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Floodgate Vol. 2


Poems - Bios - What They're Saying

Floodgate Poetry Series Vol. 2: 

Kallie Falandays, Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs, & Judy Jordan


The Floodgate Poetry Series is an annual series of books collecting three chapbooks
by three poets in a single volume, edited by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum. Chapbooks—
short books under 40 pages—arose when printed books became affordable in the 16th
century. The series is in the tradition of 18th and 19th century British and American
literary annuals, and the Penguin Modern Poets Series of the 1960s and ’70s. 

Imagine if Everyone You Ever Loved Never Stopped 

    -from Kallie Falandays's Tiny Openings Everywhere

Touching you. If you never stopped changing: You're still
in your bedroom: blue lamplight, still teenage-­‐hurt,
no alarm clock. How do you get up in the morning
after being held down by so many hands, at least
sixteen of them, each of them trying to draw something
from your body: this one wants a doll
house for his daughter, this one wants to pull out
breakfast, so many breakfasts, so many pieces of toast.
This one wants to pull you into morning, wants to convince you
to come out from under your blankets. They all want you to come
to their house for Christmas. None of them is scared
you'll say no. They'll try to forget about the other hands
and they'll reach around every one else's ring fingers
just to scrape the inside of your mouth
with their thumb, and then they'll say they've captured you,
and then they'll look at your saliva on their finger and they'll put it in
their mouth: no one will think this is wrong
and every one will try it too.

The Names

    -from Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs's Score for a Burning Bridge


Don't I know you from somewhere
I said to the abandoned fountain.

Come home with me
I said to the echo.

Little birds
darted from tree to tree.

There was a scent of seawater,
there was a childhood memory, and weeds

like slender women. A paper bag was happy and

the purr of locusts-like something seen from very far away.


This was long after the names had gone.
Not gone, exactly, but

having come to the end of desire were finally free to be themselves.

So that at night, sometimes when stars shone on the water

and the water held still, you might hear voices.

Once, I heard my mother's voice. She was still a girl, and her laughter

was mouthfuls of fruit.

After the Farmer's Market

   -from Judy Jordan's Hunger

In this hoofed hour before dawn,
                        in the flustered scuttle of small animals

in underbrush and leaf flutter intent in their clawed search. Shot

moon and scumbled cloud, screech owl and bobcat scream. Moth,

bat, and souls of the newly dead flitting leaf to leaf.

In the smell of honeysuckle and angel heart,

in the tick of each star clicking off
and darkness drifting
toward its concession to day's factory of heat and glare,

wake, wake, rise and go
through these empty streets to meet that sunrise of
smelted coins hot with the grief of many hands.

Wake, wake, wake,
                            get up, get up, and go now.

In this hour of terror,
                               birds crying out,

crying to the blood, to the bitter reek, to
the spilled guts of the night's hunted,

scattered chirps and screeches sifting in wind,
rustling through tree limbs, easing down like a preened feather
to settle in the nests of woven grasses and weeds.

In this hour of the dead,
                                   get up, get up, and go.

Prowl the steaming, empty streets. Follow the bristle-­brushed
truck along the dreary wave of asphalt as the grumbling,
diesel-­belching beast hoses yesterday into the gutters.

Get up and go past the rail yard and feed stores,
past the vestibules and crumbling doorways of hunger and no sleep,
past the drunks swaying on the curb's edge,
cabbies getting high in their cars as they wait out the hours,
                                                       the horrible and lonely hours.

Now, in the crooked teeth of dawn,
in the growl and lolling tongue,
                                             everything else must wait.
The runaways who scour parking lots,
for any dropped thing,

ghosts of the black-­owned businesses, barbershops
and doctor's offices bulldozed to build this pedestrian mall,

ghosts who hover here with the blue fog,
ghosts squeezed fish-­eyed under the ridged mountains,
ghosts slipping along this street with its lobbed and slab-­
sided board and batten and drywall houses, must wait.

who climb up the slink and squeak
of the narrow steps to the one‐room,
fourth floor walk‐up where Ming‐Loy shares a cot
with her five‐year‐old daughter who must wait,
                       wait for the tea kettle to scream out,

wait for Ming­‐Loy to pour this long lick of sinewy water over her
crouched in a tin bucket, wait for her to say, Broken plumbing.
Cheap rent,
                 wait for the leftovers I will take her,

vegetables, cut flowers, it all, it all, it all must wait now
for I must get up, get up, rise and go.

                                  Home at three AM
from the pizza delivery job, up at five with the shrieking birds. Get up and go.

               Oh do not think
of how little will be made, six hours in the heat-­scorched lot,
                      bone-­honed blade of exhaustion

edging up the ladder of my back
with my small offerings of coneflowers,
                                                        tomatoes and yellow squash
curled in on themselves like question marks,
for the sweating hoards of dimes and nickels,
                                                        damp wrinkle of dollar bills,
just get up, get up, pack the truck and go.

The letter, picked up off the street said,
so I've found you. What you're doing is time. Jail time
is the longest time. When I see you again it won't be in there
but out here. Here's a twenty for you. Say goodbye
to Toto. We're not in Kansas anymore.

The gout-­legged man resting on the bench said,
You have to keep one leg out of your pants
when you take a crap. So you don't get trapped.
That's what you have to do in jail.

The man shouted into his cell phone, That's what I get
for trusting damned, no‐good, lazy, white trash.

And Luna, who sold incense and hand­‐made soap, is dead.

And Regina, the muffin­‐queen, who waited a year
so Blue Cross would cover her back's busted disc,
ignoring blood in her stools, cancer's filed teeth
gnawing along her colon, is dead.

I have seen the women piling from their pimps' Caddies,
seen them spread through the streets
like a rare virus seeping organ to organ,
have seen the sheriff's notice nailed on the door, RENT PAST DUE,

family photos, marksman medals, all the trivia of years
and lives the landlord hauls to the dumpster, ground up
by the trash truck as if in Polyphemus' gaping jaws,
have seen the heavy-­booted men splattered with concrete,
hunched at the bar, dull-­eyed through the sitcom's canned laughter,
their entire lives laid out before them like a rough-­stitched corpse
trundled into its cold slot after the coroner's knife,
and I, no Lazarus, sores licked by dogs, not wrenched
from Abraham's arms, not risen from the dead to warn
the rich man's brothers, only a piping voice that begs the stars
to cast their cold, lidless gaze onto me as I plead that I not die
in such a wrong time, such a wrong place.

Now the sun directly overhead so I must
reload the unsold coreopsis, drooping columbine,
                     vegetables, sun-­bruised and soft,
even as they come,
                            those who know the closing hours,
who know the cull of bruised peaches and over­‐grown squash.

They spill from their rust-­shot four‐doors,
cars held together with tar, duct tape,
                                                      clothes hangers and string. 

Washed in this warped and ruined light,

                                  a dime store daubing, a bad draft,
I wait here and want to know what happened
to that life I signed up for,
the one with chubby cheeks and blonde hair,
                        the freckle‐spattered nose and easy smile.

I wait and watch as they wave away yellow jackets
from the mesh-­metal trash cans, watch
string-­haired teenagers turn their backs on mothers
who pull out worm-­gnawed eggplant and yellowing cucumbers
                                            Oh how fragile, how frail
this thing we call a body: How desperate and tender
it all seems: Those scant few years ago
when I stood outside any fast food joint,
                                   too skinny, gulping the grease stink,

and just last year, lugging boulders, splitting wood, then, the burst
              pain tunneling down my hamstring,

and now these sullen teenagers, pacing
this parking lot, pretending not to know
their own mothers whose arms are swallowed
by trash cans, who scratch their nails against the melon's mushy rind
and I hold out the blood-­‐red tomatoes, the milky corn:

                                                          Come, I whisper,
come, I cry out like some ancient song, a song of hunger,
                                                                           a song of sorrow,
and they creep from the trash cans, the wrecked cars, the blind alleys,
creep from all the hiding places of the poor,
as hunger, musk-­‐mouthed hunger, lumbers from its dark doorway. 


Poems - Bios - What They're Saying

Kallie Falandays‘ debut chapbook, Tiny Openings Everywhere, distorts reality and the many ways we perceive it with a raucous, almost violent brand of play in poems more interested in questioning reality than nailing it down. At times breathtaking, others delightfully perplexing, these verses are as quixotic and witty as they are essential and damning. Falandays received her MFA from Wichita State University in 2015. She writes copy by day and runs a small editing business, telltellpoetry.com, by night from her home in Philadelphia.

Score for a Burning BridgeAaron Jorgensen-Briggs‘ debut chapbook, examines politics, loneliness, and doubt in poems that startle the intellect and imagination. In these intimate meditations, Jorgensen-Briggs explores the modern world and searches (as so many of us do) for his place in it with a singular voice and vision. Jorgensen-Briggs received his MFA from New York University in 2007, spent two months in Palestine working with the International Solidarity Movement, and currently works with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and live in the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community.

Judy Jordan‘s Hunger chronicles Jordan’s time living in a greenhouse in Virginia that continues (and nearly concludes) the story she started in her first two books, Carolina Ghost Woods and 60¢ Coffee and a Quarter to DanceHunger cements Jordan’s status as an expert of the vertical narrative in lyrical style and is the first collection she’s published in eleven years. Jordan teaches creative writing in the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she lives off the grid in the heart of the Shenandoah National Forest in an eco-friendly, earthbag house she built by hand.

This is a great American poem. Jordan tells the truth of a life as split open by the world—by life on this earth with other kinds of beings, human and other, with dreams and ghosts, machinery, between the visible and invisible. The language is thick, allusive, rich, dense. She turns scalding materials into gorgeous art.

—Adrienne Rich, on Judy Jordan’s Hunger  

Judy Jordan’s “Hunger” section was the one that struck deepest for me. It was keenly observed lack, hunger but also bills and illness, and yet not in a way that became a drumbeat of woe. It started with my favorite of the section, “These First Mornings Living in the Greenhouse,” and the entire section had the feel of a latter-day imperial fall in real daily terms—not what we imagine an imperial fall would be like, but what it actually was, dragged out, small, particular, personal ways. The greenhouse in the cold is vivid and rich and particular, and Jordan goes on from there to all the other particulars of a fall (not an autumn, a fall), the bulldozers, the algae-clogged ponds.

—Marissa Lingen, Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway, 29 September 2015

Welcome to the Kallieverse, which shares the everyday pleasures and perils of our world, but seems to obey slightly different laws of physics and tilts its language in new intriguing ways. It’s the twin of our cosmos, separated from ours at the Big Bang—and happily, Ms. Falandays has reunited them.

—Albert Goldbarth, on Kallie Falandays’ Tiny Openings Everywhere

There is a stillness and attentiveness in Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs’s Score for a Burning Bridge, an abiding quiet, as if the poems are trying not to scare something wild nearby. In this stillness you can hear “the purr of locusts” and “dusk, quiet / as a coat on a hook.” But as you travel deeper into this stunning collection to where “the map is lost / inside the act of folding”—you see, of course, that the poems are wild themselves.

—Maggie Smith, on Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs’s Score for a Burning Bridge


Poems - Bios - What They're Saying

Click here to purchase Floodgate Vol. 2

Kallie Falandays
           Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs

                    Judy Jordan

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