Honoring Black History Month — Kara Jackson’s “lost & found”

Hello Third Coast Community and Happy Friday! Today we find ourselves in the middle of February and meditating on post-Valentine’s Day warmth. In addition to being a commercial holiday, did you know that the 14th is also the birthday of the great Frederick Douglass?

As we glow in appreciation for those we care about, it is just as important to reflect on the literary activism of Douglass and his successors. Third Coast strives to uplift the voices of creatives within the Black community, so today we will revisit Kara Jackson’s poem “lost & found” from Issue 48. The month of February serves as a reminder of the excellence that has emerged from inestimable hardship and courage, but also the distance that remains between where we are now and a world without systemic racism.

lost & found
By Kara Jackson

i thought i left my black in a safe
place i thought my black pulled on me
an umbilical cord, thought my black was cut
for safekeeping i thought my black was floating
in a jar or maybe my black is a button
i’m supposed to rush to in case of emergency
i take my black off of my shoulders and hang it up
my father only mentions his black if he’s drunk
my black is something we claim
on our taxes, the very high ones, my friends
they come to visit and ask me how i’ve gotten on
without it, ask do i miss my black?
like a childhood pet i tell them it’s around
here somewhere, dust assigned to some crevice,
sock in the lost & found i ask my neighbors
if they’ve seen my black and they call me
a nigger
how did they find it so quickly?
like a bird heard and recognized

Kara Jackson is the daughter of country folks. She is the author of Bloodstone Cowboy (Haymarket Books, 2019). Jackson served as the third National Youth Poet Laureate from 2019-2020. Jackson made her musical debut with her EP A Song for Every Chamber of the Heart, which was self-released. Through a multidisciplinary approach, Jackson attempts to document her lineage in a country that demands its erasure. Her work has appeared in POETRY, Frontier Poetry, Rookie Mag, Nimrod Literary Journal, The Lily, and Saint Heron. Jackson is a TEDx speaker. She is a junior at Smith College. (From The Spoken Word Club)

Third Coast in Kansas City – AWP Conference 2024!

Infographic - AWP 2024 in Kansas City, Bookfair Table 3202

 

Members of the Third Coast team will be traveling to Kansas City, Missouri next week for the annual AWP Conference & Bookfair!

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference (AWP) consists of those who claim all kinds of professions and passions within the writing world, from ambitious students to established publishers. From February 7th-10th, thousands of creatives within the writing community will gather in Kansas City to attend events, spark meaningful conversations, and view the hundreds of bookfair exhibitors!

We would love to meet former contributors and new writers, so if you are attending the conference or happen to live in the area you can find us at Table 3202 during the bookfair. We’ll have journals for sale and free merch, including branded pens, postcards, bookmarks, and stickers.

Click here for more information about AWP and the upcoming conference.

We hope to see you there!

From Issue 52: A Poem by Julie E. Bloemeke

Fight Between a Tiger and a Buffalo, 1908

by Julie E. Bloemeke

 

–Henri Rousseau, Cleveland Museum of Art

I do not wish for people today, sweating
before this fantastical jungle, lush with lies:
two species usually separated by continents,

now prowling a veined green landscape
the artist finished while arrested for fraud.
Can you find the tiger? Her question punctures

the gallery of my brooding. A school tour
of whispers follow. All these months
I’ve lived with a truth

that lied itself: there was no one but you.
Still, something in me wishes to scream
it, to blurt Rousseau, to call out this cat

caught in the kill. I am comb tangled
in the odd parted tiger hair, the unsettling
human eyes of this hunter victor, reveling

under a clutch of more wrong: bananas
do not grow top down. Oranges don’t section
through skin. The true answer is one I starve

to reveal. Do you see the tiger? she asks again.
I want to say, the fangs are not mine, but they are
exactly me, unencumbered for the feed.

Does she know the blood run of all I once thought
I was is seeping from me, pooling on the floor?
That any carnivore would lick to be so fed

by my craving? Another reality blinks
from the point of severed plant.
What if I am both the orange and the flower

above it, just as I was when I puked
from nerves this morning, or last night
when I dropped marinated cherries

over the balcony because my curiosity
for destruction ran so deep? I want to tell
it, to say the flower is most brutal of all:

look how it witnesses this suffocating death
and does nothing but bloom beautiful–
an oblivious sun burning among

the created jungle, tearing a wound
through the blue lie of sky
just by a slight turn of her petals.

 


 

Julie E. Bloemeke (she/her/hers) is the 2021 Georgia Author of the Year Finalist for Poetry. Her debut full-length collection Slide to Unlock (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2020) was also chosen as a 2021 Book All Georgians Should Read, one of only two poetry collections selected statewide for the honor. Currently an associate editor for South Carolina Review, she also recently served as co-editor for the Dolly Parton tribute issue of Limp Wrist and was a finalist for the Telluride Institute’s 2020 Fischer Prize. Her poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous publications including Writer’s Chronicle, Prairie Schooner, Cortland Review, Gulf Coast, EcoTheo Review, South Dakota Review, and others. A 2021 fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she teaches online workshops and is a freelance writer, editor, and guest lecturer. To learn more: https://www.jebloemeke.com

From Issue 52: A Poem by Laura Villareal

New Year 2021

by Laura Villareal

 

I end 2020 with my car battery drained,
the tank empty of gas. The metaphor

a violent laziness. The pandemic
doesn’t end at the collapse of midnight,

but something like hope & dread
flourish when I wake to a new year

with the same face. I’ve held
every end in my life the same way,

leaving many mooned
nail marks, so when I let go

I weep. Ugly monsoon. Disaster,
more often than not, is man-made.

A dear friend tells me to imagine the first day
after the pandemic ends so I can free myself

from orbiting isolation. Like a fool,
I think of simple things:

sitting in a coffeeshop all afternoon.
Taking my mom to a nice restaurant,

my dad to a West Texas observatory.
I could do these now

but I trust caution more than faith.
On this first day, what I want most,

is to drive my beloved through the desert
until it turns to citrus trees.

I want to see him face
California’s toothy sun & roll in

the green grass of his father’s yard,
arms stretched like a victory.

 


 

Laura Villareal is the author of Girl’s Guide to Leaving (University of Wisconsin Press, 2022). She has received fellowships from the Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts and National Book Critics Circle. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, American Poetry Review, Waxwing, AGNI, and elsewhere.

From Issue 52: A Poem by J. Estanislao Lopez

Anti-ode to the Metaphysical

by J. Estanislao Lopez

 

It’s an easy thing to complain.
Watch me do it
there by rock formations older than any government.

There, beneath trees shivering with crows.
It’s so easy I can do it underwater
not even knowing how to swim.

It’s easier than falling in love
and, truthfully, is as tender.
In the morning,

nestlings chirp with hunger.
In the night, crickets whine
to be loved.

I’ve heard rumors of a greater being
whose whole purpose is to field
our questions.

Well, this is not so much a question
as it is a comment, and not so much a comment
as it is a critique.

My ailing body refutes the summer’s songs.
I’ve lost no more than the average man,
but no less, either.

Steeped in patriotism, my children
grow entitled to and estranged from the world.
Trouble enough, this ephemeral life.

Eternity?
Well, I can already tell you
how that will go.

 


J. Estanislao Lopez’s poetry has appeared in venues such as the New YorkerPoetry Magazine, the Rumpus, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net. His debut collection, We Borrowed Gentleness, was published by Alice James Books in October 2022. He lives and teaches in Houston.

 

Issue 52 Out Now!

Issue 52 has made its way into the world! This one features our Poetry contest winner Julie E. Bloemeke (“Fight Between a Tiger and a Buffalo, 1908”), chosen by Lauren Camp, and our Fiction contest winner Sophie Stein (“Monument City”), chosen by Lydia Conklin.

Get it here: https://thirdcoastmagazine.submittable.com/submit/25248/buy-current-issue

In other news, we’ll be making our return to AWP next month, issue in hand, so stay tuned for updates!

Poetry Book Review from Issue 51: Lucia LoTempio’s Hot with the Bad Things, Reviewed by Iliana Rocha

“Everything that Ever Happens in a Place Has an Edge”: Lucia LoTempio’s Hot with the Bad Things

Alice James Books, 2020

71 pages, $17.95 (paperback)

In her full-length debut, Lucia LoTempio’s Hot with the Bad Things intensely examines the personal and political implications of sexual assault and violence against women, as the collection throbs in a sense—expanding and contracting around a center. One of the opening epigraphs from Anne Carson references “a place composed entirely of entries[,]” perhaps a characterization for such a center, one whose grief and trauma have neither beginning nor end. Additionally, LoTempio identifies the book as a “lyric,” writing in “missals” loosely tied to their Catholic origins—teetering between prose, poetry, autobiography, as well as holding fast to the intertextual quality of their religious precedent. The effect of such an approach is that the idea of “entry” is destabilized, as the center is anywhere and everywhere. When LoTempio writes about a murdered woman, stabbed to death, in Geneseo, New York, it could be any woman in any town:

When a girl is killed     When we say
her murderer as if it’s a sweet
slow burn of possession          When the girl
was killed in Geneseo      When her ex
killed her          When the man killed her
When he stabbed her        When he killed
her lover          When he killed a man    When he
killed himself. (9)

Anonymity is the placeholder for the ordinary. If there were specificity here—a name—a murdered woman might feel like a rarity, but she is not. Here is a place where the poem’s engine keeps stalling, each “When” an attempt to move forward, generate momentum. But there can be no progress because of the grim repetition of violence against women: “In the bad dream the knife is infinite and repeating.//In the bad dream the knife is an instance of his body, another thing to go in and out” (11). A knife, phallic representation of toxic masculinity; the girl’s murder, the physical manifestation of it. The vague and abstract qualities of “girl” have implications that, in too many instances, women never move into three-dimensional subjecthood; instead, they stay stalled at object. “When he,” a finger pointing in every direction, the resulting topography composed of the jagged, irregular cliffs of the poem. “The murder was national news. You can understand that. Viral, like a virus, like/violence as contagious, patient zero from one location” (50), LoTempio writes.

Throughout the collection, the act of poetic repetition is a parallel to external violence, made possible by the consciousness of this book that is “[n]ot a line but a loop” (15). “It feels like I’m repeating myself because I’m repeating myself,” the speaker admits (61). When a word is repeated, meaning slightly shifts. When we recall a memory, we remember the last time we remembered it, not the original moment. Memory lacks precision, degrades over time. There is no objectivity there, but perhaps a new entryway emerges: “When I think of · and how he did the bad things it’s never on purpose or even in the same way” (61). Assailant’s name obliterated by a dark circle, the black bull’s eye functions not as a potential for possibility, but as a palimpsest where the name of every perpetrator throughout history has been written—so much so that all meaning is obscured. There is only darkness left, and no light can pass through: “When other poets read this they suggest I take it out. It humanizes · . But/humans do terrible things, and they do them all the time” (68). A direct confirmation of the vicious cycle.

The reader identifies one center as a woman. Another center as violence. Another as a poem:

Why is there a delicious doe under all these poems,
so sweet and glowing, like
the blue fire of a dead star too far away to even
fathom, gorgeous as a knife sponged
into sugar-dusted yellow cake?

Once after · raped you, he did not call for three
days so you left a litany of messages brimming with
apology.

Sometimes I am so scared. I think if I were to be
raped again at least it would
have the suggestion of an ending.

Once · hit you so hard you could not hear for hours
and when he asked why he did it, you knew.

I am an accumulation of Once; I refuse to look away. (23)

In this part of the sequence, we are at the confluence of woman, violence, and poem. If imagination is where we remember the girl, then the poem is where we can write vitality in her name: “I want her alive; point to her, be able to see this. I want to find a younger me, tell her this. I want to write a poem that says this” (69). A “delicious doe […] sweet and glowing,” the very exemplar of divine vigor. This doe seems to be an iteration of the speaker’s vulnerability, and she is also characterized as “cute in a sweet mouse way” (19). These skittish animals are the vehicle, and vulnerability is the familiar tenor, which suggests the insidious ability for misogyny to weave itself into our discourse and our poetic nostalgia. Threat of it always lurking, so if the “delicious doe” is under the poem, the knife is there too, never far from it. “Once” feels at rhetorical kinship with “When” because they both defy time while relying on it, and their replication both episteme and techne—a desire to understand with certainty through the act of making. And while the speaker proclaims this “you” possesses this knowing, it feels removed, at this moment, from the lyric “I.”

At other moments in the collection, the “you” and “I” are conflated, and the poet asks the reader to “imagine” this fluidity: “a boundary rewired; to reach back and talk to myself. I’d say: Lucia, you weren’t full, but filling” (15). LoTempio removes the arbitrary lines of demarcation between first and second person, letting intimacy be the guiding presence between poet and reader. One section of Hot with the Bad Things functions in epistolary mode, complete with a complimentary close, but void of an addressee and signature. These significant absences may be for the purposes of discretion, but they could also suggest that sender and receiver are one in the same—that these letters were not meant to travel very far away from the self. In another part of the sequence, she writes: “Once · tied your arms and legs to your throat, demanded you crawl because he made you immobile. I think a person can be there without being there” (25). And one function of the “you” is to generate some emotional distance.

How does a poet articulate trauma, the ineffable—“unclasp utterance from the dull edge of the girl’s finger”(8)? Lucia LoTempio’s Hot with the Bad Things is an example of how to interrogate language’s capabilities—by writing through it: “I would like to witness change, a quick shift more monumental than crossing the street, a wave to where I once stood waiting” (70). What could be considered a mirroring is deceptive. This is not a poetry of reflection but of prism, of women rainbowing through it.