Fiercely-lit, a body like an algebraic equation
set sideways, its hills and valleys, a nationstate
of numbers, a sine curve like a river’s rift.
Bend, look closely: What you see is not what
you get but rather who you are. Breathe beside
me. Part of gazing out is gazing in. Submerge
me, the body says. Everything preventable takes
shape too quickly. Reach in to each other’s mouths,
pause, linger there, moisten, gather loose stones
to build a shelter, an awning—what is it that
you think is at stake? We began, each of us
as a strange swelling, a coursing through like a bird’s
wing shuttered against a humid night. There’s silence
and then there’s everything else. Leave me there.
POEM IN FOUR DIMENSIONS
All the feathers form the down. In other
words: This is the theocracy of an apple.
When I shot through the birth canal, a swarm
of wasps, I broke something that wasn’t mine
to break, a pattern I’d repeat well into my forties.
Is this what wisdom feels like? An ache behind
the eyes, dull like a dove out of a February-window.
Every time a bird appears, take three steps back
and lose an adjective. The Meta-verse failed. If
half of marriages end in divorce, then the other
half end in death—it’s still unclear which is more
preferred. Sorrow is often mistaken for lust, or maybe
it’s the other way around. Either way, the shells
are full of seeds. There’s a color—the inside
of a dragonfly’s wing in direct sunlight—for which
there will never be a name. We call this, time.
A love letter to my shadow and the shape
the city trims as we walk hand in hand
past downed trees and trash piled.
What’s inside echoes loudly what’s outside.
The most beautiful part of a body
is the way in, the reverb between
the bee’s wings as it hovers over and beyond,
its tiny body wind-blown. Seeing clearly
is too full a miracle—we doubt it because
our own bodies collapse—or swell but not
more slowly—and we wave as we rush
past them. A body is a thing that is its death.
There are a thousand positions of rest,
but only one gives way to what we make of love.
-from a book that does not yet exist, selected by Assistant Editor, Karen Carr
Gary McDowell was born and raised in suburban Chicago. He earned a BA in English from Northern Illinois University, an MFA in poetry from Bowling Green State University, and a PhD in contemporary American poetics and creative writing from Western Michigan University. He lives just outside Nashville with his family and is an associate professor of English at Belmont University. Gary has published several books, including Aflame (White Pine Press, 2020), winner of the 2019 White Pine Press Poetry Prize; Caesura: Essays (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2017); Mysteries in a World That Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016), winner of the 2015 Burnside Review Poetry Prize; Weeping at a Stranger's Funeral (Dream Horse Press, 2014); and American Amen (Dream Horse Press, 2010), winner of the 2009 Orphic Prize for Poetry. He is also the co-editor, with F. Daniel Rzicznek, of the SPD best-selling anthology The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal Press, 2009). His poems and essays have appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Nation, New England Review, The Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, and dozens of others.