Notes from the camoufleurs


Notes from the Camofleurs

Karen Skolfield

The light in Afghanistan
is not the light in Vietnam.
If  vegetation, describe the leaf.
If  rock, its striation. If city, its doorways
and lintels, its hosting of guests.
Its gestures of welcome and warning.
Describe the wattage of searchlights,
the color of streetlamps, the wakefulness
of men. Describe the cigarette’s blooded eye,
a crimp of smoke. Describe evening’s
lift of heat, the riming of sweat.
If olive trees, describe the olives.
How a fig feels in the hand.
Of the women to be outfitted calculate
their curvatures and needs, if they require
more or fewer pockets for pens.
Determine torso length, musculature,
what weapons may be carried; where
the ammo belt sits, if more men
dress right or left, if concertina wire
bares its teeth every three inches or four.
Study how nature tucks itself into grasses,
study the striping of zebras, the panther’s
darkness, a savannah and the jackal
folded within; how a seal’s belly blends
with the sky when viewed from below.
A ptarmigan feathering into snow.
Describe the mission: peacekeeping
or suppression. Shield or storm.
Consider that a pattern may dazzle
or disrupt. Describe the sight lines:
heat-seeking technology versus scopes.
Scopes versus the sharp-eyed.
When a friend is not always a friend.
When a back might be turned. Consider,
at times, how the jaguar wants to be seen.



I Go Bodiless
Blanca Varela

I go bodiless from the sun to the shady
water music of living shadow
through the narrowing vagina
which guides me from blindness to light

under the high echoing dome
in this colossal semblance of a nest
I touch the sea belly with my belly
I inspect my body meticulously
poke at my feelings
I am alive


incorpóreo paseo del sol a lo umbrío
agua música en la sombra viviente
atravieso la afilada vagina
que me guía de la ceguera a la luz

bajo la alta cúpula sonora
en este colosal simulacro de nido
toco el vientre marino con mi vientre
registro minuciosamente mi cuerpo
hurgo mis sentimientos
estoy viva

stone hammer


Frank Bidart

The stone arm raising a stone hammer

dreams it can descend upon itself.

When the quest is indecipherable, —

… what is left is a career.


What once was apprehended in passion

survives as opinion.

To be both author of

this statue, and the statue itself.


leaves toilet paper


Leaves Falling on Toilet Paper
Neil Hilborn
In Minnesota, autumn looks like winter
on fire. All the leaves are colors
like Cliche Red and Jaundice. Some kids,

probably, have TP’d the houses on Summit
because when you grow up with beauty
I guess it starts to look like rotting

leaves. Habituation occurs when you see
something so much you no longer see the thing
but rather the idea of the thing. You can’t

roll around in an idea. An idea can’t kiss you
goodnight or tell you peace will be here
soon. We vandals love an idea.

approximately forever


Approximately Forever
C.D. Wright

She was changing on the inside
it was true what had been written
The new syntax of love
both sucked and burned
The secret clung around them
She took in the smell
Walking down a road to nowhere
every sound was relevant
The sun fell behind them now
he seemed strangely moved
She would take her clothes off
for the camera
she said in plain english
but she wasn’t holding that snake



Carl Phillips

—You know that moment when you’ve left someone,
even knowing you could stay with him and it could work,
and there’s no one else, nothing like that, still you don’t
go back, is that what’s meant by free will, or is that
fate—what it’s been,
all along? Sometimes—even here,
in what I hope is the early part, still, of the second half
of my statistical life, where I’ve figured out how to be
mostly alone, left alone, as in that’s how I want it—it’s               as if I’ve let myself down, which only has to mean
I’ve expected too much of myself—“of,” not “for”; about
that much, I think I’m still quite clear. Likewise,
like being told to write a love poem without images or
maybe two exceptions
can seem the only way I’ve known how to love a person,
but that makes it sound like a bad thing. That
can’t be right … At this time of year, the best light arrives
just before nightfall. It’s when the trees seem most               what they’ve always been: trees not questioning
their necessarily unpersuadable selves, trees beneath
which, after storms especially, I find the occasional
downed bird, dead or, more difficult, still dying. Who can
say what it counts for, but I believe
not nothing. That I’ve rested my head
on the ground beside it. That in
what was left of the light I sang to it. Hush now.
You’re not the first piece of gentleness to have crossed this hand.

characteristics of life


Characteristics of Life
Camille T. Dungy

A fifth of animals without backbones could be at risk of extinction, say scientists.
—BBC Nature News

Ask me if I speak for the snail and I will tell you
I speak for the snail.
speak of underneathedness
and the welcome of mosses,
of life that springs up,
little lives that pull back and wait for a moment.

I speak for the damselfly, water skeet, mollusk,
the caterpillar, the beetle, the spider, the ant.
I speak
from the time before spinelessness was frowned upon.

Ask me if I speak for the moon jelly. I will tell you
one thing today and another tomorrow
and I will be as consistent as anything alive
on this earth.

I move as the currents move, with the breezes.
What part of your nature drives you? You, in your cubicle
ought to understand me. I filter and filter and filter all day.

Ask me if I speak for the nautilus and I will be silent
as the nautilus shell on a shelf. I can be beautiful
and useless if that’s all you know to ask of me.

Ask me what I know of longing and I will speak of distances
between meadows of night-blooming flowers.
I will speak
the impossible hope of the firefly.

You with the candle
burning and only one chair at your table must understand
such wordless desire.

To say it is mindless is missing the point.

When Your Mother Asks If You’re Seeing Anyone And No Longer Means A Therapist


When Your Mother Asks If You’re Seeing Anyone And No Longer Means A Therapist
-Cindy King

It’s tough to find a cardiologist who dates
patients from the Ward of Cracked Hearts, but
there’s always the bariatric surgeon
who thinks you could drop a few pounds. If it’s too late
for the death row inmate, try the child predator, you too
could date the would-be senator, or even the President of the United States.
If you can’t have the priest, don’t give up.
You too could fall for the charismatic cult leader. You too
could try the celibate polygamist. Admittedly,
you’d have to share, and you wouldn’t know for sure
if you’re actually dating, or whether you’d ever “consummate,”
but who’s in it for that kind of thing anyway, unless,
of course, you’d finally give me a grandchild.
You didn’t spend years in braces only to settle
for a dental assistant, did you?
We didn’t correct your overbite just so you could eat
your dinners alone. It took sacrifice to cultivate your eligibility, years
of home perms and hand-me-downs, decades of clearance rack cosmetics.
And yet the people you called friends were privileged
enough to discover your brain and not your body. BTW, did
you see that profile pic of the head floating in a jar?
Though I’m not sure if it’s really enough to love.
But love you will as everyone does
toward infinite grace, the axe
into the olive branch, verisimilitude
to abstraction, even the sarcophagus toward mummy dust,
the intellect to its dementia. And I will support you as the mantle
above the fireplace supports the little box, house
to your spouse’s ashes.

Photo by Emre Gencer on Unsplash