All poems found on the always surprising failbetter.com.
Raising Children is Boring
by Justin Marks
Raising children is boring.
I walk in the door and my mind
Things go well, then don’t.
But then, increasingly.
There is never not a narrative.
Discovering new ways to die
is always upsetting.
Little is lonelier
than being married. Except not.
Amputations all around.
by Jennifer Key
The house holds no more words.
Every one from a to zygote,
even the World Book Encyclopedias
(a graduation gift circa ’62),
long since carted to Carolina
for my parents’ grand retirement
that will not come to pass.
On the porch my father lies flushed
and dreaming back to boyhood
or war, when soldiers crushed heroin
with their hands and smoked it.
He refused, but now wears a patch
more potent than opium behind one ear.
Beyond the porch screens, bug-picked
and spider-laced, the hills of Virginia
march into a future we can’t see,
just as birdsong insists on daylight
long after it’s gone. The lilies father planted
to flower the season of my wedding
open their awful mouths—
the first just yesterday and by today
two turned trumpet. There is no silencing
their dreadful fanfare. Why must they persist
when each pink tongue only says the same thing?
The more that open, the sooner he’ll be gone.
If We’d Cried, I Would Have Mentioned It
by Karen Skolfield
I’ve realized I don’t keep much
of my mom around. An ornate bottle,
a serving platter, one picture
on the side of the fridge.
We look a lot alike. Everyone said so
at the funeral, which is a strange
time to say that: You look so much
like your mother, who is now dead.
We were the same height for a long time,
and then she shrank, and shrank
some more, and I knew she was leaving.
Short fingers. Farsighted. I’m graying
the same way she did. She was in the ground
by the time we arrived in Tennessee.
On a hillside where it looked like no one
had ever been. Even the new dirt looked
like old dirt. Cold, but only Tennessee cold.
I was six months pregnant, and I wore
a maternity vest designed just for funerals
when you are six months pregnant.
Dark on dark, a pocket for what grows inside.
A little zipper that gave my hands
something to do. My brothers said
I looked nice pregnant, and I believed them.
We milled around the dry December grass,
churning the spent seed heads, and talked
about mom as if she still might show up
with a baked ham, some warm bread.
We were a family raised to believe
in things unseen. Just the one tombstone.
Pink granite. Or maybe it’s called red granite,
but it looked pink, and we talked about it
for a long time, the area famous for its quarry.
Hearts and her name, precisely carved flowers.
What I wanted to tell my siblings was that
the wrong parent died. I thought this over
and over, and found some strange comfort there.
Maybe they thought the same thing.
My oldest brother’s girlfriend said
“Isn’t it amazing what they can do with lasers,”
and I told her about my surgery.
No more glasses. Until then,
I’d let everyone wonder what miracle,
what divine hand, had touched my eyes.
Turning Down the Ars Poetica, Heating Up the Leftovers
by Jim Daniels
The heart abused by the staged endings
of professional wrestling and greeting cards.
The line pumping blood replaced
by fashionable stray threads leading to
the complete fraying of, spraying of, the blind horse’s
nod and wink. In other words, lost in the snowy forest
among the skeleton trees, irony serves little purpose.
I just won an award for obscure clarity—stop the presses
and replace them with long underwear drying on the line,
almost sideways in March wind.
Somewhere, a man arrives home from work
in evening darkness, car door etching itself
on the street’s silence, Inside, leftovers on the stove,
a woman in her robe prepares his plate.
Children asleep, radio tuned to talk
on health and home improvements and religion
though it’s just soft static now as she sits down
to watch him eat, as he sits down to hear
what he missed, being at work and all.
I can’t tell you whether they even hug or kiss
before collapsing into bed together,
for I am already in dream’s tender arms.
And if this violates point of view
or logic, she’ll get you a plate
and explain it all to you,