Archive for the ‘THERMOS 5’ Category

THERMOS 5: Laura Walker

This week, THERMOS is running a feature of Laura Walker’s poetry, assembled by Cassie Donish. These poems, from the collection bird book, first appeared in THERMOS 5. Please check back throughout the week for more poems, and an interview.

                                                                                eastern kingbird

we saw him walking down from the store

coal headed

to be seldom visible

give in a series


near water

                                                                                prothonotary warbler

half of numerous

we were dark         prominent

              two boys in the backseat

              large white peaches

                                                                      to call


                                                                      an only tree


    sluggish or stagnant

or water

                                                                                mourning dove

she awaits a violent body

our more abundant

the larger       a small

                                          ask him to come in

                                                                                eastern phoebe

he followed her through the store

darkest head

told from

and out into the street

              compare the lack of


                          leaves and rafters

                                                                                house sparrow

obscuring as pastime

a combination of her

                          unstreaked and aggressive

                          she paused by the back steps


                                                                                willow flycatcher

to lack what is prominent

              she has your eyes


THERMOS 5: Carrie Olivia Adams

Four years ago, I wrote a review of Carrie Olivia Adams’ first full-length collection of poetry, Intervening Absence (Ahsahta, 2009) for Denver Quarterly. “Through prodding lines that make moments of ‘nothing’ pulse,” I concluded, “Adams proves that an ‘intervening absence’ is not an oxymoronic convolution but a unique phenomenon of presence.” Convolution?!? Oh, Savich. I should’ve said I read the book on a porch swing and immediately invited her to send poems for the 5th print issue of THERMOS. Since then, Carrie has hosted me at a poetry reading in her home (biscuits) and become my editor at Black Ocean; it’s rare to have an editor whose poetry you admire so much. She’s also published a terrific new collection, Forty-One Jane Does, with Ahsahta. “Dear Astronomer, / What do you do during the daylight?” one poems begins. “She had tried to leave her body behind. / But it would not stay,” says another, lines I think of on many walks. You can read more about her new book and order it directly from Ahsahta’s site. — ZS

from Operating Theater


When? When will I remember? Not how. But when.

At first, I will remember every day. Maybe several times a day. Tomorrow, I will say it happened yesterday. I will remember yesterday. And then the day after tomorrow and after and after. For many days, I will remember. And then there will come a time when I won’t recall immediately how long it has been. I will count in my mind and on my fingers and only then will I know. Eventually, I will forget. I will forget for a very long time. It will lie dormant. And then one day the bus will be late, I’ll catch someone’s eye, I’ll hear someone catch their breath. And I won’t know whether it really happened—that moment—or whether I had been waiting for an excuse to make it happen. But then it won’t matter. I will remember this.

I want to know how long I have to wait until I remember again.


I spend a lot of time thinking about the ocean. It began with gathering.

I gather you might want to shut the door. I gather this day is a marker.

I gather days. I gather light, lost in frames and thresholds. I gather the ocean.

I gather the ocean opens and closes like lips or fingers speaking.

It’s true, most stories like this begin in the forest. But ours might be a boat overturned. Our luggage bobbing and sinking.

I gather splintered wood. I gather splashing arms and feet. I gather I am not sure whether to struggle.

Or how hard to struggle. To slow and gather strength…the strength to stop swimming

[ Other]
I’ve made a machine. It makes memories.
No. No that’s not quite right.
It makes remembering possible. No.
It remembers for me? Perhaps.
Yet, sometimes I remember things the machine doesn’t make.

{A list of some things that remember what’s there, even when we can’t see it:

A globe
An astrolabe
A lighthouse
A recipe
A dress}

The precise memory span of a Betta fish is exactly 16.4 seconds.
This is a lie.
Elephants never forget.

THERMOS 5: Brad Richard

Brad Richard, one of the best poets writing in New Orleans today, gave THERMOS these poems several years ago, around the time that his second book, Motion Studies, was released. He has since released a third collection, Butcher’s Sugar, and continues to work with the wonderful creative writing students at Lusher Charter High School. You can read a recent interview with him here. — AS


Gone and there our bodies, near and not to hold. Here: forest to chromium, stone to umber, violet clouds the far water. Here: each of our bodies as one forgets, posed in difference. You derive from this, a gaze, a farther delayed, incomplete all ways. Eternal arrival where we never, our pleasure made gone, there, in our forest’s grayed down greens, in our stream’s graded hues, in use, in you. I never seen, tell us naked, tell us heat or him, tell us touch, telldeath your story, our bodies, there, gone, each a child’s toy, a reel he tosses past sight, o-o-o-o, pulls back by its thread. Thread we play you hold. Here:


Slowly the rain
               thinks        :
                         withered fingers
                         of the poinsettia

Light empties
               from the sky’s face      :       shadows
                         heap on shadows, leaves
                                 fallen from a psalter

The jaws of the hour

         You beckon

I enter              am broken


THERMOS 5: Caryl Pagel

Today’s second of three Caryl Pagel poems we’ll re-publish from our print issues this week remains one of my personal favorites — not just of poems we’ve published in THERMOS, but of poems I’ve read in first books, current books, all books these past few years. Happy to have the chance — again — to place it in your attention. — AS

The Sick Bed

When last to mutter
may your head fall empty
illness find
approaching graveness

May your light strum from
a dust torn window
to where you watch
still body part

We none do see each I fall out

For example: I held his hand
I did not
know when it was over

What made me mean body

Gone uncaught
un-lit or flown
it’s strange

of that mine
I can tell you nothing left

but what formed

Now–to hold on
to new space
Frame tremor can you
frame heady loss

with a morning canceled
I think no

morning can go canceled

That day became

a broken ear

a constant ringing

take care of this
beware of

Not any inner thought

Straight became
a monster

I mean master
of my own clean loss

See this version
this image

waits not to grow cold if you ask
I will go by
my second self’s hand

no sneak up from behind
bright shade
tranquil dose
to catch me ill
staring at far off clouds unraveled thin

My lord
the closest killer

hides my enemies too

Open only
unhinged in plea

hands hollowed

Prayer shuts one from page

Like dim reflections
each end sigh
goes fiddle out the window
to play for ghosts

Don’t worry you don’t know them

When it comes
I’ll tell

it sounds like
deathswish or hushwish

Never bell

When last to muster
some tune through
loud gales

You keep it short as I will
ask no more
this way

Exception: unseen

Please let me leave unseen

THERMOS 5: Elisabeth Benjamin

I first encountered Elisabeth Benjamin’s spooky in-between-worlds work in a 2008 issue of the Black Warrior Review. She was an old friend of an MFA classmate, living a rugged farmer’s life in upcountry Maine, when I got in touch to solicit the work you see below. She has a small book of stories, The Houses, available from the Catenary Press. — JT



A pond is not a promise

We are at the mud lip of a green pond after a day of walking. He is force-feeding a frog a piece of cheese. I just fell out of love with him, and I say so. He stands and accuses me of yesterday saying I love you infinitely. I did, yesterday, exactly to infinity love him. And today, or tomorrow, or last year, or seventeen years later, or winter, this pond still smells like a pond. The young frogs look like frogs. The pond smells precisely like last year’s pond, it is identical water in the same season and the smell is the familiar smell of every year’s round green pond. If any of the close trees fell across it, that would be a simple bridge, a needed surprise, it is so small and still and green, but the trees stand straight. My passions were brimming once. Yesterday. In the kitchen, in the golden afternoon, he looked at my bandaged hands and called me Cocoon Fingers.




Once I wore an inappropriate dress to the Fisherman’s Ball, held in a big white tent on the breakwater. The dress was sea foam, strapless, the skirt five sheer flounced layers that exposed my bruised knees. At the corseted bust there was a long slim triangle of silk missing, and in its place a lacy window, meant to showcase a woman’s cleavage. On me, it was merely a view onto a bony sternum, a dry ridged mudflat. I wore my green rubber boots with thick wool socks. I danced with most of the fishermen. They all wore old suits and work boots, and some were quite handsome after all. They said they hardly recognized me. As the sun set, fog hung thick on the water and pushed into town. The tent’s twinkle lights cast a murky glow over us, slow dancing. Toward the end of the night, Little Miss Mackerel, age eleven, brushed past me then stopped to gawk at my dress. A snail she’d half-chewed dropped out of her pink mouth onto my boot. I wanted to explain to her that I wore the dress as an apology for something terrible I had done. But as if in a trance, she stared into my lace window, searching for a scenery.



Instructional #6: Foraging

Beware of red tide. Beware of mummy berry. Beware the larvae-riddled and the red fruits, particularly dangling red fruits. Pick only brown mushrooms, but not the spotted ones. Also, not crumpled leaves, leaves that appear rolled, folded, or puckered. Avoid the particularly shiny fruits and yeasty dusty ones. Pungent roots may be poisonous but may also be especially delectable. They are worth the risk, although beware of late blight. Beware black leg, pink eye, pus belly and gluttony. Partake in all mints, but mind you: certain molds smell sometimes like toothpaste. Beware the under-ripe and the over. Spores are not a seasoning. Share. Say a blessing. Cross yourself the Catholic way, from left to right. Use a flat rock as a plate, that’s fine. Eat any kind of petal. Boil any kind of bone.

THERMOS 5: David Bartone

David Bartone’s first book of poems, Practice on the Mountains, will be published next year by Ahsahta Press, as the winner of their Sawtooth Poetry Prize. I’m pretty sure these poems, originally printed in our fifth issue, aren’t in that book. But please enjoy them anyway! — AS



I know we are loving the love that is the childhood
Of the love we ought to

I know we resist the body like I know I need
To tell you about Lavallette, New Jersey:

When the bay is separated from the sea by
An isthmus as in my birthplace
The only way to know it as a link between the two
Impressive bodies is to climb out of the water
Walk the noticeable strip
And rinse off in the teeming of the ocean

And feeling pride only if concussed

Or else we are the lonely Beirut doing some other separating

Go ahead       be cavalier with my belief of you, L

There’s the need for alchemy to have existed
Or else how were we supposed to have taken our
Positions on it

There’s the want for sport and dressing
Right in front of the one small evening

What’s to make
Of all this trying to get to you
The question having only sat there
With angelic patience
The searcher having no memory of behavior

I am drinking from your coffee again today

I know it’s rude to keep craving poems for you, L
On and on I’m so sorry for bringing you
Up to pace

About singing in the kitchen is the safest I get

Of all the reasons I carry my beard as so
The double-take factor I beg for
Is most becoming of mind

Dropping my sigh with a shove
I hold your whole finger with my whole hand
For you to lead me into the forest

After the one flower without a Latin name
And we’ll have all the tools to safely poach it
Back to civilization       without even asking

We will know to move on in the direction of the seasons
How to prepare the ruin       to dismount one measly scree
How to dismantle each of our cairns along the way


Crush Upended Like Crash

I have been so afraid I don’t even know your smell

Beg you notch me on your loss-board

Make the siding brick red across the farmhouses
here in the Pennsylvanian absences
(there are many) of the heart

I am talking about one intersection with you
missed slightly, abruptly

How it seems we crashed into our own trees thinking
of each other’s body

How the thigh burns when we’re catching each other
let it next time
it’s the way we land


Song: Pink Fray of the Spray Mum

Across western horizon to be here.
You, Nebraska coated and up rooted to be east
with me.

Long natured satin scripture.

How you love bring me flowers
at our pennilessness.
Eileen, thank you.

Talking the spray mum, talking ripening
beyond to its end. Last night the thought:

first farmers experimenting, dropping
pink droplets on the petals, hands
coated in boron lush soil, men

with strong hats/straw hands/
strong hats. Aches and aches
of acres.

THERMOS 5: Lauren Shapiro

These three poems were originally printed in our fifth issue, released in the spring of 2010. Easy Math, Lauren’s first book of poems, won the 2011 Kathryn A. Morton Prize and was released by Sarabande Books earlier this month. We’re excited about the book, which is here, and happy to share these poems once again as we move our first five issues from one website to another. Thanks Lauren! — AS

I’ve Always Wanted to Say This

There was a time when mansions had so many rooms
they had one just for fainting. If you had to faint,
this was the best room for it—chairs the size of beds,
shag carpet, cloud-sent, the whisperings of Enya.
But when you woke up it was the worst room in the world,
and such are the machinations of life. When I was little
I wanted to be a truck driver and now, essentially,
I’m a truck driver. I watch that show—what’s it called?
I forget—for eight hours straight. Then once in a while
as I’m walking down the street a man’s eyeball pops out,
and we’re both a bit surprised, and he cups it in his hands
and blows the dust off, and puts it back in.
At the dinner party I tell the story of the eye popping out,
and then someone else tells about finding an ear in the gutter
and everyone drinks more wine and Marty finally opens up
about his little brother losing a hand in a table saw
and Sarah admits that she once lost a nipple to a feral dog
and Tim, after some prodding, shows the empty area
where his testicles once hung. And then we walk home and
Jesus Christ it’s cold outside! says my husband, and
it’s so cold it does feel like something huge is about to happen
and that’s when I see both of our features slipping off
our faces and we go home anyway and make love
and rub our blank faces together and I feel a deep
and exciting newness welling up in my stomach
and I think that I will bake muffins tomorrow morning after all.

According to the Magazines, Lindsey Lohan Is Very Lonely These Days

After a meal of General Tso’s, we learn
that an exciting opportunity will soon present itself.
I get up to give a toast at the wedding
but all that comes out is a gasp.
What I’ve learned from Hans Christian Andersen
is that there is a tiny world in each pore of the universe
populated by tiny people who also dream
of larger realities. In the space between coffee
and lunch lies an expanse as unforgiving
as a cross-country bus ride. Not knowing
where to sit or who to talk to at the barbecue,
I choose the roof. But hey, the Rubix cube
is only as hard as the guy pasting on
the colored squares wants it to be, right?
The girl who wants to be married with kids by 30
misses the point of both, no? And so the algorithm
of finding solace is the algorithm of rejecting
such algorithms in the first place.
Pirates emerge from myth. A scientist claims
to have taught a rhesus monkey to hum
the alphabet in six languages. The last baby
born in 2009 beats up the first baby born in 2010
while mothers stand by in disbelief.
Fortune teller says grandma will trace our family
back to a happy-go-lucky seafarer from 1830s Australia.
Weatherman says life is a constant search punctuated
by tornadoes and moments of regret. I close my eyes.
It is almost my birthday. Deep in the cake
hides a plastic doll. Who put it there,
and who on earth wants to find it?

Photo Op

The lights are flashing.
People throw flowers at my feet.
It’s you! they shout.
Listen, I say. I’m here
to talk about Darfur.
Oh my God, it’s you! they shout.
A girl breaks through security and faints.
All around the room people are waving
cameras and pens for autographs.
Please, please, they say. It’s really you!
Just then a pigeon flies into the studio.
No one cares. A cameraman kills it with a brick.
The lights flash red, red, red.
Yay! they yell. It’s you! It’s you! It’s really you!