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"Butterflies Press”
Shelby Graham

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Lisa Allen Ortiz

The Overburden

Green world
with green wings.

Moon heart
and star arms.

We dug holes in this dirt.
We planted seeds.

We had emptiness
for dinner. We sucked

gold bits from our teeth.
Yesterday I tripped over a rock

and rubies bloomed
all around my open knee.

I have jewels inside.
I ring and rustle. I saw

the sky last night
and I was alone on earth.

Lingua Franca

Frances said: The word for star
is beautiful in every language—
so I did a search for star
in every language.

Problem is, I am ignorant and ill-informed.
I clicked around and thought,
I don’t even know
what beauty is.

                  In Malay, star is: bitang
                  and in Indonesian too: bitang
                  That’s beautiful, I guess.
                                    Sky full of bitangs.
                  Your eyes glittering with bitangs.

Some languages I can’t recognize at all,
can’t even sound out the phonemes.
Imagine a night filled with:


or তারকা

So complicated to say what we want or saw or meant.
So lonely to talk to another person.

                  We feel into the dark with the molecules of our breath.
I caught a bus home, we explain— and our lovers see us  
on the street with our umbrellas. Our lovers see the bus
arriving, its lights vibrating the violent dark.
I came home early because I thought you would be back.

                      and then our lovers misunderstand
                      our intention, feel accused or smothered.
                                               The sky was full of bitangs we clarify
                                                and  I wanted you to hold me, to put bitangs
                                                in my ribs and lungs.
Then the lovers nod
and breathe evenly into their phones. 
Baby. the lovers say.
The night vibrates with terror and remorse,
but our lovers say: I’m sorry.
I understand now. I’m coming home.


Time and its road-dust drupe,
thorns and yarrow,
the foot-addled path. 

That summer.  Then.
Throaty insects, the children
in the yard with buckets.

I wear sorrow like a furious
coat, black and fox-headed.
Tell me again.  Whisper it

into the dark cups of my ear,
about the sea, its berry wine
the moon over it,

a coin, a blank stare.
Pitiful, dark galaxy. Let’s
go back there. Let’s dip

between the stars with little oars,
handles, buckets, hands, fruit,
seeds dry to the stem,

wind-ripped cotton hems
in a ravaged sky of what was said.
Blues. Greens. Gone.

Lisa Allen Ortiz is the author of Guide to the Exhibit, winner of the 2016 Perugia Press Prize. Her poems have been featured in the series Best New Poets and on the website Verse Daily.  She lives in Santa Cruz with some very nice people.  She made a website you can visit if you like:

Farnaz Fatemi
Frances Hatfield
Danusha Lameris
Ingrid Lariviere
Lisa Allen Ortiz

Featured Artist
Shelby Graham


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