The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2023

All Issues
JUNE 2023 Issue


Indiscriminate Pursuit

A woman wakes up to find her hands levitating ever so slightly out in front of her body,
hovering over her thighs. On the train, people look at her strange then turn away, then look
again to see if she’s still holding her arms and hands in such a way; an elderly person offers
up their seat. At work, no one comments on her new posture, but they stare—talking about
the body at work is discouraged. In the elevator her colleague gently asks if she’s feeling
okay. Yes, you? Later that evening, she arrives at her friend’s apartment in the same
hands-forward forward position, which her friends take to mean she’s greeting them with a
hug. They hug, but her hands continue to reach. Hungry? They ask. She’s not, and though
she fears what her levitating hands will reveal, doesn't know how to lower them. One friend
shakes her left hand. How do you do? They joke, but the hand remains stiff and unchanged.
Bewildered, the other friend shakes both of her hands— only nervous laughter follows. Her
lover arrives, and noticing her slightly outstretched hands, bends down, kisses each of
them, then looks up and asks: what’s happening? She walks out of sight into the kitchen
where her hands open and close to find meaning. They close mechanically around a
banana, squeezing until it pushes out of its case. What is this urge to destroy fruit? She
grabs a pencil out of the coffee tin on the windowsill to write down what she’s having trouble
expressing but snaps the pencil in two before she can find paper—whatever worlds the act
of writing made possible are suddenly no longer possible. Her lover finds her in the kitchen,
asks, what’s happening? Out of fear, she grabs onto her lover’s torso who screams in pain
and falls to the floor. What is she to do with her strong and outstretched hands? And what is
a person searching for, as they go on to crush the bananas and bones of those they love?

The small picture

There once was a person who could only see
the small picture. Even when they breastfed
as a baby, all they saw is breast, all they
heard is mother’s voice. Now, as they walk
through the park, their friend exclaims it’s a beautiful day!
But all they see is their dear friend’s face soften
into a smile. When this person
has sex, they see only a wilderness of hair.
When others allude to their wealth,
flaunt their clothes or properties, all this
person sees is pixelated fuzz
dangling off a cashmere sweater, the cement bottom
of a saltwater pool, the sharp edge of the Kelly green
logo on a website meant for banking.

Tide’s Out (of Money)

Rosehip invested, violet from spending
Maroon-washed seagrass capitalizing
They say the dollar’s Seagullian in thought
They say barnacled but good investment
Blistering cost, hedging salty dolphins
Another sun-dappled account balance
Washed up on shore, we can take advantage
We can make the most of the crab market
Sea’s willing to trade its somber aura
Apparently, I look bloated with cash
I’m still moon-heavy with expenses though
To make some money, I painted canvas
I painted a picture of speckled stocks
Look, low tide’s a late bloomer but worth it
Come now, it’s time to invest the seashells

The time is now to invest in seashells
The troops need them for splashing in tide pools
Babies squish seaweed for sea-wide sanctions
Breeze-blowing philosophies of defense
Theories of exporting the dune grasses
Sand and scrubby pine-caused casualties
Ocean flooding veiny trails made by drones
As seaweed clings to a beautiful bomb
Anchored deep in the encampment is what
At first glance looks like some fish enemies
But is algae posing as a missile
Pretending to be a windy blockade
Made to look just like resistance seafoam
For the purpose of fighting for the bay

We must fight for the right to use the bay!
1-800 what are you waiting for?
Doors are opening for the lobster-snapped!
800-PAIN-LAW rains down from a cloud!
Passion meets crusted-shell-purpose dot com!
Groceries in minutes! Down at the pier!
Lifetime trial of smashed crab seagull food!
You deserve free shrimp dot com hashtag shrimp!
Join now! YOU can swim with US! Sink with us!
When every nap is bottom of the sea!
Try mental healthcare for the ocean floor!
Try cloud-hung mist essential spray for hers!
Try tsunami for hers, become a wall!
Try becoming a wave, roll up, wash out!

Become a wave, spend your savings on it
Go into debt for the pull of the tide
Tide’s out (of money) but worth it they say
Taking out a mortgage to finance crab
If you’re the sea you can take out a loan
Pay your interest with what starfish remain
Refinance to flood the renovation
The Atlantic owes the Pacific now
Meanwhile the Pacific owes the Black Sea
That’s why the rocks on the Cape are for sale
Why soil and sand and grass and saltwater
And why the tide pools are full of champagne
That’s why inflation by the seaside’s high
That’s why the driftwood’s looking to sublet

The driftwood’s looking to buy us some time
Digging the trenches so couples can wed
Drilling the sand so that flags can fly high
Mass casualties of fishhooks and rope
Mass shipments of salted water for fun
Bombardment by the jetty for sunset
A poverty of good sense by the bay
A deal struck between seagull officials
Nothing will be done as the tide comes in
Floating ducks quacking bombs on enemies
Some patriotic fish becoming spies
Some purple-washed tint on the horizon
Warning the navy their wetsuits won’t work
Armies coming into port riding sharks

Save big on the small shark-riding army
No money down! No beach! And no interest!
Do you own an oyster? Wanna save big?
Want the real briny real beauty special?
Wake up the beached whale for the new year’s sale!
Get the jellyfish holiday ready!
Bargain with local clam communities!
Bargain basement for sandy promises!
Save five percent with basin bonanza!
Save the optimized shimmering lighthouse!
Save ten percent on menswear for mussels!
Save one bird dollar on spending two now!
Save fifteen percent on saving the sea!
Cockle-crusted e-sale bobbing lightly!

Cockle-crusted e-sale bobbing slightly
E-commerce-strangled cash cows on the shore
Don’t swim by them they’ll scorch you with credit
Just float on your back through the ATM
Just float on your back through the index fund
Try to ride the wave of pearly profit
The sun’s burning through an insurance claim
Is it true what floats in the bay’s fair game?
And are whitecaps making minimum wage?
Are harbor seals signaling fish to trade?
Is the junk bond junkiest when anchored?
Are the delicate deposits ebbing?
Are the wetland’s grassy assets lending?
Rosehip invested, violet from spending?


Ariel Yelen

Ariel Yelen’s poems have been published in Poetry Magazine, BOMB, The American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She’s the Associate Editor for the NYC-based publishing collaborative Futurepoem Books, and is also the founding editor of their digital space futurefeed. She’s taught classes on poetry for Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts, The Loft Literary Center, and Mana Contemporary, and lives in Brooklyn, NY.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2023

All Issues