Posts Tagged ‘Kiki Petrosino’

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.


THERMOS 1: Kiki Petrosino

Kiki Petrosino is probably the most awesome person I’ve ever met: 100% style. But not style for style, you know? Style because of substance. Her books are amazing — go buy Hymn For the Black Terrific right now, for instance — but it’s only because she’s even more amazing than her books. These are old poems that never went in the books, from our first issue. Kiki lives and teaches in Louisville. — AS

Popularity & Me

I am queen of a chubby country.
Of a bucktoothed, fizz-haired realm—
I am queen.

I am queen of the chubby farmer who works
his horse & plough. His face is an earthen dial
lifting across the distance. I am queen
of it.

        [Also, I am queen of the iron clouds, of the breakfasting
          clouds, of the garden
        of clouds, of the idli cake of clouds—]

See this guild of chubby tinsmiths? See how they bend
over whole flats of Starfleet combadges? It is
the people’s work they do & it is good.

Wearing my combadge, I am queen.
Whispering recipes into my shiny combadge, queen.

This is one of my commissives:

You’ll wear what I like, even
if that means jumpsuits, even if that means jumpsuits
made of buttery filo.


I am queen of buttery filo.

It’s a festival & I am queen.

I am queen, in oilcloth.
I am queen, slipping into a bucktoothed gonodola.
I’m sailing now, I’m sailing now.

At no point am I not sailing.
At no point am I not trailing my hands in the fjord.

O, but:

If you will not enter my darling windmill
If you will not partake of this celebratory kebab
If you will not fold this watermelon tattoo into your hair
If you will not drink this glass of liquid smoke
If you will not breathe passionately into your combadge
If you will not wear green shirts, or brown shirts, or yellow shirts
If you will not saunter
If you will not hold this sparkler to a stack of clouds
If you will not believe in deliciousness as marbles in the mouth
If you will not fill a piano with marbles
If you will not eat the gummy worms
I have a scythe of cactus.
I have a scythe of hammers.
I have a scythe of days.

The Tortoise & The Centaur
after Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Once upon a time, the tortoise was scouting wild clover in the field, when who should appear but a centaur—half man, half platinum horse, with a head full of shaggy curls that mostly covered his wood-colored eyes. What’s that you’re carrying, asked the tortoise, looking up from his luncheon to where the centaur stood, up to his fetlocks in moonflower. O, the petrified skull of a water buffalo answered the centaur, extending his huge palms to show what filled them. The skull was a smooth, not-quite-blackened thing, a thing once membranous, now a dry, dark bell. Its forehead parted broadly in the middle, giving over to two grand loops of bone that framed it like handles. What’re you going to do with that? said the little tortoise, who disapproved of things without uses. Well shrugged the centaur. At the moment I’m storing a small library of pear seeds. He turned the skull in his hands, letting the library ring a bit. O, said the tortoise, who was not the least bit interested in tree fruits. The centaur frowned. What? What’s wrong with a seed library? But by then the tortoise had returned to his investigations. Orchardgrass, alfalfa, festulolium.,he was muttering, his thin turtle-lips nearly touching the soil. The centaur looked up at the sky, branched through with lightning, then shook the skull until a single seed fell. Be thou oval in fruit, good cooker, resistant to fireblightthe centaur intoned. His shimmering hands folded over the skull’s eyes. It was late season. He had not always done the right thing. But soon he would reach the sea.


We built a house on the brightest side of the heliostat. Blond oak, holding square and well clear of the dark. For the first time, we watched snowdrops build their ladders in the earth. Then my mother lived with us, and my sister too. We walked to the stone church whose sacristy sheltered the grand mural of our City, braceleted in nine white bridges, and on each bridge a different man to stand for the nine major trade guilds, the smith holding his silver shoe to the oblique light of the heliostat, and my favorite, the schoolmaster in solitary motion across San Tomasso bridge, face in profile, not looking at the others, his own hands firmly in the pockets of his overcoat, and slung over his dark shoulder the sturdy leather folio of his calling. I followed my mother’s fingers in the missal, saying Amen when she did, and as we began the Hosea I thought of the next, blue world. Afternoons we opened our windows to the mild air from the river. Then we slept, each in our own beds, and the slow wind touched us each to each. What more? Many times I would find that my mother had not slept at all, her face calligraphic, yellow-white. How about a little taste of tea, she would ask. Looking as much to me as to the curtains or the pale perch of kitchen window. Holding there as birds lifted far into the great countries of the dead.