Cradling a head, the down pillow says, I am the attic of the bed, and
turning & tossing the head says, I am the attic of the body. The
pillow says it’s stuffed with all the incarcerated feathers’ memories
of how the firmament feels. And the head says, I’m crammed to the
rafters with this body’s thwarted desire to fly. The pillow says, I’m
a gulag, and I think guards are as much prisoners as inmates. The
head says, Keep singing that daft little lullaby. Maybe then I’ll fall
asleep and dream this body into the air for a moment. And the pillow
says, Just remember: the guards keep coming back to prison over
and over. But the head is snoring. The pillow wonders if a sky’s
shining inside there now.
Landon Godfrey is the author of Second-Skin Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Soufle Chiffron Gown (Cider Press Review. 2011), which was selected by David St. John for the Cider Press Book Award, and the limited-edition letterpress chapbook Spaceship (Somnambulist Tango Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Slice, Bombay Gin, The Collagist, Broadsided, Best New Poets, and Verse Daily. Her short fiction has been published in Waxwing. Also an artist, she is coeditor, co-publisher, and co-designer of the letterpress broadside journal Croquet.
Five Prose Poems from The Sturdy Child of Terror
Magisterium, 1950: Double Negatives, Pathetic Fallacies
and the Exercise of Power
While this so-called Cold War may never be declared, there is no
doubt that the Blessed Mother, having completed the course of her
earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven.
To ex cathedra teachings must be added those that are non-
infallible, which too require submission. Sisters are admonished to
work without ceasing to harness the unruly self and keep the world
At some level the parallels begin to appear. Iron Curtain, iron lung;
Fatima, pre-sliced cheese.
At the corner of the yard the garage, an empire unto itself banked
with tiger lilies.
Fathers come and go. Mothers stay and stay.
Windows open, the common clatter floating out—cough, radio,
vacuum—to join our whoops and hollers.
The Friesens have a grandmother at their house, the Byrnes a
Each night I pray one Hail Mary for good grades, one for the poor
souls in Purgatory, and one for pagan babies.
My mother lost her past in 1960; her mother never did.
In a prior century, St. Louis broke with the county, roping off a
past that festered between Forest Park and the river like an
Crossing the line between suburbs and city, the edge gray then
black, the passengers lock the car door, they who had left in cloth
coats now trolling for bebop in minks and plaid blazers.
We were a system, a sociology, a discipline in black and white, its
strictures softened by hymns and myrrh, by the veiled bodies of
nuns pacing left and right, tapping each map with a flourish—Holy
Roman Empire, Barbarian Invasions, Counter-Reformation—
chalking lines of Gregorian chant on the board. Each parish a
planet with its own orbit, its own plaid and priest, and yet a mere
speck in the cosmos, a fleeting moment in an eternity so vast that
we swooned at the notion.
Pershing Avenue, 1960
My mother recited “Lead, Kindly Light” to her mother, my mother
at the edge of the bed, her mother in the middle under a pale wool
blanket where she had lain for weeks, rosary in hand—I was not
ever thus—the shades drawn to spare her eyes, to soften the fact of
a bed in the dining room, her body a cloudbank hovering at the
horizon. I loved to choose and see my path. Her mother drifting
into sleep, my mother put the book down, stepped out to the fire
escape and smoked, ashes drifting down to the streetcar tracks, the
streetcar itself long gone, the street’s old name too. Her father
boiling coffee, her brother playing solitaire, she resumed the
poem—I loved the garish day—to wake her mother, to adjust the
pillows, coax a sip of water. And when she faltered, when she had
to turn away—With the morn those angel faces smile—her mother
sat up, radiant, eyes blazing, and finished it for her.
Holly Iglesias is a poet and translator whose work includes Angles of Approach, Souvenirs of a Shrunken World, Fruta Bomba, and Boxing Inside the Box: Women’s Prose Poetry. She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She teaches at the University of North Carolina at Ashville.
For One Night Only
My professor and I were back at the Théâtre du Nord-Ouest for Huis Clos, Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist masterpiece about three people locked in a room for eternity, each torturing the others by their very existence, creating a unique form of hell. I hadn’t heard of most of the plays we saw that summer on our grant-funded research trip to Paris; Les Fourberies de Scapin isn’t exactly world famous. But even I had heard of No Exit. And, at first, it lived up to the Nord-Ouest’s reputation. The Garçon (renamed the Valet in English translations) delivered all his lines with an unnerving coolness as he escorted the newcomers into hell. Garcin alternated between moments of forced calm and small explosions of panic, and there was a certain raw hoarseness to his voice in his vulnerable moments that boded well for his breakdown through the rest of the play.
And I was even pleased when Love Bowman entered as Inès. Written in the 1940s, Inès is a troubling character for modern audiences—a stereotypically evil, man-hating lesbian who wants to bring all women over to the dark side. Though that’s not surprising, given the cultural context of the play, I was curious to see how a director and actor would work against stereotype. Bowman was dressed in a long black coat and dress. But she is fairly short and her coppery hair was gathered in a loose twist on the crown of her head. I nodded to myself in satisfaction. They weren’t setting Inès up to be the looming, black-souled character that she is in the play.
Things I Didn’t Know
I didn’t know so many people disappear in Alaska.
I didn’t know the state is large enough to swallow most of the Midwest and part of the South.
I didn’t know how many men live alone in the woods there or that isolation could settle into a person so deep that conversation could become a form of torture.
Or that by the time my friend and I flew to Anchorage, hitchhiked over Thompson Pass, and took a ferry to Cordova, the rejections I carried with me would feel small and remote.
I didn’t know the rain would come in torrents, in drizzles, in sideways. That even though we built a platform several feet off the ground and stretched a tarp over our tent, my socks, pants, and underwear would remain damp all summer.
Jason Reblando received his MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, and a BA in Sociology from Boston College. He is a former Fulbright scholar and Artist Fellow. His work has been exhibited at the DePaul Art Museum, the Oriental Institute, the Richard J. Daley Center and elsewhere. Publications and interviews include the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, F-Stop Magazine, the University of Chicago Magazine, and Chicago magazine. His photography can also be seen in the The New Deal Utopias coming October 2017.
I can’t sleep. The el rumbles across the street, and the neighbor’s porch light burns all night. Did they forget to turn it off, or are they like me, leaving it on in case
somebody comes knocking? That makes me think of the Grim Reaper, who hasn’t
come knocking yet. My dad’s still here, and a few hours later I visit him in the hospital,
where he’s getting a blood transfusion, which gives him a jolt and his spirits are lively. He’s telling me about buying the blueprints for our split-level house outta a magazine
back in ’61. Only cost fifteen bucks! He borrowed five grand from a lawyer client to buy the lot. Talk about a shoestring. Then his moment of genius, standing on the second floor,
the rooms framed out, the closets too, but no walls yet, no plaster. He looked through the opening and saw straight from the second floor down to the basement and thought,
laundry chute! He got a sheet metal guy from Dolton to hammer out the lining and built an opening high enough that a toddler couldn’t climb into it. When my cousins came over
we’d throw pool balls down the chute. It made a racket so bombastic, the grown-ups shouted for mercy. All my life clothes fell down that chute, into a closet that was never
empty, bursting with sheets and school blouses, baseball uniforms, damp towels, tube socks and toe socks, pedal pushers and pantyhose. The mountain never went down, just
spilled out of the closet, onto the basement floor. At ten I started to fish out my
blouses and socks and throw on a load all my own. I was in a fastidious stage, ironing
pleats in my plaid uniform skirt, my blue jeans, and the arms of my white school blouses.
That’s a phase from my childhood my father never knew about, and now’s not
the time to talk about a young girl’s grave chores. I’m here for his stories, but then
my cell rings, time to pick up the baby. My dad starts to cry, his thin face
waxy and pale. He says, you’ve heard these stories a million times, and I say no,
I never heard the one about the laundry chute. He says, yes, it was incredible. I looked
right down there and saw it! Something to make your mother’s life easier.
Another Moon Poem
and now it’s May and they’re in
xxxxxxxand they have
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxand he has.
I take Lulu upstairs to show
xxxxxxxxher the full moon, bolder
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthan we’ve ever seen, framed
by the new picture window,
xxxxxxtangled in the locust tree.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxEven when it ducks behind a cloud,
the light’s a wonder, but Lulu
xxxxxxxleans her head into my shoulder,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxand says, I’m too tired for the moon.
OK, I think, but someday
xxxxxxyou’ll see. The moon is your
xxxxxxxxxxxxlong-lost birth mother,
who gave you up
xxxxxxxfor your own good.
xxxxxxxxxxBut who’s been watching all along.
She’s here for me tonight.
xxxxxxIt’s her solitary roving I crave, linked
xxxxxxxxxxxx to the sea, the stars
the whole messy
xxxxxxxxxxxfrom a cool, perfect distance.
Eileen Favorite’s first novel The Heroines (Scribner, 2008) was named a Best Debut by The Rocky Mountain News. She’s twice received Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowships. Her work has appeared in Triquarterly, Folio, The Toast, The Rumpus, Chicago Reader, Poetry East, Diagram, and others. She’s been nominated for Pushcart Prize for fiction and nonfiction. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.