The Many Deaths of the Wives by Leah Angstman

The many deaths of the wives

“Several months ago my wife brought just this kind of
charge against me in Ventura [C]ounty, but the court
dismissed it within a few minutes. I admit I have been
drinking somewhat, but [. … s]he will not come into court
and swear that I threatened to kill her. We have been
married thirty-eight years and I have never killed her once.”
—M. B. Curtis, as quoted by The Oxnard Courier
at a hearing, May 16, 1913

Has he not? Not even once? I’m sure that I have lost to miscount

the unrecorded days and times of my deaths.

How he made me laugh in past lives, the currency of living,

and how the drink speaks through witty widemouthed clouds

in this one, his mouth puckered around it like a guppy.

*

Not once in thirty-eight years? Not when you hired young pupils too pretty,

and leased the Driskill Hotel with my savings? Not when the son

we created in New York left us between trains to Albany, and you, too gone

to pay a porter, punched a lender in the nose? What made the

Couriers from Denver to Maine then was

not how I walked Dumbarton Garden and

lopped the petals to rude stalks with our son’s fists,

but how yours were always at another man’s ruby-throated wallet.

*

It wasn’t I who died then, barren and fruitless and ill with chronic neuralgias?

What lofty plain knew us in harmony? Are there friends who remain

who ever knew us apart? Were we separate once, and how in thirty-eight years

have you grown into my thighs, the puffiness of eyes and cheeks and ropes of neck?

Did you never kill me because I would not die quiet?

*

Does this jury have the idea already—that grave knowledge

of how a woman leaves and leaves and leaves and leaves—

that your death certificate will read marriage status: unknown;

that mine, one more thing I never owned, will not even be written?

For all the deaths you’ve wrought me,

history still believes you died first, and died last,

and that I was never here at all.

Leah Angstman is a historian and transplanted Midwesterner, unsure of what feels like home anymore. She is the recent winner of the Loudoun Library Foundation Poetry Award and Nantucket Directory Poetry Award and was a placed finalist in the Bevel Summers Prize for Short Fiction (Washington & Lee University), Pen 2 Paper Writing Competition (in both Poetry and Fiction categories), Saluda River Prize for Poetry, and Blue Bonnet Review Poetry Contest. She has earned three Pushcart Prize nominations and serves as Editor-in-Chief for Alternating Current Press and a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals, including Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, Electric Literature, Midwestern Gothic, Atticus Review, Slice Magazine, and Shenandoah. She can be found at leahangstman.com and on Twitter @LeahAngstman.

Ameri-can by Atar Hadari

I was drinking a Coke one day

at a Grateful Dead concert

and I saw a man beaten to death

with his arms‑ his arms were held back

a way they couldn’t’ve been

‑he was like an American eagle y’know?

And his legs were folded up beneath him.

They beat him till his head was the colour of the fence

‑it was a barbed wire fence, all holes and stench

and the fence should’ve turned red

the way they were zapping him into it‑

I mean‑ they were just zapping him into it‑

they kept saying “Tell us, tell the man‑

I’m a poor nigger, sir,

and I’m sorry for what I done‑”

and he wouldn’t say it‑

and his head just turned brown.

I mean‑ he was black‑ it was brown‑

everybody’s skin is a certain colour

‑but the fence -it -wouldn’t turn red.

And they kept.. I stood there and ‑ I mean‑

I mean I was just drinking a Coke and then‑

I mean I was DRINKING a COKE and this policewoman

came up to me and said

“Excuse me, what are you doing here?

‑this isn’t a public show!” And I said: “No, excuse ME

I’m going to stand RIGHT HERE- this is democracy

I’m going to stand RIGHT HERE

I’m a CITIZEN‑”

my friend called me from behind

the bushes, “Cissy! C’mere! Now!”

and I remembered the mushrooms in my pocket

they had me there for life

and I faded like the wind. So fast.

And the policewoman disappeared. I don’t know where she went.

I think I have may have to throw up again

over there maybe behind that statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Atar Hadari trained as an actor then won a scholarship to study poetry and playwrighting with Derek Walcott at Boston University. His SONGS FROM BIALIK: SELECTED POEMS of H. N. BIALIK” (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award and his debut collection, REMBRANDT’S BIBLE, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2013. LIVES OF THE DEAD: POEMS of HANOCH LEVIN” was recently awarded a Pen Translates 2016 grant and is forthcoming from Arc Publications in 2017. He contributes a monthly verse bible translation column to MOSAIC magazine.

Louisville by Atar Hadari

Louisville

(N.B. locally pronounced, rhymes with Blueville)

 

Outside of Louisville going fifty, maybe seventy an hour

I saw these red lights on the tail light-

I don’t got no idea what car it was.

Been drivin’ eighty, maybe fifty miles per hour

since sun crossed the brush-line, and it’s ’bout to go back

under.

I see these red lights afore, I swear I see ’em lookin’-

it’s twilight time, trees cast flash light

when the sun blinks behind ’em, like siren in my mirror.

But ahead these lights is lookin’ mighty familiar

to a red dragon I used to know

looked me in the eye from a picture book my grammaw

left open at night in the kitchen when I was tryin to get some

water-

walkin’ across the lino floor streaked white from all her

muster

up at dawn and down at dusk and noisy till the day broke

even in her sleep that woman talked- a whiny buzzsaw-

these lights outside Louisville glowin’ an’ I look again in

his     eyes,

an’ the more I look in his eyes, more mine turn to filled

water,

round small balls of cooling lead from a fire, warm but not

burnin’

like bath water, kinda sweet an’ I don’t know but if I rest a

minute

only a minute

I can open them again

and I’ll live to do more drivin’.

Lookin’ in these eyes outside Louisville

the dragon looks me inside me

shakes the world and all the sunset trees

burn the road wide open-

hell like a woman’s open mouth smiling up out at me

and behind her dragon’s tail snapping up and down

like an impatient li’l puppy

wanting to eat the sparrow’s fallen down blue egg-

I pull my eyes wide and stare

like there’s no tomorrow only a hell in my way

and a tongue that’s made to lick my heart. I eat the road

like the road was born of woman-I eat the road like a hand

that’s about to pet my neck and call me honey.

Killed the dragon dead just outside Louisville

going fifty, maybe eighty more- an hour-

he said- “don’t let me see you crawlin’

‘cross my tongue at sunset” I said

“I’ll see you, honey.”

Atar Hadari trained as an actor then won a scholarship to study poetry and playwrighting with Derek Walcott at Boston University. His SONGS FROM BIALIK: SELECTED POEMS of H. N. BIALIK” (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award and his debut collection, REMBRANDT’S BIBLE, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2013. LIVES OF THE DEAD: POEMS of HANOCH LEVIN” was recently awarded a Pen Translates 2016 grant and is forthcoming from Arc Publications in 2017. He contributes a monthly verse bible translation column to MOSAIC magazine.