Erica Kaminishi, “Prunusplastus” (2017), installation view at the Japanese American National Museum (photo by Elisa Wouk Almino/Hyperallergic)

Troubled Slumber

I know a bit about the troubled slumber of adulthood.
Most nights the stars are little jerks.
I was greeted nightly by the roar of the sea
As I came over the dunes—
Which is what the machine sounded like.
A bright yellow banana seat on a beachcomber.
The tall grass rustled
And whispered me to sleep.
A jet skier went by a little too close
And gave me the finger as he sped by.
Beyond the dimly lit shore, a watery curse.
While boasting of my excellent tailor,
I removed my shirt. The marble patio looked wavy
Under the yellow light.
It gilded the hair on my forearms.
Tense impatience is unpleasant for everyone.
I retained the room number on my device.
There was another flaw in the day,
A more critical one, that kept me from a nap.
A paper bag might have been useful at the picnic.
But if I were to be trapped overnight in the city
Might it just not be that I was forced to take a chance
And leave my device in the room?
I’m afraid I’m too late for that. The last dinner
Was a timidly nibbled croissant.
I chuckled, but I was no longer
Sure what I was amused by.
I could see my feet feathering the brakes.
The heat stunned me when I opened the door.
A surge of starlings lit up from a beech tree
at the edge of the lawn.

They Posed Willingly

I’m not complaining, but was it the weather?
I was standing on the sand. An errant child’s
Water wing skittered on the surface of the pool.
I began to feel a little wobbly. In order to focus
I did a little shuffle-dance on land.
When I stood up to receive the gift,
I stumbled to the bench
And knelt down beside the podium.
“I’m bruised,” I moaned.
That little gadget didn’t do me much good.
The power was off, by the way.
I stumbled away. I wasn’t one to be there at all.
I trudged up the stairs and turned back
To look at the darkening beach.
The campfire looked dull, absorbing the glow
Of the dying embers. I recall a somber murmur.
Inside the cottage there was a bed,
Tall windows, a bureau, and an overstuffed chair.
I was wearing a blue t-shirt and denim cutoffs.
I watched a raccoon wait out the rain
Under a gnarled pine tree.
All the bedroom doors were closed but one.
A shaft of light came in through the opened door.

*   *   *

Todd Colby is a Brooklyn-based poet and artist focused on using words, images, and sound to create poems, collages, paintings, and sticker art. Colby is the author of six books of poetry. His most recent book, Splash State, was published by the Song Cave in 2014. His poems have recently appeared in Bomb Magazine, the Brooklyn Rail, Denver Quarterly, and Poetry Magazine. His recent readings and exhibitions include MoMA PS1 Greater New York (2015), Dia Art Foundation (2015), solo exhibition of works on paper at Picture Room, NYC (2015 & 2017), a solo exhibition of paintings at Bureau Gasser, NYC (2017), Maison de la Poesie, Paris (2014), Poetic Research Bureau, Los Angeles (2014); the Public Theater, Tenth annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature (2014); Oxfam/IBID Gallery, London (2014); Performa Biennial 13, NYC (2014); and the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, NYC (2016). In addition, he was on the faculty for the Ashbery Home School in 2016. He has been awarded the Fund for Poetry Award on two occasions. Colby received his BA in English Literature from the University of Iowa.

Readers are encouraged to submit 3–5 poems as a PDF to Wendy Xu for consideration at

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