The New Census: An Open Letter by Kiki Petrosino

This week we continue our feature of The New Census: an Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, a lovely new book edited by Lauren Shapiro & Kevin A. Gonzalez, and published by Rescue Press. You can purchase the anthology here. Today, New Census contributor Kiki Petrosino responds to the anthology at large.

Phrases about The New Census from an Online Chat (Continued):
…rectangular stanzas of first-person narration…even-tempered propositional declaratives…“Every child ought to have a dead uncle”…“Love begins as a dream and ends as a rumor”…“Not one of my costumes is believable”…(to be continued)…

The New Census: An Open Letter

Dear Smallest Brightest Test-Case Planet,

Let me tell you about music. Sweet-lipped, inexact.
How it sidesteps up the scale, then down.

What music do I mean? Swaybacked! Sloe-eyed!
Let me tell you.

A song like that once came for me at 3 a.m. and stayed until
I’d gulped down all the rum in a green mug.

Now I look for music everywhere, but it finds me
only sometimes. Only sometimes at the best times, as

at the turnings of lines or in the riv(ul)ets between drafts.
Makes me rattle my rattles.

One-two. Got to.

I aim “[t]o pronounce your medicine in my mouth,” as Eric
Baus tells it. How sound can save us, medicine-like.

Always “medicine” is a word for the music we can’t
pronounce. Do you know the word for when

Eduardo Corral’s “Gold/curves” dissolve into
“Gold scarves?” That music, like a pastille melting

on the tongue. That slant medicine. Got to take that
dose now, got to try and remember when

“Sound was God, as she understood it, always poised to listen”
Yona Harvey says, as we try to eyedropper

her medicine all the way into our little ears poised
to hear: “When the synthecrabs squirm

in the beaker,” as John Beer observes, measuring his music.
So we crouch, listening (one-two) for new animals

tapping their claws against beaker-glass.
Or “thimbleberries, black, thud out of the night”

as Kathleen Ossip knows. Got to swerve to hear her
counting the thimbleberry thuds like quarter notes

across her line. Just so, we dig rivulets and
rumblestrips to music us awake. We ask for poems

to weight our tongues down. Ask sweetly.
Got to, one-two. Let me tell you how.


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