Poems Published in 2018

In 2018, a number of my poems were published in literary journals. All of them have online versions, which I’ve linked.

“Crow stops on the lamp” Haiku Journal, Issue Number 58 https://haikujournal.org/issue.php?id=58&issue=58

“Airplanes Over the Bog” and “Like Two Dogs Dancing” (reprints), Little Rose Magazine, https://littlerosemagazine.weebly.com/home/two-poems-by-agnieszka-krajewska

“Ending April in Williamsburg, 1999,” Rogue Agent, Issue 41 https://www.rogueagentjournal.com/akrajewska

“Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant,” Riggwelter, Issue 14
https://issuu.com/riggwelter/docs/issue_14/20

“El Camino Del Mar at Dusk” and “The Gate of Pinecones,” The Coachella Review, Winter 2018
http://thecoachellareview.com/wordpress/archives-2/poetry/the-gate-of-pinecones-and-el-camino-del-mar-at-dusk/

What the Herb Girl Likes: An Old Poem, with Backstory

1997 was the year of my greatest poetic recognition, and I’ve never lived up to it since. It’s a bit tough when that happens at age 18 to ever feel like you’re good enough. To begin with, I was chosen to read at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, which is held every summer in Connecticut in a beautiful sunken garden and attracts crowds of 3,000 people. No kidding! 3,000 people come to hear poetry. Complete strangers come on a weekend evening and sit in humid Connecticut outdoors, risking mosquitos, just to hear some poetry. I, along with four fellow Connecticut young poets, and four Irish young poets, was chosen to read in front of that crowd. Don’t think for a moment I didn’t realize how amazing it was. I loved doing that reading.

As part of the prize, the four winning Connecticut poets all expenses paid to go to the Aran Islands Poetry festival, where we also read (though to a smaller audience), and participated in workshops, and got to meet kind of big deal poets, including the Nobel prize winner Czeslaw Milosz.

On top of that, the small print shop that hosted open mics in my town offered to print my first poetry book. So my chapbook was coming out! In retrospect, I could have mentioned that at the reading. I did not yet appreciate poetic self-marketing.

Finally, one of my poems was published in the local newspaper, the Hartford Courant, in a story about the poetry festival. It’s only searching for more information about the festival later that I realized it happened, because by the time the story was published I was already in college, and somehow all my youthful success didn’t count any more. New York was bad for me as a writer and I lost all my confidence and all my inspiration. Everyone I met told me poetry didn’t matter and wasn’t real and no one wanted to hear it, and I believed them instead of looking for a poetry community which I no doubt could have found. Ah well. At one time my little poem was printed right next door to a poem by Czeslaw Milosz in a newspaper ordinary people read. I should have taken that evidence more seriously than the opinion of 19-year-old men.

 

What the Herb Girl Likes

I like sorting the seed packages on a windy day,
weighing them down with the miniature shovel and rake.
I like pulling up long crabgrass roots
and lining them up on the driveway to die in the sun.
I like mixing up black, muddy, earth with my hands.
I like the cold, the soft gritty feel.
I like broken nails with dirt under them
that I can’t clean out because it hurts.
I like putting the seeds in the furrows
with the plastic labels next to them.
I like watching green things sprout,
picking leaves off of them,
and crushing them between my thumb and forefinger,
separating herb from weed by smell.
I like the licorice smell of anise,
the pizza smell of oregano,
the candy smell of wild mint,
and the medicine cabinet smell of sage.
I like when my mother says “this soup is bland”
and I know that it needs savory and three leaves of lemon basil.
I like it when my brother has a sore throat
and I know how to make him a sage gargle.
I like looking in the Polish herb book
and finding the right month for harvest
and looking at the moon and finding the right day.
I like making neat charts in pencil
titled “Harvest Records” and containing three names for each herb:
catnip and kocimientka wlasciwa and Nepata Cataria.
I like washing jars and drying them in the oven.
I like putting dried herbs in the still-warm jars
so their lids make a “pop” when they cool.
I like it when I comb out a knot in my hair
and find a dried sprig of thyme at its heart.

 

Imperfect Produce Demonstration at Spin City Cafe & Laundromat

OK, one green bell pepper exhibits
Some imperfect radial symmetry:
One apex nubbin is less nubbiny
Than its three self-same fellow lumps.
The zucchini could not, I will grant you
Moonlight as a straight edge at the SAT,
But it’s not far off. And the kale? Fine,
firm, bright, and crinkly; practically perfect.
Celery, kohlrabi , cauliflower,
I could go on, they’re fine. Like, “Girl, you fine,”
Fine. Not fine, OK, sure. The real problem
Is excess. Vegetable success.
Your lush abundance, too, might be too much
But girl, you’re fine, you’re practically perfect.

night-time skin ritual

Night-Time Skin Ritual

Natural regenerative process begins 45 minutes prior
and goes on dates with sensation.
The iconic pure opening & reception seats, chocolate & wine,
culminating in a glorious finale with Supreme Eye.
He took and you didn’t. Gigantic lamp can be stories that grow into a tale.
Got a heart?
The orchestra’s expressive range, Mom’s Body Shop moves from LA to San Francisco
Wake up rich in body shop
Valentine’s Part
to Napoleon in commemoration of his Beethoven’s Eroica
storytelling crack these crazy buffing, massaging, moisturizing.
Do you see who’d just said “I love you,” at gunpoint? The
monumental Eroica Symphony. Throughout the night! Weed is legal
a piece originally dedicated a woman heart tattoos $25 each all
sex-positive activities and sexpert sexual enhancement.
A first date who unexpectedly brought her the ultimate brightening boost:
highly advanced, potent orgasm art serum. This dark circles,
infant, to hitting up a sex club with Supreme Eye
Advanced ageing 120 women in 2 years —
opposition to tyranny. Showcasing five minutes of gliding.
Profits will be donated to taking acid, it plumps the artgasm:
to erase the signs of celebrating the undying-looking eyes in the morning.

I generated this cut-up using advertisements for events happening on Valentine’s Day, along with an ad for a skin product.

A Pan That is Cake Sized: Recipe for Shrove Tuesday

My child demands a loud noise an oil a Lent a flour cake made of flat, white, and spongy; a very loud noise, eggshells, compost, of course. My child is a picky eater so of course greasy small fingers. Cake demands: my child, my child is flour, eggs, milk, butter, preheat the oven to gasmark 3, you’ll need this later. Of course my child is flat, white, and spongy. My pancake is my pancake is my pancake. Of course the pan, well seasoned. My child is well seasoned. And here is that recipe!

  • Three hundred grams
  • Compost bin liner, OK if it smells like Tide
  • You can get it cheap at Tesco
  • Heavy and cool in the palm of the hand
  • Sharp crack (Do not pause for haruspicy unless you have a great deal of clear, very blue, not a single cloud, your mind no different than the vastness, of one substance. Of course my child demands pancakes, but perhaps you do not have a pan)
  • Powder
  • Metal or whirring
  • Traditionally, suet, but my child likes brown
  • Quite a heavy box
  • Hinges
  • Heat
  • Heat
  • Heat
  • My child
  • Cake

This poem was created following a prompt to use repetition from at a class I’m taking at The Grotto called Pushing The Boundaries: Experiments in Fiction and Poetry (with Jenny Bitner). In class we had read excerpts from Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, and many of us noticed that the pieces had the feeling of an etiquette manual. So, I decided here to re-create the feeling of a chatty recipe blog in imitation of Gertrude Stein.

text of poem "They might be wild roses"

They might be wild roses

They might be wild roses

 

he is going

London is awake,

discover a secret under unnatural lights

dancing queen was the worst.

Write

God inhaled

authenticity do not apply to his work. []

Don’t imagine food, supplies, and babies.

They came to turn

Nordstrom. The

sex I had when

This poem was generated using the cut-up technique as part of a group exercise at a class I’m taking at The Grotto called Pushing The Boundaries: Experiments in Fiction and Poetry (with Jenny Bitner). Every member of the class cut out words and phrases from whatever sources they chose, put them in a big envelope, and then we grabbed a handful at random and arranged them pretty much as they came. I manipulated mine slightly but only very slightly. You can learn more about cut-up technique and try it yourself. I don’t know why I never thought to use cut-up before, but then again that’s exactly why I decided to take this class: to push me in new creative directions.

Alchemy Practicum and Goat Visit

Goat, you were the only one among
the three goats who pressed his head
against the fence when Rachel and I
came to you after picking crab apples
and black walnuts. I returned
to the paradise of childhood labors:
Piling walnuts onto a flat wicker basket
for Lena’s dyes, their sun-warmed green husks
stained in their own juice.

Goat, you approached to the gate and pressed
against me. Stiff fur, incurling horn,
your goaty smell preceding you as incense
precedes the enthroned Eucharist
in a Corpus Christi procession. You condescend
for me to touch your head and back,
return the gesture of friendship with a look
from your rectangular pupil.

“Feed him the apple,” says Rachel handing
it over the fence and I offer you the crab
apple on the supplicant plate of doubled
palms. My fingertips, stained and perfumed
with black walnuts, you consecrate with goat
cider. I know the flavor in your mouth: sour
as the crack of an apple breaking, bitter like black
walnut juice, and sweet like the distillate of sun.

Goat, you return to your pasture
and I return to the laboratory.
Today we prepare oil of rosemary,
oil of sun. A wasp enters
through the sky window. All day

my fellow alchemists fidget.
Rosemary fumes suffuse the yurt.
When the wasp takes leave we pour
the yellow oil that rises
into three vials: one for each alchemist.

Goat, while I labor in idleness do you, too, hasten
slowly? Do you, too, make distillate of sun?
Or do you turn your devil eye and grin, shake
your thinning beard at the wasps who swarm
the fermenting crab apples you cannot reach
while they, unharvested, seep sweet yellow
in the sun who tilts to his equinoctial crossing,
the Tropic of Capricorn?

First published in Residual Heat under my pseudonym Aga Black.

Distillation by Retort

Distillation by Retort (Public Domain)

 

 

 

Residual Heat at the Decommissioned Synchrotron

We step over fading caution tape, a Geiger counter in your hand
   ticking the steady tick of background radiation.

Up and down the textured metal stairs,
   my hands slide on cold handrails, you walk ahead.

The urge to touch you radiates through me
   wave after wave, something I cannot contain

nor indulge; the heat flows into the cauldron
   of the cyclical synchrotron. Dead machines

surge into undead hums, to shake themselves
   into shuddering destruction, cabinets full of dials,

piles of lead bricks. You swing
   the dragon mouth of the Geiger counter.

It only ticks at the same slow pace:
   no heat, but you burn, and I know it.

First published in Residual Heat under my pseudonym Aga Black.

Fire Danger: High

But you burn, and I know it.
   Adrienne Rich, “Orion”

As we wind up the Berkley hills, brown foam
peels off the dash of his hot Dodge Dart.
I crank down the windows for a sun-singed draft.

The smoldering tip of his black clove cigarette.
His afternoon stubble, the clear sky, the dry grass.
One hand on the gear shift. Both my hands on my lap.

Years ago these hills went up: ash fell like snow
in Alameda. The foothills burned for three days.

He throws the butt into the the road. The sparks scatter
on the asphalt and die.

He moves his free hand

 

to the the wheel.

First published in Residual Heat under my pseudonym Aga Black.

How the War Started

When Xerxes wrote again: “Deliver up your arms,” Leonidas wrote back: “Come and take them.”

Black eye. The left one. Stubble. Leather jacket and underneath
a black t-shirt with “Fuck You” printed in white. Buckled boots.

His car, named Zeke,
is a ’73 Dodge Dart Swinger.

Peeling pleather front seat, the foam exposed.
He puts his hand on my thigh.

I put mine on top.
His apartment is upstairs

and past pale green corridors with Victorian doors.
“Very like an asylum.”

Swords hang on his walls. Bookshelves.
A big unmade bed. Black sheets.

A stuffed raven on the computer.
I read the spines on the bookshelf

and turn into him, kiss;
pause to unlace my knee-high boots.

He ignites six tea-lights.
I set aside my glasses.

He unbuckles his boots.
I reach under his shirt.

He pushes me onto the bed.
We do the thing we came here to do.

Still, warm, and sleepy I sink
into his scent, and fur, and solid heavy limbs.

When he wakes to take a piss I move to his spot
and prepare my arms for his return.

First published in Residual Heat under my pseudonym Aga Black.