joshua young


from sleep ambulance


we can see those kids
defiling the wall art
what can we say
it looks better now
with all those slashes
across the face
the heat today
it’s really more like dying
i mention larry levis again
& no one knows what i’m talking about
there are too many books
& too many good ones
that every conversation
becomes less relevant
without some kind of
this takes time
i guess
but come on
let’s make some top 10 lists
mandatory reading
how many lists
does it take
to get to the center
of a canon
what canon are we talking here
i don’t remember
but it involves levis
& i keep thinking about carver
but i don’t know his poems
we can only think about
the parents pulling a baby apart
& altman’s adaptation
where is the light going
the light again
it changes all day
my arm is burnt
in slashes
where are you going
with that hummus
where did you park the car
how many times
must we untie our shoes
in this heat
let me ask this
how does the form
help the narrative
what happens
outside the frame
when the scenes unrolling
a poem is the center
of this
the meat of it
ok so let’s suture together
a narrative from the fragments
re-envision our trip
to the grocery store
an autobiography
in drafts
that different kind of doubt
so many tropes
to appropriate
how do we choose
a romantic version
a pathetic version
no one knows about this
because i’m letting the ellipsis lead
no one knows about him
but he’s a total babe—
all these male philosophers
if plot is present
why is everyone sleeping
how can we not
make a narrative
i don’t want to drag gender
into this
but the excuses are getting tired
& right now
a man carries threat back into
the room
the panic when it’s realized
this is not cool
these are not cool tattoos
it’s too hot for a debate
him you me
what do we gather from this
what do we learn from the pressure
of this threat


from sleep ambulance


where is the road
the call of a siren
the kid asking
how to finish a book
the way we say goodbye
when the vacation is over
go home man
& put on the best record
you can find
most of my time at work
is spent answering emails
questions we’ve already covered
when i actually empty it
i post about it
maybe next time
i’ll tweet
maybe next time
it will make a difference
so many meetings
so many minutes to type up
& disperse
no one remembers what
these meetings decide
unless it is emailed
as minutes
a few days later
let’s pull up the minutes to verify
yes let’s
it’s the same as i remember it
as i just told someone
over the phone


from sleep ambulance


so many questions
how can i explain
the rules
without sounding terrible
it’s difficult
in the bar-noise
look at how this light glares
look at the all the students
waiting for their instructors
who’s gonna tell them
their future
is most likely not in academia
not at a writers desk
the best writers i know
work in bars
make pasta
sling cheese at farmer’s markets
start their own press
sell hardware
teaching high school kids
about how to write good sentences
how do you write
a good sentence
how do you not write
a five paragraph essay
how much do these kids retain
all anyone talks about
is retention
but they don’t even know what
this means
how do we retain
our students
retention the buzz word
we spit out to win arguments
we win arguments
through fallacy
& claims
& statistics we made up
don’t we
it seems that way



Joshua Young is the author of four collections, most recently, THE HOLY GHOST PEOPLE (Plays Inverse Press). His work has appeared in Bat City Review, Fugue, Puerto Del Sol, Gulf Coast, RHINO, Nightblock, The Destroyer and others. His feature films have been official selection at Seattle International Film Festival, Athens International Film Festival, Montreal International Black Film Festival, Toronto Independent Film Festival, among others. He is Editor-in-Chief at The Lettered Streets Press and Associate Director of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago.