Transition: Poems in the Aftermath

A poem a day by a different poet responding to the election from Nov. 9 to Jan. 20
Submit poems via our Submittable site.

Transition Poem 53 @ Dec. 31, 2016

Julie Marie Wade
Décima: November 8, 2016

How the weather channel describes a particularly devastating storm;
Reminiscent of decimals, which we know are preceded by wholes and
followed by fragments; Also, a Roman goddess of Fate; Also, a poetic
form in which one four-line stanza introduces four, ten-line stanzas 

Here is the beach by early light, here the gulls dragging
the sea’s dark garnish across the plate of sand. Every surface
smooth as finger-tips now, mirrored, then smudged, then
picked clean again by crows. The stray voices commingling:
My cuticles have been giving me fits! and Did you say vendors
also have to pay to be part of the showcase? Then, this surprise
of vultures: their brown wings pulled tight as curtains, their
talons wet at the water-line. How they hunch together like monks
in common prayer. Shyly, and from some distance, I admire them,
their willingness to wait and wait for the rotted thing they want.

At lunchtime, messages blinker in my inbox. We want your
feedback!, Quick survey to help us serve you better!, and Sanou Bello’s
missive marked as spam: Dear friend, I hope you are fine over there in
your country. How this greeting strangely warms me, makes me
want to inquire: Is it Bello, like “bellow”—a scream carried on the wind
or “bay-yo”—a handsome man? Instead, I water the plants on the
windowsill, one moody orchid, three good-spirited ferns, and a
sober cactus. We still have not decided where to keep the beloved cat’s ashes, moved so often now, they seem to be everywhere. Later, I type and then delete: Dear Sanou, I cannot say if I am fine until tomorrow.

Before Chinese takeout on TV trays, we lay supine and practice being
dead. The teacher instructs us to spread our limbs wide: Nevermind the sand’s small upheavals! To no good end, I picture castles made all day by children, their pails primary blue and red; then, how the tide came in, flooding their moats, drowning their turrets, and how, just now, we flattened the last of their enterprise. Breathe. We are playing dead but not holding our breath. When will the world ever make sense? Stars flicker like unread messages: whole galaxy pending in blind carbon copy. On each of my ten antsy fingers, the moons start to rise. What a stupid question that was: Of course everyone pays to be part of the showcase!  

Sleep comes hurricane-rough. In the wind, I hear my own screams. Then, the world turns quiet, and I’m strolling toward Grandmother’s house. Even her chimney puffs, storybook-style. In the kitchen, I find her as she always was, stoic at the sink, washing dishes. Grandma smiles, insists I wait right there. When she died, I asked my parents if she left me something, perhaps her painted shells. Nothing, they said. Now Grandma returns with a German shepherd, straining against the leash. I never took him out for a walk. I regret that now, but I’ve been saving him, all these years, for you. Then—I promise this is true—she tells me his name is Anger as she ties the taut loop of leather at my wrist.

1-1Julie Marie Wade is the author of eight collections of poetry and prose. She teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University and reviews regularly for Lambda Literary Review and The Rumpus.

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Transition Poem 52 @ Dec. 30, 2016

Hilary Sideris
Real News

1. A White-Tailed

single-antlered
Harlem deer

seeking a mate
in Jackie Robinson

Park is dead. The buck
became the subject

of a heated back
& forth over its fate

between our mayor
& governor.

2. Rescue Workers

shatter Suburu
windows only to find

a fake widow with roses
on her gown, blemishes

down her arm from too
much sun. Her owner,

a CPR instructor, curses
cops but goes uncharged.

The chief’s relieved to
make it known that no

white woman froze in
his chic town & if one

did, his men would
notice & respond.

3. I Wondered,

said Beddal,
churchwarden

at St. Thomas of
Canterbury, why

Mr. Michael would miss
the midnight mass,

his garden decked out
as it was with Christmas

lights we could see
from the bridge.

 

Hilary Sideris is the author of Most Likely to Die, poems in the voice of Keith Richards (Poets Wear Prada, 2014) and The Inclination to Make Waves (Big Wonderful, 2016). She lives in Kensington, Brooklyn. Her new chapbook, A House Not Made with Hands, inspired by Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, is forthcoming from Poets Wear Prada.

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Transition Poem 51 @ Dec. 29, 2016

Elizabeth Macklin
Shanghai Mahjongg or Something

The living face and voice and pulse only
at last hold humanity together.
—W. Whitman

Let’s play some Mahjongg,
let’s play some Shanghai Mahjongg.
Let’s play some online Shanghai Mahjongg
in our online-solitaire kaffeeklatsch,
where Action brings good fortune,
or can—even in Red Dragon–Hard,
one rung down from Ninja–Unbeatable.

But line ’em up. A prayer for the post-election,
says somebody posting a “Long Walk Home”
in the News Feed, as if to remark Who we are,
what we’ll do, and what we won’t.
And so we retreat—not into anything easy
but just into Red Dragon–Hard,
a craven occasion to try breathing.

As out in the real world they desperately try
to construe us. But we live in this one,
and wanted only to slow down.
A gross, 144, of pleasing tesserae: contemplation,
a way of seeing a chance—something
to do. Then doubling back to consider:
Any reason not to?

And: Action brings good fortune!
Or only a 68—stopped short—a joke
of the algorithm: so constantly so
it’s close to a consolation. Or a passable
42, when you sense how you might’ve learned
something, or witnessed at last—
possibly learned.

We cannot unhear what we have heard,
says the Governor early, adding:
Protect the ship. It was as if
we could solve the problem,
here in Red Dragon–Hard,
alongside the algorithm that calls itself I,
placed in a bomb like an unruly child.

There are no more moves. This game is over.
You can Start a new game from the top left menu.
Here’s something to do. Any reason not to?
All you have to do is know what to do
this time. Two Flowers, two Green Dragons,
and deal with the rest just a short while later.
Then it will have been done, just after that.

 

Elizabeth Macklin is the author of the poetry collections You’ve Just Been Told (Norton, 2000) and A Woman Kneeling in the Big City (Norton, 1992). She translated the Basque poet Kirmen Uribe’s Bitartean Heldu Eskutik (Meanwhile Take My Hand), published by Graywolf in 2007. Her work has appeared in The Nation, New England Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Paris Review, The Threepenny Review, and The Yale Review, among others. Her awards include the Ingram Merrill poetry prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, and a PEN Translation Fund Grant from PEN American Center.

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Transition Poem 50 @ Dec. 28, 2016

Joy Ladin
Make America Great Again

Put on your best shoes—
mine have holes in them—
and let’s make our country great again.
I’m not talking about the election.
America has been waiting over two hundred years
to be better than its citizens,
to color outside our color lines,
to rise, once and for all
above our festering hatreds.

I’m not talking about the election.
It’s time to put our ears to the ground and listen
to America rehearsing its declaration of independence
from its thirst for dammed-up rivers, its loneliness for the frogs
that are harder and harder to hear
when spring comes again—America wishes
it could stop missing them—
from the wildness of its fires, from its adolescent passions
to screw whatever it can.

I’m not talking about the election. The election
was America feeling restless, hopeless, achingly bad
about the robots running its factories
and the opiates writing its prescriptions
for how to stop hurting when you know
you will never stop hurting again,
the election was America choosing
what it never wanted
and wanting what it never had,
its hands were busy rigging its systems
to broadcast its recurring nightmares
as widely as possible
in the hopes that those of us who truly love it
will wake it up at last.

It’s time for us, America’s mismatched halves,
to make friends in real life, off the internet,
it’s time for me to put on your shoes—
mine have holes in them—
and for us to walk, if not together,
at least in the same direction
and buy America a beer
and get teary about our childhoods
and heartbroken about our futures
until we are sure, one hundred percent,
that we will go in the morning to our different jobs
with the same throbbing in our heads.

It’s hard these days to tell truth from lies,
to remember the fertility of the plains
and the sunburnt hands that work them
while riding crowded subways,
to remember the towers of tiny apartments
filled with people, old and young,
worried about paying rent
while we are logging forests we hope to God
don’t have spotted owls in them.
But we all remember how to love,
and we long to be forgiven
no matter how hard
we find it to forgive,
we still watch shows whose heroes—
we still have heroes—respond to fear
with courage instead of hatred.

I sometimes remember, you do too,
to say “us” instead of “them,”
so there is no reason for either of us to fail to respond
to America’s personals ad,
running on every horizon:

Middle-aged country—
preferred pronouns “we” and “ours”—
seeks a few hundred million people
who love sunrise, sunset, shining seas
and all the land between them.
Must be willing to shoulder two hundred years of baggage.
Must love dogs, children, diverse eco-systems,
a living wage for an honest day’s work,
clothing the naked, lending a hand.
Must speak both country and city.
Don’t bother to reply
unless you are willing to listen.

 

Joy Ladin is the author of seven books of poetry, including Lambda Literary Award finalists Impersonation and Transmigration. Her memoir of gender transition, Through the Door of Life, was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award finalist. Her work has been recognized with a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship and a Fulbright Scholarship, among other honors. She holds the Gottesman Chair in English at Yeshiva University. Her poems and essays are available at joyladin.com.

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Transition Poem 49 @ Dec. 27, 2016

Lonely Christopher
San Francisco

I used to think that I could draw
and drove a car across the eclipsed
face of the thespian deserts
in a star system so far away from home
that our burning manticores fled
from the harm of a thousand space rats
and worlds died and suns were born
in a way that destroyed human concepts
of time, in a way that recalled the portal
that I once sucked ooze through
when I was first learning how to travel
and fuck for my life.

 

Lonely Christopher, Brooklyn-based poet and filmmaker, is the author of several movies and the books The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse, Death & Disaster Series, and the novel THERE (forthcoming 2017).

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Transition Poem 48 @ Dec. 26, 2016

Kyle Coma-Thompson
Tacitus Jr.

His whole
autobiography 
	was one
	long howl 
of wounded head. So

he deserves some credit
for not writing it. 

	
	*

Instead he surveyed the
power brokering of

the cannibal 
elite, recorded them for

the sake of honesty and 
moral veto. They lived

well regardless, and 
passed their laws.

All so the helpless 
might adhere to them. 


	*

He once read somewhere
students in Australia (or
	was it

	        South
		   Africa) studied
for springtime exams 

under jacaranda trees in bloom,
for good        luck.

One day he would have to write
the history of the 

working classes under one. 



	*

They held to one
another and fought

   and cursed and kissed
   and sang their endearing 

        fight songs, tumbling
        a long fall all the

way. Like blossoms. This book,

for what purpose did he write it,

but to open it one day, and catch them? 

Closing it, he keeps them, safe, hidden, preserved,

indistinguishable from any other book on the table. 


	*

The barbarians were his people, 

though they looked on him as a Roman.

Every day he conquered himself.

And so, both victor and loser, was one.

Kyle Coma-Thompson is the author of the short story collections The Lucky Body (Dock Street Press, 2014) and Night in the Sun (Dock Street Press , 2016). The title story for his first book was included by Ben Marcus in the anthology New American Stories (Vintage, 2015).

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Transition Poem 47 @ Dec. 25, 2016

Cornelius Eady
Bad Dream

It’s like waking up, but not waking up
The things of this world
A film in your mouth,
Milk in the fridge a bit
Too long, you know
That flavor,

You’re walking in a thrift shop
—how did you get there?
And the thought occurs
As you check the price tags
That everything you see

Once had a glory
Before the rust sat in,
Was once connected
To something bigger
Whose story

Is now gone. Forever.

Then you wake up
But you don’t wake up
And you walk to a coffee shop

What happened?
Everyone there shivers and sips
Sips and shivers.

How did you all land in a coffee shop?
How come this coffee doesn’t work?

The bad taste in the cup.

 

Cornelius Eady, poet and cofounder of Cave Canem, has published more than half a dozen volumes of poetry, among them Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1985), winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; The Gathering of My Name (1991), nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and Brutal Imagination (2001), a National Book Award finalist. Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems appeared in 2008.

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Transition Poem 46 @ Dec. 24, 2016

Charles Bernstein
Were You There When They Crucified Our Lord?

I was. Let me tell you about it. It was mean ugly,
disgusting. Shattering if you really want to know.
And the worst thing is it didn’t stop, went on for days,
For years if truth be told. It never stopped.

 

Charles Bernstein is a venture poet and operative specializing in founding and developing innovative new media platforms and non-media portals through his Panacea Holdings. He is CFO of Poets Ludicrously Aimless Yearning (PLAY) and Director of Dysraphic Studies at the Institute for Avant-Garde Comedy and Stand-up Poetry. His books include My Side of the Street Is Not on Your Map, Buddy; Elusive Allusions: Selected Koans; and the national best seller Stupid Men, Smart Choices.

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Transition Poem 45 @ Dec. 23, 2016

Suzanne Sigafoos
Thanksgiving 2016, a Monochord

Gathered in despair, we praised.

 

Suzanne Sigafoos is the author of Held In The Weave (Finishing Line, 2011) Her work has appeared in The Oregonian, VoiceCatcher, Bellingham Review, and Windfall: A Journal of Poetry of Place, and in the anthology The Knotted Bond: Oregon Poets Speak of their Sisters. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Transition Poem 44 @ Dec. 22, 2016

Denise Duhamel
LETHALLY ORANGE

“Nothing more than a Clueless redux without the edgy, knowing wit.”
The Washington Post

Lethally Orange

Donald Trump (played brilliantly by Donald Trump) has it all—hotels, golf courses, beauty pageant franchises, a reality show, a trophy wife, as well five kids from three different marriages. But Donald wants nothing more than to be Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States. There is one person (Hillary Clinton) trying to stop him—She is experienced. He is crass. She knows policy. He knows publicity. Spunky Donald Trump rallies all of his resources. Will he make it into the White House?

The locations for Lethally Orange are not, as you might have assumed, simply Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio. Although much of the film is set in such swing stages, Donald Trump (played by Donald Trump) jets to Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin to dazzle the crowds who await him.

Lethally Orange 2: Red, White & Dumb

Donald Trump (played by Donald Trump) returns in this sequel to gloat. As he spins in his chair in the oval office, brassy Donald is all about rights for billionaires around the world. In fact, he puts his own luxurious vacation plans on hold as he heads to Washington, D.C., to get even more money into his pocket and the pockets of his friends. Can he also simultaneously curtail the rights of women, immigrants, minorities, and the poor? Destroy the environment? A cast of eccentrics led by Mike Pence (played by Mike Pence) quickly shows him the ways and workings, especially the loopholes, of our nation’s capital.

Even though the story is set in Washington, D.C., most of the film is shot in the offices at Trump Tower in New York City or various Trump properties around the globe. The supposed “aerial views” of Washington buildings were scale models built by the crew.

Lethally Orange: The Musical

Lethally Orange is a musical with music and lyrics by Mick Mulvaney and Betsy DeVos and book by Tom Price. The story is based on the 2016 film of the same name. It tells the story of Donald Trump, a real estate mogul who decides, on a lark, to run for President of the United States. He discovers how his knowledge of the law and business can destroy others. He successfully defends antiquated, harmful views about women and minorities. In one of the most upbeat numbers, “Supporting Small Businesses,” a campaigning Donald visits a small town diner and orders an LGBTQ, which he surmises is a BLT with BBQ sauce. Throughout the show, the majority of the American people have little faith in Donald Trump, complaining he is not “presidential.” He continues to crush their spirits when he ignores even the most basic of civilities, his hateful tweets sung by a chorus of dancing “Trumpettes.”

 

1-1Denise Duhamel‘s most recent book of poems is Scald (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017). Blowout (Pittsburgh, 2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her other books include Ka-Ching! (Pittsburgh, 2009), Two and Two (Pittsburgh, 2005), Mille et un Sentiments (Firewheel, 2005) and Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (Pittsburgh, 2001). A recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, she was the guest editor is for The Best American Poetry 2013.

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