Category Archives: Poetry

“Caulking the Wagon” – Poetry by Devin Kelly

A classic computer game inspires meditations on suffering & struggle in “Caulking the Wagon,”  one of two darkly beautiful & profoundly moving poems by Devin Kelly in our Summer 2017 issue.

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after Nate Marshall’s “The Oregon Trail”

IN THE CLASSROOM, I GATHER KIDS around & make them relive
my childhood. I type their names into the wagon, call myself
a carpenter because I know a wheel will break eventually.
I have no desire to spend my money on what can be repaired.
Dirty sweat & knowledge. The human condition is always
in need of upkeep. Because I know a house is not a home,
I ask them to imagine our wood lined with fur, a mess
of rug begging for the shaking out. We will take turns.
We will leave as the last frost thaws free the first flowers
of spring. There’s no option to pause the game & bend
to harvest milkweed. There was no vase for sale
in Independence, Missouri. We will deliberate the crossing
of water, delegate the tasks required to caulk the wagon –
who here has not hammered tar-soaked cotton into a wedge
in order to keep their body dry? How easy our suffering,
that we may make the pace grueling. How we stop
to view a tombstone & laugh when Michael dies
of dysentery. In our heads we know there is no time –
we will bury his body with the one shovel we own,
taking turns in heat, & leave above him just a pile of stone
some stranger might use to bludgeon an animal into meat.
                                                                              This isn’t real.
Not the sun, not the pixelated bullet slow-twirling
to kill the buffalo, not the purple mountains swirling
round the plains. When I was younger, I believed
in this nation’s majesty, each loss a synonym for some
greater gain. But look. Even here, the children are dying
one-by-one, lost first to cholera & water, then to what
this game offers no name. A bullet, a color, a wrong place
once thought safe – call the outside of this school a mass
grave, a massacre, a high mass turned toward God in a language
riddled with blood. The oxen are bowing their knees, bending
weary heads to push the earth away. There are no pixels
in heaven. There is only the song of your life sung backward
through the mouths we call the stars. You listen & feel
the wagon wheel’s roll, the crunch of it winding in reverse,
the land unbound & unnamed, the paper turning back to trees,
the trees un-leaning their way toward sky, all of eternity
driven back to dawn. By which I mean the promise of something,
that slick patch of morning when what you expect is the same
as what you hope. When my father returned from the West
he brought back a soft pack of cigarettes & a custom
cowboy hat. His mother was still alive. Later, no one sang
at her funeral, or if they did, I don’t remember. There was
only my father & his returning no longer a story & how his brother
left for West so many years ago & never came home. Most days
I want to give in to nostalgia, surrender my body to the burn
of light curling at the edges of a memory, trade old stories
like currency.  Sometimes the going-on is the dirty speckle
on the petal of a rose, beauty gone to hiding. There’s no option
to turn back, the kids say. How will we carry all that meat onto
the wagon? The sky does not look like that. They sigh. They moan
open their mouths like fish to unhook themselves from twine. This game
sucks, they say. This game sucks, this game sucks, this game sucks.

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Continue reading “Caulking the Wagon” – Poetry by Devin Kelly

“Mercuria, the AndroGenie” – Poetry by Zoel Paupy Stirner

Venus – Walasse Ting, 1980

The grand finale of our Spring 2017 issue is Zoel Paupy Stirner‘s bawdy, lyrical epic poem / post-modern sailor’s shanty “Mercuria, the AndroGenie.” 

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STICK MY JUNK IN A BOX? / only if we’re talking ’bout Schrodinger’s
Yet with a bod like a vase / I sure ain’t boasting no dough figure
cause I sport no bigger a waist / than a glossy fat-shame trigger
yet no smaller my nates / than your own favorite pop singer’s
and if we’re talking ’bout face / mine’s as good as it gives
plump lips like felt lace / where I hook my svelte finger
and my beard’s long and dark and / carefully grizzled
into which I comb petals / among crumbs of old vittles,
stogie butts and gnawed bones, / glit-ter and dried spittle
I shake out my mane as I girlishly giggle
“Mercuria’s here, who’ll buy me a drink?
step quick to me, children / fate comes fast as a dink”

And the barman will nod as a queue quickly forms
Old men and young women, students fresh from their dorms
who’ve heard the queer tales of my magical wiles
stories teased out through whispers and half-ashamed smiles
A weaver of wishes / A teller of truths
A seer of souls / and a good lay to boot
Breasts that spill milky from a red-sequined dress
and gams that cross coyly, grained black like hir chest
with curling dark hair, refused to be shaved
but take care not to stare, lest you find Mercuria’s gaze
upon you and pleasure forever denied
along with your fate, to live haltered and blind

So they say, So they say / though my work’s still much stranger,
to portend’s my play / and your love is my languor

For every augur, a glass / mine’s a lipstick stained beer-mug
For every Samson, an ass-bone / and a fond parting ear-tug

“A prostitute priestess?” / “A hermaphrodite Christ?”
“Nailed ‘gainst the loo boards most ev-er-y night?”

All this, lovies, my dovies / All this and much more
Mercuria’s Queen where the sky strays the shore

Continue reading “Mercuria, the AndroGenie” – Poetry by Zoel Paupy Stirner

“Nine Masks” – Poetry by Gregory Crosby

Old Woman with Masks (Theatre of Masks) – James Ensor, 1889

We love our masks here at FLAPPERHOUSE, so of course we fell hard for “Nine Masks,” a sequence of mythical, mystical poems that Gregory Crosby contributed to our Spring 2017 issue.

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{ Mask of Born-to-be-head-of-the-world }

WHEN YOU PULL THE LIGHT ASIDE, THE DARKNESS
shines through, sable & smoky, a river
at midnight. A baby in bulrushes
doesn’t cry but makes a sound not “just like”
rushing water, but is rushing water:
a sweet gurgle of time, a waterfall
of eternity. History is the
barrel & we are all in it except
you, child. You are watching from the shore,
staring down into the mist you adore,
the one place where you can’t see anything,
the one place you’re free to forget your face,
imperious & blank. Out on the banks,
the daughters of Pharaoh stare into space.

 

{ Mask of a Supernatural Being }

THERE IS NO REASON WHY I SHOULD NOT BE,
but reason precludes me. I am proximate
without being near. I am forever
unclear in my perfect clarity.
I am great & terrible & worthless.
Anyone can wear me out, anywhere.
I dream your haunts more than I haunt your dreams.
I am the false face made real by the seam.

So why do you believe me when I tell
the tall tale of the heart’s desire?
Why do you believe me when I tell
the beginning of the beginning of
the beginning, without end? Why do you
cover your eyes with eyes as empty as mine?
Continue reading “Nine Masks” – Poetry by Gregory Crosby

“Never Be Stuck” – Poetry by j/j hastain & Juliet Cook

Rapunzel – Arthur Rackham, 1909

Individually, j/j hastain and Juliet Cook have contributed many flappy lits to our weird little zine over the years…but it wasn’t until our Spring 2017 issue that we finally published a collaboration between these uniquely gifted writers. Please enjoy their magically bizarre poem “Never Be Stuck” from FLAPPERHOUSE #13.

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NOT PART OF A PRIZE
fighting game.
Not part of a dog
fighting blood bath
that ends in death. But essentially
part of what it is that keeps
the world apart from itself. Take
a bath, throw in copper pennies
to see where they flow towards.

I know you’re afraid one of them might try
to attach itself to your eye,
but that doesn’t mean you’re dead
already. It means it is trying to make you
sing opera or howl
at the drain. Watch the lacerated
hair fly into symbiosis. Watch the hair
coming from her lovely wart
begin performing tattoos on
unsuspecting passersby.

The tattoos might grow
into tuberoses, rampions exploding
out the hair of a new Rapunzel
who will never be stuck in a tower.
The trapdoor shower shows us all
a discernible way home,
strand by strand, flying up
to the new hybrid magpie nest.
Even if you’re missing an eye,
all of the empty holes can be named
and with each name,
some unexpected
reverence renewed.

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Continue reading “Never Be Stuck” – Poetry by j/j hastain & Juliet Cook

“Static” – Poetry by Christina M. Rau

Event Horizon Gormley Over Madison Square – Photo by Beyond My Ken (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Static” is one of two dynamic & electric poems by Christina M. Rau in our Spring 2017 issue.

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after Antony Gormley’s Event Horizon, NYC, 2010

HE’S UP ON THE LEDGE
two feet toes over.

He’s in the park, too,
same time same size.

And on the edge of a parapet
and on a roof and another.

It’s not the lightning;
it’s the thunder that activates.
Iron resonates.

In a summer storm
one by one
they start to sway.

Big bolts become joints
stagnancy diffused
Thirty one silhouettes across
bluing sky move.
Climb
           down

An army of artwork
replicating the inventor.

A clanging systematic
meandering through
the grid. The rain ends.
They keep going
automatic.

On concrete sidewalks in rows of three
unprogrammed and seemingly sentient.
In humid heat over grates of steam and
subway screams, they march in glinting sun
unswayed, a marathon of mechanics.

Autumn comes. People stop running.
They take pictures in winter.
Then in spring,
the robotic march
remains simply another
city thing, cogs and
wheels and disused fury.

{ X } Continue reading “Static” – Poetry by Christina M. Rau

“Shananananananana Knees, Knees” – Poetry by Adam Tedesco

The Supplicant – Oskar Kokoschka, 1914

“Shananananananana Knees, Knees” is one of three uncannily powerful poems by Adam Tedesco in our Spring 2017 issue.

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CHANCE MOMENTS OF EQUILIBRIUM make it easy
to forget the signs before off ramps do not

mark your location rather destinations
and your sign is not a rabbit but a hole

in gravities where you joined the search
party the days of rage and hate boil down

one plant to change their minds when
swat team vans encircled you the fire would

not speak of danger through a doorknob
to see a father pinned under guns drawn

everything opened for you once and there
is a name for that you say they’re coming

for the children too what burden of balance
swallowing the sweat of hot house glass

while driving from a to b untouchable
by shallow graves or cold frames like

the dune buggies on the beach or sleeping
dogs shot nearby we are not home but coming

soon watch the stars move across night
we talk about the name for how we never

move and the points between all points are
inside of us too between then and now we say

there is a simple explanation for everything
except why we are alive and on our knees

{ X } Continue reading “Shananananananana Knees, Knees” – Poetry by Adam Tedesco

“Kiss With Recorder and Killer” – Poetry by Jane Ormerod

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Dorothea Tanning, 1943

“Kiss with Recorder and Killer” is Jane Ormerod‘s hypnotically surreal & musical poem from our Spring 2017 issue.

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FLOWERS, THE COINS OF THE DEAD,
We take on all that is thrown
Flowers, the corn of the dead
We take on all that is thrown
Flowers, cauldrons of death
We take on all that is thrown
Flowers, the call of the death
We take on all that is thrown
Flowers, columns of death
We take on all that is thrown

thump

 The link of mustard to egret
The minus and forgiveness of bone
Coin purse, the flower, meander
All is away, to take, donate
Cease and care less to the letter
The flowers of postponement
slinking to yes days of shit and anger

thump

There is rainstorm     thump
Longer days, shorter fights
A sweater with back-burning buttons
There is rainstorm and man-known complexity
Hostage scenarios     thump
The dead daubed fluorescent again     thump
The uniformed and uninformed and beautified
The blue, the blowing, the yet-to-be healed
Himberama, the past revolves
Ideals drawn willy-nilly from the box of
do-gooder illusion
The thump on the way to the inside and insiders
The coils, recoils, the insiders left in the cold
The recollected elevation, the rainstorm
Roof tiles, hooves, a mineral-hard memory
of a herd mentality

Himberama
Himberama
Him-himberama
Our light forced rectangular     thump     again
Go out? Maybe not? Maybe drink at home beside
the silencer. Sketch extra lines on the night horizon
Drink so you are simply out of reach
Stop. Stop. That’s right.
Dream of crinolines, baking apples, your numerable mind
Count and then counterweight the past
Your mind made-up like a bed with hospital corners

Happy days?
Do you savor or sweeten them?
Those spoils of the wonderful and blessed
thump
I love to carry half-eaten maple cake, business cards with
misleading detail. The fold of an egg, the average family and
the average goodbye. The average six-thirty pick-up
outside work, the average rib-eye, chops galore

I carry smoke
I carry good
I carry vegetable
Hotels that lose a star every year
This is a big and damning city
Even a small-stringed instrument cannot find a home

These are my keys
thump
These are my personal flowers
thump
I drink in a house mentioned in pages 23, 29, and 95
I sleep in the house mentioned only on the third-to-last page
I will die in the house mentioned early in the second volume
The thumps remain the same

{ X } Continue reading “Kiss With Recorder and Killer” – Poetry by Jane Ormerod