Archive for the ‘Thermos News’ Category

New Editor: Cassie Donish

We’re pleased to announce that longtime friend of and one-time contributor to THERMOS Cassie Donish has joined the editorial board, so to speak, of this magazine. Cassie presently lives in Eugene, Oregon. It’s not entirely clear why it took us 6 years to ask her along, but we’re very excited that she agreed once we did.


As a welcome, and prior to her taking on an editorial role, we’re going to feature some of Cassie’s poetry this week. We’ll begin with two versions of her sequence, “Las Escaleras, Oaxaca,” first published in THERMOS 6, followed by some new poems and a conversation.


Welcome, Cassie!


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PXP 2013: Schedule of Events

THERMOS’s editors will all be in New Orleans Nov. 7-9 to host the second annual Poetry Exchange Project Symposium at Tulane University and at other locations in the city. All events are free and open to the public. If you’re in the area, please stop by. — AS



Friday, Nov. 8 (Tulane campus, St. Charles Ave. side)


11:30am: PXP presentations, Norman Mayer Hall, Rm. 125
            Students from Tulane, University of Georgia, and University of the Arts deliver
            presentations of completed PXP projects.


1:00 pm: Panel A: Poetry Beyond the Classroom (Norman Mayer Hall, Rm. 200B)
            Moderator: Dan Rosenberg
            Panelists: Nik De Dominic, Melissa Dickey, Anne Marie Rooney, Jay Thompson
1:00 pm: Panel B: Poetic Lineage (Norman Mayer Hall, Rm. 125)
            Moderator: Andy Stallings
            Panelists: Peter Cooley, Robert Fernandez, Carolyn Hembree, Laura Walker


2:00 pm: Panel C: The Life of Contemporary Poetry (Norman Mayer Hall, Rm. 200B)
            Moderator: Zach Savich
            Panelists: Matt Hart, Mary Hickman, Paul Killebrew, Teresa Villa-Ignacio

 

3:30 pm: Ian Zelazny Memorial All-City Student Reading (Norman Mayer Hall Rm. 200B)
            25-30 students from schools and universities around the city and region read poems.


6:00 pm: PXP Keynote Reading (Rogers Memorial Chapel)
            Robert Fernandez, Matt Hart, Mary Hickman, Paul Killebrew, Anne Marie Rooney and Laura
            Walker read new poetry.


9:30 pm: Party and Concert (2433 St. Claude Ave., Entrance on Music St., byob)
            Students and symposium participants are all invited!



Saturday, Nov. 9 (Buddhist Community Center, 623 N. Rendon St.)


12:00 pm: Hunter Deely Memorial Reading
            Brief readings by Carroll Beauvais, Megan Burns, Carrie Chappell, Peter Cooley, Nik De
            Dominic, Melissa Dickey, Cassandra Donish, Maia Elgin, Rebecca Morgan Frank,
            Elizabeth Gross, Michael Jeffrey Lee, Kay Murphy, Brad Richard, Dan Rosenberg,
            Zach Savich, Shelly Taylor, Jay Thompson, Afton Wilky, Mark Yakich

THERMOS 2: Jennifer Denrow

Here’s another of the poems I’ve spent a lot of time with over the years, from our second issue in late 2008. Jen Denrow subsequently published this poem as the first section of her book, California, available here from Four Ways Books. She also talked to us about the book, here. — AS

 

California

Forget your life.

Okay I have.

Lay something down that is unlike you:

Sold boat, Italian song.

I’m losing my head over this:

this is what the doll said when you pulled its head
from its body;

all the girls laughed.

I’ll move to California. I should
go alone. I’ll go

with the knowledge of fake
snow. I’ll ask my father to bring me.

 

*

 

I liked it better
when my fingers
were people.

I should drive away from my life.

If a man comes through town on his way to California, I will go with him. I don’t care who
he is:

if his wife is pretty, fine;
if he is returning to her, fine.

A man should be going there today,

at least one man; this city
is so big.

When I’m in California I’ll go to the beach
and cry. All of the seagulls will crowd

around me and force my mouth open
with their wings. One

will bring me a fish. I won’t be able to leave them.

My fingers
aren’t people
anymore.

I forgot to train them. They were over watered. They drowned.

There isn’t a steeple, no alderman discussing the loss.

That was a hand-church;

that was my folly.

 

*

 

My life in California will be inspiring. I’ll send postcards to people who didn’t know I was
going. I’ll even send postcards to people I haven’t talked to in years.

I’ll buy a guitar once I arrive.

I’ll audition at a local club to become the nightly entertainment.

I’ll say, I can do anything you need.

I’ll show them card tricks and how my dog can talk.

I won’t have a dog.

Everyone will laugh at me.

When it’s winter and the woman next door needs to borrow some change for laundry, I’ll
call someone and say how unhappy I am.

I shouldn’t go to California then.

No one can be alive there.

The store windows are just so the owners think people are alive.

I’ve never even wanted to go to California before.

I should leave now.

 

*

 

I went to wake up my husband to tell him I was leaving. He said, Why do you want to go there?

Because I have to.

You should fly then.

He won’t let me borrow his car.

My car doesn’t have AC.

I know a guy who should be driving to California this week. I check my email to see if he
has written to invite me.

He hasn’t.

The computer says the right person is out there waiting for me. It asks for my name and
age. I tell my husband to make a profile on a love match website and I’ll do the same
and we can see if we are compatible. He doesn’t want to, so instead I ask if I can
talk in his mouth andhe lets me but says it tickles.

Later when he wakes up he’ll say, What was all of that about California?

And I’ll say, Oh nothing.

And he’ll say, You’re pushing me away.

And I’ll say, Probably, but I don’t mean to.

He’ll leave for work and I’ll spend the day listening to my favorite musician sing very sad
songs that will make me want to go far away from myself.

I’ll go to California then.

 

*

 

When I went to the backyard,

I said to myself,

this doesn’t look like California

and nothing in my life does

and my husband says he’ll have to deal with this forever.

I want to go so bad I clench my fist
hard in the air, I push my finger into
his chin and cry: it feels like this, I say.
I need it this bad.

 

*

 

I realize now that I’m a woman.

I go to the store.

I buy California style pizza and beer. I drop my ID when the woman asks to see it.

No one in the store looks like they could be from California.

A baby eats some keys.

I buy a magazine with people from California in it; they are all very beautiful.

I come out of the store and the sky

is filled with many white clouds

that could be stand-ins for California clouds.

I don’t even have a tan.

I know this is the only time I’ll leave the house today.

 

*

 

When I get home my husband sees me balling my fist and he scowls at me. On the radio is
a story about a woman who walked from California to New York. She was 80. She says we
don’t have a democracy.

I need to arrive at something.

Now there is a story about a thirteen year old boy who is dying. He tells the reporter not to
sit around being miserable. He gasps for breath.

He won’t ever be able to dive into a pool.

He is a beautiful child.

He is dead.

He told the reporter to always let someone in line in front of him.

The next story is about the Unabomber’s brother. His mother kissed his cheek when he
told her about her son.

She said, I can’t imagine what you’ve been going through.

If I was in California, I wouldn’t be listening to the radio.

I write California in the air.

Another story comes on about a man who built a cork boat.

I bring up images of California on the computer; there are three million to choose from. I
set one as the screen saver. It’s a yellow map of the southern part.

 

*

 

Instead of going to California I make my husband a ham and cheese sandwich to take to
work. He doesn’t like the way I place the cheese on the bread.
When he leaves for work I sit in a quiet house.

I told him I couldn’t have this life.

This wasn’t me living here.

I was living in California.

He said cruel things that he knew would scare me.

He brought the ring from the cabinet and tried to put it on my finger.

I said no.

I said I can’t be married right now.

He said this happens every year.

He may be right.

 

*

 

My mother took me to California once when I was very small. We visited Disneyland. I
wore Mickey Mouse ears and had my hair in braids.

I wasn’t afraid. No one talked to me.

On the plane ride back the stewardess offered us soft drinks.

 

*

 

Once on a plane a foreign woman offered me fruit.

I declined.

This was when I was older, after I’d already been to California.

When I was there, I wrote my name in the sand. I wrote my name and drew a heart and
then I wrote my mother’s name. This was when she loved my father so I wrote his
name too.

We were visiting my uncle.

I see a picture of him holding me and laughing.

He’s dead now, so I can’t visit him there anymore.

He had diabetes and drank a lot and died alone in a motel room.

My aunt said she received a phone call from him after he was dead. He groaned a little and
said unintelligible things.

He lived in California because he was in the Navy and had to live there.

If I lived in California, I would buy an iguana. I would meet a lot of nice people; they
would make kind remarks about my decision to follow my intuition.

 

*

 

Leonard Cohen went to California.

He went there to become holy.

I could become holy in California. I could live in a small room with only a little light.

My husband says I can rent a car if I really need to go. I tell him it’s not the same. Why
doesn’t he ever feel something like this? He just doesn’t.

He lives in this house completely.

This house could be the problem.

I suspect that I’m the problem.

He says I want to abandon our animals; he says I’m crazy.

I don’t feel like I’m crazy,

I just feel like someone who wants to go to California.

 

*

 

I just remembered that I do know someone who lives in California. He’s a man I worked
with several years ago. He moved there to make movies.

We made a movie once. It was a horror film that took place in a movie theatre. We worked
in a movie theatre.

Our dialogue was poor.

I finally gave up.

I fell in love with the manager. We had sex. We laughed the whole time.

This was the first time I had sex. I was twenty two. He didn’t love me.

Later, I realized that I never really loved him either, I just pretended to so I could be sad
about something. He was very charming and said funny things. He never took his hat off
because he was going bald and didn’t want anyone to know. His girlfriend was very sweet.
He made all of the girls love him. Even the prettiest Mormon girl loved him. I started
taking a lot of drugs so it didn’t matter that she loved him. I saw them kiss and felt
nothing.

He is the kind of man who could live in California.

He had a very fast car and a lot of friends.

If he lived in California, he could be a politician.

 

*

 

On the television I saw the President in a fast food restaurant in California. He was buying
a cup of coffee for a reporter. Someone went to get the coffee, a recently new citizen, and
when he came back and tried to hand it to the reporter, the President pushed his arm away
and said, I’ll handle that. He took the coffee from the new citizen and handed it to the
reporter himself, and then he took some folded ones from his pocket and handed them
back to the citizen.

He was trying to be real.

He was trying to look like the kind of person who wanted to be in California.

 

*

 

If California didn’t exist, I’d still want to go there.

As I look around the house I think of things I’ll take with me.

I pack my bags.

Before my husband left he asked if I would be here when he got home.

Yes.

But you’ll be gone someday.

Yes.

Will you at least leave a note?

Yes.

The last man I left got a note. I didn’t leave him for California but for my husband.

He was an angry man. The note I left was filled with a lot of statements about aggression
and happiness.

After I left, he went to California for an art show. He married his ex girlfriend. I knew he loved her the whole time he loved me. I didn’t talk about her. I let him have her in silence.

 

*

 

My cousin calls. She tells me there are only 363 days until the new Harry Potter movie
comes out. My aunt gets on the phone. I tell her about California. She tells me about a
man who lost his leg but can still feel two toes fall asleep.

The reality is that…

My aunt talks like this.

She says his leg is not really gone. That’s not reality. She tells me how Christ replaced
someone’s ear.

I hear her daughter in the background asking to borrow some pot. Here, but make it last, I
don’t want to go back over there in two days
, my aunt says. Back over there is to the house of the
man with one leg and phantom toes.

When I was a teenager my mom would put extra pot on a cheese plate that had a mouse
cover. She would say, it’s there in case you need to relax. I didn’t need to relax but I still took
the pot. When my friends came over I said we had to smoke in the garage. This was a lie.
I don’t know why I said this.

My aunt says California is a little far, but she could pick me up in a few days and we could
go to Chicago.

I am suddenly terrified to leave the house, but I tell her that will be fine.

She probably won’t come. She usually forgets to do things like that, so I don’t worry too much.

We talk for two hours. She tells me how frustrating it is to get laid off three times in four years.

She applies for nine jobs a week.

No one calls her back.

She says perhaps if she was in California it would be easier to get a job.

 

*

 

By this time it’s apparent that I’m not leaving for California today.

The street light comes through the window like a forgotten angel.

I should go to sleep.

I’ll leave tomorrow.

If I’m lucky, I’ll meet someone who’s going there.

Elaine Bleakney: from “For Another Writing Back”

This week, THERMOS presents new prose from Elaine Bleakney, whose writing has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, At Length, and others. She edits At Length’s art section and teaches creative writing at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. (The painting in the piece is by Jim Mattei.)


From For Another Writing Back


One step and we’re on the platform. One step and we’re on the platform again. How another step goes down in the fast painting. Every time someone falls the Times has to cover the person who jumps in after—I know him. I know this time where he’s from, the town. The Times lights his face. Another man, someone I used to see by the lake, disappears with his thermos and gun.


I follow his boot marks in. Grass veers in ice under pine. We get to the blind. I used to hear a scrape before I went in, no stench in the boards—rot-black in sections, straight after straight toward being a stand. Nothing. Michigan. Where hours and lake wind wend.


Jim unrolls his painting on the floor. I catch myself: a grove in the middle of my chest or the shuttling luminous sound of the subway. Anyway, someone makeshift, riding. Jim trying to give me space inside his painting. He starts to talk: See this guy, then this guy again? They keep trying to make structures. Some of them aren’t plausible. He smiles. It’s okay.





*


Get out of my car, she screams. I don’t want anything from you. Our neighbor, I don’t know her name. He palms something from the dash then burns past her into the house.


She surfs. Seared into her salt-blonde hair. One Saturday she sits outside, selling paintings and things released from the house. White waves on orange sunsets. Paul buys off of her a board with a cylinder underneath for learning to balance. You set yourself on top then work in air until steadiness fills you. When? She’s stickered it—something juvenile, desired, and vexing.


Another morning she’s in a wet suit with her board and a leash drifting near her ankle, dripping into her door. How it makes waves, says the poet about a poem she likes. While we drink coffee and consider it. We lose ourselves in what we’re reading until we’re talking about men and women again.


Dripping into a door. The wrong door, how many times? At the one on Graham I stood rising and sinking, ringing his buzzer. He lived with two women. One with her room like the stillness in a magazine. The other in a gorge between her soiled and clean mountains of clothes. She worked in fashion. When anything went missing or dirty she caught their heat. Fumes from the nail salon at street level rose up and set in. The summer night the messy one cut the neat one’s hair too short. Overjoyed, she kept touching what was missing until we dragged her down for drinks.


*


This sand fails, says Carla. Too gritty. Not the sugar sand of the Gulf where she got the pineapple tatooed into her ankle. Before it, a snow leopard she saw on a wall, mouth filled with the lily. I had to have it, she says. Down my back. It took forever—the Spanish cut through this place and what about their blades? And the ones before them.


Timucua, ones who kept their dead closer than us. North of here, someone dug up the long wooden owl they made. Intact, eyes smoothed into dilation, the kind of dream-find my sister, the crew chief, wants where the pipeline will go down. So she can say stop. Somewhere in Wyoming before the ground hardens for snow. She gets to hold up her hand to the man in the gnawing machine, cordon him off, if the machine touches any evidence of people before.


She talks to him later, a nice one in the local bar. Maybe, if he doesn’t give off what’s famished, she shoots pool with him. He touches her shoulder. She doesn’t call me for awhile. Carla presses the pineapple at her ankle when I ask and says, I knew I couldn’t get his name in me.


A pineapple for the name of the Gulf-side bar where they met. He played there, she says inside their first gaze, its accuracy. How we tend to keep certain ones endless before there’s even any heat. Sugar sand sweeping against it. The potential of one other: after he cheated she couldn’t abide the sunlight where she said a few years before, I know it will end.


I knew it would end. A sound, a structure splintering back into itself. The white clapboard thing by the lake. We stacked canoes on the far wall. Children led by older children. Grass drifting out of the corner: no one else can see; can they see? What we are inside.


*


By now they’ve gone in, cut where the cancer could grow. Having grown once, having shown how her body could field such a growth, they advised this. I pass an abrasion in the oak. See what the rain did: some kind of fungus, budding, part of a drafting through the grove.


It can’t be called a bloom unless this word includes all the rage, change, and indifference. In the room after my first death I shut the door. Water trapped in the glass wasn’t water at all. What is lymph? I didn’t ask the adults. The river near Yarnell. Picking shards with her. How to isolate in the scatter what’s wrong? Then delimit the will to erase it.


The body. Marcela takes up clay after her second surgery. A medium foreign to her, disconnected from her project. Instead of lopping it onto a wheel she writes about being alone in back. Working shoulders, a head. It’s hard to maneuver. Kind eyes under a scowling brow. A long time before she emails: heartbreak. He was smashed by someone unloading the kiln.


*


The wave.


The waterwall when the plates off the coast of Japan shift, one determined under another. We watch from here. Elizabeth and John live near us. Steady under the arbor they started years ago. My mother used to do this, Elizabeth says, my family, families back in St. Louis. They moved their chairs underneath for the summer. The breeze would come or not, crafted through the draping green and stay.


It may take a hundred years to cool, for the shaken reactors in Fukushima to reach cold. The summer Elizabeth and John’s son was born it was too hot to move. He could hold his breath. Since a very young age he could hold under the water longer than anyone else.


An incomprehensible form of water. The helicopter hovers above Minamisanriku and we watch it eat. Houses, cars, masts snapped out of life. Maybe they remove the images of bodies or we’re too high or the people are removed and safe. Elizabeth and John hear from their son after John calls him at the wrong time. The night before he’s supposed to travel, laughs Elizabeth, a stiffness there, private; what repeats between them? Then the next week he’s arrived. He’s posted the pictures on Facebook. A blue in Sumatra unlike any other. And he’s found work, says John, making videos for a resort, spearing fish.


I buy a book by a Japanese poet translated into English. She writes in Japanese but gave up Japan for Europe years ago. There’s a feeling in the later poems that she’s gone through them, many relationships, to encounter someone else. What are you reading? asks Elizabeth. When I look away the room isn’t anywhere, floating and dim.


*


Up Wilhelmina Rise after school. Where a window would be gone, a section in the wall, a way or the wiring exposed. Mirah’s father did this. Something never finished. Her mother dyed fabric a deep vinegar blue in the yard while her friend, the poet, drank tea. Air across Mirah’s bed washed into dunes. Her stereo. Underneath we talked about everything, how a man could be dying for it.


Bewildered, one lover said to me, I want it more and more. Something in a family about not spending the night in a certain house. Then a divorce. Handsome. The long gaze at his body in a pool. Then a friend pressed against a wall, raped in a foreign city. Meanwhile falling in love. A dry kiss in a swimming office. The deadbolt in the bedroom door. She has her son install it, first thing after her husband dies.


Before he’s born I want one story for my son where I can be found. Once there was a tree outside our house, white splitting buds, a wax to the green going dark. You could tell by the color of the fruit what had happened. This is clear to me.


*


Then someone hits a dog on the road, moves her body into the grass. No other pups, or they all disappear. One attaches himself to a house, wagging at each door until the father inside says whoever lets him in, he’s yours.


We pass a hitchhiker and Paul says I would pick him up. When I see the young woman with the sign for food, money, help I imagine asking her in, letting her use our shower. A fresh fraying towel. But the idea shuts down. She smiles at my son. On the days I have the car I blow by her like a car.


So many of them have bicycles. They lean against the library until it opens. Then they tie or lock the frames, head into the air-conditioned computers and stacks. My son touches the mouse in the children’s section, its tiny red eye. Let’s find a book. When I hold out my hand he calls up through my heart. Handy, handy.


Sometimes they hold the door for us but we never touch. I meet another mother in the playground and she advances a theory: some of them aren’t as poor as they want us to think. She’s seen them standing at the corner all day, they get into a van at night. As if poverty can’t include this. Some of them have a hard time looking at me or I can’t look or we look at each other wild-friendly when I push him in the stroller crossing into Davenport Park. But it must be easier here, I tell myself. They don’t have winter. We don’t have it. The birds arrive.


One woman sets herself to the side then cracks between the eyes down to her teeth saying get your dog away from me now. I shift. Someone rifles through our unlocked car. A house on Dufferin has a sign with a pink bow in a window: Be Nice Or Leave. Above all else, writes the poet, people are bound to people by love, hate, compassion, fear, admiration, loathing. A list, his enclosure, and the way he sends us through its parts. A block away, brick steps and ferns attending a marker for the family who lived there before the house was firebombed. The Robersons. All the black families who lived on Gault.

THERMOS Tabling in Seattle

Hey folks, we’ll be tabling at Seattle’s excellent small-press fest, Short Run, this Saturday from 10:30 to 4:30 at the Vera Project in Seattle Center. THERMOS has been graciously offered a spot at the table of Hoarse, Seattle’s niftiest literary magazine, so we’ll be squeezing entirely too many chairs into too little space and having a good time.

Come get our amazing new issue, meet other amazing zine makers, comics artists, and dedicated do-it-yourselfers!

Tabling at the NOLA Bookfair

Dear friends,

Thermos hopes those of you who are local to New Orleans will come and visit with us face to face tomorrow at the Bookfair. Editors Melissa Dickey and Andy Stallings (as well as their children) and contributors John Craun, John Bowman, Daniel Grossberg, and Erik Vande Stouwe will be hawking the brand new Thermos #7 — featuring an amazing interview and new poetry by Katherine Factor, translations of Amelia Rosselli by Diana Thow, and new work by Jeff Downey and Jess Laser.

Please stop by and say hello!

John Cross: Chet Baker’s Teeth and The Singing at Dusk

John Cross and his captive audience

THERMOS is delighted to present new work by John Cross. Cross grew up in Maumee, Ohio, where his father would sometimes read to him, from history books, on the back porch under a mulberry tree, in the slow hum of Ohio summers.  His chapbook, staring at the animal, won the Snowbound Chapbook Award from Tupelo Press.  He holds an MFA from the University of Iowa, and he teaches at Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena, and moonlights as a carny in his dreams.




Chet Baker’s Teeth


Because lightning follows air currents, when we were children we lay exposed in the wasps’ mud and dizzying depths of birds and in the moment our tears were shed when many cousins offered scripture upon the celebrities’ deaths and no one’s valentine was funny oxy-acetylene-torched across this abandoned city’s facades we felt true; like siblings, indigenous and spooky, we felt cool and listened for footsteps immeasurably happy as we felt further and further away whispering water under awnings counting what’s been up in the sky a very long time until the steps died away before coming out to play in the only evidence, a mingled grief…

… we got lost in the mirror neurons: a closer walk with thee is how a good is built into us is sometimes sung like Mozart loved his starling, echoed melody’s vast expanse of salvage from the old neighborhood

While  (n(p,q) = -[pq* + (pq*)*]/2) Minkowski space springs from the soil, and you, beakless, grave out your intonations in many voices, (flightless bird in the face of the light (the folds of a shirt the sun gathering itself up is for the night)) fledgling herons clacking in the eucalyptus, ghostly doubles to our hands thrown forward deep through the tissue of home…

…distant bell

not so much a fear of being alone, but of not living like Sir Philip Sidney (whose birthday you may or may not share) on his death bed surrendering his water to another (distant bell) whispering water (I have a virus if I’ve sent you something.  don’t open it.) my findable face in the lost and found, please come, we’ll retrace
our tracks through buildings now gone…more light
…celebrities once lived in these pool houses, now rebar spines and concrete femurs brightly tagged slash like lightning the dark hillsides (oh, my boldness, these complex and secretive ruins surrounded by air around which we must be very carefully – how wonderfully we breathe






The Singing at Dusk


Begin with my free-fall and badly overdubbed language as I come down from the trees, my clumsy gestures  as deeply into the mud as I can away from what I’ve known by heart, what I’ve left to dry in the sunny shine the fleshy sides stained in vermillion dye for a good guffaw where you ought to be more careful
outside Cleveland proper

Star-dust-returned-building-block, a comet flecks the air planting seeds where elms will reach to where
armies unravel (coat, Bible, nutmeg, sock, epaulet, pistol…)
grow lighter, and dawn in the bent light of this ice where I play as a child

And now what example might I turn to with nothing up its sleeve, when someday soon, yawning open ranging widely over a maimed and silent congregation, awakened in a vacant home, this greater terror:
“that I should no more feel with those who feel”

where tune the lyre and fall is how it’s a long fucking way up is sometimes sung
o rose of rusted roofs, gyre against the last light where I stand deep in Ohio where the sun rose today