July 10th, 2018
Brian Tierney is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University, and a graduate of the Bennington College MFA Writing Seminars. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming in: Kenyon Review, AGNI, New England Review, Best New Poets, Boston Review, and others. In 2013, he was named among Narrative Magazine‘s “30 Below 30” emerging writers, and is the 2018 winner of the George Bogin Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. He lives in north Oakland, and teaches poetry at The Writing Salon.
It starts at the end; the lights of cars
distorted to a burst, for a second
like asterisks, or seraph wings, extravagant & huge
as they pass me
in the exhausted sweep of fog over Mars, PA, then Punxsutawney
Parish, & New Stanton, though it’s no heaven
here—the Turnpike in the rain. Cars pass & continue to
pass, & soon will arrive,
some of them, in Breezewood or Erie, where their lives have been
decided by now.
So my eyes sting O, The Glory & go dead. I pull over
outside Somerset; there’s a rodent broke-open, a pomegranate
to the butt of a hammer, its head
useless, even to birds. It hurts to look at,
as in blood-phlegm coughed up in a bathtub. Only the body knows.
My old man, the story goes,
right before he died, he shouldered the Windstar, pulled over
to phone her, me, anyone
on his way somewhere East of
Poquessing, a faint, red fingertip print smeared on the dash
as though someone had crushed a clover mite.
Coda With A Corpse Floating In The Patapsco
River—which means tide covered with froth—which means no
that isn’t the first snow
forming in his eyes when the fire crews find him on the south end
his knees like split grapefruits floe-slashed under fog the shippers
like the breath of a horse I saw, on its side, outside Lancaster
when I was nine
with my father, buying trinkets the Amish carved to pass their self-
fallen Catholics envy; & the eldest one, or most certainly one of
the elderly ones
hosing off the blood where the ankle of that indescribable heap broke
leaving a spot in the grass, a tumor in a petscan
seen from above:
so you could look at the shape your inner blight had taken long before
your organs had
caught up to your mourning what’d always been dying & unkeepable
anyway. Like a battery
I find floating. A father. It’s never
about the horse—
Sandra Anfang is a Northern California teacher, poet, and visual artist. She is the author of four poetry collections and several chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetalk, San Francisco Peace and Hope, Unbroken Literary Journal, Rattle, and Spillway. Her chapbook, Looking Glass Heart, was published by Finishing Line Press in early 2016. Road Worrier: Poems of the Inner and Outer Landscape, was released in April of this year from the same publisher, and a full-length collection, Xylem Highway, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag. She was nominated for a Best Short Fictions award in 2016 and more recently, for a Pushcart Prize. Sandra is founder and host of the monthly poetry series, Rivertown Poets, in Petaluma, and a California Poet/Teacher in the Schools. To write, for her, is to breathe.
Author of Looking Glass Heart, a poetry chapbook, published by Finishing Line Press © 2016. It’s available at finishinglinepress.com and Amazon.com. My new chapbook, Road Worrier: Poems of the Inner and Outer Landscape, was just released: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/road-worrier-poems-of-the-inner-and-outer-landscape-by-sandra-anfang/
The Shell station on the corner
the most expensive one in town
charges thirty cents more than the freeway one.
Sometimes I spring for a tank when I get low
because I like the way it shelters squatters
compact brown men short on cash
but long on pride
in search of an honest day’s work.
I tell the owner why I buy his gas
in spite of its exorbitance.
As our town dreams of a day-labor center
tries hard to raise the funds, the owner welcomes them.
I hire them when I need a hand to dig up
Agapanthus or haul away a stump
and sometimes, to inflate my tires
before the infernal machine runs out of time.
It’s a gift to practice Spanish—
exercise the muscles of forgetting—
a subjunctive tense here,
an obscure adjective there.
It’s my tiny contribution to the cause
like the Xmas club my mother
opened for me as a child
to fund our family’s gifts.
I want to tell them to take cover.
Fears of an ICE raid
have dominated the neighborhood
airwaves for days.
I admire the way they crouch in plain sight
in tempests and in balmy weather.
I emulate the dignity of their carriage
the way they share coffee and cigarettes.
When I don’t see them I stop to ask the owner
impatient for his slow-spun response.
I want to warn them to take cover
tell them how the madman hates California
would love to purge their ranks.
I muse about the name Shell,
recall its Spanish sister, concha
which doubles as the word for womb.
How they endure
predictable as rain or drought
a small band of men hiding in plain sight
in the concha of the Shell station.
Curled in the window with Anderson and Grimm
I thrilled to tales of children adrift in the forest.
The great pines were my parents
Luna moth and dragonfly, my playmates.
We pranced through crystalline air
as smoke from a lone cottage crescendoed
white against the electric blue of sky.
Deer and coyote were my mentors
so I packed my bundle
tied it to a staff
and stole away again.
When darkness fell I shivered
more from fear than cold
but the stars spoon-fed me courage
and the owl scrutinized me all night long
from its nest in the blue spruce.
I laid my head on mossy rocks
toadstools sheltered me from the rain.
Somehow my feet knew the trail
to sylvan joy
waking to a tickle of grass
a kiss of dew.