Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile

Episode 41: The Bathrobisode

September 14, 2017

This week, the editors review three poems by Nick Lantz: “An Urn for Ashes,” “Starvation Ranch,” and “Ghost as Naked Man.”  As a child, Nick Lantz was obsessed with paranormal phenomenon and the unexplained, from cryptids to aliens to ghosts…

For the first and possibly only time, we were in a recording studio within Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, which made us feel like we were on an episode of The View. This week, the editors review three poems by Nick Lantz: “An Urn for Ashes,” “Starvation Ranch,” and “Ghost as Naked Man.”

Nick Lantz

As a child, Nick Lantz was obsessed with paranormal phenomenon and the unexplained, from cryptids to aliens to ghosts. These days, he tells people he’s writing a book of poems about ghosts, though that’s only sort of true. His fourth book, You, Beast, won the Brittingham Prize and was published by University of Wisconsin Press in 2017. He was also the recipient of a 2017 NEA fellowship for his poetry. He lives in Huntsville, Texas, where he teaches at Sam Houston State University and edits the Texas Review.

“An Urn for Ashes” gets us started off on our a conversation on past lives and reincarnation. Lantz’s impressive use of language and imagery draws up ideas of present beings possessing remnants of those far in the past. Moving on to “Starvation Ranch,” the editors reflect on what memory and recollection look like in the modern era. The poem layers alluring images that are beautifully constructed and give us a front seat in recounting many summers past. The final poem, “Ghost as Naked Man” offers a reimagined commentary on gender as a social construct. Seemingly in conversation with other works on the topic, the poem conveys frustration and destruction, then pride, as expressions of manhood. It also brings to mind Ada Limón’s “After the Storm,” published in Issue 66 of Painted Bride Quarterly. Listen in for our takes on these poems and the verdicts!

Let us know what what you think about this episode, ghosts, red paint, and more on Facebook and Twitter using #WeAreStardust!



Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman

Marion Wrenn

Samantha Neugebauer


Production Engineer:

Joe Zang



An Urn for Ashes

The atoms that made up
Julius Caesar’s body,
burned on a pyre,
spread by wind and time,
have since dispersed
far and wide,
and statistically speaking
you have in you
some infinitesimal bit
of carbon or hydrogen
from his hand or tongue,
or maybe some piece
of the foot that, crossing
a river, turned a republic
into an empire.
But that means you
carry with you also
the unnamed dead,
the serfs and farmers,
foot soldiers and clerks,
and their sandals
and the axles of chariots
and incense burned
at an altar and garbage
smoking in a pit outside
a great city at the center
of an empire, that you
are a vessel carrying
the ashes of many empires
and the ashes of people
burned away by empires,
their sweet, unheard melodies.
And look how finely wrought
you are, how precise
your features, your very form
a kind of ceremony
for transporting the dead
through the living world.

Starvation Ranch

Frank Hite, my  	mother’s    
named his farm 	Starvation Ranch,
     					     and one July,   
             I balanced    
                                             high on a ladder 
to repaint those white letters  
               on the same 	red barn
where they’ve been for a hundred years.

But that summer is a sketch, a note written in the margin of a book I gave away. I shot rabbits and learned to drive and listened to the same Lou Reed tape on loop in the upper bedroom of my family’s farmhouse.

In a closet I found my grandmother’s high school yearbook in which she had crossed out the name of each classmate who had died.

I learned there are three kinds of garbage— the kind that goes in the compost heap to feed the garden that grows the peppers and the corn, the kind that goes in the ditch to feed the coyotes who howl at night, the kind that goes in an old oil drum to burn I learned to love the indentation my grandmother’s pencil left in the paper over a name, like the tally marks I carved into a tree for each rabbit I shot.

I learned that a stone arrowhead, taken from a newly plowed field that has held it for hundreds of years is still sharp enough to cut my palm.

I learned to love the hiss of silence on the tape after a song ended, the sound of time like the susurrus of insects at dusk, like a broom whisking clean the floor of some upper room.

I learned how to walk the perimeter of the house and feel in the grass the edges of the old foundation, a version of house that burned, that disappeared, that was rewritten, and I learned how to walk farther out into the pastures, to spot the earthen mounds left behind by people who remain only in names of rivers and country roads.

That was one summer. Decades later, I learned that the barn I painted was not even the original, which had been replaced, board by beam, years before.

And I learned that barns are red because red paint is cheap because iron is abundant because dying stars sighed iron atoms into space and those atoms gathered here on earth, became the earth, became blood and arrowheads and steel girders holding up towers and the red paint of barns.

Ghost as Naked Man

             “Gender is a kind of imitation of which there is no original.”—Judith Butler

Take away his beard, his hairy flanks. Lick your thumb and smear off his Adam’s apple. Lift away his penis like a live bomb, and bury it under a mountain. Hide the testicles behind a broad leaf.

But look, he still goes around town pointing at things he wants and moaning, rattling his imaginary chains. Every time he sees his reflection in a shop window, he cuts a thumb and with the blood paints over gaps in his shimmering reflection. Then he takes a brick and breaks the glass. There, he says, look what I made.

Play this podcast on Podbean App