Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review

Sample Poetry: Issue 17


For the Drowned

First, the river unclothes them, washes
Toward the Gulf their t-shirts and tennishoes,
Their torn khakis and simple house dresses,
And even, eventually, the finer points
Of their faces, the identifying features,
So that, often, they seem to arrive incomplete,
Like lumps of clay not yet fully formed,
Flesh unpronounceable. Arturo says it’s fish—
Mudcats and alligator gars—that take what’s
Missing. They’ll eat anything, he says,
And I imagine as much with each rising bubble
In the draft. We find ten or twelve a year,
And all of them aliens, illegals, wetbacks.
Or so it goes in the reports. Who knows?
Who can tell by looking? Here in The Valley,
Our tongues are already swollen with two languages,
The contents of our stomachs is the same,
And most of us are too poor for dentists.
But it makes life less complicated for the coroner.
The county’s reserved a special place for them
In the graveyard. He applies the tags. Arturo and I
Backhoe the graves out of dirt too thin for planting,
Inter the bodies, reclothed, faceless in white bags.

--by Nick Norwood


Listen

You and I have trampled down the grasses,
familiar strides through fields
we ran like sinners through the ruts.

Listen,
        to the way that the quiet breaks,
                         cold rivers over rocks,
        to the spaces in between and still
        to what I would say, that there are miles
to go of driving with fields to either side and
I would say that I have eaten, I am full, and
I would say that things are different now.
I would say your name.

Hear in every word an ending silence;
the absence of every other word. Listen,
we make the sounds of falling.

--by Mike Henry


The Variables

In the hand
the pen writes
what is written.
The paper receives,
is sent, then read
or not read
depending on whether
the lover
turns to cut
the rhododendron
blooming from its pot
on the windowsill.

The letter can sit
beside the cut flower
unopened for days.

The rhododendron
can bloom
though it has been cut.

The lover can watch
one or both or neither, depending
on his mood.

Left to dry on the windowsill
the rhododendron
can be placed
in a vase
in the center of the table
full of words.

The rhododendron can be written on
and folded. It can be mailed
and opened. It can be sealed
with a kiss.

The letter can bloom
or left drying on the windowsill
be placed in a vase,
trembling on its stem.

Passing the window
each morning
the postman
can see the letter
lying there
in the sunlight,
a fallen comrade,
as he opens
and closes
his mail pouch
like a bag of seed.

--by Bruce Snider


Frances at the Window

I look back toward the house, watch her thin body
bending near the window.

Bees come to the south meadow, as they have
always done, the soil marshy with thaw.

Last night, the moon was red: that always
puts her at a distance.

She gathers stories, asks me to write them down
while she sews.

Tiny leaves are coming on the sycamore, and the summer
pasture’s turning green.

I’m learning the piano. She teaches me, and I will
teach my daughter.

It is a wet spring. Rain squalls. I’m beginning to play melody.

The weather’s rushed, like children late for church.

We have good fields--restless as breath: black
soil close to streams.

Mother’s working on a quilt she won’t finish.

Deer Creek is almost to its bank, raging
in a black silence through its furrow.

I am growing used to my name: Frances, grey
music in the spring.

--by Carol Frith


Big Picture

There's an asterisk in the western sky that
with binoculars, resolves to Jupiter
and four moons.

There's a place on my spinning globe that
with a fingerstop, becomes a child.

There's a girl with a name that
means solace, she sells me cigarettes.

There's a cat who arrived with the mail,
I feed her tuna fish, watch her yellow ribs.

There are potholes and brownouts and
exit wounds.

There's a word for the world
and a single sound for my life.

--by Jeffery Bahr


Aubade on a Snowy, Spring Morning

Snow mantles the oak, softens the limbs
twisted by wind and poor soil.

Paw prints betray the cat crept out,
is lurking beneath the bush.

          *        *        *

Beyond the shadow of the house snow melts;
robins hunt in the mud for worms.

We’ve turned back the cold: daffodils
are unstoppable; the sun’s coming.

          *        *        *

This morning I leave, and again
will be with out your body--

how soft it fell, covering me last night:
an instant in which you were all

as though I.

--by Justin Ahren


La madre del agua / Water Mother

She’s learned to stay down for good,
because water fills her ears with voices,
muffled and yet so clear. They speak
to her of this riddle of waves. Plummet.

Directions to show her the way.
If not her, her son on a raft above her.
She looks up through water to see him.
She has become one with the hungry

depth. Her eyes turn indigo, her hands
clutch the shadows, claw at them,
become anemones in the chiaroscuro
of this half-lit dream. Her effort to push

him along renders her tired, breathless.
In her lungs, the water is mercury heavy—
it too helps keep her suspended below
the surface, against the strong currents.

Her fever-ridden son dreams of her
in the star-filled night. Underneath
him she continues to pull along, drag
him toward shore, freedom, exile.

Her body a ghostly vessel nobody finds.

--by Virgil Suarez

 


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