Milksop Codicil, by Spree MacDonald, is the winner of the 2016 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition.
Into the 'headwaters of hurt' is where Spree MacDonald takes us, between branches that overhang and roots that trip, with a jambalaya of words and references that in the end prove the only way out of here. This writer uses his own weaknesses, his 'blunder toe,' to navigate a treacherous landscape, bringing the whole country to bear witness to the swamp living in its belly. At play with sound and music, he charges into this 'labor hood of Atlantis,' this 'poorly lit paradise.' Here is a spirit, wise, but not jaded, chided, but not overruled. Milksop Codicil is a poetic trance, full of bayou magic, and common sense.
—Mervyn Taylor, author of The Waving Gallery
A stunning contribution, and a gift of rare honey in rock hard times. McDonald combs through the ruins of empire, and environmental collapse with a punishing clarity to make something torn and new. Few thinkers have written so deftly of whiteness from within, and McDonald’s keen ear for the rites of black joy is a testimony to what a politics of love might sound like. This poetry dances us into revolution.
—Tsitsi Jaji, author of Beating the Graves and Africa in Stereo
You can buy this book and other SHP chapbooks in our bookstore.
Colony Collapse Syndrome
as we squat through slum
rise slum set
in this labor hood of Atlantis
I wonder how much sun one needs
to see to say she’s seen it set
this life in the house of bees
a simple stock fortified by light
oblique as it ends it seems
she gathers strength in fading
don’t just expect to die
she sighs but
know that you’ll also be
these are the stories the dead
one night in exile
she made small circles
with her heels in the bed sheet
like a finger over crystal lips
she swirled until a slow-found
center coalesced into a sugar storm
flowed over our hovel
at the top of the stairs
so much unwaged
off into the wallpaper
it’s true it smelled
of boxes in there
soft power and echo chamber music
the semiotics of assault rifles
our shoulders dry rubbed
with anesthetic saltrash
now this poorly lit paradise
a Molotov wick soaking
in the oily abyss
so many small engines after dark
charge hard between herbicide lines in
febrile fight or flight
it seems this coast is the same
latitude as my dreams
I’m tired for tomorrow
—from Milksop Codicil, SHP, February 2017; Originally published in Warscapes
The Editors and The Slapering Hol Press Advisory Committee congratulate the 2016 Finalists for their fine work:
My Coney Island by Susan Oringel
My Milosz Dream
...how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will —Czeslaw Milosz
She left—the former owner—but left
junk cars and lumber on the lawn,
ball gowns and dishes dispersed
and the woodstove with incense burning.
The doors swung open to all her friends—
they didn't need keys
and came to chat about the good old days.
She even left a daughter, my old self,
a surly girl who whined each time I tried
to make it my own home. And I whined back,
I bought this place, but everyone
told me gravely, I was wrong.
A country house on a hill, acreage,
intended escape, but this was a way station
for neighbors; a tiny urban ghetto nestled close,
armies of boys wheeled around on bikes,
men in fatigues with guns darted through streets:
shouts, sounds of breaking glass.
Safe, safe, I muttered, shooing neighbors out.
I rammed an old oak table against the kitchen door,
piled up wooden chairs. Then ran and shoved the sofa
behind the front, a bureau stuffed with keepsakes
in front of that. By sunset I'd hammered shut
all the windows, when I heard the knock.
An elderly voice, accented and gentle,
asked me to let him in. I sat transfixed;
he found the one door I'd forgot. Entered
in a long gray coat, kissed my forehead, and said,
Yes, it's difficult, those guests—still, it's your house.
—NCTE English Journal
Time's Window, Open by Karen Steinmetz
The huntress, our guiding spirit,
leads us to a meadow, bird-ful,
bounded. We are nimble with hope.
Do not torment her.
Morning finds me avid & fearful,
demon future balanced. Each trifle, windfall
or curse. Love’s ballast holds us almost steady,
vessel just dream stuff.
To a tiny, indigo Accidental,
palmed & banded, frailty is total, given,
awful. It can’t escape the hand enfolding,
winged though it is.
Acrimony, jealousy, spiteful riffing,
rued as soon as spoken, remembered ever.
Like the scorpion’s skitter, its bloodless caress—
numbing & fatal.
I could savage vows today, let me love you
even angry. I have true deeds to kinder
places. Threading rooms of
No less beautiful than Orion falling
down from heaven’s roost to the morning, husband,
is your homing, hunt ended, hearth-fires calling
you from the outlands.
—Still Against War V: Poems for Marie Ponsot, Published by Jamie Stern and Nan Lombardi, 2015.
Orange, Dreaming by K. T. Landon
An Andalusian Dog
Once is enough for Buñuel’s Chien,
because even if you know now it was a dead calf
or a dead pig or a dead donkey,
at the time you thought it was an old, blind dog
and now the truth and the belief exist side by side,
just as your nineteen-year-old self, weeping for that dog,
still cries inside your fifty-year-old self,
pitying that foolish sophomore and, OK,
maybe never the same river twice but still,
always the same you, only more so.
Always the same little sister
in the red wool coat that matches yours,
your mother in her white uniform
laughing and talking in the tiny kitchen,
the same father home from work
with a package from the fish market that’s still moving.
The days are never wholly over,
and the losses pile up but you lean into them,
you think you’ve learned to take it. You’re fifty—
get over it—and still nineteen and still five,
and your little sister wakes up from a dream
screaming that the lobsters are in her bed,
and your mother is trying to show her there are no lobsters
and your father is yelling (your father is always yelling)
and you and your sister are both crying and you have no clue
that it will be you who tells the hospital yes,
take her corneas, and they will slice them from her eyes.
You won’t be there but you can imagine it,
and though you know she won’t feel it—
it wasn’t the actress, after all, or even the dog—
still you cry, and you are fifty and your sister is dead,
and you are nineteen and bawling in French 103,
and you are five and there are no lobsters
and your sister is right there
beside you in the room you share,
whispering to you in the dark.
—winner, 2013 Arts and Letters PRIME Poetry Prize
Childbed Fever by Kelly Rowe
Slapering Hol Press is also pleased to announce
the 2015 reprint of The Scottish Café, by Susana H.Case, first published in 2002.
Nobel Prize-winning chemist from Cornell University, poet Roald Hoffmann says of the chapbook,
The Scottish Café is a wonderful evocation of a special place, a time, and the interactions of mathematicians. The premonitions of doom weigh on this wonderful gathering, as they should. It’s excellent poetry!
Poet, editor, and critic, Paul Zimmer in the Georgia Review adds,
it is the kind of necessary, cautionary tale of a life once lived, but lost under overwhelming conditions that our heedless, instant-media age needs to be told.