Fall Issue 2014

 

Giants

By Will Shoup

The Queens Giant is a poplar.
450-500 years old and still kicking,
however trapped it may be;
the fence around it is ten feet tall
and barbed at the top.
It keeps good company
among tall men. Imagine them visiting
old Queens Giant, one by one:
first, Robert Wadlow, with his awkward
gait and child’s smile. He laughs a lot.
He laughs like a steam shovel cough.
He fixes his glasses over and over.
The lenses are very thick
and as big around as your fists,
and they droop off his ears
and down his sepia nose
toward the ground.

Next, Felipe Birriel, who lived to 77.
He runs his palm along the trunk;
he feels the diamond lenticels;
he dreams of Mona Lisas.
He can smell the coffee bean rain
and the sugar cane ocean spray,
and he leaves a few grey hairs
in the cracks in the bark.
Then Manute Bol,
a full four inches shorter.
7 feet and 7 inches.
He lies down in the roots
and stares straight up the trunk.
Old Queens Giant creaks good-humoredly.
Bol leaves and goes back
to his second wife, his ten
kids. He’ll never block
a shot again, and the ache
of the old tree’s bucatini limbs
pounds between his ribs.

Finally, Bao Xishun visits.
He flies into JFK and is searched
for herdsman contraband by TSA
officers. He comes up clean.
He doesn’t get too close to the tree.
He tries to remember the others,
for their sake, not his,
but he doesn’t remember them well,
only that they were all very tall.
Here, they must finally have felt short.
Bao Xishun’s diet consists mostly of vegetables.
He once pulled shards of plastic
from the stomachs of two dolphins.
He was the only man in China
with long enough arms to reach
in there and get it all out. Before
the operation, the dolphins had been depressed,
but we never heard how they coped
with the loss of the plastic shards.
It’s summer here and in Mongolia.
The leaves on the poplar
have one glossy side
and one matte side
and a sideways stem
that flutters in the wind.
Bao Xishun watches the leaves
show off for him. He claps politely.
He often longs for the grasslands,
but at least this is the last stop
before he gets to go home
to his wife and their daughter.
The little girl is just a sapling:
five years old. One day,
she may be very tall
or maybe not tall at all.
He pats the old trunk
and smiles and moves on.

 

In-Between Prayer

By Will Shoup

Doce to dos y media, this día—
Dios! Sprinkle, immerse, learn,
know, memorize—molten tartread
stripes Main like glue. My bike’s tires
make tracks in the tracks, and I pray.

Barn swallows fork over the street
between their muddy nests. Two families’

homes: their home. Above a prairie porchswing.
Below a balcón in Argentina. And all the sea
between. Lord. Fuck. Flight. Tight,
milk-churn slosh of pedals
against my feet, and the sparrow

squeal of the left pedal with every thrust.
It needs oil. There’s no way there’s

time for all of this. Write this poem,
read Wordsworth, class, b-ball, dinner, recursive—
loop!—the Spanish test, tomorrow.
I pedal harder. My breath tattoos a rosary
against my chest and I pedal and pray

for the God of time to send me
a temporal anomaly.

A Will-sized warp bubble:
the time to get the book. The cheat grass—
Drooping Brome—spits seeds
into my ankles’ skin, and I stand
on the pedals and cut

across the railroad backbone that separates
North Newton from Newton, proper.

There’s little left:
tyrant wind and blue and
the old brown custom detailer filled
with automotive decay and fuck and
Lord the space across the river

on the bridge and ragweed and soldier-
tall hemp and the blue of the river under

and froth and bubbling brown
and riverfoam and that space
contracting: this Greyhound-weathered
backpack; this unfull Nalgene; this skin;
these knuckled white fists

on tape and metal ramhorns.
I gasp and cross the second riverbridge.

West, the dust from corn and grazing
combines thickens the horizon air,
and below, debajo de, beneath my feet,
my red wheels punch the asphalt
face of the Earth.

I will never be on time.
I am all the space in the world.

 

Pique-Nique, 1946

By Katie Schmidt

He chose a place among the brome grass,
shaded and still, to spread the cloth and unpack.

Tall and drooping, pulled into mournful bends by the weight of their seeds,
the feathered florescences leaned over the edges of the blanket
to hear the couple’s conversation.
The seed heads
hung pendulous and limp,
ashamed to be eavesdropping. They kept their heads down. 
They kept quiet.

She opened jam jars. He compared her to the sunshine. 
They exchanged comments about the uncommon dryness of the season.
They took turns remarking on the beauty of such
an undisturbed place.

From its perch in the sagging metallic remains of a windmill
a kingbird scanned the plain in all directions, looking entitled to the land.
With his yellow belly and proud posture
she thought it resembled a soldier surveying the aftermath of battle.

He asked about the French she learned there. He asked if she would ever
consider working here as a nurse.
She thought the sun’s gentle heat on the back of her neck
felt like warm blood rolling on her skin.
Instead she answered,
Mon dieu. That was the only French she remembered.

It rang out, then – clear and sharp, from the center of all things.
from the grass and the sun and 
the kingbird too.
That foreign moan echoed in her hollow body, tightened her face.
Ashamed and frightened, the little yellow soldier darted away into a hedgerow.

He asked if she enjoyed bird watching.
The brome grass sagged further, a breeze helping their heads to shake.
The wind swept the place clean as it passed; all noise rolled away to die in the fields.
She murmured something about the dryness of the season. 
So soon, she thought.
The seed heads had all withered,
tawny and fragile
so soon.

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