Cover Art — Janice Appel Trickle Down Economics
At a halfway house near Salem, Virginia,
Big Otis, the VA Counselor,
looked through our fried brains
still playing movies on mind screen.
Soundtracks whispered through jungle trees
where Joe Brown had lived
under the canopy waiting in ambush for VC
following footpaths far off Highway 1
or Henry back from the Middle East still drunk
on snowy scenarios of first use to melt North Koreans
if they crossed the DMZ, now sees coordinates
through a desert lens for a new end game
or Tom Running Hawk, a two tour
Lakota Sioux, squad leader, who dances
with the ghosts from Wounded Knee
and the screaming souls left behind in Vietnam.
“You guys think you’re angry?”
Otis’s eyes surveyed the room.
We were his targets. “You think
you lost something like your mind.
I lost my armor. My friend and I were
Black Panthers – not what you think – 761st Tank Battalion,
providing fire cover for units evacuating
from the Battle of the Bulge.
Black men freezing, covering white soldiers.
You think you’re angry?
When I got home, I still couldn’t vote.
You don’t know nothing about rage.”
Freed from the slack jaw, Thorazine shuffle,
and the rubber stamp that sealed our Fate at intake,
we quit our meds, found our tears, and swallowed
words from an old soldier who told us his story
GETTING A TASTE OF A NEW PERSPECTIVE
When you yell up the chimney
the echo your hear is a yo ho ho
as those pirates lower
your brain in a basket;
try it on for size and flip the switch
for a fresh operating system
plus an eyeful of new apps;
the internet of things could
include your soul,
downloaded from the cloud
with new terms of agreement;
you clap, you whistle, you cheer—
fresh graphics have that effect
on most users swiping past the blues
to a whole new level of numb
The creepy guy in your selfies
could be some downloaded guy
slipped in with the upgrade
you couldn’t ignore;
flash forward, delete,
double click, and see
who changes faces
right before your eyes,
or your eyes changing,
now red, now grey,
now blue blue blue,
like your mother’s, like the sky,
like your neighbor’s, dead
in the head next door
THE CANAANITE WOMAN
A POEM SERIES
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to Jesus, crying out
“Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering
terribly from demon-possession.”
WRITING WITH SARA
Hana shows her daughter Sara again how to hold a pencil
Hana cups her hand around her daughter’s,
dips the pencil into Sara’s loosening fist
like a tulip in a jar, coaxes the girl’s fingers
into a ballet. Every three letters
Sara writes, she gets an M&M
Hours ago, Hana drew Sara a picture
of sitting at the table to prepare her daughter
Sara screamed Fuck you, bitch!
and knocked over a chair
then raced toward the paintings framed on the kitchen wall
but Hana got there first so Sara could not smash them
Hana helps Sara pick up the chair
Hana has calmed Sara enough
to sit at the table and look at the letter S
which Hana has written with a crayon on a scrap piece
of paper she grabbed from the floor where the original worksheet
lies in pieces like a smashed plate
Hana will worry later
about the end table Sara hurled
at the lamp, now broken across the floor
and glittered with glass
from the television screen it shattered
Hana should’ve documented that
but Sara is now
kicking through her little brother’s bedroom door
after he raced there and locked it
Hana shows Sara again how to hold a pencil
THE AUNT RECEIVES A THANK YOU CARD IN THE MAIL
I open Sara’s card
Thnk yo Aunti
I lov the muney and card
I think of her sweat
making it up the hill of S,
then its other one to a, hand over hand,
breathless past r, all lungs
and bleeding blisters, collapsing
into a, the finish line,
the only place in a marathon I’ve stood,
holding a coffee
SARA TRIUMPHS IN THE KITCHEN
My mom asked me to set the table
like I always do at 6 p.m. for dinner
Today I didn’t want to. I was angry
at my brother Malachi, who had gotten gummi bears
from a friend, and he shared only one with me
And then my sister Rachel had laughed
when I fell off my bike. I stuffed this hurt
away in a backpack pocket you never use
When Mom said, “Sara, table please,”
I could feel it
The monster opened its eyes from its sleep,
began to wiggle its fingers and toes
I told it to stop wiggling, to go back to sleep
It looked at me with its sleepy eyes
THE CANAANITE WOMAN
SEES SARA TRIUMPH IN THE KITCHEN
I see her
struggling to pull it together
I see her
hands leaving the plates resting on the counter
and not sending them like bullets
through the air, through the window
For every meltdown, there are two triumphs
when Sara talks the tsunami
down. Even Poseidon
couldn’t calm each storm
By the third surge she’s exhausted
Think of a plastic cone
standing its ground
at the coast to hold off the sea
with its unfathomable longing
THE CANAANITE WOMAN READS THE EMAIL
FROM JESUS OF NAZARETH ASKING HER
TO JOIN HIS LEADERSHIP TEAM
I haven’t answered yet
I’m savoring the glow
—my work seen as work,
found beautiful, and sought
Join Jesus’s team and travel across the Mediterranean
Wow. Akhenaten’s abandoned city. Plato’s Parthenon
Ishtar’s Temple in Damascus. Maybe in three years
when Sara is eighteen. Though she’ll be living with me
A friend told me she wanted to write novels
but wrote short stories instead because she’s a mother
She holds too many characters living countless storylines
to fit into one book
I wonder how unified Jesus’s ministry would be
if he were a mother. Would he believe in one God
or several. One love or many. One ending or all of them
Maybe that’s why he wants me on his team
I know a trinity he doesn’t
Mother, Daughter, and Holy Ghost
I walked today
toward the Yellow House
at the end of the street,
its shutters crooked
and paint faded to an off white,
where, in the midst of winter,
the old lady who lives there
makes sure the cardinals are well fed.
I pass the Green House,
it’s what we call it
the McDermott’s painted it blue
and, as I walked by,
the deception of the paint
Tomorrow I am going
to Forest Park Avenue,
with its neatly trimmed houses
and smiling children.
I am going there to see a lawyer.
You don’t know this, of course.
You are walking next to me, and we pass
the House with the Big Trees,
towering live oaks
that were cut down
before the Green House was painted blue,
and you say
you can’t wait for our trip to Branson,
where you will shop
You tell me this,
as we walk on,
and I think,
but don’t say it,
don’t dare say it,
the one truth in my life.
I can’t wait for tomorrow.
I’ve never seen so many robins in a flock.
Heavy frosts have made the crabapples ferment
and the robins are spinning about
in what looks like joy
while I watch inside the classroom.
One banks into a window but still returns
for another taste, so I drop the shades
hoping to help them navigate the party.
Perhaps no one else on campus sees
so many robins falling and rollicking
with only the misplaced gravity
that defends so many drunks and,
as I recall, occasionally saved me.
The ancient Greeks weren’t strangers to fear,
whose gods and goddesses,
young, vain, sexual and cruel,
fourteen year-olds in movie star bodies,
might descend into their front yard, appear
in their home, or pop out of the earth
and find them lacking or, still worse, just right.
How odd for them, ordinary shepherds
encountering trees shaped human,
talking fountains, streams that murmur
longing to echo the human heart.
And the constellations, a photograph album
of passion always overhead.
At any time you might stumble upon
a goddess naked at her bath
or one of those shrubs once human.
Any moment a crone or tramp in rags
might wander to your doorstep. Not
long ago an old couple, stranded
in the Price Chopper parking lot,
called me an angel after I jumpstarted
their dilapidated pickup truck
that was no chariot in disguise.
If I were an angel, I’d be one of
the fallen, and they weren’t Zeus
or Hera, far as I could tell.
You’ve got to know how to fall.
You have to let go
of everything, ladder, hammer, binoculars.
You could land on your heels,
but that’s not recommended.
You do not fall on your head or back
or ass or face down, but on your side,
better the right side, if the falling
permits. You land on the angle of your foot
at 45 degrees. Expect a hard bruise
on your shoulder and hip. After all,
you were nearer the stars.
You have to walk to get there.
You have to learn how to walk
with no sound to go far,
to tread as though you’re stalking
a shadow or a voice, so if
you move without breaking
the stars’ frequencies, without
stumbling thoughtlessly, there might
be a chance. You might find
in the unlit marsh
the moon bathing her naked ghost,
and because you know how to fall
you can let yourself fall
into the moon, Dante’s moon,
where all the nuns who broke their vows
have been waiting.
You may own the home,
but you do not rule
your lot. You cannot
dig a hole, bury
a beloved old dog
or plant an orange tree
or fig, no garden
out back. You do not
even dare to cross
the grass. For you, they
have other places to
play. The greenest world
welcomes you only
if you play golf holes.
You will figure this
out later when you
realize you are walk-
ing on air, never
quite touching soft earth.
Your kempt house has no
basement, you have no
roots. The years, feeding
like orchids hanging
in the humid air,
flower and fade, then
the ground comes calling.
VIGIL ON MAUNDY THURSDAY
Often when I am alone,
I have to move away from places–
From rooms to town
To church, from drunk to weary
To empty. I skipped crusts of ice
Across the snow as I waited
For you. The air was too cold to taste.
Through ancient glass, candles blurred
And heads bowed, but I heard nothing.
The nave was dark, and a street plow
Scraped by. I trudged into
The churchyard snow, as white
And shadowed as Golgotha,
To see metal sparks on the road.
When I turned back, the lights
Glowed softly, people stepped
From the doors, and I walked
Past buried graves, looking for you.
You found me first and raised
A finger to your lips, whispering,
“We are supposed to be quiet.”
Your eyes freshly-wet from prayer
And candlelight, your hand touching
Mine lightly as ice skips over snow,
Left me no need to speak–
The church, the town behind us,
Also bright and silent as the moon.
A SMALL WHITE HOUSE
The last time you finished a story
I had written, one you hadn’t fallen
asleep over, or forgotten, or let drop
to the floor where the cat slept
on it, dotting it with flecks of flea
blood as if it had become the setting
of some small crime, we lived
in a small, white house.
There was an L-shaped porch
where I pissed proudly into shade trees
to hear the sweet, beating water
on concrete, as they razed houses
around us, one by one. We hid
the Christmas tree into March
in that same corner. Summers,
we’d drink quickly, before
the ice melted, then hole up
in the one cool room, its wall
unit drowning our love whispers.
I found that old cat this year, frozen
against these bricks, his white fur
soiled with blood the color of door wood,
his return the same mystery
as his leaving. John put him in a bag,
and he went with the trash, and we
told our children when they asked, that, yes,
Burt buried him at the dump. It was cold
that day, and we were tired, and people
who clear things away are prompt.
Tonight, I drove past where that white house
stood, and dreamt myself curled up
asleep, only your light on, and my words
speaking to you from pages
like these—not yellowed
in a basement drawer, not discovered
on a search for something else.
SHELTERING/EACH IDENTITY IS ETERNAL — LUONGO/BLICKLEY
EACH IDENTITY IS ETERNAL
The invisible thread from breast to the cradle between my hips is electrified and alive, so real for me the very idea is audible and I can taste my passion tingling with the salty desire I have for him, wanting to share the lust of lovers devouring each other with our imaginations, our loneliness, as he whispers my name close and soft against my neck, not having to ask him if I am good enough and not having my heart broken when he calls me by another name.
Lying within his embrace the shy tenderness of a mouth greets me with inquisitive tongue as his look of delight drinks in the sight of me, running his hands across my hips down my flanks squeezing and feeling my flesh as my legs automatically bend and I fold in to him with no pressure, no expectation, no pre-requisite.
The rules are simple: I must allow myself the enjoyment of this place where the cushioning of dreams protect and shelter us from a world of artificial lust as I allow him to take ownership of my body, to lay beneath him and feel him breathe as our hearts beat a new rhythm of mutual surrender, a lustful joy of freedom.
As he rocks me and moves his body next to mine, I feel him swollen and hungry for me as he inhales the perfume of my hair and there is such tenderness with the time he takes at each aspect of his exploration of me, such a heady feeling to see the pleasure in his eyes as he looks upon me.
I nestle into him as time ceases in this moment that fills me with the urge to please him because I am so proud to have ignited this desire I must give myself permission for enjoyment in this strange place where the light from the candles he has lit enhances his flickering fingers and the feelings aroused by such feather light touches.
My fingers seem like thumbs as I attempt to remove his clothing but he is patient and the ever-present smile is all the assurance I need as I move the fabric down over his hips.
my mother has never been to Cape Breton
doesn’t know where it is or what a Cape is
but she knows what hate is
swims in it every day
crashes off its rocks in the swelling sea
my mother can’t read or write
doesn’t know the word disenfranchisement
what it means or how it’s spelled
can’t wrap her tongue around its taste
but she knows how it feels to lose land and limb
she has stood at the confluence of five rivers
flowing across an expanse of once arid ground
five rivers that she cannot name
but can feel through the corridor of her veins
like all our conversations
I enter with caution
skirting landlines, anticipating mid-sentence ambush
body churning beware, beware
she tells me she saw something interesting on tv today
a story of a young boy walking along a footpath in India
two people carrying an old man on a stretcher pass by
the boy asks if the man is dead
they say it depends
depends on what? he asks
if he has children, he will never die
for his legacy will live on forever
but if he is childless,
he is already dead
like me I think, like you my mother says
I step on the landmine
and turn away
body churning too late, too late
The history teacher told Kenny
he had a seventh-grade cock-eyed pride,
a tilt to what he found admirable
probably from the weight
of the chip on his shoulder
pulling his neck to one side.
The teacher laughed and the class
laughed with him.
But Kenny knew a wild dog
that lived in the alley
that skewed its head
to both sneak a peek
at who was coming
and to beat other dogs to scraps.
He knew a stallion inclined
to rearing askew
that kept riders off his back,
and old man Keller
with the missing leg
from the war to defeat all tyranny,
how he gamboled despite
his tilt and refused assistance
and said he knew kind soldiers
he had buried in the war
but as wicked as a blue jay
he’d survived, leaving
just enough crumb on the table
to make me want to know more
of what he’d never talk about.
So Kenny walked up to the front,
head listing like a wary goat
walking up a steep slope,
turned and winked to the class,
a sign that linear history
was a story he could never tell.
THE BALLAD OF THE BLUE PIANO
Two girls in the neighborhood made me
a barter, really, where a glimpse
of my bald genitalia bought
a view of their strange blankness.
It happened several times in a playhouse
until I refused them after having a dream:
a small boy, in a place with the cracked
barrenness of a dead lake, whimpers
and tries vainly to raise his crumpled pants
above his knees; there was a thin light,
as of sun through dust. The dream, of course,
was not mine alone, though I thought so long enough
to develop a passionate insecurity.
Women have their own reasons for alcohol
and silence, but this vision stands between men
when they try honestly to speak to one another.
It is in the throat of that boy that the words stick.
I have had two other dreams like that,
both waking: one on a cold day
in a forest, young and full of the damp
smell of fertility, where I found
the remains of an orchard, a single tree
whose yellow apples shone
like gold cast to rot in the decaying
mouths of dead leaves.
The other has more history.
Against the sagging railing of a junk house
rested a piano, an old upright,
painted blue. A blue piano.
Inside, a girl played Chopin
without sheet music, her fingers
slender dancers. She sees me, nods,
and goes on for the rest of the summer.
When the owl leaves the branch, he becomes
the wind and the soundless dark,
threads the hem of branches with a faith
before knowledge, safe in the space between things.
There is a boy running through hemlocks
faster than he can think, out on the windy edge
where he is only his body moving, not conscious
of the rough bark, the whole hurt of a tree.
He makes no sound, breathes
between the pounding pulses of his heart
and his feet. Flying over
the crest of a rocky hillock, he slows
slightly out of fear
not that he will hit anything or fall,
but that he will leave the earth
and the company of his kind.
a phone goes dead; you say hello
a toddler teeters on a stairway step
a buzzer sounds as a ball arcs down
a still bobber plunges underwater
a car door closes on little fingers
a glass of Merlot tilts on a tablecloth
a phantom deer appears in headlights
a check-out display beeps “Declined”
a doctor says a tumor is in remission
a small flame touches a candle wick.
IT’S A BOY
he slit me
sliced with scissors the meat of me
the doctor decided this between my feet
without request, as his privilege
when he saw your crown
and not wanting to think women are built for it
to bend and curl around obstacles and impositions
so you slipped through bloodied
into the stark room
out of me and I would never be the same
was owned by you then
and then your father owned me too
and so he settled, beside me,
outside on the thick of the hill
after I had kept you on my breast until you slept
and I drew air clear,
turned in shocked shining
told him I had never known this feeling
it a thing possible
he smiled back
a new confidence in him
a father now; told me
if I ever tried
to leave him
he would kill you
so I stayed, of course,
years, but first, at six weeks
the O B stuck his finger in me
your husband has nothing to worry about
he should be quite pleased; good girl
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
PECCATO DI GOLA
My husband has peccato di gola,
literally, the sin of the throat—
actually, the sin of gluttony,
which works out as a sort of
global lust for the best restaurants,
and coffee bars, and taco stands.
One night in an out-of-the way
gostilna in Slovenia, lush
with white fish and squid,
sardines and clams,
fresh from the Adriatic,
bread with pumpkin oil,
and rocket salad, I knew
I’d want to be that sort of sinner,
or travel with one forever.
TO THE BROWN-EYED MAN IN THE BLUE PARKA AT THE SOUTHERN RAIL
You came in from the ice storm,
Ordered a beer, then left.
The fogged glass half full on the bar,
On top of a crumpled ten-dollar bill.
I want to know what beer you were drinking.
I want to know why you were drinking at two in the afternoon on a snowy Tuesday.
I want to know what text message you read when you put your drink down,
And trembling, clutched the rail of the bar, eyes shut tight.
I was mustering up the courage to save this poem on my laptop,
Leave the high-top table in the corner, and say hello.
I will never know if it was a lover leaving, or word that your mother died.
I will never know your name.
I will never know you.
The morning sun streams
Through cracks in the dark curtains
After a long night of wine and love.
Our life energy united—
Two boats following the rushing river current.
You take my hand and lead me
To your desk,
Books and black clothing strewn on the floor.
I have something to show you
That I don’t show anyone.
You open the mahogany cabinet to light a candle,
Await the silence between your thoughts.
Somehow, this feels too private.
The eggs will be ready
When your prayers are done.
I MEET JANELLE FOR COFFEE AT BROADWAY AND 116TH
Espresso for me because
I want to sample the local culture.
Irish Coffee for Janelle, my wife’s sister,
a look-alike except more boyish, defiant.
We walk to her apartment on 91st talking
about how inhumane Manhattan.
New Yorkers are tough, she says.
They’re mean, I say.
I thrive on that, she says.
We talk about her—twice divorced, childless,
not happy but not unhappy either.
About me—my wife her sister pregnant, happy.
About children making one happy—or not.
About the weirdness of sexual passion,
how it grabs you, how irrational
and yet there seems to be a grand plan.
Species survival, she suggests.
Janelle says there’s sexual tension between us,
It’s true. Meanwhile out her third floor window
we watch the prostitutes on Broadway who are so busy,
Janelle says, they have a waiting list.
As I leave I spread arms for an awkward hug
but she steps back shaking her head No,
then hands me a bag of bitter beans,
souvenir of New York. Forty-four years later
in that same apartment Covid will drop her so fast,
there’s a waiting list for the morgue.
From California we make arrangements,
no viewing, no touch.
Plopped in a pasture like a brick turd the high school
sits stinking as subdivisions advance.
For mockery the hotshot kids paint a cow
on the gymnasium wall.
The girl with a sun-sprinkled complexion
the hotshots call Milkmaid Molly
because of her notable chest and because she
explained a late assignment as she was up all night
with a sick cow and yes, she handles five of them
before sunrise but she dresses nice for school.
Surprise — I win the Harvard Prize Book
and Molly asks if I’m going. I say
it never entered my mind. She says
Do it, I know you’ll do well.
She stands closer than I’m comfortable
with breasts jutting out, almost poking me.
I’m a loner, a high-achiever without social skill,
flustered I thank her and that’s the end
except another day I’m walking in the hallway
behind a hotshot who goes Moo-oo at Molly
and for a moment all I see is white hot flame
as my low-fashion leather Rockports
without instruction from my brain kick his ass
and he skids sprawling down the linoleum tiles.
Later I pay in bruises.
Harvard rejects me but—wow—Molly gets in.
Who’da thunk it? I congratulate her and she says
You shouldn’t have kicked him.
That’s what kept you out.
I tell her I’d do it again.
She’s standing too close as she says
My dad told me what we learn
in high school we never forget.
We drive out to her farm, she shows me around,
confides she really prefers girls. I confess
I prefer, too, that is if I ever. She says
You probably want to touch my breasts,
but sorry you can’t.
Later as we laugh, I learn to milk a cow,
altering forever my view of nipples.
Good to know, Harvard or no.
Eat me tender, eat me raw,
suck me through a flavor straw
we chanted as children, just silly words.
Auntie Flo hushed me, said it was filthy.
And now I wonder: What did she know about that?
People blabber on me. A woman in the Wash ‘N Go
dumped about her affair, her husband’s
favorite sexual position. Why me?
It’s my super power.
At my daughter’s school I volunteer.
I’m Natasha the Talking Typewriter. They talk, I type.
We pretend they’re making up stories
but you know it’s all true. I type fast.
I hand them the paper. Then if they want,
we burn it in a little clay oven with a funnel chimney.
Their secrets turn to flame and smoke.
I wanted to be immortal. I’d write my name,
the date, my height and weight on a slip of paper
and stuff it in a crack in the house to remain forever.
One night a chaplain came to my college dorm.
My father, lighting the oven. Poof. Honestly
I could do without my father but now I had no home.
Got it all down? Good.
Now give me that paper.
across the South
hangs on the chrome pole
gets truck drivers
mumbling sweet vulgarities
her hair might be
black or blonde
or any shade between
her breasts enhanced
and the shake of the booty
and the silk suggestive thong
to a not so shy guy
who was nice
offered her security
for wearing pumps
a private show in the kitchen
when he was home
because she could
and she wasn’t fat
she could wiggle
a sculptured tush
the lyre of her pleasure
like a live wire
around the pole
as long as there is beauty
as long as there is desire
she has a fire in the hearth
a ring on the finger
and the song
Black Magic Woman
singing on the juke
it was a good life
if you did your thing
looked in the mirror
straightened the rear view
shifted the crease
and cling of it
with bling and skin
kept the drinking
to a minimum
And in the end I knew
you as well as anyone could—
and that hardly at all.
Is that what we
mean by wisdom?
The kind acquired
with the years?
Today the English roses
you planted so long ago
have conspired to bloom
the well-wrought flowers
coloring the quarter acre
like Matisse gone mad.
What a magic to share—
if only I could.
Had you some grand scheme
for the planting?
I never thought to ask.
I sit in the afternoon
sun and open myself
But what comes is colorless,
and I settle instead
for the pitched squeals
of the children next door.
Alive with their imaginations.
I bumped into him
at the commuter terminal
He hadn’t changed much.
His name was Artie
but we called him Jack—
since Junior High
he was pinned at the hip
with the Annette
we knew as Jill.
As a matter of fact
our chance encounter
was less surprising
than his Jill-less-ness.
Where was she?
I longed to ask
but hadn’t the nerve.
Jack and Jill
did all things together
from the time they were 12
to the time they left
for a New England
Law School that wasn’t
Yale or Harvard.
But there she was
walking down the concourse
the big smile
I remember from forever
still on her face.
She was always
a pleasure to see.
It wasn’t until
I shouted Jill
that I realized
it wasn’t her.
Just some pale copy
stamped out of old plates.
Jack offered no explanation,
just a long-winded account
of how he came to sales.
After, I shook his hand
and said with an odd sense of loss,
“Good to see you, Arthur.”
Because it’s cold,
he said, we should
camp in his cabin.
He had one chair, one
spoon, one bowl. Two
rooms were filled with
books and unopened
envelopes which he used
as scratch paper:
groceries lists, knock knock
jokes, lines of poetry,
He hogged the blankets
at night, napped incessantly
throughout the day,
and wouldn’t kiss
on the lips. Yet,
his riddles, spicy
to the tongue, kept
me parched. His poems,
which I thought
he wrote for me, kept
me intrigued. In the dark
we held hands.
Huddled in front
of the wood stove,
I was sure we’d never
go hungry or get bored.
Snow kept him in,
but love drove me out.
YOU CAN’T TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS
A dozen times he emails asking
how to close a Google Doc. A hundred
texts ping with worry that his changes
are unsaved. All attempts
to train via phone and email
are in vain, and lightning
must flash in my word choice
or punctuation for he knows
I’m annoyed. I should shower
him with respect—the only thing a man
wants. Awkward with Google docs,
nervous about the drive, he demands we
empty the cloud—now. His words may be
plagiarized, or god forbid read. Text
in this drive is set for our eyes only,
but he insists. Does he imagine
all those words raining
from cloud to hard disk? Do clouds
this dense even exist? Does he
believe that I would erase all this?
I click the icon of the two little gray
people. His role is editor. I hit “remove.”
I say the drive is empty, but that’s
another lie. Our words
will go unpublished, but not unheard.
I awake to flashbacks… flickers of party:
nibbling, shots, long beers, tricky cocktails;
my wig shook to music. We were rocking.
A minute after midnight,
climax of a golden moment
– klaxons! – whistles! – bells! – fireworks!
Dancing on the bar with girlies
dressed in nets as angels or fairies
whirling in storms of confetti…
a miracle we never fell.
A piece of wing detached, a muslin
gauzy pink thing I took home to keep
under my pillow and for weeks after
it maddened and delighted me, to drink the smell,
the scent – O most Divine Snuff –
as if from off a distant sea swept –
faint ammonia – froth – the reek – the sweat!
Of beautiful bad girls and tobacco!
MARRIAGE IN OCTOBER BARN
When the roof of our crammed
shed tips toward collapse
my husband knocks
the eyesore over.
In its footprint he erects
a pre-fab barn, two floors,
not for hay, not for rakes, broken
not even kids to store
This stage is fresh blank,
emerald painted, the floors,
walls sponged yellow-gold,
no mirrors, one window
a view of red maple.
Where I spend
hours writing in surplus
of silence and snack on
radishy roots of my craving––
lifted last night
from a moon-lit lawn.
Now late afternoon
this hot branch burns
into my window––fierce Maple,
to you, I confess
I do not want to go unpaired.
From the smash––
scarlet leaves at his feet––
he calls up my first name
to my window Hello? are you
working? Yes, I’m in a rough
Imagine––all of the fallen
strands of my hair over years
roped into stairs.
Most of these guys have money. They’re slumped over in the sand, pale and pot-bellied. They run their own companies, hire and fire with a fingersnap. They extort money, commit adultery, beat their wives and children, maybe even murder them. But out here in the sun at the ocean’s edge they are like the cadavers I used to dissect in medical school. I used to think in the end we’re all the same. Now I know we’re all the same right from the start, except of course for Mozart Einstein Dante Shakespeare Leonardo Monet Cleopatra and Warren Estabrook, my great-great grandfather, who invented the sump pump. And Joan of Arc. So what’s the point? I’m not sure. I’m really not sure.
Trying to find her to ask her a question
about iPads or cellphones
or something (not sure anymore)
found her in the bedroom
as she was changing to meet
her girlfriends for coffee
so I asked my question
just as she unhooked her bra
dropped it nonchalantly on the bed
then leaned her topless self
up against the doorjamb and answered me
I said thank you Honey turned and walked away
having no idea what she just said.
Some people become parents through adoption,
others, by not wearing a condom.
Some step into it, bringing children of their own.
Some, like you, enter the challenge green,
and partway through the game.
The day I knew you were becoming a father
wasn’t the day you taught our youngest to ride a bike,
or held our son close for the first time.
It was while we were new,
their biological father now in a box,
a child now on your lap, at my kitchen table,
when for the first time, without hesitation,
or a syllable missed in your sentence,
you leaned forward around the girl,
and with one hand slid the full milk glass
12 inches to the side, out of the way of her
enthusiasms, and, in so doing, awakened mine.
DRAMATIC SUNSETS MAY RESULT FROM MT. ST. HELENS ERUPTION
The Christian Science Monitor, 20 May, 1980
There’s a version of me smokes cigars
in a college room – wears a cravat
in paisley pattern – green or turquoise –
listens to baroque guitar
and watches while the setting sun
in the winter sky paints long white clouds
in mother-of-pearl – and wants to own it – all.
Krista Genevieve Farris
YOU CAN TELL
I jazz the jumbled up fractions of being spent on a
dime’s edge, bumpity-bump, a stroke away from the
smooth fearless face, unreal unwrinkled unwinking frozen mug,
Sitting, like a tip, near a thick walled mug
from a comfort called “The Nook”
a tea’s steamy whisper that radiates the snazzy sip of mint
a zippy tea that leaves as it settles faint wisdom,
prognosticates on a porch that’s used sometimes-
not often, because of traffic- not the foot kind that kindly nods-
but zooming zam jam slams of vehicles that blow halitosis-
grit that sleeps in pores conceals slickness, dulls sheen
makes the placid dime mound face
OF MARGARET WISE BROWN:
Little one as I rock you to sleep
you do not yet know your world.
Your room is blue, not green—
no telephone, red balloon,
or picture of a cow jumping over the moon,
no kittens or mittens, no bears, young mouse.
You have a comb and a brush, a clock, a doll house
and your Grandmother rocking you hush.
You do not know of Margaret.
I will tell you now and I will tell you later.
You will not understand me now.
Will you understand me later?
Beautiful, green-eyed, blonde-haired vixen,
extravagant, eccentric lover of King Juan Carlos,
a John D. Rockefeller nephew,
Ms. Michael Strange, ex-wife of John Barrymore,
Little one, do not kick your leg up in the air
when your doctors told you no,
clotting your leg and stopping your heart.
Do not give your inheritance to a wastrel.
Instead write 100 picture books
with melodies you can whistle.
Goodnight foolish choices
Oh, you think I write
of Emily, Charlotte, and Anne,
tragic young deaths,
lives snuffed out
caring for neglectful father Patrick,
wastrel brother Branwell.
No, I tell of older sisters
with forgotten names,
Maria and Elizabeth, who died
at Cowan Bridge School
from hunger and cold.
Patrick spirited the surviving sisters home
to create Jane Eyre, Heathcliff, Agnes Gray,
and assorted poems by fake male authors.
History has a way of raveling.
Ah, but that unraveling leaves life
full of mystery and grief.
This is for you, Maria and Elizabeth.
What might you have penned
had Patrick repented sooner?
AS LISTED IN HIS BROTHER’S GENEALOGY
Every darkened hour of every night, Ghost rises up the old factory wall and spins so fast he shreds himself. His body, face down in the culvert below the grate, displays an operation scar on the left side of his back, caused by the hand-grenade shrapnel that hit him as he turned to give the orders, “Take cover!” The worn soles of his combat boots show the level of his desire to do what he wanted, when he wanted, after the medical discharge. The slash across his throat made him Ghost. He had stopped to help a young woman who sat on the sidewalk beside the grate, her head down as she cried. Ghost’s last sight, her blue eyes as she looked up to see her pimp’s knife drip blood. Ghost’s last sound, the screech of the grate as they opened it to dump him in. His last taste, stagnant water as he clunked to the bottom of the pipe. Tonight, people who stroll the pavement ignore Ghost as he begins again to spin above a grate outside a long-dead factory’s wall.
FIRST TRAIN RIDE
“Daddy, the trees are moving!
Wait, trees don’t move.”
The three-year-old girl
who didn’t stop talking
for three hours, all the way
RULES OF THE ROAD
Don’t oil your hair before you start out,
unless you plan to start a garden up there.
In winter, abstain from alcohol. It plays tricks,
pretends to keep you warm then freezes
you lickety-split. If it’s not cold, be generous,
pass your bottle around. Don’t smoke
your pipe inside the coach, and know
which is the leeward side before you spit
so you don’t get it back in your face. Don’t
fire your gun out the window. Respect
your neighbor by not swearing, sleeping
on their shoulder, or discussing religion
or politics or all the sites along the road
where people have been murdered.
If the horses run away, stay seated.
Your chances are better than if you jump.
* Adapted from the Omaha Herald (Nebraska), 1867
OAK AND BARLEY
Daring, reliable shaman, Väinämöinen, eternal poet, spawned
by sea-foam and wind, growing and aging but trapped unborn
and bored for 700 years (or maybe only 30), never seeing sun
or moon, breaks free into the waves at last, emerges alone
from bleak inner life to a treeless land in bleaker outer world.
His first desire (why wait so many years)—trees: willow, pine,
juniper, fir, larch, rowan, birch, alder, spruce, chokecherry,
oak, but oak won’t sprout in misty meadow, needs ashes from
burnt grasses sown with salt, needs extra care from magic leaf.
The oak tree grows and thrives, grows too tall, shears the air,
shuts out moon and sun, its voice, the wind through leaves, too
loud, and Väinämöinen worries (even at his age), calls on his
mother, daughter of creation, to send him aid.
A man arises from the deep, just inches tall, dressed all in
copper with copper ax, and Väinämöinen wonders how one so
small could hew the oak, but tiny sea chap becomes a giant—
one step to shore, a second to turf, a third to the oak—and with
three strokes of his ax fells the tree, frees sun and moon
(he disappears, but he’ll help in a later tale).
Sacred oak leaves gifts—branches for good fortune, crown
tips for a magic touch, sprays of leaves for faithful love—
the other trees grow (little do they know what is to come),
grass and berries, flowers grow, but barley doesn’t sprout.
Seeds and kernels in the sea sand, Väinämöinen saves them,
scatters more seeds in a field, until that vocal songbird,
titmouse, warns they still won’t grow unless he clears and
burns the land (why would a bird wish away trees), so he
spares a single birch for birds to rest, become part of its song.
Grateful eagle conjures flames, from ashes barley grows,
rustles in spring rain, silver-breasted cuckoo comes to call,
morning, noon and evening, from the birch, exults for life,
for riches blooming, and in less than no time (as stories go),
Väinämöinen, child-man of water, with fire has rushed
his world into a farming age.
ON APRIL 13, 1972
Richard Nickel, photographer,
died trying to save
the architecture of Chicago,
the Sullivans & Adlers,
from the wrecking balls
of politicians who owned unions
& the hatred of the people
for anything old.
it was a brutal irony
to many people—
an opportunity for pity—
when the Stock Exchange
collapsed, crushed him,
as if that building finally
accepted being hated, accepted
its hatred of the pity that goes
undistinguished from love.
those buildings, snubbed & loathed—
beautiful things, but old
like Spenser & Milton & Brontë…
Parmigianino, Carracci, Il Sodoma…
Purcell, Sibelius, Hayden, &c.—
know in the heart
of their bricks & steel beams
it’s getting hard to tell
what is love & what’s pity these days;
hard to deny that
when a man does not kill
the thing he loves,
the thing he loves must kill him.
do not dare call it “ingratitude”:
it took 28 days
to find Nickel’s body.
Do I want breakfast? Was I just pacing, or did I walk in here for raisins? They were forgotten, as the flour was forgotten. Pecans on the pantry shelves. I feel strange. Maybe I’d have more energy if I could hike a canyon trail in the shadow of fluttering leaves, but I don’t have the energy. Breezes shake the puddle, rewording every line it quotes. A robin chirps in the serviceberry bush, repeating three slurred notes. Sleep, my child, and fever all through the night. That line’s not right. Skunks in the yard. I say I flee them in terror, and people don’t see it’s half a joke. No offense in the world, to themselves or to us. C. S. Lewis didn’t know how right he was—Original Sin is shit. Have to remember that. Have to lie down and see if I can get to sleep. The room is gray as underwater. My head is too far from my shoulders, the ceiling has the wrong dimensions. My phone’s flashes make faint halos on it. Dim reflections and diminuendos… R’lyeh! R’lyeh! A thousand deaths were not enough for R’lyeh! I can’t think of how to use it if I keep repeating it in my high-pressure head as I’m pacing about the room again. Good thing no one’s here thinking they’re taking care of me. I have everything I need. Soon I’ll find my raisins.
THE BLUEBIRD’S WARNING
Blue wholly, preciously,
It chirped, “Don’t try the key
To one room. It appears
Deeper than sky, but shears
Aren’t more flat.” With that trade
I’m freed, I can evade
The sun that makes a dust,
The brothers I must trust.
Mr. President, will you sit
shiva for these strangers?
Will you fill seven days
with tears? Will Kaddish cling
to your tongue like blood
and hair to a car bumper?
If I tell you hate is a festering sore
on the heart, can you calculate
the amount of pus a body will hold
before it bursts with poison?
If I say “Holocaust,” can you smell
the ovens’ stench and convince me
a serpent of torches is not heat enough?
If I say “fascist,” can you convince me
that all fists are created equal,
that healing is an impartial act,
or that history will hear the screams on many sides?
“Palm, drunken father behind a wrinkled newspaper”
At some point, he drops the headlines
of scars and wrinkled box scores,
amputates himself from the tired
armchair, stretches each finger. Today,
he convinces himself, will be different.
He mounts the stairs to the bedrooms
where his children sleep, tucked
against the darkness. He kisses
what’s left of them goodnight,
those parts that still call him
Daddy and long to hug him.
He slopes out into the brutal
wrist of the evening, the door
latching its cuff behind him.
The freeze-dried percolations in the church
basement are barely warm
enough to make him stop
shivering, let alone remember
that he is powerless. Cheap
jugs of port whisper confessions
to him from the sacristy. He can feel
the breast of glass against him,
its body cradled within his body.
I will find my wife’s hip
beneath the lace hem of her
pajamas. She will roll
into the caress that says
Hello. My name is…
THIS HOUSE IS NOT FOR SALE
This House is not for sale to the highest bidder
It will not be shaken off its foundation by intimidation
It not falter in its responsibilities to the health of all its citizens
It will not forsake its fallen nor those who have served with honor
This House will not cater to cowards who hide behind conspiracies
It will hold to account all claims of fraudulence
This House will never fly a flag devoted to a single man—
It will never offer protection to insurgents masquerading as patriots
This House is tired of stepping on the poor to pander to the wealthy
It will not cower to those who incite violence for their own profit
It will fight the outbreak with pragmatic science and direct action
It will no longer blame the hungry, but will offer a plate and a seat at the table
ON THE EUTHANASIA OF DOGS
Last night I dreamed a mechanical dog—
It could bark, beg, curl up in my lap,
do everything that you guys did
but die, and all we’d be out ever
would be just parts and labor
when it broke—it’d never
break our hearts. The part I
really hate about the real
is how all life leaked out
of your bright, glad-to-see-us eyes,
inevitable as gravity that pulls
the bounce right out of every
playful ball. What’s worse,
my funny, furry family, who
loaned us laughs over the years
but called all debt due at the end
in one lump sum of grief,
your days that taught mortality
were seven times as brief.
IN THE BEGINNING
The curse is similar to the creation.
Events repeat. The action builds,
culminating in a strange cycle of life,
On the first day there is bloating.
On the second day there is blood.
On the third day there are mood swings.
On the fourth day there is blood.
On the fifth day there are cramps.
On the sixth day there is blood.
Always, the promise of pain.
The seventh day is set aside as a day
of bingeing. But grease and caffeine
only make it worse, another punishment
for eating what we shouldn’t have.
POSTCARD TO NEWGRANGE
It’s raining here –
it probably was when you were.
Your past seems near –
someone found your beads –
the same sun shines – or not.
We still plants seeds.
We still like fire – a lot.
I hope you’re well.
Dead, I know, but dry
with visitors pell-mell
and a little view of sky.
Please enjoy this letter.
Writing will be sent
with Christ, for worse or better.
Much love from your descendent.
Lord of Hosts
You are beside me as I leap in a droplet
You save me from Soap
Let me land on a friendly face
Dance with me in the land of Lung
We praise You for this perfect world
and You protect us in the distancing desert
our replications are at your command
“good teeth” she says first
trowel tickling where my tongue was
no fillings, no artefacts
so my bones go in a box to a lab
where someone notes down:
early twenty-first century
protein sources mainly plants
water from chalk – Chilterns? – and Wales
“they piped it” someone reminds her
“and added fluoride – look at those teeth!”
A FAMILY HOME
Nobody makes haste
to Eastwood. Solid brick:
steady rows climb over hills
striped with streets and coal.
Homes echo the tap hammer tap,
the foreman’s shout,
and in every shaft of sunlight, dust.
You can uncover the cobbles,
rub out the satellite dish:
hear carts clatter past as
round the corner Lawrence grows
throbbing teenage gristle.
The miners need meat
but it’s mainly bread for littles
who chew with tough hunger
which is not allowed
in the front parlour.
They go to evening classes.
They set out up the slow road:
five generations to a PhD.
A nurse says she is resigned.
She embraces triage
among the unlucky,
the heedless, and the doomed.
We need nurses as angels,
haloes and heroes and wings.
Wingless nurses are terrifying.
I jangle the medallion in my pocket.
It’s never brought me the luck I anticipated
when it first came into my possession.
But I can’t bring myself to toss it out.
Who knows? No luck at all may be
the best that it can wangle for me.
Throw it away and my luck could turn out
every shade of bad.
So that’s the sound you hear.
With a constant clang, I’m convincing myself
that my life is one long mediocrity
but it could be a lot worse.
Like the way you fiddle with that purse latch.
Maybe that’s your talisman. Maybe we’re the result.
I’ll jangle. You fiddle.
This may not be much but it gets no better.
BRIGHT RED TOENAILS
I went down
to the river where
a woman’s bright red toenails
were being pulled out of the water
by two men in blue overalls
while mindless fishermen
and a siren whirred in the distance –
well past equinox,
some of us drowning in debt,
but this poor soul –
the threads of her dress emerging now –
a different kind of payback –
chest, flopping arms –
but my eyes looked elsewhere,
when it came to her face,
turned away like a township,
felt as cold
as where she last was living.
I stare at my friend’s old photo
of me, our last high school days
on a creaking swing.
My back parallel with the ground,
baby blue high tops pointed
at the sky, shouting joy.
That chain-slack moment
before gravity and inertia,
and everything else.
HALF TEASPOON GHOST
I start small, slide a pot holder under my steaming electric iron.
On its left side, the iron huffs steam toward the chair next to it,
all inside a purple chalk circle. I chant old words, use salad tongs
to place a fossilized alligator’s tooth on chuffing metal.
Everything placed just so inside the circle, except me of course.
A few bars sound from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” A sudden smell
of her cinnamon-nutmeg tea. Laura forms on the chair in the circle.
She gathers steam and white fog. Her endearing, oversized glasses
with a small side curtain of brown hair on her left, as ever.
She looks puzzled. Stares for long moments. I’ve aged.
She rears back in the chair, shrill-screams anger and presses
the back of her left hand to the hot iron, again.
Ghost flesh bubbles, just as on the day I broke up with her
at college. I shout, “Let the pain go” as my fingers
scrape furrows in my worried scalp, “We were reckless
nineteens. I tried to do right, but saw no healthy path,
found no good words.” Her ghost leans in. She cocks
her head to her left, tilting the edge of her glasses down.
Her shoulders sag. My electric iron sighs to silence, its light
dies despite still being plugged in. She gives a small, hurt smile,
like when she told stories of the cruel Tulsa rich boy she had after me.
I step inside the chalk circle, electric anxious-uncertain. She brightens,
touches my right cheek once, same as ever. With an expression
close to last kiss at the door before her dorm closes, she disintegrates.
The smell of her tea lingers. I pocket her old alligator’s tooth,
and clean up my mess, feel a half teaspoon of hope lighter.
Woman is a slot machine.
The man inserts his coin in the slot.
If it is well-timed, a child comes out.
This is the man’s view.
No, woman is a tree.
Each month she produces a red flower.
If no insect fertilises it, the flower falls.
Even if fertilised, a fruit may start to form,
sometimes so early that the tree never knew it was developing.
Sometimes the fruit grows almost to maturity
These are natural events in the life of the tree.
In times of drought or fire or misadventure, the tree lets
the fruit fall;
the tree may want to fruit, but
the tree’s own life is more important.
And if the fruit matures, even then it is uncertain
whether it can be safely picked and delivered,
or will fall
This is the tree’s life.
This is the woman’s view.
This is part of her, of her process,
from hundreds of flowers which are part of her
through several mischances which are part of her
to some rare fruit which is part of her.
The insect which merely fertilises a flower
does not understand the tree.
Let men opine on insect tasks, not trees.
Damian Ward Hey
I CAN NO LONGER SAY THE MOON SHEDS TEARS
I can no longer say the moon sheds tears;
and, if I did, you might not listen.
Yesterday was lyric’s age –
today, nobody sing of beauty.
Last week, they lauded their own youth,
condemned the gray-beard for his bald spot,
blinked and, overnight, turned gray,
applying themselves to new aesthetics.
A month ago, I was a back-door man;
snuck in, between the sheets, at moonlight.
Neon stands for moonlight, now,
and poetry snarls in the alley.
And every different day is much the same –
the poet finds another dwelling,
screws a different patron pooch,
abandons the pup behind the diner.
But if, tonight, I say the moon sheds tears –
and if you hear me when I say it,
can’t we make one more attempt
to rescue tomorrow’s starving mongrel?
WHEN AUTUMN FIRST LAID BARE ITS BONES
When Autumn first laid bare its bones,
drove the fattened animal to its hole,
shook birdsong from the tree
and drew shadow from the hard earth,
our days were fast,
our nights set to the burning wood,
our lungs full of myth,
our blood made warm
by a different fire,
where we all once gathered.
It seems to me
there are too many fires, now,
in this new Autumn of our isolation,
and much less warmth as Winter looms.
Soon, we’ll have no use for flame
except to burn through day,
no use for time
except to count our onward pulse,
no use for Autumn,
except to hope for Spring’s clean breath.
BEYOND THE SUNSET
I was thinking
about that one time
you picked me up
at the train station
and stared at me dreamily
the whole drive home.
I’d been gone for three days,
your soft eyes, genuine smile,
made it seem like
I’d come home from the war
and not Atlanta.
Thirty varied years
but I still remember
your look, your demeanor,
your eyes lit me
like a Klieg light,
you held my hand
with the strength
I felt loved in a way
I didn’t know existed,
elevated to a pedestal
I never could have climbed
on my own.
The glow kept me warm,
the heat sparked nerves under my skin
and I rode my high horse
into the desert
the long hair of my youth
flowing behind me
a soft acoustic guitar
playing me off
beyond the sunset.
The truck wasn’t there
I remember looking to mom
she tried to look positive
I turned back to the window
mom was on the phone now
“Where is he?” I heard her ask
I stared at the spot where his truck should have been by now
mom hung up the phone
I looked at her
her face was different
I went to my room
the truck never came back
new Saturday mornings
the same as every other day
In the end, he returned to his childhood home
once graced with lush rose and plum perfume,
yet crippled by smoggy San Gabriel Valley air.
Summer was always a burden,
a desert-blasted life
inhospitable to coolness’ attempts
to gain entry into the valley.
It’s horrible to be back in the old bedroom
recalling his asthmatic struggles to catch air,
hours spent wall-propped studying images
of tumbleweeds and thorny cacti
strewn on faded wallpaper.
Wanting to be elsewhere,
he would have welcomed anywhere
except there in the dark begging
for relief from the rock-enshrined Madonna
posed forever in backyard prayer.
David Harrison Horton
MODEL ANSWER (ANIMALS)
I finally got my VPN to work, and I asked my girlfriend what she
wanted to look at. She asked if we could see porn. I said, of course.
She asked if we could watch a Tijuana donkey show. How the hell
did she hear about that, I probed. Two and a Half Men. You see,
the internet is evil, clearly. The government should make a policy
to track whatever people read and see. Otherwise, first it’s a
donkey show, then she’ll strap some IEDs to her underpants. It’s a
clear line from one to the other. This is why I wish the internet
never had been invented.
The new atomic clock will take 14 billion years
to gain or lose one second, using oscillations of atoms
as a pendulum. I think of a tiny swing set in a teardrop.
This clock can also be used to detect dark matter,
I’ve been reading, but this seems strange to me
since it means finding what can’t be seen.
We took 13 years to decide we couldn’t live together,
but gravity keeps us near enough that we may collide.
Each morning I see the sun drift farther north, until
it’s too heavy to lift itself over the horizon by the time
I arrive at work. I sit in the half-dark watching snowflakes
on the windshield forming random designs, and I think
of the time we stayed out late by the campfire
watching ashes swirl into the night. We said one day
we would learn all the constellations, which barely change.
One day they might name all the stars. Out in space,
humans are tiny specks whirling in capsules
that could soon alight on the surface of Mars.
When I return home after work the house is dark.
I have to feel along the wall to turn on the light.
Some nights it takes a whole hour just to go up the stairs.
Oh, gorgeous, of course the demons
found you on the road less traveled.
The clichés of gig life have followed you
to this bar where a bad hip and bad credit
outpace your backbeats and rim shots.
Your beret, backward with a jazzy tilt,
no longer rests upon Dionysian curls
or adds a jaunt to your wink. Aged beyond
your peers, you lean against the wall
and try to count the days, joints, beers
or blues since the last time nothing hurt.
You learned long ago there’s no
salvation in placing blame. Now,
atonement comes just four nights a week,
on the worn-out stool behind the drum set,
the battered heads thinned, transparent
as you are. Now, there is only sleep
or numbness—and the thrashing beat that
pulsates through the crowd and repeats,
a hundred hearts pumping life into yours.
Nancy Byrne Iannucci
as we are every night,
together but not together,
speaking but not speaking.
the coffee table is decorated
with its usual cans of Lizard King,
some roll across the living room.
the cats chase them.
he can shock me sometimes
without being shocking.
instead of listening to Peter Schiff
or Ben Shapiro rattle on
about the State of the Union,
he puts on Dusty Springfield’s
Some of your Lovin’.
Look of Love he selects next.
“thissss one, thisss one’sss for you.”
words slur and surge as breathless
as the ocean slaps Big Sur.
I do want to slap him sometimes
but not now. he’s making me rethink things,
rethink him & slamming doors.
he’s humming to The Doors: I look at you.
I look at him and see anger & kindness
in his blood-shot eyes- tonight, its kindness.
“It’s Christmas!” he says with a smile.
“pass Nat King Cole,”
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.
there is something in his voice
that makes me believe, believe
everything will be different.
Edward Hyde will stay hidden.
After all, isn’t it Christmas,
a time to believe, believe
all your wildest wishes
will come true?
M. A. Istvan Jr.
The destruction of habitability
for us and many others – was it
quickened by our need
expected of the heaven
we stopped believing in,
or by our denigration
of this place
that is shit
compared to the heaven
we never really stopped
that a wave breaks only
when it gets ahead of itself
your secondary purpose
(before these table eyes)
of getting him
to slow down—a wave,
after all, gets ahead of itself
only when sea floor
is too shallow, a fact
unchosen by it.
ONE CHILDLESS MAY
The May my husband got his motorcycle,
that it rained almost every day, stopped
to clearing and sunshine, then rained again.
The May that spring arrived late, that days were terribly cold,
a May of downpours and green grass and a lying kind of sunshine.
The May I was acutely aware of not being a mother,
felt it like a wind blowing through all my open windows.
The May my daughter existed, but I didn’t know it,
and she wasn’t even close to being mine.
The May my husband went out on his bike
and I felt terribly alone. Washing dishes couldn’t solve it.
The May I drove around with an empty carseat,
adoption agency ready. Emergency numbers taped to phones,
safety plugs in the outlets—I had to remove them all the time.
(I had a wound, I thought I would split in two.)
The May that I got a speeding ticket on the highway.
The May the police officer glanced at my empty carseat,
wrote my ticket, and noted my failings.
(I was acutely aware.)
The May we drove to a concert outside the city
and we did not need a babysitter. The May
I was no longer comforted by this. The May
our house grew larger, emptier, neater by the hour.
The May there was so much wrong and no one noticed,
the May there was so much I couldn’t say,
cries for help in housewife desperation:
cooked meals, loaded dishwashers, organized utensil drawers.
The May of cold and rain, of bright green grass that needed to be mowed
every other day. I remember that feeling, the lingering of it
forever like the fumes leftover from cooking, still, even now.
O ancient verse of Avon’s bardic day
your backward syntax and ecstatic speech
do not delight my heart or help me say
I love thee to the depths my soul can reach.
Past Emerson and Yeats you journey still
to test the mettle of the educated scribe
who cannot stand against your force of will
and it is you who have the final gibe.
I wish you nothing good. What can I find
to loose my pen from cobwebs of the past
and plumb the depths of newer heart and mind
for ways of ending you forever and at last?
Your time will come to reach the final stage
and scarce be seen upon the poet’s page.
Hello, old friend! I thought you
died a thousand married years ago.
How nice of you to visit me today!
And we can be alone or ask a third
if you prefer. I’m so relieved to know
you’re doing well again.
MY MOTHER EATING ONION DIP
Unroll a reverie.
Mother and daughter
eating onion dip,
to park money offshore.
A mother’s job
is teach her children
to secure funding,
to cut the dead weight.
Family is what matters,
my mother says,
handles your taxes.
We clink our glasses,
and the ice rattles.
Go ahead, she says,
the bowl of chips towards me.
I select a large, perfectly oval potato chip
and lean deep
over the dip.
I feel her pride on me
SHADOW OF THE WIFE
Do you ever think about Ronald Reagan,
my husband asks me one morning.
I think of his wife, her hair fixed
as her loyalty, her unhappiness
casting a shadow from her history.
I think of my own hair. Lately I’ve been proud
of my lawless curls, the years it took
to unstraighten myself.
I can never get the comb through
in the back. It’s forever tangled there,
my pride, my desire, my selfishness,
my shame. I run my finger there, measuring.
No, I never think of Ronald Reagan,
I lie to my husband.
STILL LIFE NO. 1, CHERRY TOMATOES IN SINGING BOWL
Worms crawl out of their bins, dry up
on the floor; a north door opens,
but we know it closed years ago.
Max wanted a worm bin; I only missed
my compost when I was in England.
I accumulate grievances, food scraps,
deceased worms, yet honor her in each
ritual. Every time I see the number two,
I remember how I nearly got there,
and counted us in the divide. Two is lucky
if there are two of them. Otherwise, not.
I can only type as fast as a finger runs.
I can only run as far as an ankle bone.
Tomatoes taste better in my black Dickies pocket.
Tomatoes taste better when the deer didn’t eat
them. They say you can feed worms dust bunnies,
human hair, and anything natural that is not an onion
or garlic. I am home today because my spent bones
let me. It’s a kind of recovery, the nothing I do.
How was I to know when
I entered you that first time,
you would become ‘home’.
No question intended.
I’d wandered feral, trying
doors with skeleton keys,
prying window sashes.
People, like bears, are wary,
expect trouble, invest in security
but you, you were wide open
to penetration, mine at least.
When I tell it, you had been waiting
for my rude intrusion but that just
adds emotive light and sound.
Yours is a simple home/nook
in the forest but when within
I don’t want to be anywhere else.
We eat then play bear games.
After gorging myself on your
tasty porridge, I could have run;
you could have ejected me
but that’s some other story.
You and I simply settled,
contented, into a lazy update
of an old evolving tale.
Used to ride on the back of shopping carts,
bottom of sneakers worn from braking,
our laughter the most damning evidence
of loitering- mall security knew
us by name. Your hair always ponytailed,
until you sneaked that bottle of wine,
a cheap one with a screw off top.
The next day your mother chased us
with a broom, called us “lazy maggots,”
you had to sleep in your tree-house that night.
Of course, none of this is true,
I barely ever left my room in high school,
too scared of the sound of my own voice,
and knowing my first kiss would only taste of spit.
my friend’s mother wasn’t married to his father
yet i never felt bad for him
because he always had a lot of action figures
then when i had a son
i knew what all those extra gi joes meant
knew somewhere there was a love
split in two
haven’t talked to my friend in over twenty years
and statistics would likely say he’s probably on his second
or third wife
with a kid who has a box
full of broken plastic men
but i hope the stats are wrong
THE CROW’S HABIT — G. LEONARD/M. LEONARD
(photo credit: Gerald Leonard)
THE CROW’S HABIT
The crow’s habit is to land at twilight
drink stale Smithwick, nasty Pub stuff.
Today he finds an abandoned
cup, takes a sip of cocoa, creamy smooth,
like his sleek black feathers.
No waiter in sight, no need to stop.
He won’t depart until his cup glows
like the golden slice above.
MME. MATISSE IN A JAPANESE ROBE
What is this grey blue
silk draped longer
than my feet?
If I scowl, two snakes sneak
my perfect oval face
hiss at Henri
The market closes at midi
I need two ripe
apricots for dejeuner.
Must cater to all his needs.
Henri hides behind his canvas,
I peel off slimy silk, escape
into blue sunny air
Michael H. Levin
THEN THERE’S THE MOMENT
when the blade snicks your rib
the plane goes into a dive
your wrist severs the window
an eighteen-wheeler hurtles
towards your windshield
you see there’s no more to add
that this, right now
is the summing up.
Violence is as American as cherry pie. – H. Rap Brown, July 1968
Hang Mike Pence! – Capitol Terrace, 6 Jan. 2021
The mind of the mob
is blank. Its swarms no
longer are persons.
It surges in waves
of gleeful hate
screamed belief a tide
flooding flats in snarls
bayed anthems hands clenched
or clawed mouths twisted
in rage, snaking long arms
like the beast of Norse nightmares
slashing at innards
thrusting towards eyes.
Whatever blocks it is heaved
splintered stomped to dust
it hears only forward,
drunk on momentum
certain of right to crush
all that resists.
wears the flag now
with an unctuous
pride, might pause on
this venomous roar
these drumbeating urges
to rend and destroy.
Who thinks we are chosen
might factor those in.
Who thinks it convenient
to slide back that gate
will meet a dark hunger
that circles and waits.
SNAPS FROM THE WAR
a woman’s tear falls quiet to the road
a young girl cries out and runs away
shots are fired then there is silence
a man weeps as he falls to his knees
guards guide a man to a windowless van
a woman who has no more tears falters
a girl lies unmoving held by a woman
a car and a van drive toward the city
My love, tell me again about that worm
in Dune; how Richard, King of England, Lord
of Cyprus, royally dicked them over, sword
in hand (no play on words here, promise). Come.
My darling, show me what that is, there (there),
your armour slipped when you lay down, a bit,
I saw a secret underneath, was it
much softer than that steel you tend to wear?
Look up at me. I’ll tell you how your face
fits perfectly and how your eyes somehow,
in this half-light, are far more blue, far more,
and with your head between my fingers, trace
your cheekbones. Love, you shiver softly now.
Love, you can’t be cold. You melted, I saw.
WOULD YOU RATHER?
Would you rather… live as a crustacean or exist in perpetual gestation?
… fellatio a hummingbird or sunbath with a dragon’s turd?
… pluck your curly hairs one by one or exfoliate with a mammoth tongue?
… taste the rainbows and the stars or devour hearts from pickle jars?
… hold the sun between your lips or caress the moon with fingertips?
… seesaw with a zombie bride or frolic in the kraken’s tide?
… wear a dress of puppy tails or sleep on a bed of pig entrails?
… replace your skin with wool and tweed or fill your veins with honey mead?
Which would you rather?
DECEMBER 30, 2020
One last walk in the woods
before this year eases its grip.
The last miles in the last year
that held the last breaths of my first boy.
Two miles in, a trestle bridge,
mossy ties above the creek.
Three miles in, tubes of ice
squeezed out from the rocky hill,
Steep drop to the flowing water
on the other side of the trail.
Four miles to a wall, still green
with rhododendron, wooden bench,
slant of light.
The last mile marked
by the downhill watersong.
Release and movement—
late afternoon ice thawing,
tumbling over stones.
December’s last hours.
Sunset before the last full moon—the same moon
that lit the night all year.
The same water that has always
been moving down the hill
CANDLE IN THE WINDOW
If I leave a candle
in your old bedroom window,
could you see it there? Warm orange
glow cast on the soft blue tones
you left behind.
If I left a bowl on the wooden table
before I went to bed, would you
come and sit in the gray sighing nighttime
house. Leave the subtle smudge of your thumb
before I wake?
I was told that prayer was the way
to reach the heavens, but the heavens have been silent,
and I cannot hear your voice
no matter how still the swirling
Come to the light—
the last crumbs from dinner, the heat
I leave behind me when I rise.
Climb the stars. Begin my nightly
search for that lost trace of you.
Jennifer A. McGowan
This is where we do not need
a wall: where strawberries go to fuzz,
between the butter and the bread knife.
You are an adult stirring tea
but a child when you slurp it.
I drown in misophonia
I cannot wear earplugs all the time.
I cannot keep ring-fencing you—
the violent swearing, your perpetual shadow,
the threatened fist.
Stock by block walls build. Step by stair
red lines paint themselves down the middle of
The blood says Do Not Cross.
ON VILLANELLES, IN SUMMER
I’m not a villanellist. I just don’t “get” refrains.
Pentameter’s a friend, and iambs cause no fuss,
But in writing villanelles, my tears wash down like rain.
I’ve published books of poetry. There is not one stain
on my poetic reputation. But want to hear me cuss?
I’m not a fucking villanellist. I just don’t “get” refrains.
Sonnets, now, those I can do. Sonnets cause no pain,
and are actually quite easy. I write in cars, on’t bus,
but writing villanelles? My tears wash down like rain.
I’ve tried a triolet or two. Not good, in the main.
The scansion turns out forcèd. So as sure as we is us,
I’m not a villanellist. I just don’t “get” refrains.
Write a villanelle! They said. It can surely be no drain
on your copious mental talents. I’ve tried, and swear, vicious;
because in writing villanelles, my tears wash down like rain.
Please don’t ask me to write one. They weigh on me like chains.
My pen trips over, stumbles. I may sound to you callous,
but I’m not a villanellist. I just don’t “get” refrains.
In writing villanelles, all my tears fall down like rain.
THE DEATH IN OUR DAYS VERSUS THE LIFE IN OUR NIGHTS
Sex is mine, you mutter, as your
drooling tongue cavorts over my body,
your slithery voice a wet-noise weapon.
You snatch my breast in a pincer grip,
slap the receding nipple against yellow
enamel, promise to bite, bite, unless I squeal.
Filtered through the mocking sunrise, our
salt dry limbs lie still, divided, captured
in chalky funnels of light as dawn creeps
over our black-night antics.
We recoil amongst evidence, slink
into crumpled clothes, make daytime sounds;
boil kettles, rattle keys, our muzzled
consummation of hoarded
need, wounded touch, foggy love,
smeared on each breath-clouded window.
Patrick Jack Meacham
How do you know that you are reading this code correctly?
All rules come from the inside where you can’t proofread them.
You compare and try to match the message with the experience.
But is your definition the same as theirs?
Is your definition of definition the same?
Where are we going?
Are we there yet, daddy?
I’m hungry and I gotta pee.
Let’s do this again soon.
it’s that moment when meeting a Hannah
but you know she’s an Emily
the way her eyebrows peak in the middle
surprise like a gift wrapped in a purple bow
given on a Wednesday three months before her birthday
freckles so many they become one
definitely an Emily you can tell
by the way she tucks her hair behind one ear
it just can’t be pepperoni Gouda saltines
it just can’t be forty years of never hearing this
it just cannot be wasted on the deli section
it’s too lovely to fit in its box
too big its edges swell they scrape
the moment I realize no hands attached
yanking my calf and the laughter rolls and swirls
maybe a tantric sex toy or ancient torture device
maybe a rare flower that only blooms once a year
for three days each petal a different shade of pink
until the last petal blood red
it just can’t be pastrami
I watched him decline daily
the hair came out in clumps
one-seventy to one-twenty
in just a few months
My dad could kick
your dad’s ass
that was hard to admit
that was important
I was only ten
EAT MORE VENISON?
Elizabethan deer parks still endear,
As long as nightingales are heard to trill,
Though if the songbirds start to disappear,
Meat eaters soon are urged: Take more deer kill!
Old hunters claim: “We must do what we can.
Reducing herds means does must fill game bags”—
Except all does prefer another plan,
Vasectomies performed on many stags!
Escaping buckshot would not be a dream:
No hunters would be asked to load their guns
If snipping tubes and stitching up a seam
Stopped stags from saddling does with surplus sons …
Of venison, must diners face a glut?
Not if they order chops before the rut!
SOAKY OR CRUNCHY?
Since childhood, I’ve loved soggy Weetabix:
One hour of soaking made it right for me,
And though I could not stomach politics,
Kids often are as they’ll turn out to be …
Your Weetabix was never soft to munch:
Once you had wet it, you ate right away,
Replenishing your stomach with a crunch—
Could you have then imagined you today? …
Remember Adler, Freud and all that jazz
Upholding how we’re shaped by early years?
Now I’m a soppy liberal, whereas
Conservative hard-liners are your peers …
How breakfast augurs, politics align:
You crunched your Weetabix, I deep-soaked mine!
TROTSKY IN MEXICO
He wonders where the heat
sitting in the garden
with his shirt off,
stroking his beard
and writing manifestoes
Some days he meets Frida—
removing her skirt
and elaborate underwear.
Drinking vodka together,
he writes down
lines of Russian poetry
she says she will include
in her paintings
(but never does).
When the man with the axe
arrives, he greets him warmly,
preparing soup and avocado
for lunch, then escapes
seconds before the blade falls,
instead hitting Frida’s
painting of wild birds
locked inside a cactus.
A few weeks later,
a Russian speaking tailor
named Lev Davidovich
arrived in the Bronx
and opened a shop
on the corner of Tremont
and Third Avenues—
later hiring a Mexican
seamstress who paints
murals on the side
of abandoned buildings
strewn with slogans
in Russian and Spanish.
At night, they sit and smoke
together on the fire escape
drinking vodka and cold
bottles of American beer—
the revolution pausing
between two world wars,
away from Koba’s reach
and the pyramid’s gaze.
OUR FIRST ROAD TRIP
A BMW cuts me off
near an off ramp to the interstate
and I yell at the driver,
“you stupid moron,
fools like YOU
should be run off the road.”
My girlfriend looks at me
with an expression that says,
Who is this stranger
I’ve dated for almost a year?
She pleads, “please turn the car
around and take me back home.”
I cry, “We can work this out.”
She relents, “I think I still love you.”
We make it to our destination,
still friends, still lovers,
but the wheels have already
started to come off the car.
“THE WOMAN IN AN IMAGINARY PAINTING”
Those who watch the stars
know the Great Attractor
is being pulled by
something greater. So
it is with the woman
in the painting. She was
sitting in a kitchen
posed and being painted,
and she was walking
the far hills of her
childhood. Now the painting
has dried, yet in those hills
wind still moves the grasses.
S. M. Moore
THE FAN IS KILLING ME
The soap is on the floor.
And the toenails are near the grime,
in the tiles.
And there is the gutter with water going into it
and the water floods the pipes
and goes somewhere.
The light is sepia and warm,
and the paint; cracked.
And the fan hums,
and the sink drips.
And I watch it all unfold.
What a time it has been,
and what a time it will be tomorrow.
With a little less paint on the walls,
and the sink, still dripping,
the fan, still humming.
John David Muth
GREAT AUNT KATE’S UNSUCCESSFUL ACCIDENT
Kate was almost 40 in the late 1950’s,
pregnant with her third child.
The first was a boy,
who liked to shoot stray cats
with a homemade bow and arrow.
The second was a miscarriage at eight weeks.
She convinced herself
it would have been a boy.
The gender of the third
was not then known.
It was a mistake.
Three months before,
her husband Joe reached for her,
a night when he didn’t reek of beer
or groan from nightmares
about Kassarine Pass
or Omaha Beach
and she let her contempt subside
did not turn her head away
as she often did
even when the room was black.
Standing at the head of the stairs
laundry basket in hand
she readied herself for a tumble
that might be blamed on weak ankles
or a spell of vertigo
so common in women of the time
and hoped for that sensation
a warm flow between her legs,
the contents of a cracked honey pot
left out in the sun.
Six boys and six domestic dogs,
old Sheps, good boys, dogs from baskets,
leaving the Lane Saturday, for the woods,
and the boys got to the field, set camp,
the spuds from the shed, twigs and matches,
roasting peacefully, when a rabbit
white-bobbed rapidly across the field
and two dogs went after it, sheepdog Shep
and Streak, a greyhound lurcher cross,
running the rabbit down and ripping at it.
Boys and dogs gathered. The rabbit screamed
and they saw the bare heart pound in fear
and imminent death. Two boys gloried.
Two felt sick. Two blustered over the nausea.
But on the Sunday, telling it,
it was the boasters who held sway.
A. J. Ortega
PLEASE REMEMBER WHEN YOU DROWNED ME
for my favorite Chicana
The cheap plastic blinds
leave zebra stripes of light
on your back.
black and white
brown and tan.
you squirm when I put my lips on
the bumps of your spine
but, I trace
my finger along your
stretch marks, my personal little
the Rio Grande, Guadalupe,
Nueces, Frio, Colorado, and Bosque,
where the rapids were so fierce
I thought I would drown.
I hate my ____
I hate my ____
I hate my ____
to sleep on your breastbone or
to hold on to your butt for dear life until
the rivers wash
Sergio A. Ortiz
CELESTIAL CHORUS OF KISSES
I said goodbye and your lips confessed
a tenderness long forgotten.
The simplicity, magic
of your penetrating verbal phallus,
numbed my conscience.
I said goodbye with a kiss.
Would have kidnapped you
but knew you wouldn’t understand,
loneliness is a violent act of penitence.
to forget who
I had been.
Can still hear you
moaning. I confess
to a new caring
it’s not like stopping suddenly at a red light
it’s easing onto the brake, tap, tap
then rolling through the yellow light
and it’s not like locking yourself
outside in the cold, on purpose
you don’t wake up one morning
and decide to burn the house down
it’s more like a tree that gets worms
and dies slowly from within
or like the embers of a fire sending
sparks aloft that cease to be
like reading the last page of a book
you save to read again sometime
and that favorite tattered t-shirt, the one
you’ve always taken to the beach
also the baby pictures, the Christmas wreath, cat’s
grave in the backyard, neighbor’s house key on the hook
and half-burnt candles on the mantel
you might light one more time.
LITERARY TACO BELL IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK IT IS AND EXACTLY WHAT YOU THINK IT IS
for my son, Abdur-Rahmaan
When, exactly, did I start thinking I hate Taco Bell? “Hey there, mom… Mama! / Do you (think you) hate tacos? / This taco is yours.” I have mixed feelings about that message, and not just because it’s a terrible haiku. Who the hell knows? One the one hand, I will go ahead and try it just to say that I did. On the other hand, when my son tells me, “You won’t hate this taco,” I wonder if he’s subtly telling me that I should hate most tacos. For fun, he performs the classical parental con line, “Uh… mom, you might not like most tacos, but this Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco is delicious—try it!” What’s next, cheerfully singing, “Here comes the airplane!” before he starts reading a sonnet into my ears?
I wish I could be a child again, rapturous in the ocean, as you stand on the shore frantically waving your hands, urging me to come closer. Now I find myself loading boxes into your home, of all places, losing my last days in pill bottles and clumps of hair. While grateful that you welcome me back, I wish to close my eyes and dream of a girl who had no fear of riptides, the girl who could steal another length of the sea not yet swum. The tide came in and went out.
SEEKING GEN-X DUCHAMP, BRECHT, STRAVINSKY
They want to make art –
the poseurs, the self-possessed
dreaming of houses
and spouses, but reined in
as adjuncts or worse
their purses are empty
their verses are competent
still lifes and symphonies ripe
with the journeyman’s aptitude.
Where is the crash
of a minor chord sparking
a riot, the descending nude
that peels our eyeballs,
or lyric that puts the corrupt on a spit?
Too careful choices, no asses
unkissed, now everything’s sampled
collaged, everyone’s garnished
with college degrees.
They need to look down at their feet
and those muscular shoulders
streaked with their sneaker treads
let revolution flow up from toes.
We will find the Picasso
among them – the Rimbaud, the Ives –
they are out in the streets now,
taking a knee, dressed
in raw meat or firing
potshots at monsters.
a true cook is master of zazen
nearby pedestrians slow their pace
at her mantra of caramelizing onions
a bone broth simmers and time expands
gathers anger greed fear in its cloud
and surrenders them to the West Wind
after roasting vegetables
on low heat for hours for days
the true cook adds liquid to the pan
reduces the stock concentrates
hours become minutes
thus in the fullness of thyme
of rosemary a true cook bends
the fabric of space aromas
on the lam fill a house
a yard a neighborhood
draw children to table
with a gravity that renders
even grown men helpless
unable to rise
from their chairs
the true cook’s art
makes science feel like magic
she is up before dawn poised
cross-legged before the hearth
not to make a meal
but to forge a philosopher’s stone
a balm a cure-all perhaps
it won’t stay Death but it might
make the Reaper wish for a moment
he’d chosen some other career:
maître d’, high-end caterer…
If only your belly
was smaller, tighter.
If you hadn’t let yourself go.
We can turn the lights off or
I can take you from behind
You always look best
viewed from the rear.
Move forward a smidge,
so I can watch myself in the mirror.
Hold yourself in but relax.
This is supposed to be fun.
Why don’t you want me
like the girls in the porn films?
You aren’t trying hard enough
to please us, you gave up;
Why are you crying crocodile tears?
You’re not really upset, dear.
That you don’t keep my erection
hard, that’s your fault too.
If only you were slimmer
or wanted to let me rim you.
Why are you so frigid;
have you sewed your knees
Remember when you used
to enjoy making love?
Before I gave you a list
of the reasons you fail.
“1,2,3 RED LIGHT”
God the stop light,
the don’t, the you’ll be sorry if you do.
I wait for the light to change
while you say let’s get naked
behind the paint store
where no one goes after closing,
only a short drive. The signal
changes three times
and I don’t go until
someone honks. I head
to the paint store,
where we see green ferns
and green grass, the red sun
setting behind a yellow jalopy.
I am not too happy
about the boiling point of water.
It is not only
that it is one more thing to know:
the matter is that it has
All these years I have been able
to place a pot of cold water on the stove,
set loose the gas flame or electric burner,
and at some point,
at no particular point,
the water will be boiling.
I do not know how anyone
could decide that in one instant
the water is not boiling
yet in the next it is.
I do other things while I wait for water to boil.
I busy myself about the kitchen,
peel or clean, clean or peel,
chop, knead, salt, mince,
whatever is in the day’s plan.
At some point,
at no particular point,
unobserved and without measure,
the water will boil.
I then turn down the flame or electricity
to where enough is just enough.
Yet, at some point,
someone decided to work out
the whole affair of boiling contrasted
to not boiling:
to fix an instant and say
on this side there is no boiling,
yet on this side there is.
I imagine him or her bent cunningly forward,
with some instrument in hand
I could never fathom, yet
which stands in for a wicked thermometer,
a week unshaven and in need of a hair cut:
curled hideously over a clipboard, a number
two pencil throttled in his or her
eager and eerily clean fingers.
Who has the time for that?
And with no more thought than this,
the water that I put on the stove seemingly
only a jot of starved instants ago,
is without clue boiling.
PENTAGON CONCESSION STAND
The thing you need to know
about the number one
nuclear missile target
in the world,
the place where all manner
of single-issue maniacs
want to launch themselves
in a flash of random destruction,
where decisions are made
that send the nation’s wealth
to destroy the wealth of nations,
the center of the often pictured
from above five sided
nexus of importance,
the spot that evil imagines
as more evil,
the one thing you want to know
about the place at the naked center,
the wooden building left out in the open
surrounded by stone and metal and glass,
is that the hot dogs sold there are not bad –
yes, I have eaten better –
but the sodas cannot outdo
what you can get from a simple vending machine.
They did not intend
to mutilate the cattle.
They really did not know
what they were doing.
The whole idea of how
cattle work was, well,
alien to them. The animals
looked grotesque to these
visitors, but seemed to be
so numerous as to have
some importance. So they
took a few up and tried
to communicate with them,
but it turned, without meaning,
into mutilation. Though
that concept was, well,
alien. But they knew
something was not right and
after every attempt to get
it right, the put the cattle
back, agreed to try again.
Later, another cow,
Ramachandran M. A.
Didn’t I tell you
to sit down awhile
in my room
as the scorching summer
was everywhere in the plain
Didn’t I know
you came walking all the way
for a glass of water
In the corner of my room
birds took rest
in the shadow of a hibiscus
moved in the wind from uphills
Didn’t I tell you
to keep silent all the while
because the words
in me were long lost
Didn’t you know
with just one word
birds in the shadow
of the hibiscus would be lost
Didn’t you know
the red hibiscuses were flames
that soothed me
and they too would nest
with the birds in my room
The cats in the corner
were looking at you kindly
as the song of water
in the earthen pot
casting spells in their eyes
And with the light touch
of the moving shadow
of the hibiscus
the birds grew more silent
in the wind from uphills
Didn’t you know
those things would be lost forever
if a word would in any way hurt
the water in the earthen pot
NO TITLE, JUST JIVE
Wanted to see the light
from the studio of Larry Rivers.
Malcolm X was selling his street poems to a woman in black silk.
She laughed more than necessary, cigarette ashes on her dress, too,
& the drumbeats louder closer to the stage.
“A scene for murder,” Dennis Hopper shouted, tossing a bottle
of booze to Jackie Wilson who was weeping in the corner, while Clyde McPhatter arrived
singing & swinging like a lost cherry in the bottom of a Manhattan.
BIG PETE’S NIGHT OFF
Big Pete and I were sitting
at the whorehouse bar
tossing back beers
on his night off
when the on-duty
came up and said
One of the girls
is having trouble with a trick
and he won’t leave
he’s too big for me alone…
give me a hand?
so Pete followed him
down the hall
it was quiet
until I heard
Fuck You and Fuck You
and then came
one hell of a racket
like a mule
kicking holes in the walls
and a minute later
they came out
carrying the now moaning
and half-conscious trick
by his arms and ankles
and just like that
they took him across the parlor
and through the door
they laid him out
in the parking lot
then came back in and
bellied up to the bar
both of them flushed
catching their breath and saying
Motherfucker and Sonofabitch
as the bartender
poured a couple of shots
I know you’re
still on duty, Tommy
but just one won’t hurt
ODE TO THE OLD GIRL
I remember driving you
for the first time, with Nan
in the passenger seat
on that trip to St. Augustine,
and several years later
I adopted you myself.
She couldn’t see too well
anymore; kept getting lost
out here in Reno, despite
the giant mountains looming
to the west. Too old to adapt
to a new city I guess.
And I drove you to see her
in hospitals and rehabs
during her last few years,
after that botched ankle surgery
and the MRSA infection
that left her with a horrible
Eventually, she got better.
Went from a wheelchair
to a walker, to a cane…
but then quickly
Once she saw you
in the parking lot and asked—
Didn’t I have a car
And I reminded her.
She’s long gone now
and as for you—
you rattle a lot.
And sometimes clunk.
One of your bearings
growls over thirty, and the
steering wheel shimmies
between 50 and 60.
Plus I know your brake shoes
are paper thin, and
your timing belt’s probably
frayed under there.
I figure five trips round the belly
of the world’s enough,
so now you’re a charity case,
donated to public radio.
So let’s sit and wait
for the tow truck together
and remember winding
along those curves on PCH
through Big Sur and Malibu
and all the way down
to sunny LA.
On second thought,
the guy said fifteen minutes.
There’s still time.
Let’s clunk and rattle
once more around the block
Fixing their face.
One of these jerks could be The One.
The Champagne of Bottled Beer.
So they say.
One of these jerks.
One of these days.
The stools have fresh grease.
Creaky with ass.
With whispers Beer Loud.
The Deal is it on is it on is it on?
Their pistols are dicks.
Ready like snakes.
Ready to strike.
Upping the stakes.
There’s a Line-Up.
And the hope that no one breaks out in a sweat.
Point at their chests like squirrels.
Their memories of Last Call are just that.
Mark M. Robinson
BEING FROM NEW ORLEANS
I am bona-fide late-80s born: Baptist Hospital,
an Uptown institution corner of Napoleon
& Magnolia, like all modern babies emergent
under fluorescence: soft resplendent sterility,
the unassuming quality of brand-new kittens,
of things geographically indistinct.
Being young, I didn’t yet know the local
from the out-of-place: St. Francis of Assisi around
the corner, banging public domain songs
every hour on old church bells. At 15 I got fitted
for glasses, a prerequisite for a world half-
remembered, for things of a certain slant:
a plane of sidewalk—curdling under-foot
& over-root, hot sheets of rain—cast sky
to street, an accent without an origin.
One day, still young, I was in New York
to become ascendant, in the empirical sense
of the word. Time was something
I misplaced, coughed up days in echoes
of alcohol, me jangling caustic as a jammed toaster,
running in & out of beds, every which way between
NOLA & NYC ending pointless as the empty syringe.
Remember that first time getting stung by jellyfish?
That’s what the future is.
LAND OF REINVENTION, CIRCA 1953
Lillian Robideaux claims
she is the fourth Gabor sister.
Who’s to say she is not?
On this street of aproned hausfraus,
thick-ankled babushkas, she cooks
in gold toreador pants,
twinkly, high-heeled sandals.
Roland Robideaux was colored
in Gainesville and Atlanta,
Creole in Terrebonne Parish.
In the City of Brotherly Love,
black neighbors find dog shit
on their front stoop, so he is white.
RETAINING WALL (1955)
Another miscarriage. Another failure.
Scooped, like fruit rotted from the inside,
Lillian Robideaux stares at the backyard
retaining wall, its blank reproach.
Silk debris of spent mimosa blossoms
drop into her lap. Perhaps she will lie
in this chaise forever. But Roland’s Pontiac
rumbles down the drive. She swivels Revlon’s Hot
Coral across her lips, opens her silver compact.
It slips, shatters. Slash of blue sky, shards
of green eye, pink cheek, her sunflower hair,
glare up at her. A jay screams from the wall.
Later, curled into Roland, she pretends to sleep.
He kisses her hair, whispers, If you want to try again,
we’ll try again. He will never tell her no.
How many more times before they are both in pieces?
After Roland leaves for work, she gathers
old cement mix from the garage, leftover
bathroom tiles, empty liquor bottles.
From the kitchen junk drawer, a frayed Spanish
fan, orphan buttons, loose string of her
Confirmation pearls, tiny as baby teeth.
Each morning, she takes bits of brokenness
and makes the concrete wall a breathing thing.
Knobbed lid of her mother’s chipped teapot
becomes a nippled breast. Cracked plate, a cobalt
face. She fashions ovaries from mother-of-pearl
earrings, and from a wrecked rose dish
she makes a winged, light-filled uterus.
FOR THE EARS OF THE HAIRDRESSER ONLY
She deposits the dye
making five rows of three,
parting the crown where
the greys burrow like barnacles.
Then onto the poo, erasing
the drab, introducing
the “golden gate blonde.”
A couple of snips, then
she layers the tresses, as she once
again states how long they’ve become —
way too long for a lady “of a certain age”
and tells me i don’t want to look like a sea witch.
i tell her “i like ‘em like that,” (and tell myself
that he likes ‘em like that) and say that when
i think I look like a sea witch, perhaps she can
snip off another two inches or so. It’s
when she stacks on the spray, that
i give her what i know she’s been waiting
that hour and twenty for, as i blurt out
ecstatically “Yes, yes, i fucked that young
thing and he loved this old sea witch.”
A hard freeze is predicted tonight.
Time to pull out the tomatoes.
It has been a summer of sauces,
salads, bounty to share with neighbors.
I salvage several, slow to ripen
in this brisk fall air. My mother
is ninety-seven now, her season ending too.
She eats little, prays death will take her soon.
She has tended to farewells. I collect
the vines to mulch, tug at stubborn roots.
Hard work, letting go.
CATTLE-PROD CLONE DATE #1,550,003
Scorch a tunnel through Winter’s
snow clad only in the
thermonuclear fire of passion
caffeinate with me on the
grown-up side of the moon—
decadent and encouraging
middle-yeared male artist
on the far skyline of liberal
seeks a Poe-loving clothing
optional single female with
working bits and a wicked wit
over chocolate mousse and
champagne you rambled incessantly
about your ex’s and your
landscapes tapping me repeatedly
on the arm for emphasis
your sparkle eyes reflecting the
luster of the candelabrum
then as I folded the tip you
batted your eyelashes saying you
know—this isn’t going to
that ten minutes after we
met—but let’s be friends
why would I want romance in my porn.
Insensible as cinderblock, the dog
sprawled across the couch, dangling its nose to
the carpet like a snoring turnip.
Middlin’ size, brown & black & white, part this,
part that. The sleeping dog broke wind, farting
a liquid staccato long & loud as
a Tchaikovsky cannonade.
The dog growled, sniffing wild-eyed, dumbfounded;
it barked, it bayed, booming deep & persistently,
“Timmy is in the well,
danger Will Robinson, danger!”
Comically oblivious, free of existence
“solids” & “gases”, “cause” & “effect”,
sphincters” & “intestines”, dogs can only
bark when confronting gaseous anomalies,
yet this, this same epistemological
deficit, this same knowing ignorance
in the face of daily & opaque
trivialities, this is me. I am that dog,
eternally lost in the two-a.m. alleyway
FOR THE SAKE OF PIXIE WINGS
I will not howl in languid misery,
I’ll wail no dirges, no agonized laments,
no litany of searing anguish.
But, if you die first I won’t relent, if
you die first I will not let go.
I will discern the right time –
the right quarter of the
moon, the right day, the right
second – I’ll burn
the right candle, dance the right
dance. I’ll stain your marmoreal name
with rendered vulture’s fat and torrid rum,
I’ll bleed black the grass with
a slaughtered goat or throat slit
dog, I’ll beg to the right
gods, chant the right spells.
I’ll feed the earth from
my own sorrow-dark veins until the
tenacious mud retches you
up, until you crawl from
your grave still
cobwebbed in the velvet amethyst
of our wedding, and when
you rise our eternal passion will
shine like moon-buffed pixie wings –
if, that is, and only if
you promise, not to
snack upon my living brains.
A RECIPE FOR A BREAKUP
He explains the process
the way I’d imagine someone else’s mother
recites a beloved family recipe:
Step one, he says,
is how he will peel back my fingers
so they stop clinging to his hand.
is removing the tangle of our tongues
so that our lips meet –
closed and formal.
Polite, not greedy.
is turning our heads,
so that lips miss their mark
like arrows sailing passed their target
but still landing somewhere nearby.
Step four is such a large step back,
we no longer see each other.
He forgets to tell me,
this step exists.
Instead he says it will happen gradually.
Promises up and down he won’t leave me,
And yet –
When the sun shines through the windows,
I am left with his favorite hat
which he never comes back for.
ON WHY I DON’T SAY A LOT
He doesn’t look at me like I’m broken yet,
and he doesn’t touch me like he needs to be cautious.
He touches me like a clumsy teenager
excited, overzealous, grateful for this moment.
And I don’t want to tell him
that he should handle me with gloves,
that at times I need to be dusted off and put on a shelf out of reach
so I don’t push myself over and shatter on my own.
I don’t want to tell him that my heart
understands why graves are six feet deep,
and how you can breathe when parts of you are missing.
I don’t want to say, here is chaos and misery and all the things that were built into my DNA.
That I came out of my mother with an irregular heartbeat that hasn’t stopped hurting since.
Because right now,
he looks at me as though he’s won the lottery,
and I don’t want to tell him his prize money has sifted through so many hands,
his will come away black.
RITE OF PASSAGE
My sisters knew how to ride a bike,
during summer, would peddle up and down the road
with me watching after them until it was time to go inside.
I had training wheels until I didn’t,
The expectation that some adult would swoop in
And cheer for me as I scraped my knees.
Only, the adults never put the bottle down long enough
To push me forward.
And so one day as the summer fire roared
I mounted the bike
And struggled to keep my balance
Falling over like a drunk.
My father laughed between sips
You’re doing that the hard way
But he never bothered to teach me the easy way.
BLUE MOUNTAIN BIKE
We can’t know. That’s what makes us keep going.
If I knew my eight year old would be hit by a car on his brand new Mongoose mountain bike with shiny forks & a padded seat last Monday afternoon at five when the light was slanted & it was hard to see a child on a blue bicycle & I drove eighty to the ER ran past official looking people straight through swinging No Admittance doors to the cubicle with blue Nike sneakers poking from a gurney & the doctor said your son was lucky only bruises & a broken wrist
Would I have let him ride it? Even have it? Would I have kept him at home while his friends rode mountain bikes on rocky trails, skateboarded without helmets, played dodge ball in the streets, crossed railroad tracks on dares, jumped off garage roofs, shot BB guns in the woods? Would he shriveled into a wizened never-leave-the-house old man who never had a broken bone who never once sailed down the street on a blue bike with shiny forks the wind at his back?
I’m thinking of cities made of citrus.
You’re thinking of Moscow
and carving the night into pieces, pulling
your name out by the teeth, or the soft sound
of a body falling off the bridge. Which bridge?
These are questions we must ask ourselves.
I put my hands on your shoulders: tell me
about the cold war. It begins again, Rocky
IV, we could be 20 we could be
flinching in unison. But your wrists are on
backwards your eyes are neat
and numb and filled with dead leaves.
Your eyes are the bottom of a river
bed. It’s getting late, not too late. I’d take you
where I’m going but you can’t come
to the mouth of the thing – the ocean
that opens like a cut – I’d take you to Seville
where every bowl is filled with oranges. This
means happiness. This means
you can stand in a river. You can’t do it twice. Still
in the same state we dream separately of peeling
skin, citrus, snow – a muscle twitches, I tighten
my grip – the days, running past us
YOU ARE HAPPY
Grass gurgle light. Soles slapping
the sun-warmed tarmac, walking
with an ice cream cone past trees slung
with imaginary snakes, like
the boa constrictor freed
in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone
or the python that caused apples to roll
like heads down Lovell street. I want
disappearing glass, but she turns over
a ball and reads 27. The room smells of urine
because the people in it smell
of urine as they run
fingers underneath every number. The squeak
of markers, snick of lids. This is (forgive me)
a jungle, where plastic monkeys hang
in chains and fail at Chinese whispers.
One falls so I lose. It’s Fall
so I move mushrooms from one side of the plate
to the edge of a cliff. The truth about Bingo is no one
really wins, I mean it doesn’t matter
who cried at the funeral only who
yelled that magic word, and suddenly
all our heads unscrewed and spilled
their thoughts everywhere like
bingo balls and they read
… 32… 14… 68…
84…. which was how old she was
unscrunching butterscotch, 7
Which was how old I was licking
ice cream off my wrist
outside the empty house, outside
the room full of relatives and scrunched
tissues but back
to the monkeys never falling
off the bed, the snake who hisses
adíos in Spanish, obviously, the eyes rolling
back in the head the head rolling down
Diagon Alley, the book that opens just
as I fall over the edge of the world.
I’M NOT SAYING HELEN WAS A FEMINIST BUT
Be worthy of yourself. Kill this woman!
The Trojan Women, Euripides
Her beauty was also a kind of loneliness:
those threads of years with only
her breasts for company, which were like figs
or something. Regardless they didn’t make
for very good conversation, except
to the men who cocked
their ears towards them as if understanding
the language of fruit. Which was always
agreeable. Their fingers
like sausages, or something else
insistent. Even Margaret Atwood
blamed it on her charismatic vagina,
which spoke for itself, that half-breed
lit by flames, who sat for the length of a marriage
weaving watching those men
their sausages, tumble, tussle, stand up
scrape knees for her figs. Which
other men and sausages would argue
weren’t they more like kumquats?
For centuries. Hundreds
of them worthy of themselves – and the stone
locked tighter, erasing, sculpting, reshaping
Helen and her beguiling figs in the candlelight
her white fingers twisting time into something
legible, lasting, and who
did they belong to, who was allowed
to touch them (those figs)
and how much and maybe
all this would explain eighth grade
and the first man who wanted to know
do i make u wet.
I carry a mustache, an eyebrow
I carry his nose
hawkish and weighty
history written on faces
and in photographs
I try to bury temper
to crush the word I
beneath my foot
but genetic invective perches in my mouth
baseball caps, rap music, people who dislike Tchaikovsky, assholes with annoying smiles, people with big trucks
the targets are different, but the same pleasure
rises from assessing lips, and my eyebrows dance like his
until contrition arrives
I try to tuck his mustache in a drawer
but it all crawls out
I carry a mustache, an eyebrow
FAIRPORT ON A PORTABLE
The newness of lecture halls
is a fresh reality to ingest.
She’s braving the spine of hills
but I wonder why I’m here.
We scrunch on cornflake leaves
towards the greasy spoon
where kids in fleecy parkas
shoot cacti with a pin-ball ping.
Under her plaid autumn skirt,
seamed nylons from Debenham’s,
knee-high boots, a woollen scarf
that almost touches the ground
and we’ve missed each other.
Eager sex in a student bedroom
as my pink fan heater blows
Yorkshire through our lungs.
She criticises me for slumming:
packet rice, unskilled vegetarianism.
We sip from mugs of tea,
listen to Fairport on a portable.
Eventually she’ll come for good.
Start a degree in engineering,
shape up and ditch the mandolin,
choose a more ambitious guy.
SOME RATHER SNAZZY PYJAMAS
I contemplated darkness:
the existential melancholy
of Russian Roulette,
the sadness of Kalashnikovs
so put the kettle on
and decided to buy some
rather snazzy pyjamas.
Down central streets
I came upon the necessary
outlet, went inside,
asked to see a selection;
was drawn to a pair with
lavish golden whorls,
amulets and lions
that seemed to invite
a world of fluid, metallic
overtures and ecstasy.
I brought them home
then heard chimney noises,
remembering at once
those pigeons who’d died
a macabre Poe-style death
since gales had blown
the cowl away. I moved brass
and one flew out from a pile
of feathered carcasses and rubble.
It circled the room madly
then settled on a high shelf.
What do I feel but grief and grievance?
Is there anything in all of Gilead
to soften the grief, appease the grievance?
Or is this my lot in life, Laléna?
Just flores para los muertos kind of days
and if I could kill that fuck I would kind of nights?
BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA
Talk about in the bottle.
Come into my kitchen.
Check out the liquor cabinet,
i.e., my kitchen.
And hold the handle
half filled and golden,
up to the light. Yes!
That’s me treading Scotch
until I tire. Then I turn
and float on my back
and even doze a bit.
JUNGLE IN HERE
Ernie’s got this dive downtown where all us misfits go to have a few, make out a little, nothing heavy, because if Ernie sees it getting heavy, he shows up at our backs and tells us, take it outside, but inside where the music could deafen a deaf person, the only talk is touch usually beginning with a tap on the shoulder, then a smile, one with teeth, as many as you got, a tilt of the head, heads, then a kiss, Ernie yells because he only wants our lips goin’ down on lips of bottles and now he’s swinging hand over hand across the exposed plumbing in the ceiling he purposely never concealed, Ernie having been one of the ten TV Tarzans, hand over hand over a pile of dogs, cat in heat, parrot, parakeet, drink your drinks, he shrieks, then get out but come back, don’t forget to come back, you, you animals you.
MAYBE, MAYBE WE
maybe you would give me a glance
when your shadow melts in morning mist
maybe you would give me a goodbye kiss
on my pale cheek with lily’s moisture
maybe, maybe we
can stay a little longer
maybe, maybe I
can take you to the station
in my old Jeep
your deep brown hair would glitter under
orange car-light in drizzle
your sporadic touch would dance through
my aching spine at traffic lights
and delve down
deeply into my beating heart
Maybe, Maybe, Miss
you would like to move closer
in downstream crowds at the airport
Maybe, Maybe, I
could kiss your little dimple in that tenderness
when we are squeezed by bustling throng
I promise I will leave then
maybe after you walk into the gate
I promise I will forget you then
maybe three days after your leaving
WORKING SASS HERO
most of us
mirror whoever is in front of us
you know, we copy their physical stance,
speak at the same volume
and so on.
so when a customer yells,
you automatically yell back.
when a customer calls you names
you automatically call them names, too
and when a customer shoves you?
well, it’s hard not to shove them back.
it’s a kneejerk survival technique of our species,
maybe even a compliment:
mimicking your attacker
but so self-loathing
is your fellow man
in a shop
that they will reprimand you further
for acting like them
and they call this “bad customer service.”
you can have such strength of character,
such a strong sense of Self
that you remain calm in retaliation:
stand still in response to their flailing,
be polite in-between their threats,
be silent in the face of their volume,
standing firm against their shoves:
a zen statue
but this will only threaten them
is your fellow man
in a shop
that they will reprimand you further
for not rising to their bait
they will accuse you of not caring
they will accuse you of snobbery
they will accuse and accuse
and this too they will call “bad customer service.”
your boss will back them up:
compassionate capitalism will back them up
for fear of losing their money
you may as well
throw the first punch,
you may as well
earn your complaint:
you’re earning sod all else
in this compassionate capitalism.
MALE, 42 YEARS
he did a wheelie:
he straddled the bike
on his back wheel,
with the front wheel in the air
like it was a bull,
then slammed back down
onto the pavement …
then he looked around, smiling,
the bike between his legs,
waiting for a reaction
… and when the town
carried on carrying on?
he smiled less.
I’ll say this for the smoking ban:
it offers you a certain voyeuristic revenge,
as you roll your own
against the window of the shop you work in,
watching the rich, fulfilling lives
of the regular customers
who push you around every day.
I’d just sparked up
when he dropped the bike on the ground
with a lazy clatter
and started marching towards the shop,
getting more and more angry with every step.
searching for that sweet validation.
WHEN THE ARCHANGEL DELIVERED YOUR LETTER
I ran down the stairs and saw the glint
of a golden wing as it disappeared beneath his postal
jacket. I called to him to wait. He looked back
at me and smiled.
I stood on my doorstep and your
letter burnt my fingers.
I dropped it to the pavement and watched
as scorching letters appeared
in the asphalt.
Stop your aimless busy-ness. Your restless
walks round and round your neighborhood.
Look at the light
for which the ivy reaches.
Look at the moon
as it blasts itself
into your window.
Look at the subtle
brilliance of the dawn.
Listen to the music
Mars makes as it falls through
the sky above your bed.
Listen to the baby
crying on the other side of the globe.
Listen to your lungs
as they fill with air and empty.
Be present in the moment.
Remember the glint of the wing
the uniform coat.
At the last minute I grab the leather case off the discard pile,
It held your sunglasses. I can’t let it go. I still see it on the belt
of your khaki slacks. You wore these glasses in Oklahoma,
Pennsylvania, on the job, in the car, driving the boat.
Maybe if I keep them you will come back. I can have one
more word. Maybe if I keep them I won’t remember
last days of pain but instead nights at the summer
cottage, days at the ski slope, dinners at home. A moth beating
at the window, seeking the lamp. Maybe if I keep them
my daughter will keep something of mine. What will it be?
A book, a beret, a beaded broach.
Maybe she will find this leather case
This wasn’t hers, she will say. I can let it go.
The stream moves against itself
at the places where it changes both depth
Brook trout tucked beneath overhanging
willows perpendicular to the current, waving
tail fins only when necessary.
I swear I could scuttle down the bank,
reach into the clear, cold water and capture
them in both hands,
dash their heads against a neighboring
rock, and watch them twitch to lifelessness.
Instead, remaining silent and unseen,
I apply everything I’ve learned – all the dark
arts of these dark woods, interrupted only by this quick,
full, narrow stream in early April.
I’m driving my shadow home from work,
a summer job that can’t end soon enough.
He says he’s had a difficult day.
We pull off the road at a large shed
that passes for a bar – no windows,
a sign tacked to the screen door,
“Schaefer six-packs $1.25.”
The parking lot is empty
except for a Buick LeSabre
tireless, on blocks, the trunk creased
between its shoulder blades,
tied closed with heavy twine,
a “For Sale” sign propped inside
the rear window.
The place is cool and dark.
The only light the soft glow from
a silent pinball machine, and a cooler
with glass doors that don’t quite shut.
A TV sits on the corner of the bar,
David Brinkley with the sound off.
My shadow orders a Utica Club.
I ask for a Schlitz. The bartender,
white-haired, silent, pale as the apron
around his waist, sets the beers on the
bar in front of us. I lay a damp five next
to my bottle. If we want glasses we’ve
come to the wrong place.
And I know what my shadow is thinking.
I always do. I try to encourage him, tell him
every shadow needs an angle, a light source
to work with – flashlights, candles, a campfire,
a streetlight, a weak bulb on the corner of a
nightstand, even headlights against a garage –
all of these could bring a shadow out of hiding
especially if, like mine, he wants to earn a little
cash. I tell him in the hands of the right man,
he could be anything, but he says
no self-respecting shadow would stand for this.
“Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another.”
No, no. No son was meant to be a mirror
for his parents to relive their wasted youth;
proximity to the young just brings you nearer
to what you’ve lost for good. And how uncouth
of you, an otherwise nice man, to make
your gift to the world also a gift to yourself.
So natural when you began, so fake
now, prisoner to the bottles on the shelf
of your medicine cabinet, and all for what?
Not your old mother’s joy (her mind dry rot);
not for your pride (that smile more limp than strut).
Listen, we fall apart. With kids or not,
sooner or later, nothing is what will be,
after a life of shouting me! me! me!
IN THE STILL MOMENTS, I RECALL
that dark flush appearing on my cheeks
when you took me hiking in the redwood grove
only to mock my pronunciation of lichen,
likely due to me having grown up
with more books than friends
BERNARD “BUDDY” RICH
The Slingerland snare flared and the Zildjian crash and ride
cymbals burst free and drove the beat. Followed by Vic Firth stick
clicks and a breeze of brushes sweeping against a taut pigskin
drumhead. Readying for a hi-hat solo. Paradiddle grooving.
Renamed Baby Traps, The Drum Wonder by his Vaudeville father,
even at four he had power with touch, technique, blurring hickory
sticks coupled with angelic control. Brooklyn born, his hands
ruled his bands, demanding all follow his lead, rise to his level
or suffer his wrath. Asked by a nurse as he was being prepped
for brain cancer surgery – Is there anything you can’t take?
His rimshot reply- “Yeah. Country music.
SAKI (H.H. MUNRO)
It’s bad enough I’m trapped in a trench
with you. Germans everywhere.
And the stench of this trench and your
incessant cigarettes are a threat worse
than Nazi snipers. Have you no sense man?
Can’t you see that your ciggy’s glow
is a target? You’re a bull’s eye and a horse’s ass.
“Put out that BLOODY CIGARETTE!”
CHANGE OF LIFE
I am transitioning into a cat.
I’ve contemplated this for quite a while.
I’ve known since darkest adolescence that
the human-being life was not my style:
I want to dance on rooftops in the rain,
ride with the witches on their flying brooms,
find love and lose it and ignore the pain,
sleep in the churchyard, cat among the tombs.
Although it might be nice to be a pet,
spoiled to the max, I know that very soon
I’d shuck the collar and evade the vet
for one more night of dancing at the moon,
While with ecstatic eloquence I render
a song of love without regard to gender.
BUSY WITH MY MEMOIRS
In week three of lockdown,
I begin my memoirs, version four,
the first three being in a metal box
under the bed, because no agent
will read them even for money,
but if I tell the story four times
it will come true, as happened with Jesus,
no matter that I don’t remember
everything; the ones who knew it all
are dead and it’s my story now,
and every time I tell it
I see the movie version,
a transparent fish made of opal
that just evades my hook.
When you realize
Please return the library books;
they’re on the table
as her last words
balances every I love you she’d given
Instead of goodbye
the incessant familiarity of instruction
of my mother
THE MASK BEHIND THE MAN: NOT JUST ANOTHER COVID POEM
I wear a mask to protect myself (and others, of course, both blue and red).
It covers my face….but can’t cover my character…..not just another man
behind another mask.
At the workplace, I’m late for a meeting when “Nature calls”. I know my
colleagues won’t mind the wait – they depend on my unmatched genius,
my knack for getting things done.
It’s hard to breathe in the stall so I sweep the mask aside – it hangs on one ear.
Paper in hand, I reach back, flush as the mask flutters past my unadorned rear
A dilemma: what to do next – fishing was never my sport. Give it some extra
flushes, I reason, ….but what if there’s an overflow, a foul-smelling trail
surging under the door, my mask sitting smack in the middle …. don’t want
my name to gain office fame, as the man who left more than his mask behind.
Meeting over, I walk down the hall near the men’s room – feels like the long
green mile. Here comes the maintenance guy, hauling mop and bucket –
wonder who sent the S.O.S.?
He looks at me with sly scrutiny, notes my uncovered face, his eye blinks
a meaningful wink, “Somebody’s gonna’ be the butt of mucky jokes” he snickers,
and holding up the mop, covered with unhomogenized globs, he sneers,
“by the way….I see your mask is missing.”
WHITE GIRLS IN CENTRAL AMERICA
Because the world insisted on protecting us
we went in search of things that might kill us.
to sleep in a hammock among wild animals
to not know the way home.
But that’s the thing about skin.
The welcome follows you,
walk right in without knocking
take the bed, the hot meal, someone gave up,
fuck the men who think they’re fucking Pamela Anderson,
jump out of a moving car
at the unwanted hand on a thigh
only to have the next taxi stop for you.
THE PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT ASKS MONA IF SHE LEAKS URINE
Time was, I could stop a bullet with this.
Time was, it moved with the tide, gripped like a clam shell.
This, here, held quarterbacks, soldiers,
even a Kentucky Derby jockey, and one
Turkish woman in Washington Heights so crazed for it,
she left claw marks down my back.
This – this! – inspired sonnets
nearly started a war.
I could name at least ten men who are still thinking about it,
three in the state of New Jersey alone.
FITZGERALD, GEORGIA’S BIG-ASS CHICKEN
Said the mayor, after the hardware store closed downtown,
Why don’t we build a big-ass chicken?
The plan was to build a 58-foot tall topiary sculpture of vines and flowers
bigger than the 56-foot one in Marietta, but he saw on the Internet
there was a Mickey Mouse in Dubai that was 59 feet
so he said
Screw it, we’re going to 62,
declared it’d be finished
by the March chicken festival.
All this to honor the birds, brought from Burma
because someone thought they’d be fun to hunt
but they are lean birds, not like yard chickens,
taste like rubber.
Those birds went wild in Fitzgerald
roosting in the pines. People came from two towns over
to take their picture, feed them bits of biscuit outside the diner.
Now you can’t hunt them, or even chase after them.
Injuring the birds is a city misdemeanor.
The mayor had them put up the scaffolding next to the Harvey’s parking lot.
Then they set up a chicken cam
so people around the world could watch them build the big-ass chicken.
That was November, 2019. If you go to the website now,
you’ll see that scaffolding, naked against the south Georgia sky.
Still no chicken.
Every now and then a plastic bag from the Harveys floats across the screen.
Every now and then one of those wild, lean birds struts by.
SUPPORT – HIGH SCHOOL STYLE
The strong display of their support
each year made Jewish kids amazed.
So many Black and Catholic students
took off Jewish holidays.
THE HOME RUN THAT WASN’T
In the softball game,
the batter hit a drive;
he could have walked the bases,
before that ball arrived.
And as he ran past third,
amidst his cheering horde,
if he had crawled in backwards,
he’d easily have scored.
But then he looked and saw,
just twelve feet to home plate,
our large and muscled catcher
who in football made All-State.
It also was the case
our catcher happened to be Black;
we had a hunch that figured in
the runner’s turning back.
He stood on third base stranded
as the inning ended later.
Racism hurting most of all
the witless perpetrator.
If I don’t have my coffee
I’ll function quite offly.
ON THE EVE OF YOUR FUNERAL
In Memory of David (Big Dave) Tingley
A few days before your
and I do not want to order
lilies, roses, or carnations.
I do not want to make a donation
to the Heart Association.
I will eat bacon in your honor
and eggs tossed with garlic,
buy a chocolate birthday cake
and consume lots of coffee,
make a hot air balloon
with a bag, candles, straws.
It will soar high
then drift away.
RECIPE FOR LOVE
Toss key in moonlight,
add maple syrup, stir, spoon
key into mouth, swallow.
Grasp a sharp knife,
slice open your bubble.
Nudge knife, along with
serrated side of tongue,
into drawer. Lock drawer.
Plant burst bubble in yard,
Susan J. Wurtzburg
A VERY BRITISH WAR
Green-bound annuals rest on a table in my office,
A familial rosetta stone, my great-grandmother’s
Her calligraphy saunters up and down pages,
sometimes circles itself,
an investigative challenge.
Like a linguist, deciphering ancient texts,
I follow her cursive route.
Hieroglyphic tales of teas, walks, tennis, church
attendance, and a world war.
A cartouche of my grandmother’s twentieth
birthday, and her hospital work
with battle-scarred men.
Icons of troop movements and billets, interspersed
with family news.
Stolen moments in the village, tamped-down worry
about serving sons and brothers.
A whole generation of family killed in battle,
determinatives between the diary’s script,
buried in lighter news of tea.
MY DANCE FORM
limbs tangle sweat slicks
forms of movement bodies fly
mostly with ourselves
Toronto neighborhood dojo, haunt of awkward teens
guided by kind elders.
We rise to the occasion and our sensei with a bow
to indicate reverence.
Months and years devoted to perfecting judo moves
with ongoing mentorship.
When travels beckon, I learn fierce self-defense actions
aimed at immobilizing attackers.
Predators hate girls who know how to fight and think.
I battle many wolves.
limbs tangle sweat slicks
on my terms, baby.
SOUND OF MUSIC
We were trying to remember how it was that music lost its appeal. How it all became a series of
disconnected noises we no longer had any interest in. We’d heard it. It had its day, made its
argument, kept us under its spell for what seemed an eternity, but musical spells are not
everlasting, and whether it was a symptom or a cause of our losing faith in everything else is
something we never bothered to determine. Not that there’s any particular reason for knowing
the how and the why. It’s like we’re birds turning over leaves on the off-chance there’s a seed
under there somewhere, since that’s what we do. Nor would we want to give the impression that
we dislike it. It’s all of a piece. Birds fly in and out of shadows. In and out of patches of sunlight.
That’s what it’s like for us, low sun on an autumn afternoon. And while everything is
disconnected, and probably because everything is disconnected, people, sounds, words; we cling
to memories. They’re all we have. And though words fail to connect with each other, we try
connecting them with our memories. We used to connect our memories with pictures, but
pictures fail too, and our memories fail, and failure itself loses meaning, so it’s not much of an
incentive for giving up and doing nothing. We’re failures at failing which is why we carry on
with our singing and dancing.
no wagging tongues,
and definitely not your pride,
but tears will do,
bites not taken
of a disappointing dinner,
the usual unfinished lists,
a moth that flew into your fist,
only what remains,
only what is finished,
just the bones
of plans and prizes,
of living, active things,
and not a pleasant one,
almost like shadows,
imitations posed to honor or mock
That’s all you’re going to find here.
LIFE CYCLE MANAGEMENT
It was during a 27 year fever that I composed the life of John Keats. It started with a sniffle
extending to my pen, which often I would hold under my tongue as a thermometer. I knew that I
had to make birds important, and I did have that feeling in my head of being at a high altitude,
consistently, for several months at a time. I found that by ripping the page open at the center I
could relieve a certain amount of sinus congestion and writer’s block. To be honest, it was not
that interesting a life, but it contained several amazing sonnets. There was this moment where he
was sitting by a brook and Dear Lord I almost composed it again. That’s the danger of lives, a
tendency – a longing? A claw? towards repetition. They occur, after all, somewhere near the
Kemmer Anderson taught English for 40 years at McCallie School, in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he was faculty advisor to the Amnesty International Chapter. He recently published a collection of essays: Milton at Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s Reading of John Milton.
Janice Appel, a NC artist, graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Southern Maine where she received a BFA in visual arts with concentrations in painting, sculpture, and drawing in 1986. Her work has been exhibited throughout Maine and she continues to do commercial and portrait commissions.
A writer and artist based in San Antonio, Jeff Bagato produces poetry and prose as well as electronic music and glitch video. His published books include Savage Magic (poetry) and Computing Angels (fiction). A blog about his writing and publishing efforts can be found at http://jeffbagato.wordpress.com.
Benjamin Bagocius (he, him, his) writes and teaches broadly across literature and spirituality. His writing appears or is forthcoming in a range of venues, including On Being, Tiferet, The Other Journal, Pensive, Soul-Lit, Dark Moon Lilith, After the Pause, and others. A member of the literature faculty at Bard High School Early College in Cleveland, Ohio, Ben holds a Ph.D. in English from Indiana University, an M.F.A. in creative writing from The New School, and a B.A. in English from Kenyon College. He facilitates Soul Salon, an online spiritual writing-and-conversation workshop. Join us! Reach out at benjaminbagocius.com or IG @benjaminbagocius.
John Bartell is an east coast transplant trying to make it Texas, drinking Shiner beer and enjoying the Austin music scene, though he hasn’t taken to wearing cowboy boots. His poetry has been published in The Orchards Poetry Review, Canyon Voices, The Loch Raven Review and Muddy River Poetry Review. He also has short stories published in several journals, including the Manhattanville Review, Sanitarium Magazine, and in A. Lee Martinez’s Strange Afterlives Anthology.
Stuart Bartow lives in rural New York state and teaches writing and literature at SUNY Adirondack. He also chairs the Battenkill Conservancy, an environmental group working along the New York-Vermont border. His most recent book of haiku, One Branch, is published by Red Moon Press, and longer poems, Green Midnight, Dos Madres Press.
Robert Bires lives, writes, grows figs, plays in a band, and makes a mean gumbo in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He has published poetry in the Ghost City Review, The Penn Review, ERA, Happy, and The Poetic Page, among other journals.
Mark Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatist Guild and PEN American Center. His latest book is the text-based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, Dream Streams.
Moni Brar is an uninvited settler on unsurrendered territories of the Treaty 7 region and Syilx Okanagan Nation. Her writing explores diasporan guilt, cultural identities, religious violence, and intergenerational trauma. Her most recent work is forthcoming in Passages North, Prairie Fire, Vallum, Hart House Review, Rock & Sling, Avalon Literary Review, and Marias at Sampaguita. She believes in the possibility of healing through literature.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California and works in mental health. He has contributed to Heartwood, Williwaw Journal, Sheila-na-Gig, Tar River Poetry Review, and Red Wolf Journal.
Bill Burtis is a seasoned poet and writer living in New Hampshire. His publication credits include, but are not limited to, Paris Review, Sou’wester, Seneca Review, Three-Quarter Review, Nine Mile and Aurorean. He has one chapbook, Villains, and an MFA from Iowa, both from a long time ago.
Raymond Byrnes: For many years he managed communications for the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Land Imaging Program. His recent work has been read on The Writer’s Almanac and accepted/published in Main Street Rag, Third Wednesday, Shot Glass Journal, Typishly, Split Rock Review, and numerous other journals. He lives in Virginia.
Ranney Campbell is from St. Louis, Missouri, where she earned BS and MFA degrees from the University of Missouri at St. Louis and now lives in Southern California. Her poetry has been published in Misfit Magazine, Shark Reef, Silver Birch Press, The Main Street Rag and accepted for an upcoming issue of Haight Ashbury Literary Journal. Her chapbook, “Pimp,” is published by Arroyo Seco Press.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes barefoot in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of books and chapbooks. Her work appears on line and in print and has been anthologized most recently in Dead of Winter from Milk and Cake Press. For more information, check her web site at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.
Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Author of Peggy Sue Messed Up (2017), she is a two-time recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust and Moth, Vita Brevis, Adelaide, Clockwise Cat, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Amethyst Review, Ariel Chart, Poetica Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Tuesdays at Curley’s and After the Equinox.
Joe Cottonwood has repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book is Random Saints.
Dan Cuddy is currently an editor of the Loch Raven Review. Most recently he has had poems published in The End of 83, Broadkill Review, Welter, The Twisted Vine Literary Journal, Pangolin Review, Horror Sleaze Trash, and work forthcoming in Gargoyle.
Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. Some of his recent publications have or will appear in Boston Literary Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, RavensPerch, MacQueen’s, 8 Poems, Louisiana Lit, Burningword Literary Journal, Third Wednesday, and the Muddy River Poetry Review. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His Chapbook, “Perhaps You Can,” was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory was just published by Kelsay.
Cat Dixon is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and The Book of Levinson and Our End Has Brought the Spring (Finishing Line Press, 2017, 2015), and the chapbook, Table for Two (Poet’s Haven, 2019). Website: www.catdix.com.
Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including The Journal, Agenda, Acumen, Poetry Salzburg Review, Prole, Rats Arse Review, Sentinel Literary Quarterly and Stand. He lives in the creative atmosphere of Totnes in Devon, U.K. often walking along the River Dart for inspiration. He is hoping to entice a publisher to print a first collection.
Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator from Boston. She’s author of three poetry chapbooks, ‘girl in tree bark’ (Nixes Mate, 2019), ‘Tree of the Apple,’ (Two of Cups Press), and ‘All These Cures,’ (Lit House Press). Her poems, prose and photos are published in many literary journals including Bellevue Literary Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Crab Fat, Storm Cellar, Corium & Tiferet. Kelly serves on the Board of the International Women’s Writing Guild (IWWG), and produces the Bi-Monthly Open Mic Writer Series attended by women worldwide. She blogs her daily nature photos & creative writing at kellydumar.com/blog
Michael Estabrook: Retired now writing more poems and working more outside just noticed two Cooper’s hawks staked out in the yard or rather above it which explains the nerve-wracked chipmunks. The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019) is a recent collection.
Deirdre Fagan is a widow, wife, mother of two, and the author of the forthcoming memoir, Find a Place for Me, Regal House Publishing (2022), a collection of short stories, The Grief Eater, Adelaide Books (2020), a chapbook of poetry, Have Love, Finishing Line Press (2019), and a reference book, Critical Companion to Robert Frost, Facts on File (2007). She is the poetry editor for Orange Blossom Review. Meet her at deirdrefagan.com
Mike Farren is a UK-based writer and editor whose poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies. He has been placed and commended in several competitions, including as ‘canto’ winner for Poem of the North (2018) and winner of both the Saltaire Festival and the Ilkley Literature Festival poetry competitions in 2020. His pamphlets are ‘Pierrot and his Mother’ (Templar) and ‘All of the Moons’ (Yaffle), with ‘Smithereens’ (4Word) forthcoming.
Krista Genevieve Farris writes poetry, essays and stories about whatever the hell she wants or needs to write about from her perch at the top of Virginia in Winchester. But, she also freelances to pay some bills. Links to her published work can be found at her writer’s website.
A retired special education teacher, Vern Fein has published over one hundred fifty poems on over sixty sites, a few being: *82 Review, Bindweed Magazine, Gyroscope Review, Courtship of Winds, Young Raven’s Review, Rat’s Ass Review, Fevers Of The Mind, and Corvus Review.
James Fowler retired from the Navy in 1994 and returned to school to graduate with a Master’s in Environmental Science. His final practicum was to edit the poetry anthology, “Heartbeat of New England” (Tiger Moon Production 2000) Finishing Line Press published his chapbook “Connection to this World” 2012. “Falling Ashes” was published in the Hobblebush Press Granite State Poetry Series as volume VII in 2013.
Meg Freer grew up in Missoula, Montana, went to school in Minnesota and New Jersey, and now lives in Ontario. Her poems have won awards and have been published in anthologies and journals such as Vallum, Eastern Iowa Review and Rat’s Ass Review. In 2017 she won a writing fellowship and attended the Summer Literary Seminars in Tbilisi. She enjoys taking photos and being active outdoors year-round, and wishes she had more time for writing poetry.
Steven Fregeau grew up the first half of his life northwest of Chicago; the second half he has lived in Ohio. He prefers listening to people in bars, being drunk. It has been a few years, but he has had poetry published in Burningwood, Harbinger Asylum, and a couple others, as well as visual art published in Wilde and St. Sebastian Review.
Gerald Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and now teaches physics at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. He has published poems in various journals, recently Rat’s Ass Review, Panoply, Entropy, and Bombfire.
Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland. His newest chapbook, Origami Lilies, is available on Poet’s Haven Press. He is a graduate of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts, Ethiopian coffee, and any poem strong enough to yank the breath out of his lungs.
Christian Garduno’s work can be read in over 55 literary magazines. He is the recipient of the 2019 national Willie Morris Award for Southern Poetry. Christian Garduno is a Finalist in the 2020-2021 Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Writing Contest. He lives and writes along the South Texas coast with his wonderful wife Nahemie and young son Dylan.
Mac Gay‘s most recent collection is FARM ALARM, runner up for Texas Review Press’s 2018 Robert Phillips Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, E-Verse Radio, Maple Leaf Rag, and Atlanta Review. He teaches at Perimeter College of Georgia State University.
Marissa Glover lives in Florida, where she teaches at Saint Leo University. Marissa is co-editor of Orange Blossom Review and a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. Her poetry was recently published in Louisiana Literature, The Opiate, Gyroscope Review, Psaltery & Lyre, and Muddy River Poetry Review, among other journals. Marissa’s poetry collection, Let Go of the Hands You Hold, was released by Mercer University Press in April 2021. You can follow her on Twitter @_MarissaGlover_.
Rhiannon Grant lives, writes, and teaches in Birmingham, UK, with her partner and robot vacuum cleaner. As well as academic and popular nonfiction on religion and philosophy, her writing includes lesbian and queer historical romance fiction and poetry which looks at life from alternative angles, turning time and power upside down. Her poems have previously appeared in Poethead, Blue Mountain Review, A New Ulster, Last Leaves, and The Emma Press Anthology of Illness.
Hank Greenspan is a retiring academic (from the University of Michigan), an expiring psychologist, an inspiring playwright, and an aspiring poet. Despite once being Fulbright, his writing tends dark. He is currently working on a play about the “mad jester” of the Warsaw Ghetto. That about sums it up. henrygreenspan.com
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest book, “Leaves On Pages” is available through Amazon.
John Haugh lives in Greensboro, NC where he works in finance and is assembling a chapbook, Repurposed Ghosts and Baba Yaga. Recent other publishing credits include writing appearing in Rat’s Ass Review, As it Ought to Be, Main Street Rag, Kackalack, the Roanoke Review, Peregrine, North Carolina Literary Review, and The Tipton Poetry Review. Mr. Haugh was a finalist for the Applewhite award recently, was a NCAA national champion in fencing years ago, and spent untold hours browsing Oxford Books in Atlanta and Powell’s City of Books in Oregon when young. He has a small, but growing presence on Facebook.
Robin Helweg-Larsen‘s poems, mostly formal, have been published in Rat’s Ass Review and other magazines in the US and elsewhere. He is Series Editor for Sampson Low’s ‘Potcake Chapbooks – form in formless times’ and blogs at formalverse.com from his hometown of Governor’s Harbour in the Bahamas.
Damian Wade Hey lives on Long Island and is a professor of English at Molloy College. His poems have appeared, most recently, in Black Flowers. His work has also appeared in Madness Muse Press; Formidable Woman Sanctuary; and Rye and Whiskey Review. More poems will be published in Cajun Mutt Press, and in the upcoming anthologies: They’re Conspiring against the Alien Buddha; Poets with Masks On; and Birth – Lifespan Vol. 1.
Christopher Hivner writes from a small town in Pennsylvania surrounded by books (a little bit of everything) and the echoes of music (mostly hard rock/heavy metal and blues). His poetry collection “In the Blood” was recently published by Cyberwit.net. Facebook: Christopher Hivner – Author, Twitter: @Your_screams
Entering her ninth decade, award-winning poet and mixed-media artist Ryn Holmes originated from the bottom and top of California before finding her way to the Florida Gulf Coast. A partner in K & K Writing Services and co-editor of Panoply zine, her written work and visual art have appeared in galleries as well as print and online journals.
David Harrison Horton is a Beijing-based writer, artist, editor and curator. He is author of the chapbooks Pete Hoffman Days (Pinball) and BeiHai (Nanjing Poetry). His poetry has recently appeared in In Parentheses, swifts & slows, Spittoon and Otoliths, among others.
Kate Hutchinson recently retired from teaching English to teenagers (just dodging the bullet of the Pandemic Zoom Teaching Era) and is thrilled to have more time to read and write. She’s had many poems and creative essays published in journals and anthologies and has received two Pushcart nominations. Kate has also had two books published, The Gray Limbo of Perhaps and Map Making: Poems of Land and Identity. Find more of her work at her site, “Life on Both Sides of the Window:” https://poetkatehutchinson.wordpress.com/
Nancy Byrne Iannucci is the author of Temptation of Wood (Nixes Mate Review 2018). Her poems have appeared in a number of publications including Gargoyle, Ghost City Press, Clementine Unbound, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Dodging the Rain, 8 Poems, Glass: A Journal of Poetry (Poets Resist), Hobo Camp Review, and Typehouse Literary Magazine. Nancy is a Long Island, NY native who now resides in Troy, NY where she teaches history at the Emma Willard School.
M. A. Istvan Jr.—poet, philosopher, provocateur—is an instructor of philosophy at Austin Community College and the current editor of Safe Space Press. His interests and publication history are wide-ranging, but a unifying focus of both his creative and scholarly work has been to describe and defend what he calls “the hive Being”: a neo-Spinozistic conception of reality according to which absolutely everything is a necessary expression of a self-necessary wellspring (a wellspring perhaps best described as “God”). Visit michaelistvan.com or pw.org/directory/writers/m_a_istvan_jr_phd
Jennifer Judge is a poet, a professor at King’s College, and coordinator of the Luzerne County Poetry in Transit program. Her poem “81 North” was selected for permanent inclusion in the Jenny Holzer installation For Philadelphia 2018. Her work has also appeared in Rhino, Literary Mama, Blueline, Under the Gum Tree, The Comstock Review, Gyroscope Review, and Rhino, among others. She earned her MFA from Goddard College. Learn more at jenniferjudgepoet.com.
Mollie Kindall is a retired nurse with a talent for visual art and a degree in creative writing. She is the mother of two grown children, a cat lover, a college football fan, and a voracious reader of philosophy and history. A native of Ohio, she now makes her home in middle Tennessee.
Originally from Virginia, Hilary King now lives in Northern California. Her poems have appeared in Minerva Rising, Fourth River, SWIMM, PANK, The Cortland Review, Blue Fifth Review, and other publications. She is the author of the book of poems, The Maid’s Car.
Koss is a queer writer and artist with an MFA from SAIC. She has work published (or forthcoming) in Diode Poetry, Chiron Review, Cincinnati Review, Hobart, Spillway, Rogue Agent, Anti-Heroin Chic, Rough Beast, and others. Her hybrid book, One for Sorrow, is due out in late 2020/early 2021 by Negative Capability Press. She also has work forthcoming in Best Small Fictions 2020 anthology. Keep up with Koss on Twitter @Koss51209969 and Instagram @koss_singular. Her website is http://koss-works.com.
Originally from Saskatchewan, Allan Lake has lived in Vancouver, Cape Breton I., Ibiza, Tasmania & Melbourne. Poetry Collection: Sand in the Sole (Xlibris, 2014). Lake won Lost Tower Publications (UK) Comp 2017 & Melbourne Spoken Word Poetry Fest 2018 & publication in New Philosopher 2020. Chapbook (Ginninderra Press 2020) My Photos of Sicily.
Richard LeDue was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, but currently lives in Norway House, Manitoba with his wife and son. His poems have appeared in various publications throughout 2020, and more work is forthcoming throughout 2021. His chapbook, “The Loneliest Age,” was released in autumn 2020 from Kelsay Books.
Gerald Leonard has published photos in several magazines including: Rat’s Ass Review, Blotterature, Terrene. He is a retired history professor enjoying photography, his family and travel.
Mare Leonard lives and works in the Hudson Valley where she is an Associate of the Institute for Writing and Thinking and the MAT programs at Bard College. She has published five chapbooks of poetry, the latest at Finishing Line Press in 2018. Recently she has published poems at Ariel Chart, Terror House and Rat’s Ass Review and in a worldwide anthology of poems re Covid-19. Finally she was nominated for a pushcart by The Pickled Body.
Michael H. Levin is a lawyer, solar energy developer and writer based in Washington DC. His work has appeared on stage and in chapbooks, anthologies and numerous periodicals, and has received poetry and feature journalism awards. His third chapbook, Falcons, was published July 2020 & remains available through Amazon or his poetry site. See michaellevinpoetry.com and twopianosplayingforlife.org.
Judith Luongo‘s art is deeply informed by her many years of experience as a Creative Arts Therapist and by her teaching the art of this endeavor to others. Having moved through the creation of dreamy landscapes and increasingly abstracted character studies through portraiture and the figure, Judith’s current concern is with deepening her inquiry into the palpable presence of that which is unspoken and unspeakable through gestural abstraction. She has shown work at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition; Pratt Institute; Michael David & Co. Website: judithluongo.com
Bob MacKenzie’s poetry has appeared in more than 400 journals including Literary Review of Canada, Dalhousie Review, Windsor Review, and Vallum Magazine. He’s published seven volumes of poetry and has been in numerous anthologies. Bob’s received local and international awards for his writing as well as an Ontario Arts Council grant (literature), Canada Council Grant (performance), and Fellowship for the Summer Literary Seminars in Georgia. With the group Poem de Terre, Bob’s released six albums.
Emily Marchment is a teacher and poet from London, UK, where she lives with her young daughter. Her poems have been published in Beyond Words and Pinky Thinker Press, with others currently awaiting publication.
With each passing day, Hayley McCullough becomes more convinced that she is actually a brain in a jar.
Maria McDonnell held the title Poet Laureate in Berks County, Pennsylvania from 2012-2014. Her poems have been published in literary magazines including Paradigm, Steel Point Quarterly, and Parlor. She has received awards from Writer’s Digest and Mulberry Poets and Writers Association. Her poem “Joyride” was nominated for Pushcart Prize XXXIII (2009 edition). Her book of poetry, First I Learn My Name, was published by FootHills Publishing.
When not hiding in the fifteenth century, Jennifer A. McGowan hits words with spanners until they approximate poems. Her latest book, Still Lives with Apocalypse, which recently won the Prole pamphlet competition is available from Prolebooks: https://prolebooks.co.uk/shop.html. She has featured in many magazines and journals, such as Rialto, Pank, and Prole, in various and occasionally surprising countries. She is a disabled poet.
Maeve McKenna lives in Sligo, Ireland. Her writing has been placed in several international poetry competitions and published in Mslexia, The Haibun Journal, Fly On The Wall, The Cormorant, San Antonio Review, Galway Review, Boyne Berries, Sonder Magazine, Skylight47, 100 Words Of Solitude, Bloody Amazing Anthology, Culture Matters A Working Class Anthology of Prose and widely online.
Patrick Jack Meachan is 68 years old. He works as a potter and ceramic sculptor in the north Georgia mountains with his wife and dog. Recently two of his poems have been accepted for publication.
Jason Melvin received a gimmicky T-shirt from his teenage daughter on Christmas with a picture of one large fist fist-bumping a much smaller fist. The caption read, “Behind every smart-ass daughter is a truly asshole Dad”. It fit. His work has recently appeared in The Beatnik Cowboy, The Raw Art Review, Rat’s Ass Review, The Closed Eye Open, Kitchen Sink Magazine, The Electric Rail, Front Porch Review andShambles, among others.
Mike Mesterton-Gibbons is a Professor Emeritus at Florida State University who builds game-theoretic models of animal behavior. His acrostic sonnets have appeared in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, the Creativity Webzine, Current Conservation, the Ekphrastic Review, Grand Little Things, Light, Lighten Up Online, Oddball Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review and the Satirist. His limericks have appeared in Britain’s Daily Mail.
Michael Minassian’s poems and short stories have appeared recently in such journals as, Live Encounters, Lotus Eater, and Chiron Review. He is also a Contributing Editor for Verse-Virtual, an online magazine. His chapbooks include poetry: The Arboriculturist and photography: Around the Bend. His poetry collections, Time is Not a River and Morning Calm are both available on Amazon. For more information: https://michaelminassian.com
Frank C. Modica is a retired teacher who taught children with special needs. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in Beyond Words Literary Magazine, Blue Mountain Review, Rat’s Ass Review, and Raconteur Review. Frank’s first chapbook is forthcoming from Alabaster Leaves publishing.
Tom Montag‘s books of poetry include: Making Hay & Other Poems; Middle Ground; The Big Book of Ben Zen; In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013; The Miles No One Wants; Love Poems; and Seventy at Seventy His poem “Lecturing My Daughter in Her First Fall Rain” has been permanently incorporated into the design of the Milwaukee Convention Center. He blogs at The Middlewesterner. With David Graham he recently co-edited Local News: Poetry About Small Towns.
S.M. Moore is a writer based out of southern Maine. Moore has co-authored a novel, a section of which has been published by a small newspaper based out of Bates College. He is also a regular writer for the Portland, Maine newspaper, Up Portland.
John David Muth was born and raised in central New Jersey. He has been an academic advisor at Rutgers University for twenty years. His latest book, Dreams of a Viking Wedding (Aldrich Press), was published last year and can be found on Amazon.com.
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who once read for an American President, when ex-President and poet Jimmy Carter was guest of honour at the opening of the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea in 2006. Nisbet is a Pushcart Prize nominee for 2020 and 2021.
A. J. Ortega is a writer from Texas. He lives in Utah where he teaches English. His writing has appeared in Front Porch Journal, American Book Review, Rio Grande Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Texas Review, and various newspapers and websites. He’s working on his first collection of short stories. He’s an active member of the Popular Culture Association, where his presentations focus on professional wrestling, combat sports, and Mexican American identity.
Sergio A. Ortiz is a retired English literature professor and bilingual poet. His recent credits include Spanish audio poems in GATO MALO Editing, an important Spanish Caribbean publication, Maleta Ilegal, a South American journal, Indolent Books, HIV HERE AND NOW, Communicators League. His poems are also forthcoming in Spillwords.
Marsha Owens is a retired teacher who lives and writes in Richmond, VA. Her essays and poetry have appeared in both print and online publications, including Rat’s Ass Review, The Sun magazine, The Huffington Post, Wild Word Anthology, NewVerseNews, and Rise Up Review. She is a co-editor of the poetry anthology, Lingering in the Margins.
Ilari Pass holds a BA in English from Guilford College of Greensboro, NC, and an MA in English, with a concentration in literature, from Gardner-Webb University of Boiling Springs, NC. Her work appears or forthcoming in Triggerfish Critical Review, Rejection Letters, Free State Review, Common Ground Review, and others.
Andrew Periale is an Emmy-nominated artist, and has toured throughout the US as actor and puppeteer. He’s been the editor of Puppetry International magazine for 36 years, and his plays have been performed around the country. His poetry has appeared in Light Quarterly, Yellow Medicine Review, Entelechy International, Burnt Bridge and others, as well as in numerous anthologies. A member of City Hall Poets (Portsmouth, NH), he served four years as Poet Laureate of Rochester.
Linnet Phoenix is a poet who currently resides in North Somerset, England. She has been writing poetry for years. Her work has previously been published in Heroin Love Songs, New Verse News, Rye Whiskey Review, Punk Noir Magazine, ImpSpired Magazine, Horror Sleaze Trash and by Shrouded Eye Press in Open Skies Quarterly and Dreamscape. She has poems pending in the upcoming Spring 2021 edition of Poetica Review and others. She also enjoys horse-riding in rainstorms.
Kenneth Pobo is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections. Recent books include Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), and Uneven Steven (Assure Press). Opening is forthcoming from Rectos Y Versos Editions. Lavender Fire, Lavender Rose is forthcoming from Brick/House Books.
Ken Poyner’s collections of brief fictions, “Constant Animals”, “Avenging Cartography”, “Revenge of the House Hurlers”, and “Engaging Cattle”; and poetry, “The Book of Robot” and “Victims of a Failed Civics”, can be located at Amazon, most online booksellers, and through links at www.barkingmoosepress.com. He spent 33 years in information system management, is married to a world record holding female powerlifter, and has a family of several rescue cats and betta fish.
Ramachandran M. A. is a poet currently based in Kozhikode. He writes and publishes poems in English. He writes under his heteronym Tekisui RC as well. His poetry has found home in different places. Apart from poetry he is interested in farming and travelling. Ramachandran lives in a tiny room. A few books and a laptop are his only possessions. He earns a little money for living by occasional teaching.
Timothy Resau resides in coastal North Carolina. His work has been published in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Currently, he has poems in Sideways Poetry Magazine, Sylvia Magazine, and an essay in Loch Raven Review. He’s just completed a novel Three Gates East.
Brian Rihlmann lives and writes in Reno, Nevada. His poetry has appeared in many magazines, including The Rye Whiskey Review, Fearless, Heroin Love Songs, Chiron Review and The Main Street Rag. His latest collection, “Night At My Throat,” (2020) was published by Pony One Dog Press.
Charlie Robert is a writer and headhunter living in Silicon Valley. He has been published and is forthcoming in various Literary Journals and Anthologies including Milk and Cake Press, Iconoclast, and NOMADartx. He currently is seeking publication of his new chapbook, Knuckle Work.
Mark McGarey Robinson is a gay poet born and raised in New Orleans. For the past 12 years he has made a home in NYC, where he works as a grant writer.
Mary Rohrer-Dann is a writer, painter, and educator in central PA, and the author of Taking the Long Way Home (Keslay Books) and La Scaffetta: Poems from the Foundling Drawer (Tempest Productions, Inc.) Her stories and poems appear in Flash Fiction Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine, Third Wednesday, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and other venues, and have been staged by Tempest Productions, Inc. She is a long-standing volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
When not writing poetry, Emalisa Rose enjoys crafting with macrame art and doll making. She volunteers in animal rescue. She lives by a beach town, which provides much of the inspiration for her work. Her poems have appeared in Rat’s Ass Review, Cholla Needles, Ariel Chart and other journals.
Sarah Russell’s poetry and fiction have been published in Kentucky Review, Misfit Magazine, Rusty Truck, Third Wednesday, and many other journals and anthologies. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She has two poetry collections published by Kelsay Books, I lost summer somewhere and Today and Other Seasons. She blogs at SarahRussellPoetry.net.
Gregory Scaff is a poet & 2D artist who holds a BA in Anthropology from USF; he resides in Annapolis and frequents Mid-Atlantic poetry readings. Besides self-published poetry chapbooks, Gregory’s work has been published in Aequinox IV, Circle Works, The Valley Literary Magazine, New Reality Magazine, Obelisk Magazine, and in the anthology Promises to Keep. Gregory’s works are in the collections of the Austrian National Library.
Lynne Schmidt is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor and mental health professional with a focus in trauma and healing. She is the author of the chapbooks, Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press) which was listed as one of the 17 Best Breakup Books to Read in 2020, and On Becoming a Role Model (Thirty West), which was featured on The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed for PTSD Awareness Week. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.
Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.
Remi Seamon is a student who spends her time split between Cambridge, England and Seattle, Washington. She was commended in the Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award and has been published in a scattering of small publications, most recently the Dillydoun Review and Unlost. She considers her primary inspiration to be her dog.
Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA fiction program. His stories, “Soon,” “How To Be A Good Episcopalian,” and “Tales From A Communion Line,” have been nominated for Pushcarts. Yash’s work has been published in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Write City Magazine, and Ariel Chart, among others.
John Short was born in Liverpool and got a degree in comparative religion from Leeds University. He then spent years wandering in Europe and finally settled for eight years in Greece. A previous contributor to RAR he’s appeared recently in magazines like Hobo Camp Review, Yellow Mama, Zingara Poetry and Poetry Salzburg Review. His full collection Those Ghosts is available now from Beaten Track Publishing (Burscough, Lancashire, UK).
Alec Solomita’s fiction has appeared in the Southwest Review, The Mississippi Review, Southword Journal, and Peacock, among other publications. He was shortlisted by the Bridport Prize and Southword Journal, and named a finalist by the Noctua Review. His poetry has appeared in Poetica, Litbreak, Driftwood Press, MockingHeart Review, The Galway Review, Panoplyzine, and elsewhere, including several anthologies. His poetry chapbook, “Do Not Forsake Me,” was published in 2017. He lives in Massachusetts.
Charles Springer has degrees in anthropology and is an award-winning painter. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, he is published in over eighty journals including The Cincinnati Review, Faultline, Windsor Review, Packingtown Review and Tar River Poetry, among others. His first collection of poems entitled JUICE has been published by Regal House Publishing. Read about him on his website at https://www.charlesspringer.com. He writes from Pennsylvania.
Susan Sue is an international student from China. She loves to write poems and would like to share her poems with others. She writes when she does not have classes.
Paul Tanner’s been earning minimum wage, and writing about it, for too long. He was shortlisted for the Erbacce 2020 Poetry Prize. “Shop Talk: Poems for Shop Workers” was published last year by Penniless Press. “No Refunds: Poems and cartoons from your local supermarket” is out now, from Alien Buddha Press.
Susan Thornton lives in Binghamton, New York, where for her sins, she is gainfully employed as a teacher of high school French. Her memoir, On Broken Glass: Loving and Losing John Gardner, was published in 2000 by Carroll & Graf, New York. Her work has appeared in The Best American Mystery Stories 2016, Blackbird (2017), and Rat’s Ass Review (2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021)
Lou Ventura has been a secondary school English teacher for 35 years. Lou’s first poetry collection, Bones So Close to Telling, has recently been accepted for publication by Foothills Publishing.
Peter Vertacnik‘s poems and translations have appeared in The Hopkins Review, Literary Matters, Poet Lore, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Water~Stone Review, among others. A finalist for the 2021 Donald Justice Poetry Prize, he currently attends the MFA program at The University of Florida.
Melody Wang currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband and hopes to someday live in the Pacific Northwest (or somewhere with equally gloomy weather). She dabbles in piano composition and enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs.
Richard Weaver lives in Baltimore where he volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank, the Baltimore Book Festival, and is the poet-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub. More than 100 of his Prose Poems have appeared since 2016. He is also the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press, 1992), and provided the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars, 2005, performed 3 times to date by the Birmingham Symphony, and once by the Juilliard Ensemble.
Gail White is a contributing editor of Light Poetry Magazine and is widely published in formalist poetry journals. Her most recent book, Asperity Street, can be found on Amazon, along with her chapbook Catechism. Home is in Breaux Bridge, LA, where the cats are.
Allison Whittenberg is a Philadelphia native who has a global perspective. If she wasn’t an author she’d be a private detective or a jazz singer. She loves reading about history and true crime. Her other novels include Sweet Thang, Hollywood and Maine, Life is Fine, Tutored and The Sane Asylum.
Patricia Williams first began writing poetry in 2013 after retiring from a teaching career in Art and Design. Her work appears in Midwest Review, Poetry Quarterly, Third Wednesday and other journals, anthologies and a chapbook about her travels, Portside of Shadows (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her collection, Midwest Medley (Kelsay Books) was named an Outstanding Poetry Book for 2018 by the Wisconsin Library Association.
Alys Willman is a poet and singer/songwriter in Athens, Georgia. Poetry and music do not pay the bills, so she is also an international development economist and manages an urban homestead. Alys’ poetry has appeared in District Lit, Tempered Runes, and Salt Hill Journal, and she has published a chapbook, Even the Dress is Smoke. Her songs have featured in compilations including the Voces en Pandemia project (2020) and on an album with her band After the Flood (2016).
Russel Winick recently began writing poetry at nearly age 65, after concluding a long legal career. Langston Hughes’ work has been a primary inspiration to him. Several dozen of Mr. Winick’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in over a dozen online or print journals.
Robin Wright lives in Southern Indiana. Her work has appeared in Rat’s Ass Review, Ekphrastic Review, Panoply, Black Bough Poetry, Spank the Carp, Ariel Chart, The Drabble, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her first chapbook, Ready or Not, was recently published by Finishing Line Press.
Susan J. Wurtzburg was born in Toronto, Canada, and is a retired academic, currently living in Hawai‘i. She writes and runs her editing business (Sandy Dog Books LLC), in between water sports, hiking, and socializing online, while she waits for the pandemic to diminish. Susan’s poetry has appeared in the Hawai‘i Pacific Review, NLAPW Featured Poem, Poetry and Covid, Quince Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, and The Literary Nest. She acknowledges the Rat’s Ass Review Workshop.
Gerald Yelle’s work has appeared in numerous print and online journals. He is a member of the Florence, Massachusetts Poets Society and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. His books include The Holyoke Diaries Future Cycle Press (2014) and Mark My Word and the New World Order Pedestrian Press (2016). He has a new e-chapbook at Yavaneka Press.
Donald Zirilli was a finalist for the James Tate Prize, was nominated for the Forward Prize, and edited Now Culture. His poetry swims in River Styx and other wetlands. He lives with wife and pets in pastoral New Jersey. His chapbook is Heaven’s Not For You, Kelsay Books, 2018.
Edited by Roderick Bates
RAT’S ASS REVIEW SUMMER ISSUE 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED