Poetry Roundup: Smith, Backer, Roeske

Some favorite picks from recent browsing of online journals. I’ve just quoted a few lines of each for copyright reasons; visit the journals’ websites for the whole poem.

Character Study
by Patricia Smith

…He was scarred
by every change I’d made, every strike-through,
cut/paste, backspace, delete, all the unleased
betrayal that roars through prose. I built him
from a knowing of adjectives, piled on detail
and declaration, and now he is overdone, dragging
all that weight and wheezing when he breathes.
The boy patiently loads his pockets with stones,
bottle caps and jagged pieces of glass, waiting
for the moment when the skin of my neck is exposed.
Only 11, he scans me with man eyes and says it,
claiming my nights, advancing the plot in a way
that can’t be undone. He says: Give me a name.

   Read the whole poem, plus an interview with acclaimed performance poet Smith, at Torch, a journal of creative writing by African-American women.


The Fourth Nest
by Sara Backer

It hurts to cut an old rose bush
into trash-can pieces,
but the backhoe comes tomorrow
to carve blue lines on paper
into trenches in the ground.
To make a new dream happen,
you must give up the one you’re living in.

   Read this poem in the new issue of The Pedestal Magazine.


Cold Snap
by Paulette Roeske

In the news, a woman’s frozen to her floor
in the usual attitude of prayer. Taking her
for dead, the medics joke over a joint
while they chip at the ice. Consider
their surprise when she mumbles an invocation
to whatever saint knows firsthand
cold that cuts to the bone.
When he appears, she holds out a hand
she expects to be taken.
The medics, who think she is waving, wave back,
although she has already boarded a ferry
to nowhere they can imagine.

   Read this poem at The Diagram.

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