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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s “What I Learned At The War”

e2e116a8-390d-4f7d-a0c5-a1ba16e38422

Elegy for My First Boyfriend
              Shawn Mart Powell, 11/1/1961-3/26/76

Just kids, awkward, both of us. You a country
boy, sweet, honest. You asked your brother’s girl to
deliver silver roadrunner necklace, too shy
               to ask me yourself.

Girlfriend! Me! For first time, that blasted blighted
spring of Seventy-six, and you, late home when
down a red road brother saw father’s tractor.
               Upside down. Reaper

come to take you away and I, lost among
hundreds at your funeral, slipped a silver
bird in casket. No one knew. I’m ashamed this
               elegy’s so late.


This selection comes from Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s collection What I Learned At The War, available now from West End Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a scholar, poet, and prose writer; Her most recent books are Oklahomeland: Essays (Lamar University Press, 2015) and a poetry collection,What I Learned at the War (West End Press, March 2016). Mish’s 2009 poetry collection, Work Is Love Made Visible won the Western Heritage Award, the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West, and the Oklahoma Book Award. Mish’s chapbook, Tongue Tied Woman (2002), won the national Edda Poetry Chapbook for Women contest sponsored by Soulspeak Press. Her writings have been recently published or are upcoming in The Fiddleback, About Place Naugatuck River Review, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Halvard-Johnson’s Truck, Concho River Review, Yellow Medicine Review, and Mojave River Review. Jeanetta is editor of award-winning Mongrel Empire Press, and contributing editor for the literary journal Sugar Mule (www.sugarmule.com) and for Oklahoma Today. She is director of and a faculty mentor for the Red Earth Creative Writing MFA Program at Oklahoma City University. www.tonguetiedwoman.com

Noh Anothai was a researcher with the Thailand-United States Education Foundation (Fulbright Thailand) between 2011-12, during which he hosted cultural events for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and College of Dramatic Arts. Winner of Lunch Ticket‘s inaugural Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts (2014) and OUTspoken’s poetry prize in 2015, Anothai’s original poems and translations of Thai poetry have appeared both online and in-print, most recently in Ecotone and The Berkeley Poetry Review. A reader for River Styx’s annual poetry contest, Anothai teaches for the online MFA program at Lindenwood University.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s “What I Learned At The War”

e2e116a8-390d-4f7d-a0c5-a1ba16e38422

That Summer . . .
             in remembrance: Lori Lee Farmer, Doris Denise Milner,
             & Michele Guse, victims of the 1977 Oklahoma Girl
             Scout murders.

. . . was strange, an anomaly, a bad movie
suddenly real. Did the cute dumb girl die first?
The news shimmered and shook, rocked our world
like never before. But the ghosts of Chouteau

were stronger than an earthquake, that old
camp with its log cabins built looming
over an night-heron haunted lake
the woods behind dark as a serial-killer’s heart.
We shivered in our tents while you died in yours.

How could I have known the north star
whispered a dark secret to the wind—
how could I have known the ghosts heard
it, too? Home, now, a great horned owl hoots
outside my window, summoning the moon.


This selection comes from Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s collection What I Learned At The War, available now from West End Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a scholar, poet, and prose writer; Her most recent books are Oklahomeland: Essays (Lamar University Press, 2015) and a poetry collection,What I Learned at the War (West End Press, March 2016). Mish’s 2009 poetry collection, Work Is Love Made Visible won the Western Heritage Award, the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West, and the Oklahoma Book Award. Mish’s chapbook, Tongue Tied Woman (2002), won the national Edda Poetry Chapbook for Women contest sponsored by Soulspeak Press. Her writings have been recently published or are upcoming in The Fiddleback, About Place Naugatuck River Review, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Halvard-Johnson’s Truck, Concho River Review, Yellow Medicine Review, and Mojave River Review. Jeanetta is editor of award-winning Mongrel Empire Press, and contributing editor for the literary journal Sugar Mule (www.sugarmule.com) and for Oklahoma Today. She is director of and a faculty mentor for the Red Earth Creative Writing MFA Program at Oklahoma City University. www.tonguetiedwoman.com

Noh Anothai was a researcher with the Thailand-United States Education Foundation (Fulbright Thailand) between 2011-12, during which he hosted cultural events for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and College of Dramatic Arts. Winner of Lunch Ticket‘s inaugural Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts (2014) and OUTspoken’s poetry prize in 2015, Anothai’s original poems and translations of Thai poetry have appeared both online and in-print, most recently in Ecotone and The Berkeley Poetry Review. A reader for River Styx’s annual poetry contest, Anothai teaches for the online MFA program at Lindenwood University.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s “What I Learned At The War”

e2e116a8-390d-4f7d-a0c5-a1ba16e38422

Honed

Twice a year until I turned ten, the tinker
came round to my grandparents’ farm
and all sharp things would arise like souls
from their sepulchers to await their reckonings
at the stone wheel. Scissors, shears, and snips:
sewing, pinking, tin, and more. Knives of all kinds:
carving, paring, fishing. Butcher, cleaver, pocket, pen.
I crouch beside them, mesmerized by wheel’s
whirl, by somersaulting sparks. Covering my ears
against the great screeching whine, imagining that,
by his magic, the tinker transmitted to steel his manic
concentration, the wheel’s violent devotion. Knives
transmuted into talismans, scissors charmed, dark
fairytales spun under the black oak in the side yard.


This selection comes from Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s collection What I Learned At The War, available now from West End Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a scholar, poet, and prose writer; Her most recent books are Oklahomeland: Essays (Lamar University Press, 2015) and a poetry collection,What I Learned at the War (West End Press, March 2016). Mish’s 2009 poetry collection, Work Is Love Made Visible won the Western Heritage Award, the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West, and the Oklahoma Book Award. Mish’s chapbook, Tongue Tied Woman (2002), won the national Edda Poetry Chapbook for Women contest sponsored by Soulspeak Press. Her writings have been recently published or are upcoming in The Fiddleback, About Place Naugatuck River Review, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Halvard-Johnson’s Truck, Concho River Review, Yellow Medicine Review, and Mojave River Review. Jeanetta is editor of award-winning Mongrel Empire Press, and contributing editor for the literary journal Sugar Mule (www.sugarmule.com) and for Oklahoma Today. She is director of and a faculty mentor for the Red Earth Creative Writing MFA Program at Oklahoma City University. www.tonguetiedwoman.com

Noh Anothai was a researcher with the Thailand-United States Education Foundation (Fulbright Thailand) between 2011-12, during which he hosted cultural events for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and College of Dramatic Arts. Winner of Lunch Ticket‘s inaugural Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts (2014) and OUTspoken’s poetry prize in 2015, Anothai’s original poems and translations of Thai poetry have appeared both online and in-print, most recently in Ecotone and The Berkeley Poetry Review. A reader for River Styx’s annual poetry contest, Anothai teaches for the online MFA program at Lindenwood University.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s “What I Learned At The War”

e2e116a8-390d-4f7d-a0c5-a1ba16e38422

#2 Proper Punctuation

When I was in kindergarten, I fell in love with the period, that
no-nonsense carbony dot of punctuational closure. Ironic, for a
girl—later, I would moan “I hate my period” but of course, I
didn’t mean the sentence-ending kind. My love affair with
Mssr. P was inextricably related to my fling with the sentence—
I could read and write when I arrived in Mrs. Dunlap’s lemon-
polished classroom, but had not yet enticed a pearly string of
words to join together in holy meaning. Before the afternoon I
wrote “Sam ran fast” on my Big Chief tablet, I was innocent of
my need for the period, but it soon became an obsession. It
seemed to me that Sir Period had power to put a full stop to
overwhelming demands, to end entire families of caustic
words, to insist no more and be taken seriously. I lingered with
Period, blunting my pencils and poking holes in paper while
retracing each one to its deepest possible blackness. Every
period gleamed with excess graphite, the fingers on my writing
hand stained, the side of my palm slick from slogging through
lead slag heaps on the way to the next sentence, the next
opportunity to create another singularity of imagined infinite
density, not a black hole but a worm hole into another world
where King Period reigned supreme. A world where chaos was
contained between periods, exclamation points were always
gleeful, and question marks were nothing to fear. When I was
older, I transferred my affections to the semicolon. I could not
abandon the period entirely but desired a more flexible,
functional punctuator, one that could divide and conjoin, end
and begin, simultaneously.


This selection comes from Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s collection What I Learned At The War, available now from West End Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a scholar, poet, and prose writer; Her most recent books are Oklahomeland: Essays (Lamar University Press, 2015) and a poetry collection,What I Learned at the War (West End Press, March 2016). Mish’s 2009 poetry collection, Work Is Love Made Visible won the Western Heritage Award, the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West, and the Oklahoma Book Award. Mish’s chapbook, Tongue Tied Woman (2002), won the national Edda Poetry Chapbook for Women contest sponsored by Soulspeak Press. Her writings have been recently published or are upcoming in The Fiddleback, About Place Naugatuck River Review, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Halvard-Johnson’s Truck, Concho River Review, Yellow Medicine Review, and Mojave River Review. Jeanetta is editor of award-winning Mongrel Empire Press, and contributing editor for the literary journal Sugar Mule (www.sugarmule.com) and for Oklahoma Today. She is director of and a faculty mentor for the Red Earth Creative Writing MFA Program at Oklahoma City University. www.tonguetiedwoman.com

Noh Anothai was a researcher with the Thailand-United States Education Foundation (Fulbright Thailand) between 2011-12, during which he hosted cultural events for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and College of Dramatic Arts. Winner of Lunch Ticket‘s inaugural Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts (2014) and OUTspoken’s poetry prize in 2015, Anothai’s original poems and translations of Thai poetry have appeared both online and in-print, most recently in Ecotone and The Berkeley Poetry Review. A reader for River Styx’s annual poetry contest, Anothai teaches for the online MFA program at Lindenwood University.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s “What I Learned At The War”

e2e116a8-390d-4f7d-a0c5-a1ba16e38422

For the American Dead
          But out of that silence rose new sounds more appalling still; a strange
          ventriloquism, of which you could not locate the source, a smothered moan, as
          if a thousand discords were flowing together into a key-note weird, unearthly,
          terrible to hear and bear, yet startling with its nearness . . .
                                 —Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: 20th Maine, Army of the Potomac

1862
Here, on this field, lost voices sing strange ventriloquism.
Ventriloquism: hear estranged lost souls singing, disembodied voices.
Voices ventriloquized: a song here in ravaged trees, forever lost and strange.
Strange voices lost in ventriloquism: here, suddenly, silence sings
a song most strange—are we hearing voices? Ventriloquism utters loss.
A soldier’s lost song—usurped by ventriloquism. Estranged voices haunt us here.
Here in the South, voices forever sing strange.

2015
Here in America, we forever sing strange elegies—
elegies ventriloquized for the estranged and the dead. Americans sing strife, forever. Forever-elegies exported, sung off-key. Ignore sorrows of America’s stranieri
estranged forever in prisons, in graves. American elegies, everywhere, are sung.
We co-opt songs of strangers. Here in our streets forever resound elegies of America. Americans sing fractured elegies—estranged, bereft, forever. Can you hear?
Here—now, forever—we are afflicted—from humanity, estranged.


This selection comes from Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s collection What I Learned At The War, available now from West End Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a scholar, poet, and prose writer; Her most recent books are Oklahomeland: Essays (Lamar University Press, 2015) and a poetry collection,What I Learned at the War (West End Press, March 2016). Mish’s 2009 poetry collection, Work Is Love Made Visible won the Western Heritage Award, the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West, and the Oklahoma Book Award. Mish’s chapbook, Tongue Tied Woman (2002), won the national Edda Poetry Chapbook for Women contest sponsored by Soulspeak Press. Her writings have been recently published or are upcoming in The Fiddleback, About Place Naugatuck River Review, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Halvard-Johnson’s Truck, Concho River Review, Yellow Medicine Review, and Mojave River Review. Jeanetta is editor of award-winning Mongrel Empire Press, and contributing editor for the literary journal Sugar Mule (www.sugarmule.com) and for Oklahoma Today. She is director of and a faculty mentor for the Red Earth Creative Writing MFA Program at Oklahoma City University. www.tonguetiedwoman.com

Noh Anothai was a researcher with the Thailand-United States Education Foundation (Fulbright Thailand) between 2011-12, during which he hosted cultural events for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and College of Dramatic Arts. Winner of Lunch Ticket‘s inaugural Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts (2014) and OUTspoken’s poetry prize in 2015, Anothai’s original poems and translations of Thai poetry have appeared both online and in-print, most recently in Ecotone and The Berkeley Poetry Review. A reader for River Styx’s annual poetry contest, Anothai teaches for the online MFA program at Lindenwood University.

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