The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


SONG IN A BOX

Piano with a house inside
traveled across the country
to be played by my father
at midnight. Note-ghosts
floated up past the sleeping dog


to my room. My father and I
weren’t speaking, and the box
my grandmother kept
her hairpins in was more lost
than ever. She was born


in the Third Ward, Newark.
At sixty, began to play
and let nobody hear
but my grandfather. Then
she died, and the sound


was stored in a box only Myer
could find. He died too
and the house was gone,
except in the piano
sometimes though hardly


anyone played. Hear it talking
fadedly of the footshapes
left in her stockings,
those letters we never saw,
of their old whites and blues.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


SEATTLE

Sometimes I get so wrangled the only thing that calms
me is a deer turning into a tree. Or hands with a ring
on them I can just see through the dark. I manage
a glass of water and a small resurrection of my sister.
Under the ceiling of clouds, we manage occasional
speaking. Our troubled spills. Our restless bowels.
We raise children shaped like clouds who do not notice
out loud. Who manage our silences. Who go on, without asking.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


IN WOLF COUNTRY

I give you what the wolves left:
a tooth on a leather strap, a few stray
hairs I found stuck to a tree, skull
of a deer the dogs found and licked clean.


Wild dogs, you say, coyotes,
not wolves. You want to transition
without symbols. I trace the sickle scars
where your breasts were, where no one


has ever touched you yet.
They shine in the moonlight—streetlight—
through the window. Later, I thumb
the hairs on your razor and press


my cheek to the rough place
they came from. Sorry, you say, I’ll shave
again, and I watch through the mirror
as you file the points down from your teeth.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


MY AUNT THE ARTIST, THE LIAR

On the path behind the house, we found the teeth,
but no sign of the corresponding jaw—


whatever had been forced down to earth
had been knocked or dragged elsewhere.

My aunt rattled the teeth
in her cupped palm. Sunlight dropped


a dryness in my mouth—
she was not the kind to tell the truth.

A woman, she said, the teeth
were small, like from a woman’s mouth,


and she knelt, pulled down to earth,
her fingers nosed the dirt for further proof.


(My aunt’s little rented piece of earth,
a house to make her crazy paintings in.)


They weren’t animal teeth. I ran my tongue
along the blank spots in my mouth.


She’d try them in her own mouth
at parties, she told me later, cradling my jaw,


Little one, we rent ourselves from earth.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


DAWN

My sister comes home
smelling of dirt she was buried in,
dandelion milk under her nails.


We wash her arms,
scrub her fingers
with stinging soap,
but still she is not clean.


When she finally speaks,
it’s to hand me that trowel
and I’ll bury the seeds


while upstairs our grandmother
paces the attic.


Will I wake anywhere
besides this house,
or love anyone ever
beyond my sister
with the skinned knees?


I wake again in the garden
crushing stems against my teeth.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


A MAN AT A PARTY TELLS US HE VOTES REPUBLICAN BUT
ASSURES US HE IS SOCIALLY LIBERAL

at the end of the night
my wife & I call a car
& we are silent during the ride
when we get home
we brush our debatable teeth
wash our debatable faces
undress our debatable bodies
in bed we practice remembrance
we rub our inconsolable
legs together the melody,
an assertion
of our reality
outside our window
the crickets join in
& it is beautiful
just the way elegies
ought to be

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


YAPPING DOGS

yapping dogs i understand you sometimes i want
to fucking scream for no perceivable reason
& sometimes people tell me to get over it
to choose my battles haven’t you ever knocked
over a bottle of nice scotch & wondered what
the drunk ants talk about when they aren’t working
themselves into a dizzying haze? no anxiety
is too small it’s common to have to convince
flowers to bloom i know this because as a child
i sat on my grandfather’s lap & asked if giving
up was the same as dying & his response was
a fully-loaded sigh the gunpowder white & suspicious
could have been from a powdered doughnut but i know
the difference between passivity & gluttony five years later
i had a crush on a girl named kristin i asked her
the same question i asked my grandfather &
she said fruit grows faster if you feed it the truth
so i sat under an orange tree & shot off
confessions like catholic bullets i dreamt kristin & i were
slow dancing on clouds now i can no longer look
at her when she speaks i know the meaning of unrest
how it slithers up your spine like a snake & licks
the base of your skull i cannot tell if i am more
spinal column or fluid ice isn’t afraid of its multiple
selves it melts when it discovers that bravery
isn’t about the sword you bear then it flows
like a charmed dream unconcerned with being forgotten

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


FOR TONIGHT WE ATTEND A FERTILITY SEMINAR

I am terrified of having a child. There,
I said it. Is the fear gone yet? Has it grown
twinkle toes & danced off stage? You seem
so confident, so steady. I want to hold
on to you as I rock to & fro. Don’t be alarmed
if I vomit over the side railing. Yesterday
I set up my new record player & cried when I broke
a piece of it off. Of course, my tears
weren’t for the plastic. If I can’t assemble this shit,
how will I ever keep a human alive? I choked.
You wrapped me in your arms, but still I felt cold.
I am made of impractical atoms. They buzz about clumsily,
like June Bugs. My blood spills here & everywhere.
Our child will soon inherit the mess I made. Babe,
a confession disguised as an observation: post-baby our dynamic
will change. You will have less time for me—
of that I am certain. I have a nasty habit of measuring life
by the losses. There will be times in which
you say I love you & I will mistakenly
think you are talking to me. I will mourn
the sentiments that are not mine to keep.
This morning: You wandered into the kitchen,
eyes full of blue light. You looked at me
as if I’d spent all night building a tower to the sky—
absolutely dazzled. I worry I will become
less remarkable around the baby. A face you’ve grown
used to. God, I hate that phrase. It makes me want to
dig my own grave & sneak naps when you
aren’t looking, until I am more asleep than awake,
until I am so close to death that I hold myself a wake.
Once you give birth, your precious eyes will shoot
in a new direction. How pathetic I am to act
as if there is only room for one
cannon ball in your arsenal.

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


WE DON’T GET TO CHOOSE WHO WE LOVE BUT WE DO GET
TO CHOOSE WHETHER WE REJECT OR EMBRACE THAT LOVE

I could have stayed
hollow, but instead I chose
a bellyful
of your dreams & a handwritten sign
that reads: Guess how
many are inside. My coworkers folded
their guesses & folded their guesses
until they disappeared altogether. Some
set the memory on fire. Others
demanded to know where I’d gotten
all those beautiful dreams. I shrugged
& said, I found them. The office party
sucked that year. No one spiked
the punch because it wasn’t a movie
& the winner never showed.
I stayed home with you. I made it
all worth it. The evenings when
our feelings came running like
a herd of blue wildebeests
even though the only threat
to our becoming
was what we might fail to do,
if given the chance to
choose safety over truth. Remember,
the future is not safe. It, too, becomes
a victim of the past. What we have
is the here
& now. You kiss my shoulder,
& before I can confess that it is
inexcusably dry, you are warming
the lotion between your hands. You have given
me so much that I would have never
taken for myself. To you, I give my lips,
my tongue, my eyes, my rest of my life.

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

Lyric Essentials: Brice Maiurro reads James Tate

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week, poet, editor and community organizer Brice Maiurro joins us to read James Tate and explore the often overlooked world of the strange and whimsical within poetry. As always, thank you for reading!


Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose to read James Tate for Lyric Essentials?

Brice Maiurro: Tate, for being a writer who has received a lot of accolades, is not someone that I hear people reference very often, and he’s been a very important poet to me. I remember being in a bookstore, picking up a copy of Return to the City of White Donkeys and the first poem I read was “The Memories of Fish”. I loved it. What a strange and whimsical idea for this man to make fun of these fish, only to feel deep regret the next day for his behavior. The ending is the kicker too “he had mocked their very fishiness, for which there can be no forgiveness.” His work has a magic to it. There’s something punk rock to this attitude of “fuck it, I’m gonna write about a guy who is mean to fish.” 

He often dismantles the ideas of poetry needing lyricism, needing stark imagery, needing a noticeable cadence or rhythm. Tate’s poetry puts you in the poem where you have to find the poetry of the situation. Not in beautiful words but in beautiful magical situations. He uses narrative prose to take you out of your day.

Brice Maiurro reads “The Memories of Fish” by James Tate

EH:  Do you have a particular connection to Tate’s collection City of White Donkeys where these two poems are found?

BM: It’s the first collection I ever read by Tate, I mostly read it on the light rail on my way to and from work. I was working at my Mom’s cupcake shop on 16th Street at the time. I think of James Tate as being a hall pass for me into being strange, especially to find the strange, and thus at times the divine, in mundane everyday situations. 

I grew up in the suburbs of Denver, in Lakewood. Went to T.J. Maxx and King Soopers with my Mom and sister on the weekends. Took girls on dates at Southwest Plaza mall. I spent a lot of time counting ceiling tiles and daydreaming. My Dad ran a shoe store called “Just For Feet” where I’d be stuck in his office for hours with nothing to do, so I wrote poems. I guess my poetry comes a lot out of waiting and boredom, and that’s something I see in James Tate. He seems like he’s just entertaining his shower thoughts.

I tend to tell people I see poetry as a math equation. Where you create a strange problem and then solve it. For example, in “Beautiful Shoeshine”, Tate seems to have asked himself “what if I had an airport entirely to myself?” He drops himself into this airport all alone, then he finds a shoeshine man, then he realizes he’s not alone, but the people around him are moving too fast to be seen, then in the poem he says, again with the good ending lines “I must not be traveling enough these days.” So here we have the problem of being alone in an airport, and Tate somehow manages to solve the equation by finding in the situation a commentary on a culture that moves so quickly, maybe doesn’t take enough time to rest and relax and breathe, all the hypercapitalism we’re so familiar with, but in a sad moment, our narrator in the poem decides not that the culture is broken, but that he must not be doing enough. I love this.

Brice Maiurro reads “The Beautiful Shoeshine” by James Tate

EH: City of White Donkeys is a peculiar journey into surrealism poetry—something Tate is known for. Your work also contains narrative forms, often playfully as well—do you ever draw inspiration or connection from Tate into your own writing in particular?

BM: I absolutely draw inspiration from Tate, going back to the idea that he gave me permission to bring surrealism into everyday scenarios. I have a poem where I talk to God at a Denny’s over a cup of coffee, I have a poem where I’m doing the dishes and all of a sudden I am taken into the astral plane, I have a poem where a man cuts off one of his fingers accidentally while chopping carrots and the first thing he decides to do is play his piano. Tate’s work resonates deeply with my own experience. Specifically the idea that while we’re in the muck of our everyday lives, we are so many other people and places and things. Also the humor. Humor is not as simple as just laughing. I find humor as a sense of solidarity, sometimes a way of honoring the absurdity of life, sometimes a way to process trauma, including our collective trauma. I believe humor is as valuable a tool in a poem as any other literary device.

EH: And lastly, is there anything you are currently working on that you’d like to share with our readers?

BM: I’m working on a manuscript. The working title is “and i open another door and”. Same weirdo poems as always. Finding myself influenced now though by the softness of Ocean Vuong and the syntax and visual elements of e.e. cummings’ poems. With the poems, I’ve been considering liminal space a lot, and the acknowledgment of not having the answers. I’ve been reacting to the tenets of white supremacy as well and challenging the ways I might embody some of those identities and how I can work through that. One of the tenets of white supremacy is either/or thinking. The poems in my new collection don’t claim to have answers as much as capture my feelings and thoughts around not knowing. The title itself kinda leans into the idea of being between moments, and in a limbo, which I know during COVID is a very real experience for a lot of people, myself included. 

The press I work with, South Broadway Press, is doing a lot of plotting and scheming too. We have a March edition on the theme of Language of the Earth. Our editor Chloë Thompson created the concept, which we’ll also be exploring in our February and March open mic series. We’re also looking into publishing a full-length poetry manuscript and launching a chapbook contest. We have a big team now, seven of us, and it’s been great to see our minds and hearts come together to create an identity for this very new press.


James Tate is an American Pulitzer Prize winning poet known for his whimsical, surrealist, and well-loved absurdist poetry. He is the author of over twenty poetry collections, including The Government Lake (2018), The Ghost Soldiers (2008), Worshipful Company of Fletchers (1994) which won the National Book Award, Selected Poems (1991), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award, Distance from Loved Ones (1990), Constant Defender (1983), Viper Jazz (1976), and The Oblivion Ha-Ha (1970). His many accolades include an Academy of American Poets chancellorship, a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Poetry, the Wallace Stevens Award, the Tanning Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He taught at University of Massachusetts in Amherst for five decades, and died in 2015.

Further reading:

Purchase Return to the City of White Donkeys by James Tate.
Read this in-depth interview with Tate in the Paris Review.
Watch Tate read a selection of his poetry in 2013 in Poets & Writers.

Brice Maiurro is Brice Maiurro is a poet from Earth. He is the Editor-in-Chief of South Broadway Press. His work has been compiled into two collections, Stupid Flowers and Hero Victim Villain. He has been featured by the BBC, NPR, The Denver Post, Boulder Weekly, Suspect Press, and Poets Reading the News.

Further reading:

Stay updated with Maiurro on his website.
Read this interview with Maiurro featured in Westword Magazine, honoring him as a Colorado Creative.
Check out Maiurro’s indie press, South Broadway Press.

Erica Hoffmeister is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently in Denver, she teaches college writing and advocates for media literacy and digital citizenship. She is an editor for the Denver-based literary journal South Broadway Ghost Society and the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). A cross-genre writer, she has several works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, articles and critical essays published in various outlets. Learn more about her at: http://ericahoffmeister.com/