You poets are making it hard on us over here at the dis•articulations project, but we wouldn’t want it any other way. We got such inspiring and provocative poems in response to the prompts floated by collaborating poet Nicelle Davis and myself. Ultimately, Devon Balwit’s “Confession” is deemed the winner, in part because it speaks so directly to this moment in time.
But we were moved by the spare simplicity of the poem by Stephanie Williams, speaking in the voice of “Centralia,” and by Hank Henderson’s “Everburning,” also about Centralia but invoking the ways in which we are still haunted by the AIDS epidemic. Sarah Jones invokes the underlying sadness of clowns in “Clown Motel.”
Thank you to the poets who invest their inspiration and creativity into this project and thanks as ever to our devoted readers.
You will never unsee this. [Can we agree not to say
what? Ever-obliging, the brain imagines anyway,
horrors dredged from memory, from the feed.] Shutting
your eyes is for the weak [and I am weak]. Fingers clamping
pressure points, the strong bloody themselves. There is
no putridity they haven’t worn, skin fecal and bilious,
whereas I hurry away from pain. Hiding it in a crust of art,
I prettify the still smoldering rubble, the strewn body parts,
forcing rhyme-schemes that frog-march thought
away from the shrieking, brutality, suffering and riot.
I fixate on the clown motel next to the cemetery,
the way light dapples the bomb-blast haze like a fritillary.
You will never unsee this, so I don’t look long.
Askance rather. When a do-gooder comes along
to relieve me of the burden of anything more than witness,
I gladly give it up. I provide the genius not the kindness.
Devon Balwit is the author of 6 chapbooks out or forthcoming. Her work can be found in a variety of on-line and print journals. She welcomes contact from her readers. When not teaching, writing, or parenting, she shamelessly spoils her doofus lab.
The streets crack at my hairline.
People photograph my breath,
Spray paint penises on my scalp.
I scared off the mailmen.
My friends, paid to desert me.
I’ve moved on
My clothes remain condemned.
To be novel. To be featured.
It was fun at first.
Even the loyal age,
I stay committed to burn.
Stephanie Williams: I am a registered nurse living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with my husband and daughter. We hope to visit Centralia some day.
The town of ghosts is still on fire.
Not all see the ghosts.
The youngest of you were only
three years old, maybe five,
or not yet born.
The fire still burns in the eyes of now.
We became ghosts, living ghosts,
ghosts on fire in the century before you.
We became ghosts, living, burning ghosts
in a place, a century,
a time where nothing extinguished.
We are still on fire.
We are brilliant, burning ghosts,
burning holy, wholly burning
ghosts on fire. The town in flames,
town of holy ghosts holds
men with hollowed eyes, holy eyes,
eyes of fire burning blue.
We are ghosts of lives still burning
in aging memories you do not see,
of men you do not notice.
Some men aging, lives stretching into sunset, others now ghosts in shadows of sunsets.
Shadow ghosts of a shadow town.
Now we disappear
in billboard and magazine ads
for pills that save your souls.
Pills like wafers,
consecration with blue, blue pills.
Set them on your tongues, you are holy.
Holy blue pills, you are prepped.
Grindr hips and blue pills swallowed,
you are whole. You are holy
with blue pill consecration,
bare cocks plunging in the now
without fear of fire.
Fuck yourselves holy while knowing
ghosts still burn in your history.
This history not of your making
is yours to own, to carry, to honor.
Carry and honor the ghost men,
ghost town, ghost history.
The plague is our Centralia, everburning.
Hank Henderson is a writer, seeker, propagator, fabulist, mentor, and curator who lives in Glassell Park with three cats and a man named Joe.
THE CLOWN HOTEL
The year before you left me,
a client shipped you a box
of spongy clown noses.
You brought a couple home
in your backpack for our boys,
and they each wore them
during dinner, adding extra headtilt
to nose in their hard-shelled tacos.
After dinner, they pin-balled the noses
off our furniture in the family room,
while we maneuvered around
dirty dishes and my affairs like bozos,
pinching foamy noses, and expecting
high-pitch whines to drown out.
I found one of the noses, puckered
like a lover’s lips, in the dryer. Is it wrong
that I like to picture you
doing your own laundry now?
Sarah Jones is a poet and freelance writer living in Seattle. Before joining the Poetry Northwest staff, Sarah was an editorial intern with C&R Press and an assistant poetry editor of Lunch Ticket and Soundings Review. Sarah received her MFA in Poetry from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Her work has been featured on NPR and The Bridge. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Entropy magazine, The Normal School, New Ohio Review, The Raven Chronicles, American Literary Review, Yes, Poetry, and many other places. You can find her at www.sarahjonespoet.com | Twitter: @writer_sejones |Instagram: @writer.sejones.