The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2023

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FEB 2023 Issue

from Soft Apocalypse

ONLY      IN     MY      NIGHTS      DID      THE       WORLD     SLOWLY      REVOLVE.

Halogen   drop   in   the   spokes.  I  reached  through  and,   on   one   side,   a  hard

tiredness  overtook  me, on  the  other,  the moon  shouldered  off  its  clouds, took

what  it was  offered. A  job as an  understudy, a flower  from the  hardware  store,

a nickel for example is easy. I am also other than what I imagine myself to be…. A

diorama  of  the  room  affords  only  a  second-hand  sofa,  a  proposal  (juked),  a

view  of all  those  happy  girls pressed  up  against the  walls  in the violeted  light.

I’m yours, too, Anonymously—


between atoms the implausible cosmonaut

in her heart-shaped sunglasses

in her slick ruby suit

turns herself slowly into

the chlorinated blue

belonging to the public pool

as if every event

announces strange beloveds

nearly naked swimmers

avoid her slipstream—

they point to the shimmering belly

as it turns up

it wants to be licked

the sun does it

the radio static

the slice of a skateboard

behind the fence—

in the beginning there was

the navel

a striated color

something rising between

her legs—

the trajectory became


in the movies

people are lonely and kissing

their worlds together

in the next scene

one girl rotates under

another girl

saying yes

like or unlike this

absurd person

a minor event

in the water

here is the angel

wants to drag her under


WHAT  HAD  BEEN  A  GREAT  CITY,   we   go   on   our  knees  to  the  church  of  the

neon   cross,  watch  supplicants  race  the  strip,  no  muffler,  smoke  tearing  through

our nostrils, pink  Jesus blinking mutely overhead  in  a   final  effort  to  turn  our eyes

up from the buckled pavement—at what price?  you’re still the person I wanted to tell

about  the  changes  I’ve been making. we  trade between our emptied hands.  we look

again at the  disaster,  we mark  each other, semantic insecurity,  at what  point does a

person become sad and solitary?  is a question  Lispector never  answered  after a long

drag on her cigarette.

in  the  soft underside of the ashen city,  I  dream  we’ve  written the end of  the movie.

I wake up and find we’ve written only how do I get out of this production machine.


and summer was a slow idea barely

coming around sleepless someone

had called an ambulance

causing a sorrow to appear

on the pavement

a stubborn flower ragged

a silk breath asking

any animal

preferably a tiger to appear

to slip down the cold aisles

to eat all of this

crinkled up everything

is contemporary of the present

blue lights sweeping our hair

back off our foreheads I wish it were

a decade ago

an old boyfriend could be

running across a street careless

in his pin-striped valet vest stealing through

the shined cars the traffic my heart nearly

stopped in the air horses

not what I wanted

phantasmic colors stepping across

the tops of the buildings easily

watercolor horses changing

the lights a mirror a conveyer belt

a little wet pushing a cold soda

me shuffling along someone else

scanning up and down for what

all this time alone sleepless might

be worth anyway someone

is slamming tender on the counter

is calling an ambulance

we don’t think we are prepared

for death and by strangers like this

arms full of paper bags

I fell back into unbalanced

a little embarrassed it’s okay really it’s


WHICH     IS     A     SURREPTITIOUS     LINE—between    two    notes    of    music?    there

are   streetlights,   night   repairs,   there   is   a   little   soup,   a   subrational   argument,   a

discarded   silhouette.   on   side   B,   someone   is   raising   the   rent.   black   car   cruising

the   windows   on   the   other   side   of   the   street   where    I   also   am,   almost    turning

inside   of   that   crushed   velvet   dress—Happy   Christmas,   you   texted.    quick   heavy

snow    punching   a    hole   in   the    sky   I’ll    sew   up   later   tonight   with    old    sequins.

down    at    the    American    Legion,    Angel    slides    a    bright    green    shot    down   the

bar—honey, don’t you know by now? you can play a shoestring so long as you’re sincere.

I   WAS   GATHERING   RAW   MATERIAL,   I  was    seeking   an    expanse,   we   were

living  yet  at  angles  to  ourselves,  blinking  on   an   off,   reversing   inside,  painting

the   yellow   lines,  the  factory  floor,   the   road   narrowing,  I   thought  of  the  space

between   my   legs,  gradients,  the   fervid  rooms,   vectors,   a rover   powering  down,

the    nearness   of   my    mind    to   a   bird   climbing   high   and    alone   in    the   clear

air—THIS   IS   A   TEST.   the   morning   blares  its  lament  over  the  shifting  streets,

foreclosures,    busted-up    tennis    courts    I    might    have    used    in    childhood    to

practice   my  crossover.   a  future  came  fast.  faster,   through   the   intestines,   heart,

liver,  cellular   transfer,   chemical  tentacles  in  the  water,   a  hiccup  in  the  brain.  at

point  zero every  element becomes  a startling  thing.  a  wreck  becomes  an  opening, a

slick  young  porpoise  washes  up  to  the  sandy  edge.


failing spectacularly at orderliness the primroses

rush hour yellowness

a soft geometry unfinishing

the edges the sentence

giving in to its most

we could say phosphenic

sense pressure tiny implosions

even in suppose a vacant lot

under terrible conditions the blooms

how they fall together

and fall apart easily

making a damp room

in my ear

the whirr of the fan against

the window against which

in late June we leaned

passing mute fireworks

between us—clinical slingshots

wheeling in the sky—

and heat lighting too

making brief incredible shapes

our hands

not keeping time keeping alternately

the oscilloscope pressed to the roof

of our mouths

their pink apprehensions

unmaking us making us

so possible I believe our lingering

here over and over

rubbing against somehow

what cold and sugarless happens

THINGS      HAD      GONE      BACK      TO      BEING      WHAT      THEY     WERE.    a

couple   rocking  across   the  television,  the  scratch   of  the   needle  on  a  worn-out

record—if I were trying to get to Tuskegee, what exit would I take? another accident

flagged    on    the    shoulder,   a   line    of   cool-eyed    Madonnas    at    the    roadside

market,   had  I  left  a  little  lipstick   on  the  pillow,  we  had  left  a  surgical  silence,

a tear in the vertical. —warm me up

instead with  your  guesses, dumb suggestions,  the truth  loops  itself  out  of eyeshot

a  million  miles   below  the   interstate.  the  years.  go  and   go—before  I  could  say

what   was  real   and  what  had  gone  galloping   through  my  dreams...I  did  get  to

where   I  was   going  next,  I  stood  on  a   roof   half-dressed   watching   a  jet   wake

stretch itself into the most insane blue you’ll ever in sunlight see.


Leah Nieboer

Leah Nieboer grew up in Iowa. She is poet, deep listener, interdisciplinary scholar, graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, and PhD candidate in English at the University of Denver. Her first book, SOFT APOCALYPSE, was selected by Andrew Zawacki as the winner of the 2021 Georgia Poetry Prize and will be published in March 2023 (UGA Press).


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2023

All Issues