Building on poetry slam tradition @ Unity College

Robin MerrillPoetry Slam @ Unity College
On April 27th, Unity built on their budding poetry slam tradition with a rowdy show of student poetry. Six talented students participated, with Brian Fisher taking first place and the $25 cash prize that was generously donated by a member of the community. Judges came from near and far to hear these poems and score them subjectively, but the poets know that the points are not the point!


The evening opened with a feature reading from slam poet Robin Merrill, who will represent Maine at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, California in August. Visit her at robinmerrill.com.

 

What’s Fucked Up About Abundance

Lilace Mellin Guignard

What’s Fucked Up About Abundance

 
 

How in the midst of all those tomatoes
glowing red and orange in my backyard,
ripe and rotting in the raised 3×3 squares
I bowed my back filling, tilling, and weeding,

how in the bosom of late August
when their armies swarm my counters
and they roll off my sill—splat—into the sink,

how with the flavor of the hordes numbing
my tongue’s memory of winter when,
like mail order brides, I embrace cans
of diced and stewed from who-knows-where,

I lose each fruit’s singular beauty in the glare
of all there is to do—slicing, roasting,
freezing, boiling, canning—always pulling at me

like a million small children, or, let’s say, two
holding onto my legs, two perfect children
I’ve waited my whole life for clutching my legs

and the amazing—really—beefsteak of a man
I waited 30 years for (and would again)
reading Climbing magazine at the table
where he’s cleared a space for his beer

while I shuffle to the sink to lay
the knife down so I can pick the baby up,

how so much goodness doesn’t make me
thankful so much as frantic knowing
the rest of my life I must work to deserve it.

 

Lilace Mellin Guignard was a 2003-2004 recipient of a Nevada Artist Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Ecotone, Calyx, Rivendell, and ISLE, as well anthologies; her nonfiction has been published in Quarterly West, Santa Monica Review, and Orion Afield. Guignard’s research and academic articles focus on gender and outdoor spaces. She currently writes from her home in rural Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband, six-year-old son, and three-year-old daughter.

Naming the Trees

Stacked Chairs

 

 

 

 

Hannah Fries

Naming the Trees

 

We are naming the trees as we walk, or trying to
name them—it is early spring,
no help from leaves,
though their shapes are etched on our minds,
their branching veins, the space between,
like my hand against your chest.
Only the texture of bark: smooth or rough, riveted, peeling,
or drawn with arching brows
(skepticism, perhaps, at our naming),
and their crowns: spreading or drooping, branches growing in whorls or
alternately, needles in groups of three
or five, or soft fronds of hemlock.

Oak (white), maple (red), birch (silvery yellow) and the smell
of wintergreen scratched open,
thumbnail to damp wood. We name them
because they tower over us, wave their myriad arms,
largest living things we see and don’t
see, here on the hills where they were logged, burned,
where, we remember, they marched back anyway, across the ashen slopes, saplings
cracking the rain-pocked earth, they split
themselves in all directions, stretched against sky, breathing
our breath. We are naming the trees

that have grown the perimeters of the burnt-out factory where sky
shouts through the windows
on the wall left standing,
the rest all ghosted and black, letters rubbed out from caving sides—
a wood treatment plant, hidden behind the barbed wire’s
curtain of climbing vines,
its bittersweet, honeysuckle, nostalgic and invasive: what strangles
the forest undoes this too, us, fenced in
and overcome with sweet blossoms and berries
and doomed as the gasping tree in bittersweet’s coil.
We are naming,
we are naming the trees before they walk away

because we are unlearning our forgetfulness,
because this time we are trying the opposite and taking our time,
and right now time loves us
because we just made love, late
this morning, slowly
waking each other up, without speaking,
yellow ribbons of light streaming in on our bodies, through branches
through slats of the shades, and then
we got up and went outside to name the trees: horse chestnuts
in front lawns, magnolia, crab apple still budless,
thinking pink.

On the back of your hand, blue veins branch
like trees, like roots seeking water,
like the river that roils under the bridge
we are walking over, somewhere farther along,
where we could fish it, eat, not think
toxic silt, PCBs carried downstream.
Think: tree swallows in silver maples,
water-loving. We press
our hands against bark to print its pattern on our palms,
across our lifelines, grooved
skin and finger pads whorled to the center. I say

your name, and you turn
like a stalk toward the light. I love you.
There is no good reason
why any of this should be, which is why
we hold it in our mouths, turning it over. Today
we are naming the trees, calling them back to us.
Shagbark hickory, tamarack,
weeping willow and white pine.
Sugar maple, we say, and it is on our tongues:
Tap it now, in March,
the ground a mash of snow and mud, sap rising
from the roots, clear drop on the finger:
small sweetness we taste because we know it’s there.

 

 

 

 

Hannah Fries is associate editor and poetry editor of Orion and a graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Calyx, terrain.org, and other journals. She recently took part in an interdisciplinary artists’ residency focused on mine reclamation with the Colorado Art Ranch.

 

Noah’s Wife: A Diary

Cole Caswell, Image 1

 


Noah’s Wife: A Diary

 

So I’ve started to gather seeds,
stitch them
into the hem of my robe.

I choose a dozen flowers
to hide in the cuff of my sleeve.

* *

Rain: small craters in the dust
like holes to plant the wheat in.
Refreshing at first. At first,
things will want to grow.

* *

My ankles are black
with mud. The sheep sink in
to their knees,

Cruel, to choose.

* *

The beasts, obedient, file in.
Who will save the olive and the barley?
I hide a cherry stone beneath my tongue.

* *

When the bears shambled in with burs
in their coats, I secretly rejoiced.

Last night I groomed them,
plucked their coarse fur clean.

* *

The giraffes are seasick—knobby
legs wobble beneath their bellies.

So am I. I pick through
feces, finding the pits and seeds
of what last fruit they ate.

* *

The raven sits on my shoulder.
I feel his beak in my hair, and
his feathers are oil.
he follows me, my shadow
the shadow of wings.
I should have been left out there
in the sheeting rain.

* *

The clouds have dried
and withered like my hands.

Mountain peaks are islands, thrashed and bare.

the water is so still: a bowl
filled with sky.

* *

Two snakes have bred.
Their young slither about the floor.
I think of the poppy seeds sewn
into my right sleeve, a constellation
shifting around my wrist.

* *

The dove is a fool: it returns
to this mess of wood and flesh.

The raven went out first—
seeds tucked in his smoke-black beak.

He won’t return.
He’ll fly until he’s through.

 

 

Hannah Fries is associate editor and poetry editor of Orion and a graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Calyx, terrain.org, and other journals. She recently took part in an interdisciplinary artists’ residency focused on mine reclamation with the Colorado Art Ranch.

 

 

Iced

Caswell, Fallen

 

Richard Downing

Iced

The last polar bear visited our town last
night. It was burping up parts of Billy
when Big John blew the top

part of its head off with one shot
from a Browning over and under.
Bear landed

on top of what was left of Billy.
Nice kid. Too bad. Bear went right
for the face. That’s what they do.

Most of us asked what the bear was doing
in town. It’s not like them to just drop in.
We figured we hadn’t seen one in a while because

we keep the garbage inside. Otherwise the moose
have their way with it. Ed slaughtered
the dead bear. “No sense letting it go

to waste,” he said, and as an afterthought, “Billy
would have wanted it that way.” From what I saw
of what was left of Billy, he wouldn’t

have wanted any part of any of it. Crazy thing
about it is he was the one that liked the damned
bears. He was always talking about their ice

melting, how it was their ice,
how they needed it to reach the seals.
He’d talk

about how we’re all in it together—
Interconnected, he’d say.
Well he sure was with that bear.

 

 

Richard Downing has won the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Poetry Contest, the Writecorner Press 2010 Editor’s Award, New Delta Review’s Matt Clark Prize, and New Woman Magazine’s Grand Prize for Fiction. His poetry can be found in his chapbook Four Steps Off the Path, in the anthologies Hunger Enough: Spiritual Living in a Consumer Society; Dire Elegies; and Against Agamemnon: War Poems, in many literary journals, and at OccupyPoetry.org. He is a co-founder of Save Our Naturecoast and holds a PhD in English.