This week we look at two poems by two authors, “Drink Like Fish” by Alexa Smith and “pine” by Shabnam Piryaei. Alexa Smith is a poet, actor and visual artist born in Washington, DC and based in South Philadelphia....
Present at the Editorial Table:
Kathleen Volk Miller
Alexa Smith is a poet, actor and visual artist born in Washington, DC and based in South Philadelphia. A triple Scorpio with nothing to lose, Alexa was once accurately described as "seven cats in a people suit;" she was awarded the college superlative "Most Likely to Lose Control of Her Hands," and, she can lick her own elbow without difficulty. She works for a local medical publisher and serves as the Managing Editor for APIARY Magazine, a free, volunteer-run literary magazine of Philly poetry, prose and visual art. Her poetry has appeared online in Entropy Magazine at entropymag.org, and her photography of Philly's post-election protests was featured by Billy Penn at billypenn.com. You can find out more about APIARY and check for submissions calls at apiarymagazine.com.
As Marion puts it, “Drink Like Fish” is truly a tumble and a roll. With aggressive analogies, “enfished” personifications, and a strong use of language, this poem certainly demands attention from its readers. It opened up discussion about author intent, romanticization of culture, and whether or not literature must have a “takeaway.” Listen for the results of this poem’s vote, which even surprised our editors!
After “Drink Like Fish” we move on to “pine.” This is all Shabnam Piryaei wants you to know about her.
Once we got over the lack of capitalization, we were able to start trying to digest its dense material and determine what it was about. After a lot of back-and-forth dialogue, it looked like we could have multiple interpretations. However, with whichever interpretation the reader perceives, there is a great loneliness and desperation of the speaker that pulls a strong empathy from us. While we couldn’t settle on an interpretation, we know that this multi-faceted reading only enhanced our discussion.
We finished off talking by talking about rejection, and what it means to us. Check out the article written by Roxane Gay that Kathy references. Does a rejection stop you from submitting again? Or do you laugh in the face of rejection? Are you involved in a “rejection game” and don’t you think that would make a great movie title?
Always, always, read on!
DRINK LIKE FISH
hungover & strung
along by Fishtown hook-
ups, sighs cigarette-swirled
breath baiting the boys
outside the taqueria,
teal ombre dip-dye
cheeks in frizzy
nose ring catching
scratch-light from her
sunny zippo striking
for a quick suck of
smoke before she
clocks in & goes
server darts & dips
to dodge darts sailing gamely
thru the dinner rush, a salty dive's
Friday night sweat-swell stuffed to gills w/
oil-slick sardine pack sleazes, schools of bloated
blowfish bros, hip loud clowns doused in lager spouting
flotsam for first FinDr dates wishing they’d swished left, while
on the edge of the din sit lone, grim, grizzled marlins, w/blood-
shot eyes & briny drinks & cheeks as rough as rusting
swords, fish w/ trashed & tattered past mystique
like in-theory-cheery boardwalks
turned gray & drizzly
in the rain
the crowd so many
fathoms deep, our intrepid
merkid gets weeded, yet she winnows
through – serves swift & swerves her
sway away from ocular octopi tracing
her tail, quiet guys whose eyes
snake after supple shapes
like groping sucking
& curls herself
into the side of kitchen
stairwell, coves herself in
cellar shadow - stowed, savors
time slowing as her tongue skirts
a salted rim, lime stinging dry
lips, midori mellowing edge
of eyeglass frames like
green bottle shards
I spy you on a rock at the edge
of a cliff. a tiny figure
hunched against heaven. the stupid
expanse of a building-less sky.
I fear dropping you because I can.
above you an angle of birds
know precisely how to navigate.
distance is like this.
leaving me excess space to play
with my weapons. I hum
beyond the provocation of your back.
strands of me dangle from my shirt unwilling
to be discarded. no god laughs
while slitting the throats of his children, I think.
you will stay at the edge of a cloud-rivered abyss.
in another expanse, clouds
convene over the raft of a survivor, lip-split
and issuing confessions.
here crickets have convened. shuddering
at the scrape of evening’s tongue
for your shadow to stand.