poemoftheweek poemoftheweek.com poemoftheweek.org poem of the week
Floodgate Poetry Series Vol. 3:
F. Douglas Brown & Geffrey Davis
Kai & Anders Carlson-Wee
The Floodgate Poetry Series is an annual series of books collecting three chapbooks
by three poets in a single volume, edited by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum. Chapbooks—
short books under 40 pages—arose when printed books became affordable in the 16th
century. The series is in the tradition of 18th and 19th century British and American
literary annuals, and the Penguin Modern Poets Series of the 1960s and ’70s.
Driving through the Animal
-from Enid Shomer's Driving through the Animal
Through my window, the buzz of a distant combine
cutting a swath through the far pasture of rye,
small animals caught in its wheeling blades--
rabbits shived to wet ribbons, field mice
reduced to minims of bloody fur as the field
flattens into the lush avenues of our hungers.
At drivers' school last Fall I learned it's a fatal
mistake to spare the deer, possum or pet
in the road. Drive through the animal, the officer
said. Since flesh gives, collision--even
with a steer--is safer than a wild swerve
into oncoming traffic, culvert, or tree.
I know how it happens: past midnight near Cedar Key,
the road cinching up on its yellow thread.
Star-bright eyes cluster like low constellations.
I drive through the herd, the car my armor,
telling myself they're only a thicket of bone
and blood. Like faint quarter moons, hooves rise
in my headlights, a body slams--brief trophy--
on the grille. Deer often die of fright
before they die of their wounds. But mine casts
in the road for hours, its tongue spilled, flies
working the open spots, vultures sifting
down from trees. The truth is I'd never drive
straight through. Whatever it is that leaps
in my chest would become what leapt in the road,
and I'd turn away. Try as I might that night in school
to steer my dummy wheel into films of deer
and dogs dashing headlong or popping up
as placards, I couldn't let their blood
become my wine.
What a Father Learns
-from Begotten, Co-written by F. Douglas Brown and Geffrey Davis
mother fattened our faith on turnip's blood
rock-milk warm loaves of wind-- she could draw
a cup of honey from the slightest cut
in the crow's flight-path to its evening roost
she plucked lines from our bellies a lyric
in unison with the stifled prayers our mouths made
our endless thump--: hunger the hymn
as we rode the side of a bowl she made
the deep cold crawl back into the slender
fingers of winter forced sharp kisses of summer-heat
to swirl just above our heads while we drifted
into a wooden sleep we were her small wishes
stacked against immensity and
disappearance sometimes we would catch
her asleep a snore trickling out into
the room of handmade miracles: folded laundry
and shopping bags band-aids and unpaid bills--:
everyone has a cross to bear son everyone
mother the single hand maker of bath water
and broth mother the I gets it done
I tell her the warm memory of it rises
easy like the full light of her name in my throat
I tell her I am a father now yet done
seems impossible I tell her I need to know how
to hold my son's head up so that a cross is not
only some broken thing shaped by a father's arms
a father learns to make a cross at handshake
during hard talks and when the vision of his son
is all boogie how will I hone my ears
to see trouble stagger towards him
what will I offer can I trust myself
a parent full of worry and slippery prayers
this burden builds on my neck when I feed
my son I am a daffodil in his eyes
or a captured crow:-- everything I have learned
a solid black surging and passed between hands
- From Kai Carlson-Wee's Northern Corn
There has to be a tree. There has to be
a sky. There has to be a chicken-hawk
skating the dust rising out of a thresher.
A ploughboy walking with a turtle
in the head-high corn. There has to be a pool
with a swirly slide entering the water.
A chain-link cut by the field where I took
Kerri-Ann to the river when the river
was flooded. A burnt knife lettering
her knee. And a song being played--
All the girls are gone, All the head-strong
good country girls are gone--from the window
of a painted Accord. Her father standing drunk
in the screen porch watching us dance.
There has to be light falling into his body.
And a muskie we pull from the mud puddles
under the tracks. A reason we throw it
in the pool where it wobbles and floats
in the shivering wave-lines. Her father still
watching us dance in his sleep. There has to be
a fight, a cross-fade of landscape surrounding
those liquor-marked breaths. Him catching
her thigh. The two of them wishing to god
they were drunker. And the black lines
of telephone wires rise quiet as old men
or grocery store crosses. The scarecrow
in silhouette losing its face in the hyper-
colored dust and the clouds. There has to be
light. And a circling car. And a song
moving out of his body like something
he names. A chicken-hawk rising
on dust trails over the ditch where the boy
now plays. The river still flooded,
the dissipated clouds in the late-day in awe
of their own color fading. There has to be
a flood. And a promise of love. And a fish
in the pool, and the pool gone dark
where the turtle glides under the leaves.
-From Anders Carlson-Wee's Northern Corn
We crammed in McAlpine's Pulse and drove
west out of Fargo to see the train wreck.
Late summer and the heat moaning from
the radiator, smoke gushing from the seams
in the hood, all of us snake-biting
McAlpine's neck when he admitted
he'd thinned the coolant to try to make it
stretch. We passed Whale-O-Wash
where the volleyball girls held up cardboard
signs, did barefoot high kicks in bikinis,
offering five-dollar specials to raise funds
for their team. We passed M&H Gas.
Ironclad. Rickert's Bar. The Hardee's
parking lot where the Mexicans lounged
on the hoods of their cars, but we didn't
flick them off because we knew about Garcia,
who'd just hung himself in his father's closet
with a belt. Skateland. Hebron Brick.
The church on Division boarded up
and watermarked at the windows, signed
by the height of the flood in the spring.
Indian Triumph. Curt's Lock and Key.
Ameristeel where McApline worked
with his uncle on weekends. The bums asleep
on layers of newspaper in the bushes
beside Bell State Bank. Tintmasters. Dakota
Electric. The rubble and brick where last winter
a lady carved a swastika into her wrist
before burning down her fortuneteller business.
The old folks home where wheelchaired vets
waved out the windows at whoever
came by. Bozak flicked them off
and we all laughed. We passed the last trees
on the edge of town and gunned down
a county road through the ripening beets,
cranking up the windows and blasting the heat
as McAlpine pushed the Pulse above 90.
We called this Operation Desert Storm--
the North Dakota roads so flat and straight
you could hit 95 before the car started to quiver,
McAlpine screaming into the windshield:
Oppy Desy! Oppy Desy! All of us peeling
off our shirts and wearing them like turbans.
As we hit 99 I dug a onesy from the glovebox
and packed it and held it to McAlpine's
trembling lips. This one's for Garcia, he said.
We passed 100. Out in the fields the heat-
lifted kinks of cargo came into view.
It was the wreck we were looking for--
a junker from Wolf Point, Williston, Minot,
Grand Forks. A local. Low priority. Loaded
with hoppers, tankers, Canadian grainers,
gondolas hauling scrap-metal to Duluth.
Somehow the clay and rain had fucked up
the rails and caused the freight to buckle
at the couplers, but nobody had died.
The conductor and his crew rolled on down the line,
drifting in the engine unit, watching
in the rearview as the mile-long train turtled
into the sugar beets and began to pile.
Enid Shomer is an American poet and fiction writer. She is the author of four poetry collections, two short story collections and a novel. Her poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, Paris Review, The New Criterion, Parnassus, Kenyon Review, Tikkun, and in anthologies including The Best American Poetry. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, New Stories from the South, the Year's Best, Modern Maturity, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Her stories, poems, and essays have been included in more than fifty anthologies and textbooks, including Poetry: A HarperCollins Pocket Anthology. Her book reviews and essays have appeared in The New Times Book Review, The Women's Review of Books, and elsewhere. Two of her books, Stars at Noon and Imaginary Men, were the subjects of feature interviews on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Her writing is often set in or influenced by life in the State of Florida. Shomer was Poetry Series Editor for the University of Arkansas Press from 2002-2015, and has taught at many universities, including the University of Arkansas, Florida State University, and the Ohio State University, where she was the Thurber House Writer-in-Residence. In 2013, she received The Lifetime Achievement Award in Writing from The Florida Humanities Council. Shomer has a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.A. from the University of Miami.
Geffrey Davis is the author of Revising the Storm (BOA Editions 2014), winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Finalist. Davis also co-authored, with poet F. Douglas Brown, the chapbook Begotten (Upper Rubber Boot Books 2016). His honors include fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation and the Vermont Studio Center, the Anne Halley Poetry Prize, the Dogwood Prize in Poetry, the Wabash Prize for Poetry, the Leonard Steinberg Memorial/Academy of American Poets Prize, and nominations for the Pushcart Prize. His poems are forthcoming or have been published by The Academy of American Poets, Crazyhorse, The Greensboro Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, The Massachusetts Review, Mississippi Review, New South, The New York Times Magazine, Nimrod, and Ploughshares, among other places. Davis grew up in Tacoma—though he was raised by much more of the Pacific Northwest—and now teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
F. Douglas Brown of Los Angeles is author of Zero to Three (University of Georgia 2014), the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize recipient selected by Tracy K. Smith. Mr. Brown, an educator for over 20 years, teaches English at Loyola High School of Los Angeles, an all-boys Jesuit school. He is both a Cave Canem and Kundiman fellow. His poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets, The Virginia Quarterly (VQR), Bat City Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review (CQR), The Southern Humanities Review, The Sugar House Review, Cura Magazine, and Muzzle Magazine. When he is not teaching, writing or with his two children, Isaiah and Olivia, he is busy DJing in the greater Los Angeles area.
Anders Carlson-Wee was a professional rollerblader before he studied wilderness survival and started hopping freight trains to see the country. He has bicycled across the United States twice, hitchhiked to the Yukon and back, and walked on foot across Croatia and Bosnia through the farm villages of the Dinaric Alps. He is the winner of Ninth Letter's 2014 Poetry Award, New Delta Review's 2014 Editors' Choice Prize, and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in New England Review, The Missouri Review, West Branch, Blackbird, The Journal, Linebreak, Best New Poets 2012 and 2014, and elsewhere. A recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Sewanee Writers' Conference, Anders is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Vanderbilt University.
Kai Carlson-Wee recieved a BA in English from the University of Minnesota and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has received fellowships and awards from the MacDowell Colony, the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference, the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fund, and his work has appeared in journals such as Narrative Magazine, Best New Poets, Poetry Northwest, TriQuarterly, Gulf Coast, and The Missouri Review, which selected a group of his poems for their 2013 Editor’s Prize. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, he lives in San Francisco, and is a Jones Lecturer in poetry at Stanford University.