poem index

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Eloisa Amezcua

after Bobby Chacon
 

I don’t care about the title
I’m in this for the money

I care about the title
I care about the money

I’m in this for the title
I don’t care about the money

I’m for the money I don’t care
I don’t care I’m for the title

the title don’t care about I
the money don’t care about the title

I’m about the money
I’m about the title

I’m the money I care about in this

Copyright © 2018 Eloisa Amezcua. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Brandon Amico

The opposite of not existing
is shopping. I am less the name
given me than my portion
of our nation’s GDP. Student loan
interest rates and 401(k) projections
tangle on a graph, spurring one another
toward climax. I am my credit score
(777, which means I can afford
to gamble) by way of most common
denominator: the easiest consistent definition
for those who pass me on the street,
who sneeze into my collar, who walk
their dogs like their own sovereign nations.
The main export of dogs is love, because
that’s all we’ll take from them. I withhold.
I charitable contribution. I put into
a MEEK fund so I inherit whatever’s left me
when the wars are done. Take
the whips and minimum gags allowed
by law and say thank you, chew
on the inside of my cheek. I am alive
when restrained, know my body
by what it pushes up against.
I am putting in my dues, stretching
my life out till next week’s paycheck,
and the next; withhold a little bit
every other Thursday until
refund time, that time of year
all the S&M shops dream of, for we buy
new, plastic-smelling gags, we buy leather,
our own handcuffs. Will the nation
spoon us after? Do we need
SSN safewords? Are we expected to speak
with all this debt in our mouths, and what
would we say if it’s removed?

Copyright © 2018 Brandon Amico. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Sanki Saitō, 1900 - 1962

translated by Ryan C. K. Choi

Money

Flesh-
colored spring

                moon,
                flaring
above the graves.


                Hitched

to the North Star, the
pillar of ice grows fat.


Airstrip, yellowing,

                terminates
in the winter

sea.


                Cold seas

Pilot and dog
                frolic
through dead grass

fields
                and
roll around.


                Right eye

                Winter sea

                Angry
about money,
                sweat

                drips
on dirt.

Copyright © 2018 Ryan C. K. Choi. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Andrea Cohen

I drew the eraser
first because I knew

it better than I knew
myself and because

it had been around
the block before me

and because it would,
after having its way

with me, rub up against
everything I’d ever loved.

Copyright © 2018 Andrea Cohen. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Andrea Cohen

We build these
into the dream-

house, holes drilled
into window sills,

so rainy days
drain out. No

dream’s complete
without looking

ahead, without
seeing ourselves

looking back
at who—

dreaming—
we’d been.

Copyright © 2018 Andrea Cohen. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Edward Hirsch, 1950

That’s the job, he said,
shrugging his shoulders
and running his hand
through his hair, like Dante,
or a spider
that knows its web,
That’s just the job,
he repeated stubbornly
whenever I complained
about working the night shift
in hundred-degree heat,
or hauling my ass
over the hump
for a foul-mouthed dispatcher
yelling at us
over a loudspeaker,
or riding the cab
of an iron dungeon
creeping over bumpy rails
to a steel mill
rising out of the smog
in Joliet or Calumet City
where we headed
to track down
a few hundred giants
in chains clanking together
on rusty wheels
for dragging home
and uncoupling
at the clearing yard
loaded with empty
freight cars
waiting to be loaded
with more freight,
because that’s the job.

Copyright © 2018 Edward Hirsch. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Edward Hirsch, 1950

You never expected
to spend so many hours
staring down an empty sheet
of lined paper
in the harsh inner light
of an all-night diner,
ruining your heart
over mug after mug
of bitter coffee
and reading Meister Eckhart
or Saint John of the Cross
or some other mystic
of nothingness
in a brightly colored booth
next to a window
looking out
at a deserted off-ramp
or unfinished bridge
or garishly lit parking lot
backing up
on Detroit or Houston
or some other city
forsaken at three a.m.
with loners
and insomniacs
facing the darkness
of an interminable night
that stretched into months
and years.

Copyright © 2018 Edward Hirsch. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Garrett Hongo, 1951

L. T. H., I. M.

There were years at her bedroom vanity, daubing on
makeup, fussing with clips and brushes, a clamp
for eyelashes, the phalanx of powder jars and perfume
bottles assembled like the glassy face of a wave standing
over a box of Kleenex. She’d paint on lipstick,
then blot the excess with a fold of pink tissue pressed
between her lips, pulling pins and a net from her hair,
grabbing up her purse and high-heeled shoes,
almost ready to step up the tiered flights of City Hall stairs
and the long day’s work bossing the typists and Clerk IIs.

How long was this her life, composed or grudging amidst
the clatter of machines, the pouches and memos
that swelled like a tide of incoming blather each day
she stood at her desk, commanding Stella Sue from Memphis,
Helena from Jalisco, and Kay (short for Keiko) from Boyle Heights?
How many times must she have thought of flowers floating in a tree,
archipelagos of plumeria buoyed on their branches
as a soft, onshore wind brought the scent of the sea
to the subtropical pietà of a mother and her newborn,
wrapped in blue flannels, in her arms as she sat on a torn
grass mat on the lawn by the browning litter of blooms
beneath a skeletal tree by a bungalow in Kahuku?

In her last illness, while lying comfortably in her bed
in the semiprivate room of the care center in Carson, California,
her mind and lifelong rage sweetened by the calm of forgetfulness,
she said she wanted to go back, that it was “a good place”
and she’d like living there again. “Ripe mangoes and guava taste
every day,” she said. “And everybody knows you your family bess.”

She spoke in pidgin like this, without demands, no fusillades
of scorn nor admonishments like I’d gotten steadily since childhood —
the torch of discontent that had lit a chronic, rancorous façade
had doused itself in the calm waters of a late-life lagoon
that caught her in its tidal fingers and captured her moonlike face
so that, when she gazed upon me those last days,
she did not scowl but smiled, her tyrannous visage
made plain, beatific without blemish of pain or artifice.

Copyright © 2018 Garrett Hongo. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Garrett Hongo, 1951

It’s a hazy day and an onshore wind blows in from off the Mediterranean
                                                                                               in Aeolian puffs
that billow the straw-colored drapes I’ve drawn aside for this Dufy-like
view of pleasurecraft, Zodiac boats, and double-deck tour cruisers
off to the Calanques and their narrow bays of glittering Byzantine blues.
A battered fishing dinghy and what looks like a Chris-Craft nearly collide
                                                                                                 in the channel,
and I can only consider the solace of waters shading from celadon to cyan.

It’s a better discipline than calculating my equity balance on May 28, 2005,
than rowing in a flat scull cutting past the fearful prow of a dread future.
Seagulls peep like Erinyes wearing white linen suits, sky-jockeying
                                                      and sailing in the graying zenith of woe.
I’m just a dharmakaya short of True Enlightenment, my Self and Soul
paralyzed between Baldo and the blues. . . .

What would the Householder of the Azure Lotus say
                                          about my life without consolation?
Issa about my having lost nothing but the dew of morning
to the engines of weather, these benign winds of nonchange
                                                                     from the Cyrenaica and Fezzan?

I make a fretful drama of sinecural worries, the orchestral churn of care
galloping over the currents in my blood like that frantic outboard
on a boat half past the horizon and too far out for rescue or secure return.

Copyright © 2018 Garrett Hongo. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Garrett Hongo, 1951

It’s too hot to think much about the ochre cliffs of Cap Canaille
or the moan of a tour boat’s engines grinding through the aquamarine
                                                                                  of the Mediterranean.
I’m inside measuring the width of the white ribbon of the wake
like a long skin shedding itself from the exoskeleton of a Zodiac boat,
assessing valuations of finitude among my household property,
gazing at the bathers as they take turns diving off the limestone promontory
                                                                                  below and to my left,
lazily frog-kicking through the cerulean waters of Port-de-Cassis.

Their bodies are pale as salamanders as they scoot through
                                                                                  the zaffre and viridian
back to the rock-toothed shore where they pull themselves up,
amphibian-like, stunning the air with their glistening bodies.
It is a sensate joy that releases like ecstatic vapor
                                            from off their skins and sea-drenched hair.
A hand has touched them and pass’d over their bodies,
                                                                     but not over mine.

If I were to walk a serrated shore, worn by wind and the idylls
                                                                                           of companionship,
I’d be twenty again and arrogant as Icarus
making survey of his father’s domain,
scanning the surface of the sea for a boil of sardines
glinting like a scatter of coins.
Preposterously, I’d glance neither to my left nor to my right,
and launch myself straight into a dive of my own,
unshowy and silent as I cut the immaculate waters,
joyous only in the theater of my own being, alone
as the brown salts that dry on the stoic, limestone lips of the sea,
unconsecrated by touch, the liquidinous mask of my face
submerged and upturned, trailing shrouds of sapphire and indigo.

Copyright © 2018 Garrett Hongo. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Ishion Hutchinson

Oaks or chestnuts, what here
                draws brass linen, wakes me, overcast,
                with the polished sprigs of my grandmother’s
                lamp, holding the plumed shade once

holding fire by her opened Bible, parsed
                for the night’s reading. Across dark and
                plywood, an aqueduct’s dry run, listen
                my voice, around her house, croton leaves

from the oven’s heat, levitating.
                Saturdays doubles her to a bee. I outstare
                the sea and summon the carols of Christmas;
                her fake pine tree, its foil star

perforates the town’s gossiping lights.
                I again turn the pages, she sleeps
                in the watered-down night.

Where do they go? Where do they go?

Copyright © 2018 Ishion Hutchinson. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Amaud Jamaul Johnson

you have since swallowed
so much blood, the sailboats
rap violently about the docks,
and how heavy the gulls’ wings
have grown, how sour, sourly
beloved, and what shall we then
call it, this consternation, a blue
funk, some pestilence, which hangs
or blooms or paints itself silently
within the many courtyards
of the body, or across that high
court of the skull, what looms
like another steamrolled peony,
or some pink paper moon.

Copyright © 2018 Amaud Jamaul Johnson. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Katy Lederer

It was the market day
and I had rented a stile
by which I could number my patrons;
and a tree, so that I could plant something
living by my selling stand;
and a hefty snatch of my favorite black cloth
so that I could mimic mourning
and people might think that my husband had died
(which he had not).

But knowing that patrons
offered more money to women in black,
I pretended as such and left some of the coins
buried after I had packed up my stand.
I supposed that burying them
might make up for my pretending.
I had also to uproot the tree
and then take it back to my brother-in-law,
so there was already a great gaping hole in the ground.

Copyright © 2018 Katy Lederer. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Katy Lederer

I slapped my chickens with a ruler
as they looked at their privates—
they were ashamed and walked
as if they were kings.
I had punctured the chest
of the cavity rooster.

My dog was licking my ankles
and giving me wedding rings.
It was too much to care—
so I took money from women
by pretending that I was a husband
and then left my dog in my place
when I woke up in their beds.

I saved dimes in their mouths, though,
and then I’d pull their chains—
I’d pretend that I was the tooth fairy
then take all their money.

Copyright © 2018 Katy Lederer. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Alessandra Lynch

In a blue collusion of dusk
and rain, the sky’s darkly shaking
like horsetails flicking

                off bloodflies. As you’d try
switching off half-truths that fed
on your skin, their little bites
                distracting you
from harder pain.

                Nothing a hoof could gallop from. Nothing to ride here
but air
                coolly passing from stable to woods—
each leaf a perforated heart—

to the front porch of the blue house. As you ascend,
                the steps darken behind you, night
has its own quiet stepping—it is not
                an abyss, not amorphous
as once you felt—.

How wavery the rain at the threshhold—

Copyright © 2018 Alessandra Lynch. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Kenyon Review Nov/Dec 2018
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Leslie Williams

I’m trying to forgive my friend
who arrives like a bleeder
in an ambulance.

I should minimize
my exposure, as to a bad
virus or too much sun.

I’m always the shadow,
the “local talent,” sweeping
the floor, feting her

even when my new baby
had just come home.
I was gulping

cranberry ginger ales
in dazed thirst to restore
myself as she uncorked

another dark-green bottle,
put her thumb
in the deep punt

of the heavy bell-shaped
bottom, and poured herself
more red.

Copyright © 2018 Leslie Williams. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.