Listen to Poems from Our May Issue | The Sun Magazine
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Listen to Poems from Our May Issue

By Nancy Holochwost, Associate Editor • May 29, 2024

Most of us turn to fiction or memoir for great storytelling, but sometimes poetry fits the bill just as well, as the poems in our May issue show. In “Dear Woman Who Tried to Pick Me Up at a Hollywood Club in 1998,” Chrys Tobey imagines the life she could have had if she’d said yes to a romantic overture. Jodie Hollander’s “In the Freezer” recalls a grisly childhood pet that still lurks in the speaker’s memory. And Leath Tonino’s “Happysad,” a collection of five haibun—poems that combine prose and haiku—covers topics ranging from marsh wildlife to an unfortunate incident with a tortilla chip. The authors’ recordings bring the poems to life, and we hope you enjoy listening by clicking the play button below.

Take care and listen well,
Nancy Holochwost, Associate Editor

 

Dear Woman Who Tried to Pick Me Up at a Hollywood Club in 1998
By Chrys Tobey

What if I’d said yes? Imagine I go home with you that night,
when I’m twenty, and when we wake up in the morning,
you ask, You know you snore? You laugh at my
nighttime retainer, which I’ll wear for the rest of my life, and say, You look hot.
What if I curl into your arms and stop constantly thinking about where
I can meet women, stop paging through ads, ignore I support gay people.
I just don’t want you to be gay, ignore You’re so pretty. You can marry
any man? Let’s imagine you hold my hand through the next decade,
when I quit acting and finally go to college, and on the last day I wait tables
I come home and tell you I intended to tell a customer to fuck off, but
everyone was kind and tipped me double. We sit on the Santa
Monica sand, talk about how high rent is, how we can barely pay
our parking tickets, and we laugh at the German tourist who doesn’t
realize this isn’t a nude beach. Maybe I stop starving myself,
stop eating fat-free soft serve and running eight miles a day. Maybe
I don’t have a breakdown, don’t swallow pills and end up in the ICU—
where they wheel me down to the curb once they find out I don’t
have insurance—and maybe years later I don’t try again,
sleep in the cardiac unit after they revive me, my heart skipping.
Instead I rest my head on your shoulder as we reminisce about the
night we met in a seedy Hollywood club. I wore some ten-dollar, black, feathery
dress, and after you followed me to the bathroom and back to the
dance floor, you walked right up and said, You’re beautiful. I blushed,
but rather than waiting twenty more years, I saw it:
my beauty and your beauty and how worthy we were of love.

 

In the Freezer
By Jodie Hollander

she kept pig haunches,
the shoulder joints of cows,
buffalo neck and guts,
all stuck to the ziplock bags.
If anyone ever asked,
Mother simply laughed.
Oh, that! she’d exclaim.
That’s all for the dog.
I still picture the beast
Mother loved to feed:
its big, hairy mouth
covered in dark blood.
She seemed to enjoy
watching it devouring
some meaty kneecap
or shredding a pig’s ear.
It’s those animal instincts,
Mother would always say,
sipping her jasmine tea.
Yet she hardly noticed
when it chewed our shoes
or snatched a chicken wing
straight from our fingers,
nor did she seem to care
when it snarled at our father
or sank its giant teeth
right into his calf—
Just those animal instincts,
Mother calmly explained.
Can’t change those instincts,
she said when she left our father
for a man half her age.
The animal went with her,
yet cowered in the presence
of Mother’s butcher-lover,
and even trembled a little,
seeing the terrified eyes
of each innocent creature
as he grabbed them by the neck
and lifted up the knife.

 

Happysad
By Leath Tonino

Double

Yesterday evening the marsh at the edge of town was going off, super active. I counted three beavers, one moose, one muskrat, thirty-seven elk, forty-four geese, plus who knows how many blackbirds and swallows and warblers and ducks. A lone pink cloud appeared on the surface of the wind-rippled water as a dozen pink clouds. The boreal chorus frogs were beyond loud, almost annoying. As usual, I felt dirty with privilege, but also incredibly grateful.

elsewhere a boy
barefoot and limping
endless gas-station parking lots

Together

Sometimes, on a lovely summer day, you feel defeated for no discernible reason. Everything is fragile and fleeting. Everything is already lost. The feeling isn’t pleasant, but that’s different than calling it bad. You take special care not to disturb the lines of tiny black ants crossing the driveway. You water the houseplants slowly, speaking their names in a low voice. Passing a mirror or a window or a puddle, you see a pained face and nod hello with a smile. You wish strangers living on the far side of the globe good luck.

writing is odd
i say you but mean me
and hopefully us

Snack

Gobbling tortilla chips with gleeful abandon, I forget to chew, and one triangle catches in my throat. Instantaneous panic. Sudden, deep, mammalian fear. It’s four in the afternoon, a sunny Tuesday, and I’m at the kitchen counter, choking, thinking this could be curtains, end of the line, sayonara. I picture my partner, Sophia, returning from work and finding me on the floor, unresponsive, crumbs everywhere. Will she notice that I unloaded the dish rack and took out the trash?

my epitaph
tidied up a final time
before leaving this mess

Yellow

Strolling a familiar trail through the woods, I spot the first yellow leaves of the year, a single branch on a single aspen. Crazy. Surrounded by a billion trees that with their rich green foliage say, “Summer,” this nonconformist, this prophet, goes its own way and says, “Autumn.” And me, what am I supposed to say in response? “It’s only the middle of August”? “Time passes too damn fast”? “I refuse”?

how about this
my arms outstretched
i will wait here until you fall

Malaise

Once, when I was riding my bicycle, a chipmunk darted through the spokes unharmed. Once, on a stage under bright lights, I bowed before an adoring audience. Once, at the end of the rainbow, I found the famous pot of gold and donated its contents to a struggling orphanage, cancer research, orangutan conservation. Once, in my grandparents’ cozy suburban den, I woke up and it was Christmas morning and snow was falling and Santa had filled the stockings and, best of all, my grandparents were still alive.

nothing much happened today
or maybe i just failed
to notice

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