The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

All Issues
APRIL 2020 Issue


Appropriate Reaction

It should be a parody
Shocked, disgusted
Got no words for
U mean to tell me
So disappointing
Shocked, disgusted
The end of democracy
Late stage capitalism
Shocked, disgusted
Jokes write themselves
Trying to understand
No, this isn’t the Onion
This is the new normal
Shocked, disgusted
Hold them accountable
We need more empathy
Shocked, disgusted
totally floored right now
Trying hard to process
Is this an SNL skit
The end of our republic
My heart goes out to
I can only sympathize
Shocked, disgusted
Are u f*ckin kidding me
U mean all of this is real
U can’t make this shit up

On Seeing an Ad for Levi’s “Still I Rise” Tees for Black History Month

Still I rise
yeah well
someday I won’t
I got a headache
from altitude illness
the high business
of lifting ourselves
up And figuring out
where to go, they
go lower and I get
high as a reprieve
from what’s neither
lowest or highest
business as usual
pursues at a cruising
speed of normalcy
a steady even flow
of proselytizing from
the pulpit of an ad
campaign to catch
more loyal consumers
now that we’re “free”
of defacto bondage
we can get paid a
premium (hopefully)
modeling gratitude

Salt Blues
     “Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?” --Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters

Quick lime blues 4 salts of the earth,
hands come down. We stick to flypaper.

The sunlight, spools colors of our hair,
our decomposition, markets awash

Hands get busy forging a mosaic.
Trying to persuade raw significance
into some get rich & quick

    content picture of success.

Bionic windowpane
fully soluble,
preparing for desalination.

Tears aren’t useful
in a state of decay.

Knocks the sea
right out of you

Turns 70%
of us into

Inventory of the Soul

My soul is hard like a public persona,
My soul is a painting of a wild horse.

My soul is a pair of invisible eyelids,
My soul is Monk humming his piano.

My soul butters a loaf of French bread,
My soul leaves it for the ugly duckling.

My soul is a multiple choice question.
Is my soul:

a) deliberate
b) playing myself
c) reading the room

My soul talks when she’s good & ready.
My soul counts pennies in wishin wells.

My soul rolls her eyes at angels & devils.
My soul skips breakfast & destroys time.

My soul is a shopaholic for fine leather.
My soul is a tailor for unconditional love.

My soul is a theory of modern paranoia.
My soul is the freight of Elizabeth Cotten.

My soul hikes in black platformed boots.
My soul recalibrates w/ gossamer irony.

My soul is a student of pain & tolerance.
My soul makes the last bed she slept in.

My soul removed “my” & drew in a “we”
My soul removed “we” & drew in a “you”

My soul asks what do you want from me
My soul forgets there’s a correct answer


Nikki Wallschlaeger

Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work has been featured in The Nation, Brick, American Poetry Review, Witness, Kenyon Review, POETRY, and others. She is the author of the full-length collections Houses (Horseless Press 2015) and Crawlspace (Bloof 2017) as well as the graphic book I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel (2019) from Bloof Books. She is also the author of an artist book called “Operation USA” through the Baltimore based book arts group Container, a project acquired by Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. Her third collection, Waterbaby, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2021.


The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

All Issues