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Contributor Notes





Permissions: 



J. Friscmann watercolor

Watercolour on paper, 2008, by Justine Frischmann

 





A Chapbook




Aimee A. Norton

by Aimee A. Norton




 


 



This Poem Is Your Permission

 

 

No one gave it to Chandrasekhar
            a brown teenager

leaving the Bay of Bengal

sailing for Cambridge in a headwind.

He simply sat in his berth
            thinking about electrons inside a dead star
until he knew how to correct
other people's equations.  

One is left speculating on other possibilities.

He did not wait for the right
           credentials before stepping towards the door,
before turning the ring on his finger.  
No seated official sold him a permit.


No one will give you clearance, either.
            Reach in to what came before names.

Find an ocean of consent
perturbed by the largest things.   

One is left speculating.
 
Half a century later,
           Chandrasekhar had no need
for the Nobel Prize in his pocket.

He had done wonders

without the right skin-tone, without

            an approved co-author list. Recognition

has its ways.  First is ridicule,
the glass paperweight of freedom. 

One is left. 

As for me, I peer around corners

            looking for the wet-nurse of entitlement.

Where is she to give me the nod,
the go-to-it signal, so I can start


pulling life through the sieve assigned?

             This poem is your permission.  
Go on.  Calculate the internal structure
of a star in the summer you turn nineteen.

 

 

 

 

Vaccine for Rachel

 

Love is the great leveler. Everywhere it’s busy

turning genius into fools and fools into genius. 

 

Look outside, Rachel! See the shimmering? 

That’s no sunshine.  It’s the sheen of active pathogens

 

rained randomly onto throats of the unwary.

It’s a substance engineered to short-circuit logic

 

and make new couples. Everyone, everywhere

haphazardly sparked into the act of un-separating.

 

Go ahead then, Rachel, get vaccinated. Join in.

Think you are the first to take the heavy serum

 

of someone else into your veins. Drink them intensely

until your own skin is unknown.  In the end, you’ll walk

 

away stronger or younger or crippled or refreshed,

but changed for knowing the fury at which bystanders

 

can only marvel.  The only guarantee you’ll spend

the rest of your days carrying a dead knowledge

 

of this love inside you.   Regretting, worshipping,

eventually forgetting.   Immunity will be your only proof

 

that it once ran living through your veins.

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Spins



Electrons in lonely orbits, our Sun on nuclear point,
and the Milky Way in grainy, star-spangled splendor.

Oh yes, everything rings-around-the-rosie –
Opa in the beer garden, El Niño and La Niña

in fickle pursuit of an average, each silver jack on sixth point
spinning love’s back story towards a thirty year mortgage.

It can not be helped. Electrons annihilate
to meet their mates.  The spiral arms of our galaxy

collapse in a halo of Bremmstrahlung
if they dare clasp the black hole in the center.

If fortune sat on my chest, I’d tornado down, too,
sending pretty SOS signals near the vortex.

There are times I’d give up spinning
to see the bold extinction, to hear Sylvia singing.

But courtesy to stasis paid, to market and back I go.
The spider in her web anchors radials with spinnerets.

I arc out here (the laps, the years).  Dervish well
with arms flung wide to honor the heavy centers.

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Here,

a Spell of Indifference


 

This body, it could be any body.

Rather, any body could be mine.

 

And the town, well, it is any town –

the street names wiped clean at dawn.

 

My husband, an arbitrary man,

is no less and no more than other men.

 

The children, small dear loaves of life,

are randomly being drawn out by time.

 

Anywhere, with any one,

any me could be.

 

I can’t tell if the sentiment

is laudable or laughable,

 

whether I’ve attained enlightenment

or disillusionment.

 

But clearly, it doesn’t matter.

The menu is always the same.

 

The apples arrive with

their leafless stems,

 

and the bird outside my window

is the same one outside yours.

 

 

 

 

 

Romeo Nation

 

 

I’m grateful to lovers, every one, who flashed me the salt in their eyes

or Morse coded me in pleasure text to say passion

is a part of compassion.  But my memories are pocked on all sides

by girls in tight cotton wearing NO on silver necklaces, 

bank tellers of reproduction, these ascetics sat upright

with books covered in the brown, grocery-sack paper of thrift. 

They insisted I do the same.  Fear rose from them like startled birds.

The No-girls quick-syllable words were bought behind counters

stocked with lottery tickets and plastic saints. 

I pitied such shortsighted chastity.

 

What they called a one-night stand was transformative. 

Sex dissolved pain in the detergent of time.  How empowering

to be chosen, even neon-light briefly, by another. 

As a genius teenage fuck, I won the Nobel Prize for pleasure

several years running.  My talent was seeing each brittle yeoman

for who he really was.   In return, I was dubbed as easy, gained

a reputation spread by the fire tongues of the No-girls,

I threatened the sexual economy.  Brigitta called me Slut  

 

in her strangled pigeon voice. So I played parade music,

straight-ahead drum and bugle, and marveled on the downbeats

at all the No-girls didn't know.   This:  a talisman against loneliness

is an old lover’s name spoken aloud.  And this:  even a memory

of being held remains strong against the bowhead of time. 

So here’s my note to the sanctimonious:  Stop dinging

the sides of my dreams with fictive piety.   Up ahead,

I see the Romeo nation, where Latissimus Dorsi curve

into the small of men’s backs  and a chorus of stories

are sung as tongues become blunt instruments of bliss.

 

 

 

 

 

Solar Eclipse in Northern Australia, 2012

 

The Warlpiri people explain a solar eclipse as being the Sun-woman being hidden by the Moon-man as he makes love to her. – Ray Norris, 2007, Australian Aboriginal Astronomy

 

 

The Moon is a man. The Sun is a woman.
You know where this is going.


The Sun wakes each morning
decorates herself, spills a bit of Ocher
on the clouds, stains them red.
Lights a torch made from the stringy-bark tree.
Takes a long walk to the West.   Our man,
the Moon, knows a good thing when he sees it. 
Chases her across the sky. 

Moon wanting.  Sun running. 

Her hands are busy with the torch
until sunset when off come her feathers and
her beads. Ocher dusts the West with
clay fired by day.   Luck and light,

today the Moon catches the Sun. 

Wedding invitations are sent by shadow. 

People come from Poland, from Japan,

from farms and the arms of lovers.

Bringing wines and expensive cameras

as gifts.  Chasing holes in the clouds to

glimpse the bride and her lusty groom.

 

People expect the fantastic. 

Still, they are not prepared for it.  

 

An hour of the Moon rubbing out the Sun. 

Foreplay is a pledge in nearness.

Even the tiniest crescent of her is still so brilliant. 

Finally, one eye swallows the other. 

The Moon and Sun shutter this play. 

Call it hide in the dark.  Call it totality. 

Call it a cosmic peep show. As we watch

our makers of gravity make love, another kind

of sight is ushered in – a diamond blue-white

seen only in subtext.  This slick foreign narrator

shows all the props to be wired by maniacs,

the curtains to be made of mesh.

 

Did we really want to see the bride

with her macramé gown pulled down,

moon ravenous, his hands bony, hers fiery?

Yes. Oh, yes.  As details richen, people

make noises in the backs of their throats, caught

beside themselves in unexpected climax. 

 

One old farmer brought his folding chair,

wore indifference like a hairy chest

handed out clichés about the weather,

until totality when he cried out  “holy shit, 

holy shit, holy shit....”  He was not alone.  All around

were mewls of men and women in the throes

of a tryst they had planned, but was more

than they asked for.  Clapping, and laughter

a bawdy audience, the most primitive of shows. 

Unexpected means a coming without warning.   

Well, isn’t that always how it is?

 

(After burner image –

a blanket of discreteness,

radiant streamers and Venus.)

 

 

 

 

 

Building My Boat from Kindling


 

I want to hunt the whale, hunger, single-mindedly,

in pursuit of his heft.  I want to be obsessed, watch the days

grow long, forget my teeth until I taste them

rotting in my forgotten mouth.

 

Let my mind grow wild and feel the whale’s

impossible form, a bulk of blinding whiteness bearing down,

ever diving behind my eyelids in the moments

when I can sleep.

 

But if I go to sea, who will make the children

wear their coats?  Who will cover them with the right weight

of blankets in the night?  While I am at sea,

foaming,

 

riding whitecaps of unlikely creation, no one will act as that

necessary basin in which cloth is washed with water,

bringing out the bright emptiness needed

daily in our world. 

 

Hours ago, before this day roused itself from the metronome

of motion, my feet made their way blind against a path.  

From across unkempt fields and empty lots, I heard

a donkey make its noises

 

against the night.  I understood its inability

to choose what sound would form when gums parted

and muzzle made the joke of noise

assigned to its form.

 

Of all the irony of nature, the creation of marsupials, the birth

of animals addicted to bamboo, the winding of winds

that turn wrong in the sky, there is woman.

Every morning she shows the seeds

how to suck air and exhale,

 

how to grow straight in the sun.  Oh, the lack of mercy,

as one womb after another fills. The helium of dreams leak

a hissing trail into the sky.  But I am building

my boat from kindling,

 

breaking the crib, chopping the cupboard

that held the spices. Sticks stolen in the morning

and bent at night form a hollow to carry me out

beyond the breakers.

 

 

 

 

 

Come Here


 

When the soup isn’t worth warming, come here.

Arms needn't echo the emptiness of bowls.

 

Let my body breathe a boundary around you.

The easy animal of me is outside time.  Listen.

 

Hear the lull of my blood being honeyed into bone.

Within the lushness of each other’s limbs,

 

our torsos tell stories, singing skin to skin and

the sharp surprise of eye teeth bared by joy.

 

Come here, bloom as an instinct, unfold

like insect wings to reveal this gift

 

warmth in the body both balm and source

of perennial alms. Touches, riches,

 

uncountable, unaccountable.

 

 

 

 

 

Entering the Barren Plains


 

Against my limbic will, I’ve decided to have

no more babies, to begin a self-exile where I

wander the land beyond the pastures of motherhood.

I’m not barren simply twenty-first century sensible,

with a secret desire for more.

 

Rich in inheritors already, two small-limbed mammals

clamber about my house with their fine heads of hair

hanging commas in the foyer of each moment

a-rococo with the pop pop passion of children.

 

Yet the terrain of this world can’t contain my yearning.

 

The crotch of the mountains makes my nipples swell.

The contours of the land command the beast in me

to yield.  I both fear and crave a magical rape.

If only the angels of desire could summon the soil

to rise up into a semen-spitting serpent,

I’d warm my still-ripe uterus full again.

 

But no. I can already hear the broad-stemmed

shield of grasses weaving a spell on my eggs

to stop their free fall towards fertility,

to keep me from populating this land with more beauty.

 

Hush-a-bye body there will be no more babies.

Hush-a-bye grasses never to be crushed

by the small feet of my youngest unborn.

Hush-a-bye wild viable mountains have mercy –

close your legs and hide the shining crotch of life

from my greedy soul.

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Loss in the Hour Before School



A small moth
with moon-colored wings
struts onyx eyes
and thread-like legs
across my son’s palm.

My six-year old
gently sets the moth
on his pillow to get dressed.
Then picks it up again
and smiles

as powder wings
brush his face, explore
folds of clothes.
“He loves me,”
says my son.

But I hear
“I love him.”
I nod.  “Maybe moth
would be happier outside.”
Minutes later,

I find him weeping,
one hand hanging
over the balcony.  “He dropped”
he says, “one wing was hurt.
He couldn't fly away.”

But it’s time to brush teeth,
get socks on
for first grade
where small sums and
sight words wait.

As the toothbrush
glides over baby enamel,
his eyes close. I think he sees
the moth fall again
from his hand
because fresh tears appear.

 

 

 

 

Placebo


 

Powerful, this nothing,

this sugar pill of permission.

 

Smaller than a button, slipping

through holes of the possible.

 

A mere two-calorie,

lactose-coated whim

 

mustering the troops

by blonde suggestion.






A Poem About Country Music

 


I will not start off singing about all the satisfied men I’ve left behind.
Instead, I’ll confess to not loving trains.  I love the tracks.

I’ve also been laid down on the thirsty ground from coast to coast

in a constant struggle to stay straight and narrow.

Jennings knew, the devil made me do it the first time.
The second time I did it on my own.

Now the harmonica comes in with a twangy, far-off sound
to get the audience prepped for stories about Mexico

where I got high and got the clap.  But in my version

there are no prison walls and “the man” is not the sheriff

because man itself is my prison.  That personal pronoun of containment –

“he” is a jar with smooth edges.  It looks useful

but put something in and it becomes airless fast.

So I stand at the edge of a field tired with an overdue baby
having gone without gin for nine months now.  I can’t make it

much longer because my warden is on a tractor or on the road
or sleeping with a rose of a different name.

The field before me is fallow all on its own merit,
coming of age craftily using the calcium left to it from before.

I can do that too, take the fossil in my teeth, know loss like seasons,
turn and till, lie still, listen for the bass laying a rhythm down

 

on the tracks.  I remember my first dance
at the Crystal Chandelier.  Couldn’t believe it was legal
to hold a man in my arms like that in front of everyone. 
No one paying any mind to the ropes of taut muscle

in his shoulders and back, so close and moving. 
Breath in my ear.  Not knowing then, not knowing now
how a thing can seem so clear (tall grass, cool river, legs like light,

never mind about eyes) just before it disappears.

 

 

 

 

Feast of the Sparrows

 

 

in brown-backed madness
seeking out the clumping food
one mind on the ground

for too long I’ve been part
of a hollow bones collective
same calamus, some quiver

if flight, it’s a forever
banking into the flock
to outmaneuver hawks


not shearing from the shoal

 
what of the gradient sky,
the crumbs seeded higher
where light geysers?

articulate neck
hear beak strike metal

sharpen on galvanized steel

I’m ready to take the fire
that reflection of me
burning eye, guilt

 

no match for desire

ladder of light leads on

no more clotted berries
no more grit


only heat
only a bringing
of brilliance and burn

my promise – to
ransom this sphere
a purchase

clawed from chorus

 

 

 

 

 

Some Things Are Easy to Forgive


Throwing away a receipt,

getting angry,
failing to make the pie crust flaky. 


Others make it onto a memorable list:
leaving the passports at home,
running a red light,
drinking too much at N’s wedding.

But what about the tragedies: 
growing black hair in odd places,
correcting the grammar of a person
stammering “I love you,”


or turning away from flowers
as they open their little calamities
on the light?

 

 

 

 


Eye Witness

 

Sept 23, 2010  Headline “Train Crushes Elephants in India After Animals Try to Rescue Calves Stuck in the Tracks”

 

Near midnight, the metal crushes Ganesh.  The pupil

of the moon dilates on adrenaline, lamps down

 

on six wild elephants freshly dead, or dying, while

the herd blares distress.  In a snarl of railway gauge,

 

the freight train to Guwhati ends with engine carving trunk. 

Two are still breathing. Someone shouts make way. 

 

A screaming match between train driver and forest ranger.  

Twice the speed limit!   I braked as soon as I could!   

 

Ruin rivets voices onto the plate of night.


                        *


Day dawns like a damnation.   People bring sandalwood,

small statues, their own bodies transformed

 

into keratin duffels of suffering.   The nightmare blooms

as a baby elephant is found still standing, motherless now,

 

hiding in a drain of the plantation.   Tea bushes,

also voiceless, buoy in green what wasn't seen

 

in the monochrome dark.  Before us, he slumps and gives up.  

Blue-gray infant eyes so close to the surface, unhusked. 

 

Witnessing this levers me wide open with a tool,

sharp as guilt, spilling all my silver decimals.


                        *


Tonight, the pachyderm parents derailed Indian trade, briefly. 

They slowed humanity to shield their babies with living tonnage

 

when stuck on the tracks mistook for the forest path.  Twenty-two

months in the womb, but only a moment on the Bengal-Assam line

 

to undo.  The industrial revelation feels like this:  there is no safe

passage.   Fresh leaves on forest trees are not free to reach

 

past these metal meridians of progress.  Indian Rail forgets its architects

the way the future neglects its past, well-trained hides hauling

 

sleepers and ties.  A weed of a man wearing mid-morning trauma

weeps on the sun-hot rails.   At first, I hope he is the driver of the train

 

re-living impact.   No, he is only a reporter from Kolkata.  He doesn’t

say he knelt, and photographed the baby still alive.   But he did.

 

 

 

 

 

Decisions for a Quiet Revolt


 

Grate your own cheese.

Refuse insurance.

Drink water.

Make eye contact.

(I mean, look

your lover in the eye.)

Greet small with ceremony.

Meet big the same way.

Sew a flag of old undies.

Hoist your luggage,

unzipped,

up a mast.

Read an autobiography.

Raise children.

Watch a bird.

Sand corners.

Occupy a border.

(I mean, move calmly

near your edges.)

Shield something injured

with your entire body,

hands wide.

Turn over stones.

Make room.

 

Then, after all these things,

Speak.






My I


 

I is for Identity the straight of its shank, the narrow

of its nastiness. I played its angles with transparency

a life-long, not-for-profit tribute to gravity, 

as if gravity needed to fake interest

in star-signs, last names and last chances.

 

I was born on the tenure-track,

got a PhD in passion at age seven. 

The thesis was a juniper berry pinched

between fingernails damned by dirt,

blessed by the incense of astringency.

 

I was baptized late into humanity

by the births of children, sanitized by

sweet-n-sour amniotic fluids, their constant demands

for more of me.  The pain of their small limbs

carved deep into the wood of me. 

 

I travel toward the final number in my series,

when death will un-define my cursor’s point,

when my CV will revert onto a letterhead of freckles

whose only entry is my life’s most sincere wish –

I wanted a puppy before I could talk.

The imprint of that longing being all that’s left.

 

My one ambition in death is to turn the I on its side,

ride it out past the atmosphere where gravity’s tide

turns my I’s every effort into satellites of concentricity. 

I will ride and ride, intercept the juniper-scent then

overcome the eclipsing waves of light

 

until I outrun even the bow-shock of my birth.

 

 

 

 

 

Slip


 

I hereby give permission

for my child (blank) to go to (blank).

 

I release the school

of all liability.

 

I give my full, uninformed approval

and consent for this event

 

I know nothing about

but hope it’s safe.

 

(Please sign the lower half.

Return by Friday.)

 

In granting this,

I assume full responsibility

 

for any damage

to person or property

 

caused by my child.

I also authorize

 

any procedures

deemed necessary

 

by a physician or dentist

cowboy or exorcist.

 

I, the undersigned, understand

no child will be sent

 

home unaccompanied.

(My check is attached.)

 

 

 

 

 

No Unauthorized Access

 

Blonde, skin-loving,
seed-hiding stalks of grasses

are thigh-high
with heads split like snake tongues.

Those are just the grasses.
There are thistles, also,

juiced to the burr with milk
and ants attending aphids.

 

But I am not allowed

to walk there.

Restoration

is in progress. 

 

I can only watch
as the wind bends them low.
The fluid –

always stronger than the form.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sun is an Egg



When I put my ear
against the bomb pause of its potential
against its lighter than light shell
the yolk, it spoke to me.

“Hatchling” it called me,
but you are the egg, I frowned.
I heard a sound
caught in the tree branches;

it may have been light dappling.

“Hatch” the Sun said, clear as day.
I pouted, put off by the imperative.
Nature gets high-handed at times,

a guard in collections.

 
But when the grade A gas
sucked in fiercely,
(an indention in age known from candling)
a flash of recognition set in,

what could I do but blaze?  

 

 

 

 

 

To Close Any Distance

 


I move backwards this time
to where my daughter
was born.  As a salmon
confused by the turn
from salt to fresh,
I batter my sides in purpose,
cross yet another ocean
towards the known,
but altered, molt
of memory.

I land close enough
to smell the tang
of fennel grass,
swallow the afternoon whole
while hope shows herself.
“Here” she doesn’t say in words,
“it's just three steps from m to p.”
Hope comes home.

The sun comes off the water
splinters the air
in a gold violence.
I feel a closeness
that won’t turn away, a tinsel
static that no one speaks of.

Look how often
we need only three spaces to close
any distance;
my daughter to the cliff,
an upriver splash over stone,
a lover so close

to oncoming traffic,
and these three steps from me to you.

How I want this; 
to close all the distances,
to bring things together again
that I can’t name,
to touch the tinsel,
to lay it on the rocks
where the salmon see it
glinting from the stream,
to have our battered sides
reflect something -not glory,
but glorious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

calligram image

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to the Seamstress

 

 

A seamstress makes her-self a visionary by untethering her senses.  All forms, madness & knowledge – she pulls through her metal eye as a dyed line and binds in new shapes.  She allows life, names, stripes and petals, while drinking the force of sunlight.  If she should stitch herself a new universe, clap her exit and note the knot.  Another with fierce tools will soon rip seams off these remnants and start fresh.*

 

*This calligram is a variation of Rimbaud’s ‘Lettre du Voyant’. 

 

 

 

 

 

calligram image

Employed

 

My boobs

don’t need a job;

they already work

for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Credits:

 

 

Portrait of Aimee A. Norton, Watercolour on Paper, 2008, by Justine Frischmann. 

 

“Romeo Nation” and “Somewhere Here, a Spell of Indifference” were first published by Mascara Literary Review, Issue 8, 2010, University of Newcastle (Australia)

 

“Building My Boat From Kindling” was first published in Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, March, 2013 issue, John Hopkins University Press (USA)

 

“Come Here”, “Placebo”, and “Decisions for a Quiet Revolt” in SOFTBLOW Journal, online, 2011 (Singapore)

 

“Letter to the Seamstress” in Rabbit Poetry, #3, The Visual Issue, January 2012, Melbourne (Australia)