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Seven Poems, by Gary Sloboda


Memory Is Pagan

the body makes us spiritual,
living in its wreckage
lets us breathe
as the veil
falls from your eyes like a shadow returning
to spaces between strands of hair:

a map of implications turned
into the real thing you say

the loud parts soft
and part the reeds
beside the water we can’t hear
ourselves think for tumultuous children

beneath dark boughs intricate
yellow buds in the busted
crown of light outlast

each vow and antidote, this diet
of small fish
and leaves.


Ahab’s Son

location: by withered fields not one
dealer on the level but they can’t sell

my inheritance on these streets of random
detentions and pseudo-science

as my bones
press down on the ground

where there once was a sea
and the moon hung closer
please let me

and i will
sail through night’s black cherry puddles

with a brand new feeling a vision
that barely eludes

all economies of scale.



kite and canal, the subtle
order hands unwind strings

we walk away from
our reflections
as in the bank of weeds
stray cats
claim no right to title

it’s a deep collaboration
a sacrifice
you can’t teach yourself

eyelets in the moss, a flourish

of the mind’s berry
in this weird light
i’ve grown closer to
the insolent muse

who lets me see
her works on paper.


Jay Defeo

Morning comes like peroxide over the cityscape and the goddess of my fever meanders on her crutch. Tiny streams break through in places we haven’t seen before. It’s a kind of in-between weather like springtime shuffled in with the obit page. Or the pop of consciousness at the end of Kerouac records, the buttery piano rendering the cliff’s drop feathery blue. Post-recovery returns to fable: how we subsist among the flower prints, eating Goji berries as our daughter paints another pony trotting across a bridge and into this moment that’s a blip lengthened into shadow and angular folds.



Roots in the hallway and the windows all bricked up. In this house of blue dust. Something is touching our hands: the weight of books, a moth-bitten shawl, the resin of my brother’s pipe that flares like an urgent flower in his palm. Weak in our pink-fired skin and cruel trousers, we watch trawlers fish bodies from the cove after the storm. A rubble of trees and insects addle the brain, but we’re closer to the sky and the wind on Mars. Closer to the shell of our seed as dark pelicans swoop in flooded mangroves after prey.



Today the lines of Auden and bells of St. Bridget’s drag. Couples push closer in the square. There’s a chair in my home with a bullet hole underneath a doily. And junkies roam as aphids drift from ash trees to linger in their hair. Unemployed, I limp toward winter and roll the taste of smokestacks on my tongue. In this way, I remain my mother’s filter—she eats the sand dunes from the bay to feed us light that’s drained from glass and chrome.



Swan dive from the highest point where you can still see water. The sun rust of a hawk. Spectators in shadowless flora: they’re coming to you from cities of hacked airwaves. And the wound-littered graves of email accounts. No soft clouds or group hugs.

Teeth rotted down to the roots. Nobody posts that video. It breaks your heart. I know it does. Under heckling sails, months spent in Sardinia smoking Moroccan stuff. Ride a motorcycle off a cliff and parachute into a lagoon of endangered fish. There’s a name for this.

Alabaster shoreline. Like a bandage with a promenade. You can taste the engines of salt. The water so deep. If you touch the bottom with your slip-on shoes, float up through the drugged confetti of particulates. And take a breath. The sea is everywhere. It never used to be.

  • Gary Sloboda's work has recently appeared in Gargoyle, Posit, and Thrush. He lives in San Francisco.

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