AWP 2016 Exquisite Corpse

 We asked attendees at this year’s AWP Conference to contribute a line of poetry for this exquisite corpse. The contributors who gave their names are listed at the end. Enjoy!

In the bigger picture is a smaller picture,

is a sunset, as a small flower sticking
up its nose.

Its petals have a sour scent—
the stench of life’s cruel

my lungs breathe gold,
palms sweat steel,
the tides pull at my

my tongue goes dry
my eyes seek water
but nothing will fill me
I quiver.

Not even the moon’s
wet glow can quench
this dryness of flesh.

This packed crate of fish,
like small shorelines and
a ribcage of salt in each
gasping mouth.

This stitch of road
a marvel of tombstones
and plains green with rain.

Light shone bright
from a well’s depth
beyond the trail
of a child’s tears.

I bend over ass backwards
to kiss my own ass.

Nothing about a corpse is
exquisited, there are
no wishbones, only putrid flesh

let’s keep the moment
before the wishbone

Break the damn wishbone!
I’ve not won anything
since the 80’s

except that goldfish, that
died before I left the
fair— a cruel early lesson on

Too much jostling.
Too much movement.

All our goldfish
are little glass ceilings.

Annoying the
heart and the
I wanna
lost with you.

Boom crack baby
the bones are hidden
in the piano.

all the deep notes

until the eyeballs throb

and the throbbing
makes you weak

and throbbing made
her weak for the woman
with the red dress, the
stiletto heels and the
danger in her breasts

I don’t know about
that. I mean.

I. Can’t. Totes—

Let the sun shine
slide down upon
the face and clinch
the blue eyes shut.

My eyes believe they can see;
they do not see

There was a time I could still see
that moment now—
burning the rest of history.

But that time has gone—

the dreamed hall—

the swirling ball…

its eyes uncannily human-like…

No pupils, no iris, but a
cognance emanates from the
deep recesses of the vacant
staring cavities

teeth sinking in sweat
filled with the splinters of the soul
in silence

the silence
never here, never with so many
writers, their manuscripts bulging
from expectant messenger bags

silence bleeds us dry until
we wish for proximity we
no longer want

after all, what but your soul is left
when the whiskey runs dry?

Desire is everywhere in this
universe— but then again,
what isn’t?

What is it, the it not yet
arrived in this or any universe?
These drops not yet drops,
rain and the iron rail.

Booya, says anonymous.

Sunshine trumps rain every time.

Lyrical beginnings
before life’s ending

we didn’t wish for it
but then it came

have a great summer!
You rock! Never change?
Have a great summer!
Stay cool! Haha!

In that way the yearbook
and the memories are a trap.

But still we flip through
the pages, desperate
to remember

the people I knew are all
20 years older, but they
look like creased high school
students to me.

Though time stands still for no
one, it stood still for me, in
my little backless dress, with
legs still firm in my custome

Then, the heel of my left stiletto
cracked, my ankle turned, and
I stumbled. Perhaps I was
mistaken— he was not time
but death.

Zoom, zoom, zoom?

I’m in liberty
though mute

my purpled tongue still encrusted
with salt

assorted tangos, phalanges splayed
beside mine

and slathered with

the world off gassed its pastoral perfume

and we all slept with our hands
over our noses

wow, this is too much

this corpse smells.


Some of the Contributors: Julie Marie Wade, Ashley M. Jones, Courtney Kilian, Stephanie Lindberg, Anastasia Stelse, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Emma Trelles, Jackie Hudson, Taylor Ritedge, Cathleen Chambless, Sarah Ciston, Sonia Gambano, Gilliann Hensley, Matthew Kenesh, Alex Chasteem, Cassie Brannon, Se, Dinti Moore, D.R. Gram, C.V.R., Rosalie James, Jackie Craven, Jonathan Duckworth, Kelsey Berryman, Justin Eisenstatt, Jarred Marlatt, Campbell McGrath, Christina Hutchins, Marti Sleepman, Jen Siraganion, Tim Horvath, Catherine Abbey Hodges, Erin Belieu, Keith Kopka, Mario Ariza