter. Feed it three dozen tuberoses bound by rubber bands, crisscrossing the strings of gum pink and beige. Shear the stems on a diagonal. Does the urn like the flowers? Find a tea light and let it burn. Touch the greasy wax with your fingertips; peel it off as it dries. Does the urn like music? Play the urn some music. Is the urn comfortable? Position the urn to the right, to the left, to the right to the right to the right. Stand barefoot at the counter while you cry. Remember all the times you were unkind to the urn. No. You can’t actually do that.
over the bridge
I can see
my own dress.
will this long sadness
lope after me
shaking the boards
collecting my nosebleeds
of my hair?
but the absence
all this vulvic divinity
discharge of poems
birthright of being
I don’t want it.
How many men
have chased me
away from myself?
I never asked
over the water
take the flavor of fruit
from my very
Soft crescent of moon
softens in the current.
I can only ever
inside the softness
of my own
my dress drying
on the rails
seams like the spancel
To be naked
is to be the most
my own self
through the trees.
How did we all get here
I don’t know
They’ve an app now to remind you,
twice daily, you will die. As in a dream
or a midnight movie, the doomsday clock
lurches forever forward. The news
reports and reports like a Greek chorus,
drips shell casings into the cuffs of my jeans.
In my office I’m stuck mid-sentence
telling a student how music hijacks the brain,
that studies show time is a construct
even more so beneath the earbuds.
A sudden trembling then—a fat robin
thrashing in panic in sunken window box
behind us. The student flinches. The room
echoes students’ flinching. The robin
thumps its beak and spills an unsteady
tempo and then, an immeasurable silence.
What type of music is that? they ask me,
almost daily. And what I tell them
is not unlike birdsong, placed tenderly
in a poem about music and dying.
I'm always seeing mule dear now—
a head smudging my rearview,
a mangy doe above me on the ridge.
The first time though I was coming down
off a stiff fist of mushrooms, bent
to double a lace above a fat lip of sandstone.
And below, a shabby pack ate up my sightline.
In my time here in the West I've learned
to call canyons canyons, valleys valleys.
I've learned also the way the ugly deer shed
their antlers in spring, drift in rows
across a steep plane, so sure their position.
I wonder often if I still have more memories
than I've lost, how many I've snuffed
willfully. That first deer wore a thick shag
on it's coat, one errant antler as if to mock
my altered state, my small attempt at dominion
over the world. All the horned things are also
chemically dependent, I've since learned.
Their adornments are tied to small doses
wedged in at hot spots beneath the skull.
Just now in a laboratory somewhere, a mischief
of mice spills out from it's cage, each beast
sporting its own set of horns, each crowned
and still searching the world for answers.
Max Kraushaar: My work has always been about making experiences that could be used to better understand the human condition. I’m also not entirely sure what exactly that means. Honestly I’ve tried to make work that, if experienced in a novel situation, would make me a better person. What does that look like? Weirdo saunas, healing spaces, perspective swap helmets, youtube drug videos, etc. etc. My skills tend toward building and assemblage, but I’m digital primary and dream of making ethereal internet/digital work that doesn’t weigh down constantly, but you can’t always get what you want (It hasn’t happened yet).
This work was trying to figure out how I wanted to advertise what it took to become a better person and steer change in your own life. It is part of my ongoing performance piece, 24HR MART.
“I only want my work to make people happy.” – Jackie Chan
Lauren Ireland is the author of FEELINGS (Trembling Pillow Press), The Arrow (Coconut Books), Dear Lil Wayne (Magic Helicopter Press, and two chapbooks, Sorry It’s So Small (Factory Hollow Press) and Olga & Fritz (Mondo Bummer Press). She lives in Seattle.
Russell Brakefield is the author of the collection Field Recordings (Wayne State University Press, 2018). He received an MFA in Poetry from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. His most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Bomb, The Southeast Review, The Literary Review, and elsewhere.
Julia Kernerman is an illustrator living in Seattle, WA. She makes comics and drawings that are about herself and the guys she knows.