Image by Debra Gregerman


Contributor Notes

Choir of the Gone

encaustic by Debra Gregerman

A Chapbook

Lisa Bowden

by Lisa Bowden

Choir of the Gone I








Special impasse, no train—

no more there or back.















like a mountain dense on your back


a child hangs


thrown at you across


the desert,


then fumbled.















She’s not dead, she’s in the Bronx



Something was malarial then, unarticulated— 


an undertow holding bodies

suspended in winter trees


            invisible weight on your head


we had her.




was colloidal, was prime

mineral in our veins


a trace luxury   a bird    a story stopped


            can’t go back.


            fall away, fall away untranslatable girl


we had her

a little.


if x leaves y

the puzzle lines drift


take home from home

how reckless, how coliseum—



rhythm the yeses back.


we had her

a little.


            bed night, good dear


these are the things we will never know:

how many inhalations, how much weight.















can you mend the barren,

lucky night?


make glass

notes of its hair


ride its ass

back into itself?















a lover

can’t wish

this much


into mountain.


















Rump simple


at the root of your tongue


it is there


a thing folded neatly on an altar:


the lie.



Flint-neat, like a thief thieving


heart , pitched

through a picture window


shards of glass slip throats—


slipping a body, a car, a plane,

a lie cleaves


cleaving the violin strung loose to catch low notes


sky the color of leaving—


out of orbit


she was unseated




she was made to unseat.















I wish—

I were ancient.















Say you throw the act out—


for the fragrant idea of

would be percolated sex

or factless wanting


for erased hands

the torpid fuckery

for the space between give and lack


for the surrealistic two-car garages

or 29th floor walk-ups or

cubist DNA


for the bottom part of years

sucked unquiet

the soporific mouth


for the body turned over

mummy, soldier, infant.


Say you miss the reticulated liar--

chiefed out on some concrete

historical dreaming?


you could do worse.















Box of Bone


I am wrong as a cup.

unmoving, inelegant, ripe

with burden


in your cave

trees sleep

remembering their roots

the undone cries—


rock empty curve of despair

our the mood is ungodly


we moor want to want

unmake the box of bone


walking zero inches

nearer to it.















Language me


from geography

Arabic, I,


a taut fracture




taught how loss


takes or reports to take.















Dear ___________



My fountain

of wings

misses your voice—

hands soft piano

keys I cannot



the enemied


crystal wanting

that silence

arches into—

is you



I walk

to remember


the unmapable

line of breath

from me

to you.
















boatwind your cloud

to my ear

so I can hear

your breath




the field

of my palm,



your blindingly




my throat

so remembering

is breathing

the sky unbuilt—




















Sailboats race on the river outside the ICU. Wind like breath through a hose blows 50 square yards of sailcloth into bladder-shaped yokes, sliding arabesques across the water’s tense surface. The daughter breathes warm steam clouds against the window panes. It is cool in these early morning hours.


One is awake and the others are in a thin sleep half mile away when the phone rings. Children—adults drunk with fatigue—scattered in their mother’s apartment. The boy—the brother—answers the phone. It sits on a low shelf across the living room from the couch where he reclines. Made in Shop Class when he was a kid, the crude pine shelf holds photo albums labeled by decade. The phone plugs into the plaster wall, its chord long, coiled, and brown.


Earlier, the mother slept like the dead from too much morphine. A daughter lay on the bed next to hers watching her chest rise and fall for 12 hours. Head on forearm, one eye following the shifting slope of sheet on her body. Like watching an ocean swell and dip around its horizon line while lying on a beach, ear cupped by palm of warm sand.


The mother apologizes for it taking so long—her dying. For 2 weeks in other countries and states, her children leave lives and families, eight pets, three businesses, gymnastic meets, parties, grant deadlines, meetings. They convince her there is no where else for them to be, nothing else to do but be there.


The last time the mother wakes she looks 20 years younger than when she went to sleep. Buddhists say death is an unwinding, so the children figure they are watching her unwind, get more relaxed. She is luminous and full of strange power and a far-away gaze that startles—at once withdrawn and arresting—the room feels pregnant with the stillness before a hurricane.


Roses stand in a plastic pitcher next to small yogurt spoons they use to feed her ice. An L-shaped tray on wheels hovers over her lap. They take turns holding hands, new intimacy, at first awkward, or backward—who is holding whom?—then a matter of fact. Hands seek hands, after a drink, a stick, or pulse check. Skin soft like Chinese silk.


A catheter bag dangles from the side rail, turns colors like a mood ring. One woman who changes mother’s bag is listening carefully to the stories she won’t tell her kids. She has a sudden, great strength and holds the nurse’s arm, talks in a girlish high pitch about a guy at a diner by the beach one night named Reggie. He’s big and handsome and black and she wanted to go home with him.


Then turning to look at her daughter instead of the wall, the mother says she has stars in her eyes, and struggles to push up off the mattress, off the tubes, leaning into take-off. Ready to rocket away. Ecstatic.















Mystic darlings speak

beyond orthodox breath experience





they are washing the world




edaphic sky eddies




glide and are gone







“don’t be afraid


they are like doves”


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out toward snow-