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week of June 15 - 21, 2009

Aiko Harman and Mather Schneider

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Aiko Harman

Bio (auto)

I am a Los Angeles native currently live in Edinburgh, Scotland where I am studying hard for an MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. I spent time living in Sendai city, Japan, teaching English to Japanese high school students and getting to know my maternal Japanese family. My poetry has been published in Anon, Nomad Magazine, textualities and Fuselit, among others. I am the winner of the 2009 Grierson Verse Prize, and a recipient of the William Hunter Sharpe memorial scholarship in creative writing. I miss the LA traffic and sunshine, but I like the Scottish kilts.

Visit Aiko on the web here: http://www.aikowrites.blogspot.com

The following work is Copyright © 2009, and owned by Aiko Harman and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

At Thanksgiving

The swallow is for a safe return home,
she says, like sailors; the one just here
was a mistake; the frog was her first one,
a tribute— her first girlfriend loved frogs.

She asks if we want to see more
and our eyes light up as if a world
of pornographic possibility and folklore
line her feathered wings like stanzas.

She lifts her shirt up over her head,
right there next to the gravy boat.
The remnants of corn and candied yams
blush beside her careless nudity.

She turns her back to us like Judas
and bears a thick black lattice cross
between the span of her thin shoulders—
a relic of her old life, she says.

In awe, inspired, we gawk as she re-robes,
and filling her mouth with pumpkin pie
and ice cream, recounts her history in ink.


In the bedroom, with the curtains drawn
to let the dry yellow of the street light in
but no stars, I arrange a trip in clothes
on the duvet. Will I need this?

The last load of laundry on spin cycle
shakes the tenement walls, shakes
my feet awake, vibrant with this last task,
vibrant with eleventh hour and nerves.

My hands are busy, have a mind of their own,
sort the toothpaste and underpants, graze
the set of fancy camera lens on the nightstand—
a filter of red. A filter of yellow, of brown.

The mountain of clothes grows on the bed
in the shape of a woman, and my second mind
misses the shape of a woman on my bed,
strokes a satin dress, nostalgic. Folds cotton.

In too few hours, I will return to my old home,
to a great city where the sun is always shining,
and everyone I have ever met is wed and works.
Everyone I know is dancing and beautiful.

I pack my new life into this suitcase, I pack
the moonlight in. I pack the heart of the street
in the night, vagrant with pub-drunks, pungent
with salted, sauced chippy paper, hot kebab.

I pack the rain in. I pack the grey clouds,
the sooty rooftops and cracked cobble,
rot iron fences and gardens filled with nettles.
I smooth the pile and zip it closed with ease.


In the street you are barking
at the top of your lungs, something
about the Grand National and how
Stan didnae di it.

Your mates rally behind you—
a red herd. You knock your heads
into one another on the way
back to Ladbrokes.

One young buck knuckles
your horns and chides you— aye,
this yer last night oot, mate,
last night oot wi thi lads.


In the morning, you raise your head
with a saint’s strength
from the gutter where you slept.
You turn to lap at the cool stream
but think better of it.

You study your histology – no nicks,
no cuts, no cauls of condoms
in your pockets – you head home.
You shed your downy antlers
in the back garden, like an old word.


Inside, she strokes your velvet pelt
like a hunter, savors your venison skin,
says nothing about your horns.
You bristle under the weight of her,
your body taut and new.


For a time, there wasn’t anything
that didn’t turn out elephants.

Elephants. The whir of the dryer
on second spin cycle: elephants.
Elephants on parade, or left
unmentioned in any room.

Elephants even in the occasional
clop of hooves down our street
in the afternoon: elephants which
turn into equestrian policemen
in shyness – elephant magicians.

A mouse was an elephant enemy.
Cheese then a trap from an ally.
We’d have our mini cheese parties
in the living room, and taunt our foes.

Every pet was re-named Dumbo.
Every step became a stomp.
Every sweater, grey or red—
our arms a corresponding trunk.

In my hinter-sleep it wasn’t sheep
I’d count, but elephants—
their heavy bodies hopping
that ridiculous fence: 1, 2, 3…

Until the day you said
you favored zebras instead.
And I packed all our elephants
into their graveyard in the attic.

Mather Schneider

Bio (auto)

My name is Mather Schneider and I am a cab driver in Tucson, Arizona. I am 40 years old, have no college degrees and have won no contests. I got in the top five once. My poetry has appeared in the small press since 1995. I have a book coming out by Interior Noise Press later this year.

The following work is Copyright © 2009, and owned by Mather Schneider and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


Her arms are origami,
her head totters on a toy neck
and her back is bowed
like a bone violin.
She wants to be loved
for who she is,
for what she is inside:
she wants to be pure soul
but it's all inseparable
and her soul is fading away
like her flesh,
like her gums and hair and teeth,
her ribs poking out
like a desert fence,
like some child or saint or martyr
who would crumble
if I tickled her.
When we hug goodbye
she's so tiny
it's like she's a part of me:
my hands reach all the way around her
and touch the soft
tender places
under my own arms.

University of Arizona Blues

Young studs cut their orthodontic teeth
at plastic tabletops in the Wildcat Foodcourt.
Bimbos rush in gown and heel
like shallow-rooted,
self-wowing flowers.
Teachers' assistants run around like rodeo clowns
at the gum-sticky feet of the stairways to tenure.
Mexican grandmothers throw fast food
into foul mouths.
Shirtless jocks skip economics
strip to their campus pantaloons
and monopolize the common grass with the truancy
of their flying discs under the nom de plume sun.
Oh the life getting drunk on student loans
and high on the riparian pheromones of freshman females,
oh the stoned and irrelevant questions
sailing down from the back row of lecture,
oh the Spanish teacher gluttoned on curriculum,
the blind ebullience at eight a.m.,
the game playing,
the study-buddying,
the turning of desks into circles,
the removing of hats,
the standing up and introducing themselves
like drug addicts,
oh the almighty ruling fist
of scantron,
the thugrun bursar,
the sanctioned theft at the bookstore,
oh the dream
that the careless wielding of power
by bewildering lecturers
will devour them finally
like peanut shell minds
and leave them ragged and bloody
in the streets.

Our Tin Roof

The squirrels ran around up there
like crazy step-brothers scraping their nails
on the inside of an attic door.
Birds straddled the peak,
their delicate steps
like an itch you couldn’t scratch.
Even snakes got up there
like someone rubbing calloused hands together
far above us.
In autumn leaves fell on the tin roof,
little whispers like a bat's wing
brushing your skin,
and the acorns were thrown
from the macabre,
parade float oaks.
Rain was like music
that would drown you,
and snow was like being buried alive:
it piled up and made a sound
like the earth itself moving.
The wind was the worst,
the way it howled and tore
at the ragged tin tongues,
the way it found and infected each new crack,
the way it taught us
to raise our voices
louder and louder.

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