SHAWNTE ORION & JIA OAK BAKER
MIDNIGHT ON ASPHALT
Your voice is the potential of breath.
Fogged whispers rise but it’s still cold
underneath the umbrella.
Your diary shivers.
Let’s consummate the cliché
& wear matching secrets.
When we stop speaking I hear constellations
mark the passing of night.
Listen to all those stars
scrape across the slate of sky
like polished fingernails
down a chalk
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FACTORS OF WEDNESDAY
We divide the capacity of imagination
into factors of Wednesday.
You remind me of someone
I’ve never met.
There is a mythology of scissors.
The secret is an edge
that doesn’t look
like it’s been cut.
Both of us
doubt that we have
anything in common.
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SELF-PORTRAIT AS 90s ALBUM COVERS
Blue screen missing special effects
brick wall wearing thrift
store shadow cast by 1960s-era LSD
trash pageant tiara of thorns
cosmetic scabs too varnished to heal
bark muzzled at full speed
dirt became mud on the tongue
teeth gnashed through fence wire
swallowed silence of protest engulfed in flames
imaginary Siamese friend
tossed a washing machine into the shirt
last splash in the puddle’s reflection
rain hung me over the sky
by my Doc Martens
dive test dummy surfaced too soon
gasping for neon body-painted blacklight sex
photobooth exhibitionism armed with nothing
more than a dangling indie-label penis
but determined to save the corporate
dollar from drowning.
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FENCE PICKET WHITE
~for and after Gregory Crewdson
Pickets splintered on the asphalt / neighbors you haven’t seen
since you stopped answering the door / watering their suspicions
imagination is always in pre-production / find the lightswitch
find the unseizable moment between moments / that muted
instant when your life suddenly / made sense in the detached
intimacy of witness statements / the wind chime bites its tongue
listen for the disquiet beneath roses / obsessions are inverted
bluer than velvet / listen for the nondescript suburban
vernacular beneath floorboards / the fluorescence of desperation
between sleep and the dream / brief encounters with the forensics of mystery
don’t wait for second responders / like you waited for dad to return
from the bar with that elusive gallon of milk / like you waited
for mom’s hair and smile / to return from the oncologist’s office
don’t wait for the world to stop spinning / the lightswitch extinguished the kitchen lamp
so you can’t pretend this is only a dream / emptied of aimless familiarity
a choreography of light and psychosis / against the perfect façade
escape is under construction / your absence is present is almost nothing
you tried but couldn’t / get away from yourself
where the streets are paved with gossip
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FOREVER LIKE THE STAMP ON YOUR WRIST
eighteen months of hand drawn flyers and suddenly
everyone knows the words
but it’s August in Phoenix
so nobody sings along
because air conditioning
never opens for my friend’s band
they play three and a half songs
before the cops show up
ten dollars in advance
gentrification at the door
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Shawnte Orion attended Paradise Valley Community College for one day. He is the author of two recent collections of poetry: The Existentialist Cookbook (NYQBooks) and Faithful as the Ground (Five Oaks Press). The above poems and images are from Gravity & Spectacle, the upcoming collaboration with photographer Jia Oak Baker for Tolsun Books (April 2020). His poems appear in The Threepenny Review, Barrelhouse, New York Quarterly, Sugar House Review, and elsewhere. He is an editor for Rinky Dink Press and he has performed in bookstores, bars, universities, hair salons, museums, and laundromats. He is modeling a mask that was created by Phoenix artist J.J. Horner.
JIA OAK BAKER.photographer
Jia Oak Baker’s poetry chapbooks include Crash Landing in the Plaza of an Unknown City (Dancing Girl Press) and Well Enough to Travel (Five Oaks Press). Her photography has appeared in *82 Review, Lime Hawk, Shrew, Rascal, Thimble Literary Magazine, Stirring: A Literary Collection, and elsewhere. Gravity & Spectacle, a collection of photographs and poems in collaboration with Shawnte Orion, is forthcoming with Tolsun Books in 2020. Jia is the recipient of an artist grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and has been awarded residencies from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation and Hedgebrook. To view additional photographs, visit Instagram @violetsky29.
To download a printable PDF version of this page, click here.
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