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Shelby Graham

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Ingrid Lariviere

Upon Witnessing the Creation of a New Language

At midnight, I turned
off the big highway

onto the smaller one
that unravels into the dark

corn fields most nights. 
But this night—

no sirens, no one
stopped to watch—

the only house
on that road,

a half-mile north,
was burning—all of it

at once, the house
held entirely

in the mouth
of flames as they

spoke it board
by board to the sky.

(First published in Learning About Fire)

Examining the Characters of a Foreign Alphabet

You are illiterate
But they try anyway
To speak to you, hold out
Their arms, gesture.

You see only
Their bodies.
Some sit quietly eating,
Some make piles of sand

With their long fingers,
Some pick at moles,
Smash plates.
Your own crooked

Language numbs
On the tongue.
It asks for too much.
You are tired

Of being battered
By words who will say
Only one thing.
But these bodies:

Some are moving
Towards each other,
Unbuttoning their shirts.
Some have already

From this earth,
Their clothes still warm,

(First published in Learning About Fire)


All that’s left
After your body falls away
Is the arching blue
And outsized clouds,
The brushstrokes like imprints
Of downy feathers,
The painter’s unlikely moves—
Pink dabbed into the clouds’
Shadows, lick of orange
In the blue, a wavering.
All summer you propel your body
Across this municipal pool
With its halo of barbed wire,
Watching the painting
Change, the clouds drifting
Away.  The fixed
Is going elsewhere;
What had been lain down
is wandering off—
now over the seat-slick
boys on the basketball court,
now over the sun-bleached
coat in the creek bed,
now over the house
of someone who looks up,
now over the house
of someone who doesn’t.

(First published in Learning About Fire)

Ingrid Browning LaRiviere’s poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, New South, RHINO, and elsewhere. She has received artist grants from the Squaw Valley Poetry Conference and the Vermont Studio Center. Her chapbook, Learning About Fire, won the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize and was published by Texas Review Press. She teaches writing at UC Santa Cruz and works as a metalsmith in her Santa Cruz studio. Find her online at

Farnaz Fatemi
Frances Hatfield
Danusha Lameris
Ingrid Lariviere
Lisa Allen Ortiz

Featured Artist
Shelby Graham


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