At the Grocery Store

You are not an authority
over me, screamed he—
same time was sad

because might be no one over
him, or looking down. Meanwhile,
thin-sliced loin was chill

on deli shelf whilst vegetable life
kept cool on ice. No kumquat.
No rhubarb. Wrong season.

No one knows
behind my mask: I bare
teeth or roses.



          Twelve babcocks dive into the Sea of Naples.
          Or, better yet, a bed of orange
          roses rise like torches—a flickering
          metaphor—on a stony slope, the thorn
          bush lipped by stony goats, thorned
          by lippy boys who dive,
          willy-nilly, so all the goat sees is feet—
          so many toes—and foam
          that rose to the better bits abob
          like floats throttled in their hairy nets…
          Oh my youth when I could lick the tip
          of my finger—

                                        put the fire out.


Word of the Day

          —with apologies to the Oxford English Dictionary

Forebear (also spelled, less commonly, as for bears) was first used by our ancestors in the days of wide-spread bears. Fore- means “coming before,” just as the bears had the caves before we did and didn’t want to give them up. This -bear is not to be confused with the -bear in unrelated fantasies where bears wear coats, eat sandwiches, hum tunes, evoke nostalgia. Those bears come from Old English beran, meaning “to bear or to be of service.” The -bear in the noun for bear is a combination of be-, from the verb be WARE of bears and -ar, a form of the suffix -er, which we append to verbs to denote LOOK OUT for bears. In this case the “action” is simply existing or being a bear—in other words, -bearimplies one who is a “be-ar.” Here is an example sentence: “Imagine the bears witnessing such a spectacle. They had no modern technology; bear little responsibility for their actions and pass down to young bears no information about eclipses.” Was it a catastrophe then when the bright bear of the sky passed out of being, or the start of tumultuous bear celebration—eternal hibernation being a state a reasonably fat bear might welcome as relief from the stress of attending to everyday bear needs: eating, fighting, clawing open logs to eat some more? It is hard to know what bears think of anything as they do not record their histories. Bear linguists tell us little of the evolution of their language. But mother bears make caves of their bodies within the caves of the earth so that baby bears, born naked and pink as some people’s thumbs, can bear within them the knowledge of worlds other than this one, worlds where bears find within them the shape of a man and happily devour it. For, when a bear shits in the woods the strata of its coprology bears little information about its general philosophy. Rather, hungry as herself, the sow takes what comes to her and turns it into the material for yet more bears. Within each bear is the potential for other bears: not stars, not furniture, not industry, not language. No symbols. Just bears. Forever and ever (bear with me) Amen.

SARAH BLACKMAN is the director of creative writing at the Fine Arts Center, an arts-dedicated public high school. Her poetry and prose has been published in a number of journals and magazines, including The Gettysburg Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, Conjunctions, Oxford American Magazine, and The Missouri Review, among others. She has been anthologized in the Poets Against the War Anthology, Best New American Voices 2006, Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction, and xoOrpheus: Fifty New Myths, which was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2014. Blackman is the co–fiction editor of DIAGRAM and the founding editor of Crashtest, an online magazine for high school–age writers. She is an international examiner for the Creative Writing Master's program at Rhodes University in South Africa and a member of the board at FC2. Her short story collection, Mother Box, was the winner of the Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction prize and was published by FC2 in 2013. Her novel, Hex, came out with the same press in 2016. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina, with her partner, poet John Pursley III, and their two daughters.