Welcome to the winter 2015 issue of Rat’s Ass Review. We have many new poets as well as a generous selection of new poems by poets we have published in earlier issues.
If you came here looking for a particular poet or poem, the links below will get you where you want to go. But don’t stop at that; wander around a little. You may never come here again; enjoy yourself for a few minutes. You will find your time well spent and well rewarded. –Roderick Bates
Michael Brockley, Jacquelyn Grant Brown, David Cavanagh, Michael Coolen, Jenifer DeBellis, Robert Eastwood, David Epstein, Sandra L. Faulkner, Adele Fraser, Michael Friedman, F. I. Goldhaber, Jennifer Gravley, John Grey, Lois Marie Harrod, Marianna Hofer, Marc Jampole, Vanessa Jasek, Mary Leonard, Katharyn Howd Machan, Marina Manoukian, MD Marcus, Tim Mayo, Megan Merchant, Leah Mueller, Joey Nicoletti, Kenneth Pobo, Tammy Robacker, Claire Scott, Lucas Shepherd, Martha Silano, Alex Stolis, J.A. Sutherland, Susan Thornton, Marvin Waldman, Michelle Watters, Laura Madeline Wiseman
JOHN SINGER SARGENT’S EL JALEO
I clap my hands beside the chair upon which Manuel has placed a pear. He took one bite from it before beginning to strum his new jaleo de jerez with his twin. Rosina from the islands struts on the wooden floor to the ruckus of old gods and wine. The vibrations from her heels drum the frenzy of rampaging bulls into the rhythm. She points to the men who would be her lovers. To the lovers who would be her men. The women in red toss back their chairs in triumph. Spill wine onto the floor where much wine has been welcomed. They are careless with their scarves and sheer dresses. They cry El jaleo! as the guitars ascend to dervish and devil. Even the dark woman who dresses in the feathers of ravens applauds when the music kidnaps Rosina’s heart. ¡How her body finds a place in the blood for rhapsody! I nudge the sleeping Benito, his hands idle in his lap. His head tilted back against the wall. He snores like a risqué tambourine at the threshold of rapture. Rosina’s arms river as her muscles flow through stone in a storm. The only light in the cantina the skirt covering her thighs as she tempests the floor. When the river flows into the delta, Rosina will be dancing with the floating guitars. And Manuel’s pear will not be eaten tonight.
Michael Brockley has written poems for most of his life. His most recent publications include The Flying Island and Panoplyzine. Forthcoming poems will be found in Atticus Review and Gargoyle.
List of Poets
Jacquelyn Grant Brown
WHAT CANCER TOOK
It took time
to collect what’s left
realign my thoughts.
I have not read, or submitted
to your, or any other, journal
in many, many publications
of the recent past, something
I have loved.
I lost my nerve and all
notion that acceptance
into journals and magazines
gave my life a good portion
of its meaning.
It took huge boobs—
to write this. Sincerely
It must have seemed the only release
from the suction of Jim Crow
that had hold of him
like a leach.
Doubts came about
from mouths full of fairytales
with no happy endings
and dog years of left behind.
Mother went off to the big city to sing
the blues in F minor and father,
not a factor, meant he needed
to make himself
use his pubic hair as guitar strings
and pluck out his own
version of A Change
But, his history would not unhand
him, DNA (daddy not around)
in the blood and plasma
raced through marrow—yellow
on the psyche. Meanwhile, big cities
beckoned boys like him with neon NUDE signs
above dead end alleyways. At eighteen,
he bought a one-way ticket to a stranger’s
Harlem apartment where he made do
with gritty floor tiles and a thin blanket
for a bed. Wide eyed, he was eager
to love anyone—have anyone
love him back. When I see him now, without
children to raise, aged and settled, watch him
and his wife tending to each other’s
needs, it is easier to understand,
being born with DNA,
how a fatherless man could
favor absence and how
a man missing
would make a home
he found a vacancy.
Jacquelyn Grant Brown is a writer/poet and a long-time employee and graduate of Louisiana State University where she received a BA in English. She is a recent graduate of the Solstice Low Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College where she earned a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. You can find some of her work in African American Review and Pink Panther Magazine. She currently resides in south Louisiana. For more of Jacquelyn’s work, go here.
List of Poets
NOTHING MUCH SAD
Spring’s mess of mashed down leaves gets raked
into piles, along with my dank thoughts, a heap
of too soon dead — mothers, fathers, brothers,
a friend’s small child. And the dailies down me
bad. I hear my whine, I hear the counter-whine,
Grow Up! I hear Get On With It. If need be, get
Paxiled or Cymbalta’d, let a slack hand click newsy
link to link, Share, even Like what you loathe.
Another young black man got back-dropped by a cop;
a train crashed and killed in Philly; two tectonic heaves
shook Nepal to bits; a Saudi woman was flogged
for being raped; a little girl at my corner cried,
and her mom begged, because hungered.
That was all yesterday and the day before.
Whose Fault and What Now wait like stage four
patients at the clinic. Even so, the sun on my neck
so warm and welcome, not quite yet a sizzle. I find
myself edging the drive, sharp flat spade slicing
along, inches at a time carving a prim disguise,
a clean line of grass against pavement. I’m mindful
of the sham, which makes it a little less, or is that
more? Nothing much sad happens here. I just miss
them all. Tulips mauve and yellow unconcerned,
regal by the salted road. I should be on my knees. I am.
David Cavanagh’s most recent book of poems is Straddle, released in 2015 by Salmon Poetry of Ireland. His earlier collections include Cycling in Plato’s Cave, a book of biking-related poems and photos from Fomite Press in 2014; Falling Body from Salmon Poetry in 2009, and The Middleman, also from Salmon Poetry in 2003. His poems have also appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, and the U.K. He lives in Burlington, Vermont. http://dcavanagh.net/
List of Poets
VENUS ATTACKS MARS (to be recited on one breath)
So one morning I go to yoga and the temperature in the room is, like, 104 degrees and the women in class are still putting on more scarves and leggings and sweaters, and I’m, like, wishing I had worn a bathing suit because it was so hot which convinces me that women ARE from Venus where the surface temperature is about 700 degrees while the temperature on Mars can get so cold I might have to wear long pants.
Michael Coolen has been published in Oregon Humanities, The Gold Man Review, Clementine Poetry Journal, Synesthesia Magazine, Broken, The Poetry Quarterly, Oregon Poetry Association, the Rats Ass Review, et al.
He is also a published composer, with works performed around the world, including at Carnegie Hall, MoMA, and the Christie Gallery in New York. For more of Michael’s work go to the Love & Ensuing Madness page.
List of Poets
The woodchipper welcomes you, takes you
into its mouth as a lover does who’s
waited too long for the other’s return.
Your fall is poised, your eyes repentant.
The ash limb you dive from trembles
as all but your boots pass through the chipper.
“Kill it!” someone yells. “Kill the power.”
I forget how to pray, how to say
the right things in the proper order.
I should be the one flipping my red cap
as I meet my death. Our son shudders
when the air grows calm and I do not
remember to keep breathing. I don’t know
what I will tell him when he is born.
Metro Detroit writer Jenifer DeBellis is Pink Panther Magazine’s Executive Editor and a Solstice Lit Mag eBook editor and poetry reader. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Solstice of Pine Manor College and is a former writer-in-residence for the Meadow Brook Writing Project. JDB teaches creative and academic writing and is a workshop facilitator for Oakland University’s Meadow Brook Writing Camps. Her work appears in publications such as the Aurorean, AWP’s Festival Writer, the Good Men Project, Literary Orphans, Sliver of Stone, and Solstice Literary Magazine. For more of Jenifer’s work, go here.
List of Poets
GREAT WINGS BEATING STILL
Some say Leda laid a beautiful egg,
& when it cracked the world turned over.
Naked by a pond, don’t ask me why, maybe
after skinny-dipping, she had dangled her hand,
idling of a hot afternoon, when a priapic god
turned himself into a bird, bigger than a goose,
without more than a shrug, & that god-bird
swam in the pond with his neck curled
like mortal ones do when they get randy,
wings flat back, tail fanned, dingy-white
as a Poland China belly, & mist hung
around him in a halo, cause he was a god,
coming from god knows, & that helped him sneak
up on the girl who dawdled fingers,
though she must have seen wavelets lap the moss,
heard his big feet strum out corded ripples,
known, somehow, this was a fateful afternoon,
yet she remained there, fingers tickling water, strangely
charmed: like an estrus cow may turn herself
toward a bull, she curled her casual arm
& heaved that white-feathered hulk
upon herself. It’s always bothered me whether
god-birds are as mean as earthly ones
when they jump on, beak grabbing whatever
to hold to––must have been her nape,
don’t you suppose, not bosom, or nose?
You’d think it would have put her off,
that big feathery thing throbbing, dripping,
doing the wild thing in a sudden blow.
With such awesomeness, why the beaky guise,
why ill-fitting nether-parts?
Might be a starter story, dawn of the butterfly effect,
where weird onces cause untold afters.
THE YIDDISHER CASE
And he rose up that night…and passed over
the ford Jabbock. Genesis 32:22
A week of empty deals,
the blotter crescented by my heels.
I’d stubbed my last Lucky,
my bourbon, now gone empty.
No picnic being a shamus
where everyone’s religious.
She arrived as neons flicked on
at Cohen’s all night delicatessen.
A Yiddisher in a shawl, she perched
on my desk, tossed her bag. I shoved
it back said, No gelt––gimme the story
first. She heard my gut growl its feed me
shtick. You got chutzpah! Shook her stick.
All work no eat. I like that in a private dick.
Asked for a finger of hooch, she cackled
at the dead soldier upended
in the corner. She saw me frown
and came up with the lowdown.
Followed him that night
in a glowing moon. Almost white
the river Jabbok, where he waded
the shallows, where water murmured.
A nightmare––a kholem, surely––
for Izzie tore off his clothes. His body,
naked, wavered in eerie lethargy,
like a wind-turned effigy.
Then something grabbed and twisted him,
like Gorgeous Goy yanks a limb––
you know, the phony wrestler
with pink hair. The body juggler.
All contorted, Izzie growled,
at empty air he grabbed
and held. On a moonlit scree
this spell unfolded––so kakameyme.
Grappling zilch is pretty odd I tell you.
Eased of the spirit, he spun into
a klutz. I cringed, afraid he’d fall
(yeah, I’m his chief squeeze, his usual).
His arms upraised, he danced like I’d never
seen him do. Where hips in torture
had been atwist, as if his heinie unsprung,
he leaped now, kicked and swung.
A glistened blueness his body shone,
all but his––you know––a smoothed stone.
Of a sudden it came to me––it’s gone kaput
his proper sense, all us wives and heirs, destitute.
His goats too, all lost to him. Afraid, I ran,
took him in my arms, prayed for sun.
Next day, he chewed locusts. The meshugener
climbed a mountain and went over.
Been years, Mr. Marlowitz.
Find Izzie, please, he’s lost his wits .
She had a twist of challah and a fig,
no dough for me in her thingamajig.
Told her I enjoyed our little smooze,
helped her to the bus. Didn’t quite refuse.
Funny how some tales rebloom
in dusty beds of Jerusalem.
Robert Eastwood never saw his parents read a book, let alone buy one, so he’s been catching up ever since, an obsession in its own right. His books are now in every nook and cranny, and he reads constantly. He is a retired teacher who lives in San Ramon, California. He is a graduate of California State University At Los Angeles and Saint Mary’s College. His work has appeared widely, most recently in The Dirty Napkin, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Full Of Crow, Legendary, Softblow, Up The Staircase Quarterly, Literary Yard, Kentucky Review, Bird’s Thumb, The Hartskill Review, Spry and Loch Raven Review. His chapbooks are The Welkin Gate, Over Plainsong, Night of the Moth, published by Small Poetry Press, and his first book of poetry (Snare: Poems of Refuge & Revenge) is to be published in 2016 by Broadstone Books. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.
List of Poets
WEDDING POEM #2
All doubts are restrained in lace.
All differences garroted by bow-ties.
In advance of M-hour, all cheeks have tired of smiling.
Every member, every guest, has a room
in which is shut away a clamoring ricochet:
“He’ll be bald inside a year.”
“Her mother looks like a cannoli in pumps.”
“He was such a tender lover.”
“She owes me fifty bucks.”
We’re tourists in the city of Decorum,
a land filled with hatchets buried
in shallow, well-marked graves.
When the last stains have been daubed off lapels,
When the roles have all been played like a vinyl record,
When the rice is clotting the sparrows’ throats,
and the couple has boarded their flight, then
the minister opens a book to record her observations:
Time of engagement: thirteen months.
Groom’s attitude: fair, with a sarcastic grin.
Bride’s delight: full, no cracks in her armor.
Bride’s mother: restrained enthusiasm.
Groom’s mother: open relief.
Best Man’s toast: appropriately roasting.
Estimate of True Love: fair with optimism.
Likelihood of divorce remains fifty percent
no matter what.
There are things that will be said
that will never be forgiven. These will be hoarded
and kept dry like ammunition. At the interview
the bride held back her worst peeves,
and the groom’s mind repeated the phrase
“starter-wife.” And what is a wedding but a wager
that two people might learn to let go?
David Epstein learned how to work by being the “scrote” on a construction crew right after college. “Hey College Boy,” they’d call, and when he looked up from his Skilsaw, they’d flatten him with roofing staples fired from pneumatic nailers. After a few years of that, he went to grad school anyway, bagged a Ph.D., and tried teaching, but kept going back to the hammer. He got married and stayed home with the babies. Published articles for the At-Home Dad Newsletter; poems in Poesia, Poetic Hours, The Lyric, Blue Collar Review, and Shofar. He built some small boats. Again he taught school, but the job was such deskstitution that he left it. In the summers he races small sailboats and publishes entertaining accounts of the races. He is on the board of the Hartford Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens. http://www.stevenspoetry.org/.
List of Poets
Sandra L. Faulkner
BATTLE OF THE B-F GIRLS
Sandra L. Faulkner is Director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at BGSU. Her poetry appears in places such as Gravel, Literary Mama, and damselfly. She authored three chapbooks, Hello Kitty Goes to College (dancing girl press, 2012), Knit Four, Make One (Kattywompus, 2015), and Postkarten aus Deutschland (liminalities.net). Sense published her memoir in poetry, Knit Four, Frog One (2014), and a co-authored book on Writing the Personal (forthcoming). She lives in NW Ohio with her partner, their warrior girl, and a rescue mutt. For more of Sandra’s work, go here.
List of Poets
You search for him in bars.
You seek him in personal ads.
You’re business-like about it.
You have no time to waste on games,
see no point in politely prolonging
tedious preambles. You prefer to cut
to the chase.
Each one you find turns out eventually
not to be him, but always someone else,
someone who wants things you do not have
and lacks the things you need.
You give up in the end. Step off the roller coaster,
find your feet, and start walking
as far from sunsets as your legs will carry you.
You find her (or, rather, she finds you) by accident
and somewhat late. You tell her that you’re straight
and that you think she’s brave to engage with you,
as all you can offer her is everything and nothing.
She hasn’t a clue what you mean by the phrase,
and, truth be told, neither have you,
but it sounds good, has a certain elegance
and strikes an appropriately literary note
of eloquent regret.
Seven years later, she sits smiling,
and writes this poem,
feeling that you should have guessed
that everything and nothing
was exactly what she wanted.
IMAGINING ALICE IN WELLINGTONS
I was reading an article the other day,
in which the author did that oh-so-infuriating
first person plural crap.
You know what I mean.
Like that thing they do on adverts, when we can’t
stop ourselves from screaming at the TV
‘Speak for your sodding self!’
(Or maybe that’s just me. Sorry.)
Anyway, this person was saying
how we all know there’s nothing less sexy
than wellies. And I thought
‘You have got to be having me on!’
I can only assume that they meant to say ‘more’ –
there’s nothing more sexy than wellies.
Especially thigh high ones on small women.
So, inevitably, I start imagining Alice in wellingtons
and find myself coming over rather faint.
I don’t know what it is about them.
They have that good kind of outdoorsy vibe going on.
And, when I say the good kind, I mean the British kind,
grey, wet, what the soulless call ‘miserable’
and the rest of us ‘romantic’ and ‘restful’.
(Shit, I did it again, didn’t I? Sorry again.)
Anyway, I think wellies and I think power.
Real power. Not stand-on-the-tips-of-your-toes-and-look-expensive
kind of power, but the kind of power that can disrupt the earth
and make things grow, the kind of power that knows how to
make even the most obstinate of beasts go where they’re led
with little more than a soft word. That kind of power.
And there’s something about small women in high boots
of any kind. Same goes for long coats. Something about it
that says presence. That says nothing-can-eclipse-me.
And, it has to be said, my Alice is at her best
when she dominates things that could drown her:
a trench coat, anxiety, the world.
Adele Fraser is from the UK, where she lives and writes high in the Welsh mountains (geographically speaking). Although in the early months of her career, she has already been published by a number of magazines. For more of Adele’s work, go here.
List of Poets
FOOD FOR THE HUNTER
from Beasts by Richard Wilbur
After the pain and panic
subside, and after the beak
has opened my belly
I fade in the glory
of those quills, smeared
with my blood.
A consecration of power
my body sustains.
Passing through the great earth,
I am but a dot of mouse fur,
safe in the owl’s talon.
Michael Wayne Friedman is an MFA candidate in the Creative Writing program at Queens University of Charlotte. He lives near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and works as a medical writer, preparing drug regulatory and scientific documents. His poems have appeared (or are slated to appear) in Syzygy Poetry Journal, Wherewithal, Yellow Chair Review, Camel Saloon, Plum Tree Tavern, East Jasmine Review, Stray Branch, and others.
List of Poets
F. I. Goldhaber
GENDER BLENDING FASHION
Those who identify as #GenderQueer
do not let others define our wardrobes.
Men’s sports shirt with cloisonné necklace and
matching earrings? Sounds sweetly alluring.
Men’s button down shirt with pearls? Just perfect.
Let’s add a pleated skirt and combat boots.
Butch haircut with glittery makeup and
dangly earrings? Just put on a binder.
Men’s purple shorts with pink, strappy, sexy
sandals? Just what the evening calls for.
Formal gown, stage makeup, full beard? Add a
stunning voice and you’ve a grand prize winner.
As a reporter, editor, business writer, and marketing communications consultant, F.I. Goldhaber produced news stories, feature articles, essays, editorial columns, and reviews for newspapers, corporations, governments, and non-profits in five states. Now, her poems, short stories, novelettes, essays, and reviews appear in paper, electronic, and audio magazines, ezines, newspapers, calendars, and anthologies. In addition to paper, electronic, and audio publications, F.I. shares her words at events in Portland, Seattle, Salem, Keizer and on the radio. She appeared at venues such as Wordstock, Oregon Literary Review, galleries, coffee shops, bars, bookstores, libraries, and community colleges. http://www.goldhaber.net/
List of Poets
Old people want to kiss you, and they do. This is how you learn your lips will one day turn to paper. When you are older and can pick out and pay for lace underwear, a woman will wrap the underwear in paper like the lips of old people, just barely pink, thin enough to see shadows, shapes through, given to wrinkle. You will learn, through community educational programming, that painters sometimes apply this paper to canvas and paint over it. You will learn that something without texture can create it elsewhere—but not until it is too late for you. Old people want their things wrapped in paper. You open the dresser drawers of every old person you know. You go through the cabinets they display their old dishes in in dust. Every old person has the hair of their mother in a tiny envelope. Old people want you to eat expired candy, and you do. Old people want you to remember something about them. They shape the stories they want with their lips. Your hands tear at candy papers as you chew. You chew in your dreams at night, each tooth grinding away at some other. Your teeth grind at something every old person knows—it is too late for you.
You have wanted to lose many things and failed: your sister, then the children and dogs of neighbors. The fever that your eyes swam in like lava for days as you combined sentences on blackboards and crawled back to your apartment to die. You have seen your father undone by hoarding, every unkindness festering into a tight foul knot in the rag rug he carries inside him. This rug is where you learned to press your sitz bones into the ground. You have packed house—boarded planes—every time you felt anxiety knocking. Years after each winnowing, the boxes returned, in the mail or down the ladder from your parents’ attic. Your mother tapes names on the smallest of possessions, but you and your sister do not turn them over when she leaves the room. You do not want to know what death will grant you. In the end, you will be lucky to get out with your teeth.
Jennifer Gravley makes her way in Columbia, Missouri. She is a writer of sentences and a watcher of bad television. Her work has recently appeared in Paper Nautilus, Sugared Water, and Front Porch, among others.
List of Poets
HOW YOU FIND ME
I must be in this room for a reason.
And it wasn’t to sit in the particular
chair I’m sitting in or turn on the
lamp or open the book that happened
to be on the end table to a random
page that, as I read, tried to convince
me it was a particular page.
You followed me in like
you wanted something from me.
I looked at you like the interruption
you were, like everything that
happened to me was an interruption,
even the stuff I did myself,
like entering this room at this time,
and plunking myself into this chair,
and reading the book that insists
on being the only book like you insist on having
been there fifteen years ago in the upper
east side restaurant with the candles lit
and meal about to arrive and the nervous man
opposite struggling to get that proposal out.
You won’t get up to leave.
You have to hear what he timidly whispers
to you over and over and over.
And, every moment since then,
you still won’t get up to leave.
Time’s like this chain you won’t let break.
Or it’s a long drawn out puzzle with
only one answer…me entering this room,
sitting down, reaching for the book,
opening it, reading on from
where it’s so certain I left off.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Steam Ticket, Tulane Review, and Kerf with work upcoming in Abbey, Common Ground Review, In/Words, and Ship of Fools.
List of Poets
Lois Marie Harrod
The woman you’ve met for years at these conferences,
older now, forties, fifties, maybe sixty,
no longer slim or particularly attractive
a coif that thins the hair against her neck and brittles its red,
and you know she is thinking the same of you, not so young,
forehead frocked in age spots, needs to lose some weight—
but put appearance aside, you’ve always enjoyed talking to her,
the way she is telling you now how she felt when her first husband left,
that horror with earthworm breath and hard-nailed toes,
the squamous nerd with his demands for bologna sandwiches,
his criticisms of her teeth, her clothes (which are,
you would agree, dowdy by any standard, even your mom’s)
and now she is recounting how after the divorce she flirted
with the man who became her second husband,
saw to it that he left that first wife who didn’t appreciate him,
and he seems so stodgy sitting beside you as she goes on and on,
you wonder what she saw in him thirty years ago,
an arthritic hung up on his Ray Bub ceramic teapots,
though it’s true she might see your own man in a similar way,
a bald aficionado of Budapest noir mysteries.
Of course, you do understand what it was about your former son-in-law
that led that young radiologist to seduce him, not his dreariness
but readiness being all, and you think immediately of your daughter.
You want to ask your conference friend
if she ever wondered about the ex-wife,
her probable pain and, yes, terror, but you don’t,
you know she hasn’t, this is her story not yours—
and when she begins telling of the 100 cans of mashed pumpkin
she and her inexplicable choice buy every Thanksgiving
to pass on to the food bank and how people in the Kroger line
always ask them what will they do with all those pies
and he launches into his annual responses (You should see the turkey.
Our relatives are coming and half of them are vegetarians.
We love pumpkin paté with graham crackers and celery. It’s for sex
and this is the only time of the year Libby’s is on sale),
you begin to see what may have attracted her.
Lois Marie Harrod’s 13th and 14th poetry collections Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth) appeared in 2013. Her poems and stories have appeared in journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. Read more on http://www.loismarieharrod.org/
List of Poets
LOVE AND DEVOTIONS FALL TO RUINS IN YOUR HANDS
You say you fear I’ll change my mind
And I won’t require you.
–“Never My Love”
Fall, or maybe spring. Either way
a start, an end. Let’s say fall, that
dying season where in the Midwest
the death comes carrying bright
shiny leaves that pile up all over,
that hard rustling they make, made,
as you scuffed through drifts
of them on a shadowy sidewalk.
Not for a first time, not for a last time,
yet one more boy you supposedly
loved, at one point or another, you
would just slip away, live some part
of your life without him. Which
sounds romantic, but isn’t, just easy.
None of them ever knew, just felt,
after awhile, that nagging but uneasy
feeling, as if a ring they couldn’t find
slipped off, fell into a pile of leaves
they’d set fire to the day before
while the smoke stung their lungs.
An upstairs bar in the small hours,
brocaded wingback chairs, coffee
with cream & Gran Marnier sinks
endlessly through a cautionary tale
you ignore, like always. You lean
over that black haired boy’s shoulder,
he looks up, his blue eyes bright, as if
he knows what you will say next,
replies “we won’t ever marry.” You
smile, relieved, say “perfect. yes.”
Who could blame you your justification.
Red wingback chairs, hands jammed
into a boy’s thick wool cardigan pockets,
a sweet cakewalk, your boots heavy on
the wood floor, lame excuse, yes, one
unmapped jam after another, a grab bag
of true sticky sweet perfumes, perfectly
folded sweaters, bright sugar maple leaves,
the iridescence staining your hands.
TALKING IN THE GREENHOUSE AS MOTHS GENTLY BRUSH AGAINST THE GLASS WALLS
A woman I know told how once she
loved a man who didn’t really love
her, never wanted her to stay with him.
She told me she didn’t completely care,
and at that point still went over to his
place two or three times a week. At least
once a week she’d stack and wash all
the dishes scattered around the kitchen.
He didn’t really want her to do it, an act
that was too close to love for him. But
the haphazard stacks of plates & bowls,
frying pans, silverware sprouting from
cups & glasses like prehistoric flowers,
were too much for her to ignore.
She’d stand at the sink for an hour or
more scrubbing, rinsing. He’d sit in one
of the two kitchen chairs, not say much.
Once, though, when she thought she was
almost done, he pointed out the missed pans
on the stove behind her in the same tone
of voice her mother would use on her
when, as a kid, she would wash the dishes.
So she took to, each week, telling him
her family’s stories. Her mother’d been
dead maybe two years, her father nearly
twenty, aunts & uncles gone, cousins
scattered, a brother she never spoke to,
no home to go back to if things fell apart.
One night as she scoured a pan, she told
how her mother claimed to know she would
turn out to be a troubling child since she chose
to be born during a freak March snowstorm,
nearly a blizzard, her parents driving to
the hospital in a wet heavy whiteout.
The next day he called, told her he’d gotten
engaged to the woman he thought about
each week as she told her stories. She just
hung up on him, didn’t see him again for
months, grew to appreciate how his wife
saved her, set her free. It didn’t matter if
he, or anyone, heard those stories. They
just convinced her she indeed had once
been another person in another place.
Now she was here, things would be fine.
She explained how the stories became
like those flowers few plant anymore—
Calendula, Anise, Love-in-a-Mist—yet
when you turn a corner, find them blooming
in some front yard, you promise yourself
seeds, plants, their beauty mesmerizing.
Marianna Hofer has Studio 13 in the gloriously haunted Jones Building in Findlay, OH. Her poems and stories appear in small magazines, and her b&w photography hangs in local exhibitions and eateries. Her first book, A Memento Sent by the World, was published by Word Press in 2008.
List of Poets
Her thighs unfold to solid rays of space
that splay along a sofa climbing wall
revealing dark triangulation as a thing apart,
a thing that breathes flirtatious glints,
corrugated flesh and orange sit in slouch,
he takes her hand in front of everyone.
His back is turning from my right to care,
this jealous sponge that holds the phlox,
this sobbing sponge that drinks the red I toss
in shadows squaring other shadows squaring
splintered memory: the day she threw a jealous fit,
in open window windy winter blues and grays,
her oval breasts were on the floor against a Persian rug
attached by springs to shuddered nakedness.
He touched his shadow on the wall,
thought it was the lamp that lights
the actions of the mind.
That’s when he first saw her:
imitating angels imitating magpies
imitating her imitation of herself.
He thought he could meditate on one thing
and from it learn about the world
but he didn’t even learn about the thing.
She couldn’t stay still long enough
to alleviate the reason she kept moving.
He was imitating chariots imitating meteors
imitating his imitation of himself.
She had too much of what
you never have enough of
and not enough of anything else.
He transformed himself into a book
and read for entertainment
She created hundreds of thousands of selves
and whichever one he picked
she called reality.
They liked to dance with words
as much as they liked to dance with bodies—
at times they couldn’t tell the difference.
He penetrated her being
to keep her chaste
but it only worked
as long as he remained inside her
where the universe revolved in emptiness.
She penetrated his being
to keep him honest
but it only worked
as long as she remained inside him
where emptiness caressed the universe.
They played the game of shifting shapes,
she to warrior hacking sword against him,
he to diamond necklace wrapped around
her neck and choking her, she to bird
to gulp the diamonds, he to cat to kill the bird,
she to dog and he to stick and she to fire
and he to water, she to he and he to her,
inside and outside at the same time.
He travelled, uncertain of his destination—
the core of the sun or the heart of another.
To become knower of self
he sank lower than self.
Like nesting dolls in nesting dolls
she placed her breath in her mind
her mind in her intellect
her intellect in her consciousness
her consciousness in her self
her self in the universe
and the universe in her breath.
Sunrise liberated moon
from dark nirvana in the clouds:
their constantly coming together
and breaking apart, breaking
apart and coming together.
Marc Jampole wrote Music from Words, published by Bellday Books (2007). His poetry has appeared in Evansville Review, Mississippi Review, Cortland Review, Vallum, Slant, Cutthroat, Ellipsis, and many other journals. Over the years, four of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. More than 1,500 freelance articles he has written on various topics have been published in magazines and newspapers. Marc also writes the popular OpEdge blog, which appears on the websites of two national publications. He is on the editorial board of Jewish Currents.
List of Poets
For I rejoice
over small beads
of warm red blood
on the white underbelly
of my arm.
Yet, I also recoil
at the meaning
the blood brings along
to the party
to which it was apprehensively invited.
The beads turn into a light
stream of warmth
like a blanket that
well-meaning mothers spread
to cover all wounds.
Back and forth
emotions are juggled
like the flames
the bearded man tosses
at the circus,
only hotter somehow.
I’m giddy at the thought
of mother seeing
the wound I created
not for her,
but for what she isn’t.
Vanessa Jasek is a wife, and mother of four kids. She is a student pursuing a Liberal Arts Degree after a long career in Human Resources. Vanessa is now an author who is following a new path in life, a brilliant path of words, mysteries that unravel as each new word appears on the screen. Her short stories and poems have appeared in The East Fork Journal and The Rebelle Society. She loves to read. She loves her two bulldogs. Life is good.
List of Poets
Notice what happens if you turn Vermeer’s
Girl Reading a Letter upside down.
Do you see the young woman’s face
in the window pane?
Do you notice the frame of red and green,
or what’s absent?
Do you imagine the girl’s need to escape
the thick walls, the ripe fruit?
Don’t you want to see her tear off
the stiff satin of that blue dress?
To be with her lover under the moonlight?
Don’t you want to see, don’t you really want to see,
the girl turn to Vermeer insisting, “Do something quick,
My tight braids are digging into my still life!”
Mary Leonard has published chapbooks at 2River, Pudding House, Antrim House Press and RedOchreLit. Her poetry has appeared in The Naugatuck Review, Hubbub, Cloudbank, The Chronogram and most recently in Red River and Ilya’s Honey. She lives in an old school house overlooking the Rondout Creek in Kingston, NY. Away from her own personal blackboard, she teaches writing workshops for all ages through Bard College.
List of Poets
Katharyn Howd Machan
THIS IS NOT A POEM ABOUT SEX
Try pickles. Better yet,
cucumbers, bananas, all-beef
hot dogs with those tight
little skins. Or how about
tomatoes clumsy on the vine
heavy to burst with juice
and seeds, cactus fruit
sweet-succulent and dripping
pink, split to the moist heart.
The recipes are endless;
hunger for such edibles becomes
addiction when unchecked.
Avocado, pomegranate, kiwi
with its hairy cover, even
tiny new potatoes boiled
naked in deep salt.
We’re talking food here, folks.
An onion is an onion,
slice it how you will.
And you will.
Katharyn Howd Machan, Professor of Writing at Ithaca College, holds degrees from the College of Saint Rose, the University of Iowa, and Northwestern University. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines; in anthologies and textbooks such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013, Poetry: An Introduction, Early Ripening: American Women’s Poetry Now, Sound and Sense, Writing Poems, Literature: Reading and Writing the Human Experience; and in 32 collections, most recently Wild Grapes: Poems of Fox (Finishing Line Press, 2014), H (Gribble Press, 2014—national winner) ,and When She’s Asked to Think of Colors (Palettes & Quills Press, 2009—national winner). Former director of the national Feminist Women’s Writing Workshops, Inc., she edited Adrienne Rich: A Tribute Anthology (Split Oak Press, 2012). She appears in the spring 2015 issue of Rat’s Ass Review.
List of Poets
It’s easy not to think about when you’re not thinking about it. But once the door cracks open and you snap awake to someone coming in at five in the morning, it’s hard not to indulge. Poems don’t write themselves as you get fucked. Though it’d be nice to be able to write and fuck. Who knows where the mind could wander to with such distractions? Imagine the words lettered right before those electric shocks come. Writing’s just like fucking. When it’s good you’re at once trying to escape and pull it into you ineffably. It’s overwhelming and exhausting and you want to beg it to stop but each pulse leaves one craving harder and deeper. A subtle balance between letting yourself be ravaged and giving it everything—bursts of energy coming and going. The need for a cigarette afterwards. I was once told that was cheesy by a nonsmoker. And of course, when you’re not thinking about it, it’s easy not to think about.
The question of “are you satisfied”
Why does satisfaction imply a cessation of what brought one to that state? If you’re satisfied with life are you done? Of course you’re satisfied. That’s why you immediately want more.
One fuck, one paragraph. You gasp and brace yourself for what’s to come, and you’re satisfied with the results. But runaway blank space on the page teases just as much as a naked body having done its job. You want more. Who wouldn’t?
Marina Manoukian is a twenty-something person milling in New York City, splitting her time between reading and writing and reading and reading. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and after four years of concentrating on concentrations, she now works in a bookstore. Recent works may be found at Empty Mirror, Down In The Dirt, and Gingko. Look for more of her works at https://www.marinamanoukian.wordpress.com/
List of Poets
LONGING FOR A LOBOTOMY
It’s for good
Even without a jumble of blame,
masquerading as well-wishes,
tucked beneath the empty vase
on my kitchen table,
a home, like a person,
doesn’t need physical evidence
to bare a permanent loss.
Denied of goodbyes so often
the sting of being caught
ought not to make me flinch.
But desertion is a hard thing
to get acclimated to.
Nothing short of a head-on collision
can keep me from lingering where hopes
are the stuff Limbo is made of.
Leaning on theories,
instead of familiar arms, for comfort,
seesawing between a place of Zen
and where the ego lives,
between being taught patience
and plotting karmic revenge,
prayers versus analysis—
‘Cause when it says PUSH on both sides of the door,
you can really swing that bitch both ways
and it’ll still open up,
The world remains big and round,
full of wars and sick children.
There is pollution and the problem with politicians.
Still, I have to constantly repeat,
“Perspective” and “Perception”
to remember there is any difference
between the two.
Rationality is the speech of the bitter
that says if they love you, they’ll show up,
and prove it.
Besides, no forevers were exchanged,
no undying love or vows,
never once sighed in warm embraces
where present tense is not an elementary lesson,
but the most wonderful thing in the entire universe.
Just a few mixed signals,
“I LOVE YOU”
shouted in nightclubs over loud music,
where it echoed and got lost in darkness,
settled on the floor and stuck there
in the cheap liquor and broken glass.
MD Marcus is a freelance writer and poet living in the past. Recent work can be found on Salon as well as in Femmewise Cat Part 1, Calliope Magazine, The Rain, Party, and Disaster Society, In-Flight Literary Magazine, The Round Up, the Monkey Star Press anthology “Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness”, and the Red Dashboard Publishing anthology, “dis-or-der.” Please read everything she writes, follow/like her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and visit her at mdmarcus.com
List of Poets
Once, in Oklahoma, my ex and I drove
through the sunset watching a tumbleweed race us
rolling with the wind beside our car. Sparse,
rootless thing, aged beyond its ties, it drifted
beside us as though the Earth had fallen away.
I wanted to conjugate it: from the past beyond
that present––to inflect it with the future. I wanted
to re-verb it, retain the untold power blowing
through the twig ball of its body, but my ex-wife
wished only to decline the ablative of its existence.
Later, we turned off our way, we went into the hills
to a green place with a lake as though the dryness
of our road had always been illusion, and we had
never left the rooted world. From the gateposts
evangelists uncrossed their arms leaning their long
bodies forward in welcome, and that night my wife
swam in their waters, performed her unusual ablutions,
and from deep in the wet places of her body, withdrew
the twig words she had waited all day to say, their frail,
rootless stems sprouting new leaves, new thorns.
LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI
Then my dinner partner, a long gloved beauty,
up to her elbows in satin, a beauty of a certain age,
whose silver hair fell in casual perfection
over the delicate bones of her shoulders,
turned to me, tilting her long-stemmed glass,
ever so slightly, and fluttering her languorous lashes,
interjected herself into my most private of thoughts,
Death is the ultimate spiritual act,
and for such fulfillment, such sublimity,
mon petit bonhomme, it must happen au lit . . .
a queen-size at the very least, n’est-ce pas?
She waited, not for my reaction, but for my answer,
my clever parry to her conversational thrust,
for hers was a ploy to engage me in that verbal duel
and favorite pastime the French are so fond of.
The subject is never important, but the grace
and manner with which one addresses it are utmost:
the richness of innuendo and wit, the subtle deftness
of all the possible linguistic twists and turns,
and any reference to the personal is considered
an indiscretion of gross proportion.
I was speechless,
which had also been my previous state as I
pondered how her gown’s neckline scooped away
from her collarbone, allowing me to gaze upon
her small, but still perfect, pear-shaped breasts.
I wondered if the rosettes of her nipples
had ever suckled a child. Somehow, they seemed
virginal to me, then, I wondered about death . . .
weren’t we all virgins to its seduction?
Tim Mayo lives in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA, where he works in a mental institution. His poems and reviews have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, Poet Lore, River Styx, Salamander, San Pedro River Review, Tar River Poetry, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. His collection The Kingdom of Possibilities was published by Mayapple Press in 2009 He’s a five time Pushcart Prize Nominee and has been a top finalist for the annual Paumanok Award. His work appears in the spring 2015 issue of Rat’s Ass Review.
List of Poets
My mother wound is charging the credit card, throwing burnt toast
into the trash, leaving fingertip notes on the steamed bathroom mirror,
drawing a little bumper sticker stick-family cracking apart.
My mother wound dismisses them with a towel, tisk, tisk. She is plump
with drunk by noon, and knows the difference, by sound, of a once-used
brown bag, its crinkle and tight-grip delight, its deft on the stairs thud,
key, like wiry bird claws, scraping around the lock.
My mother wound knows the red-grain angle of bricks at the drive-thru,
the way a sheer sleeve billows like a flag from the elbow as it’s handing
over a cup of silver coins. She is always forgetting the eggs and stamps.
My mother wound made a yellow lump cake, speaks the language
of the screen door, the thwack of an approaching storm, the warm,
three o’clock patch of day on the carpet, iridescent dust in a float of light.
She has learned how to tuck and roll the lip of the bag to stop
an hour of thin-blood, how to place it over both nose and mouth
when a heart starts to twit, anxious as hummingbird wings,
knows that if it’s worn enough, the skin will be soft and the grip
will most likely slip.
Someone was clipping the
or it was snow, or a dust carnival
dappled with light,
or stacks of charred past-due notices
fleecing the dark.
Someone was sticking a line into my vein,
slow honey and saxophone waves,
velvet ladybugs beading my wrist.
Someone said, it’s time, and the wheels
rushed under the antiseptic moon,
cluster of pronged stars.
And the man with a cotton mouth
tied my wrists to the bed with ribbons he’d saved
from my wedding,
flashed a blade
close to the heartbeat that was lazing
under the drum
of stretched skin and nodded.
My grandfather coughed from the corner
of the room, asked if he’d take a nickel for the saw,
winked as the blade and bleeps sharpened into a cry.
WASHING THE RIVER HOME
We sat as a group,
washed clean by the ring of the singing bowl and puffs of incense.
We chanted and leaked,
spoke to the village in each other
as if charming some other-worldly place by a river, washing clothes,
carrying pots to boil clean.
Someone said fall is the season of mother-wounds and fettle,
let the coming cold divine the seams in our sadness that have peeked wide,
the wind will re-stitch them.
We called each other by new names—some clay, some ash,
and kissed the air soaking through the door that smelled of fur and home,
let it rest on our lips
as want once did, asking again to be pressed and wet.
Megan Merchant’s poems have most recently appeared in publications including Red Paint Hill, Rat’s Ass Review, Mothers Always Write, Crack the Spine, and First Literary Review East. Her book, “The Dark’s Humming” was the winner of the 2105 Lyrebird Prize (Glass Lyre Press, 2017). She is also the author of Translucent, sealed. (Dancing Girl Press, 2015), In the Rooms of a Tiny House (ELJ Publications, October 2016), and Gravel Ghosts (Glass Lyre Press, Spring 2016). She has a children’s book forthcoming through Philomel Books.
List of Poets
You’re gone now-
your bedroom rented
to somebody else, but when
I think of August, 2009
in Michigan, the one hot weekend
of an otherwise cold summer,
I keep believing you must still
be there, and all I need to do
is drive up in my Toyota,
climb those steep steps
to your second floor apartment
and find you with half
of your face unshaven,
a bottle of wine in the kitchen,
your massive pile of records
and your guitar on the bed.
to those sunglasses you wore
on a windy fall afternoon
while I waited on the porch,
the ones you removed
so you could see me better,
though you did not wish to see me
at all? I brought wine
and drank the entire bottle,
but that was usually your job.
We promised to wait six months
before speaking again,
and we lasted five, each month
corroded by ache
for fingers and tongue,
but not the nausea that came with it.
was never far away.
despite ignored texts
from other women, both of us
avoiding explanation by burying
ourselves inside each other,
your records on auto-repeat
with jazz scores that vanished
when we finally slept.
Now you sleep in a house
with filthy crucifixes,
grim Jesus ignoring pornography
and diabetes, and your uncle
wears gloves to protect from dirt
while masturbating in the closet.
Your own bedroom is
in the back, near the bathroom,
with its cheap body soaps
and a mildewed curtain
that shields your body from view.
Your eyes and fingers eagerly seek
my face on the tiled wall.
You always did like to hide,
but I wonder what you did
with that other person
who looked exactly like you
and had your voice and hands
and was crueler,
but much more thrilling.
Leah Mueller is a writer who resides in western Washington. Her work has been published in Cultured Vultures, Origins Journal, Quail Bell, Typoetic, Talking Soup, Silver Birch Press, Semaphore, MaDCap, The Rain, Party, and Disaster Society, and many others. Leah’s chapbook, Queen of Dorksville was published in 2012 by Crisis Chronicles Press. Leah’s new book of poetry and prose, entitled Allergic to Everything was recently published by Writing Knights Press. Her book of humorous erotic short stories entitled ‘Underside of the Snake’ was published in November 2015 by Red Ferret Press. Leah was a featured reader and poet in July 2015 at the New York Poetry Festival, and also at the Death Rattle Poetry Festival in Idaho in October, 2015. She enjoys sunflowers, lucid dreaming, and anything water-related.
List of Poets
Mr. Duffy, my seventh grade
social studies teacher who wore
sunglasses in class, thought that knowing
how to fold a map correctly was as important
as knowing how to read one, because it demonstrated
attention to detail, that nothing big happens
without equal attention to small matters,
was how he put it.
So using a map of Rome as an example,
he folded it behind his back
in thirty seconds. Then he told the class
to take out our maps
of New York. We had one minute
to put our home state
in its place. Our sighs and groans
ticked in the clock, nailed on the wall.
Three people were successful, including
my friend David, who asked
if he could go to the bathroom.
Sure, Mr. Duffy said. As long as it’s not
here. David walked out of the classroom
with two magic markers sticking out
of his partially unzipped fly. Lovely
Lisa Peck, who sat next to me, laughed so hard
she spat out her gum.
Her wad of Spearmint Trident
engulfed my map’s Syracuse.
Vinnie Michaels offered Lovely Lisa
another piece of gum: Grape Bubble
Yum. Mr. Duffy flashed a smile
in spite of himself, and took out
another map from his desk.
This one’s closer to my hometown. Now watch,
he said, holding and folding North Dakota in his hands,
eyes closed, Fargo the first city to go.
Joey Nicoletti’s most recent book is Reverse Graffiti (Bordighera, 2015). His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has been published in various journals, zines, and anthologies. He lives in Western New York, where he teaches Creative Writing at SUNY Buffalo State College. Hit him up on his blog: http://www.balldurham.tumblr.com/
List of Poets
IN MICAH I WATCH A LOT OF BETTE DAVIS MOVIES
1949. In Beyond The Forest, Rosa Moline says if she doesn’t get out of that town, she’ll die. Burn that town down, burn it so even the ashes fly away, make it so no one even remembers such a town was there. That’s what I feel in Micah. Even when redbuds bloom. Stunted, our gray houses never bloom. If they could bloom, the flowers would be pus-filled devils.
1942. In In This Our Life, spoiled Stanley, yes, that’s her name, makes a mess of other people’s lives (a tablespoon of incest with her uncle). I’m called rotten too. And bitch. And fag. And cocksucker. If you don’t eat dinner at 6:00pm, people think “He’s odd.” I’m no saint. I’m the bad boy, the bad girl, the glassblower’s glass, fragile yet radioactive.
1962. In Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, Jane Hudson is so made up you can’t see any real skin. In Micah we all wear heavy makeup. Our sins are the mascara on our soul’s face. You are a gang plank. The many people who you despise must walk until they drop down into a shark-infested ocean. You laugh hysterically, call the liquor store, add another layer of paint.
Some go to church and get by, shop at Wal-Mart. Some are so despairing that their one life jacket, “tomorrow,” is too torn to keep them afloat. Me, I watch Bette Davis films. I know them line by line. When Micah turns over in its sleep, I kiss its seeringly hot cheeks, catch on fire. I live in fire. One step closer—and I’ll burn you.
Kenneth Pobo has a new book out from Blue Light Press called Bend Of Quiet. His work has appeared in: Mudfish, Nimrod, Profane, The Queer South Anthology (Sibling Rivalry Press), and elsewhere. His work appears in the spring 2015 issue of Rat’s Ass Review. He loves 60s music, often the flops. And dahlias, madness on a stem. Twitter@KenPobo
List of Poets
THE CRUSHING OF GILES COREY
At first, in the empty field
Pressed by one lone stone
I feel nothing
A second, third and fourth
Save the chiseled man-
Jaw of vanity
My land, my wives, my slaves
I am unfraid
I call out to the crowd,
And fist up
These old farm hands
To take another stone’s
Stand on my chest
My first wife Margaret
She walks the aisle to me again
Then another stone
My Mary arrives
Those first and second wives;
Stones so solid and gray
Again, they wed me —
My final witch-bride;
She does not forgive
But presses darkness down
On my lungs, a weight
Held there, I cannot help
But breathe her all the way in:
Hearth-smoke and lavender
Cracking husband rib
Wild dogs are taking over this place. Their horns play Dixie. As if. Meanwhile the men are mean. Once I watched my dad skin a pregnant here. You grew up driving trucks hare. Trucks sweet with hemis and chassis. Words in machine parts. That language is lost on me. Brian something. I can’t remember his last name. We drank Bacardi by the bottle in the cab of my Cabriolet. Then the hickeys. Glug. Glug. Simply the thirsty, simple boys. The Scotts. The Robs. The Mikes. Sometimes they come running back when you call. Sometimes they don’t. Love is a bitch. You say you listen to metal. Let me guess. The Very Beast of Dio or Ozzy’s Bark at the Moon? They hang in packs. I’m not sure what a crankshaft seems like. Breed symptoms include manufactured porch, muddy lawn, muscle car on blocks. My dad and his beagle could run a rabbit in the woods all day long. Relentlessly, my mom sliced onions and boiled water in a pot for stew on the old stove. You pace the kitchen waiting around. The air here suffocates. Always something horrible burning out back.
Tammy Robacker won the 2016 Keystone Chapbook Prize for her manuscript, “R”. Her second poetry book “Villain Songs” is forthcoming with ELJ Publications in 2016. Tammy published her first collection of poetry, The Vicissitudes, in 2009 (Pearle Publications). Tammy’s poetry has appeared in Menacing Hedge, Chiron Review, VoiceCatcher, Duende, So to Speak, Crab Creek Review, WomenArts, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. Currently enrolled in the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program in Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University, Tammy lives in Oregon.
List of Poets
Yesterday I crept into the back of Your church
Like the goddamn thief I am
My backpack stuffed with watches and wallets
My soul wasting away
May the Lord bless you and keep you
Hidden in the dusk of the furthest pew
Beyond the reach of wafting incense
Beyond the whisper of prayer
May the Lord make his face shine upon you
No longer able to sip the wine of Your blood
Or sense Your wafer on my tongue
Melting mercy into my burned-out body
May the Lord lift up his countenance
No longer able to sing familiar hymns
Stunted and strangled in my throat
And give you peace
Star far from the blessings of
Star far from the Mighty Fortress
That is You
This day and forever more
A sinner adrift in back alleys
Of blow jobs and syringes
A sinner conning, seducing
To score the blessing of cocaine
An sinner stealing quarters
From the collection plate
I see signs of You everywhere
A blind woman tap taps
To buy spring lilac
Finches flash gold
In Juniper trees
A child on her mother’s lap
Wrapped in a lullaby
There is nothing but
O Lord bless
My tarnished soul
I am so tired
Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize (2013 and 2014). She was also a semi-finalist for both the 2014 Pangaea Prize and the 2014 Atlantis Award. Claire was the grand prize winner of The Maine Review’s 2015 White Pine Writing Contest. Her first book of poetry, Waiting to be Called, was recently published by IF SF Publishing.
List of Poets
At the age of four I was under strict orders to draw only in coloring books full of brawny T-rex and connect-the-dot brontosaurs. Do not draw in books for big people, said my parents.
At the age of five I was punished for kissing a girl behind the red brick building. I do not remember her name. Keep your lips off the women, said my dad. For now.
At the age of six I was told never to use violence in school, even if Cory stuck his wet index finger deep into my ear canal. Do not hurt your brothers, said mom and dad. Lift them up.
In college I object to my teacher when he tells his students to scribble notes in textbook margins. Do not draw in books, I tell him. He says What are you, four? Cue classroom laughter.
When I get married in January, two decades later on a deep evening wrapped in russet-colored scenes, the reverend says You may now kiss your wife. I look to the pews, where my dad sits in his only suit jacket, a royal blue, for confirmation. He nods.
At the gun range Sergeant Kennedy says Aim for center mass. The targets look like silhouettes of desk clocks as .223’s slice through the cardboard, high noon and midnight. Sergeant Kennedy smiles and through my plugged ears I hear him say Tear ’em down, brother. Tear them all down.
Lucas Shepherd is an MFA student at the University of New Mexico. He has published photography in The Atlantic and fiction or creative non-fiction in Colere, Rockhurst Review, Cedar Valley Divide, Sliver of Stone, and the Wilderness Interface Zone.
List of Poets
WHAT I NEED
is a spoonful of chunky salsa, a piggy bank giving birth
to the next big thing. What I need is to turn the brown glass
of this Coors Light bottle into a story that ends in a motel lobby
where a fistfight’s as likely as a shattered Plexiglas wall. Ring,
ring, ring, it’s two am, and just like Duchamp said, language
is no damn good, even when a pink Princess touchtone belts out
its best Lionel Richie (Hello?) It’s hard to keep your eye
on the contour lines, especially when Sisyphus insists
the future is an in-limbo cashmere coat, en route
to a non-existent town, that there’s no such thing
as superficial weeping. Still, your sweet Cecily of a sister’s
a pillar of Liberty dimes, her lover a blue darner of a guy,
though fuck all, he’s stitching shit-storms from here
to the caves of Niaux. All I need, she tells you, is a tire
with just enough air, one lone poppy in a gray abyss.
MYSTERIES OF THE ALMIGHTY, OF THE FRIDGE
Two men shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Two appliance bulbs will be nestled on a shelf at Lowe’s.
One shall be taken, and so shall the other. Together
they will illume the elegant eggplants, the dour flax.
Two burnt-out bulbs shall grind in their sockets,
one bulb to the other: wouldn’t it be nice
to be jacketed, like potatoes? Sockets shaking
in the cold while their owners pass through
grabbing milk and yogurt, ham and bread.
One muffin shall be taken; one shall be left.
One rapture shall occur on one random day,
say, October 21, 2011,
one stalk of wheat removed from its chaff,
one stalk fully chaffed, heading up past
condenser coils toward God’s blustery abode.
Martha Silano is the author of four books of poetry, including The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize, and Reckless Lovely (Saturnalia Books 2014). She also co-edited, with Kelli Russell Agodon, The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice (Two Sylvias Press 2013). Martha’s poems have appeared in Paris Review, Poetry, American Poetry Review, and North American Review, where she received the 2014 James Hearst Poetry Prize, as well as in many anthologies, including American Poetry: The Next Generation and The Best American Poetry 2009. Martha edits Crab Creek Review, curates Beacon Bards, a monthly poetry reading series in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle, and teaches at Bellevue College.
List of Poets
PERSPECTIVES ON A CRIME SCENE
Middle aged couple having an argument [Her].
This is what it feels like to be alive. He’s no idea. It was Tom Waits
sing/talking. She’s an orphan with a flair for the dramatic. It’s not
important. I’m not important. I need to be rocked to sleep, tied up
and down; my mind is fire unbound. You’ll find the truth, not here.
Last time he looked at me, last time he cared, it was about the boys
college. Had to be Ivy, a hard-knock history of tradition. Let me tell
you the scene. I know it by heart. She’s dead wrong, she was craved
and coveted; drew that chalk outline around him.
It was Charlie Parker. Yardbird Suite. They’ve no idea who
he is. Everything should still be green but it’s turned early
fall the birds gone for good. I’m not sorry, everything’s got
its end. What isn’t rubbed smooth by time, by weather, by
regret and second-guesses. He knew better. She’s bad news
from nowhere. No innocent flower, no naive little girl. Stone
killer that one. Together they looked like some noir tableau,
a Hopper painting. When he got the drop on her she looked
straight-edged, full of sin; ready to burn him to the ground.
Man who stopped to light a cigarette
I want to be laid in a field of green. Full suit of clothes, rose
in my lapel, white. Rose argent white. There will be clouds
only a hint of rain, my wife will cry stoically. The same kind
of day as today; languid, uncertain of its own destiny. It was
not violent. No guns, no knives. No fists. The girl didn’t run
she was pushed. I’m stalled in flight, left alone and unalive,
I could be the last Plantagenet and she would never want me.
She’s urban Cinderella before the ball, waiting for her Prince
It was bright, for a moment the sun hid behind the bank building,
a U-Haul truck honked at a bike who cut in front of him. The bum
over there looked, smiled at her as if he knew she was frightened
and when the knife’s pulled out everyone froze. She was excited
her boyfriend/lover/confidant/partner was cocky; the smooth blue
of his expectations met her honey brown skin. It exploded in a flash
the sky went dark to keep their secret. Traffic slowed, sirens blared
and the street cooled down. She cupped her hands around the flame
as he lit a cigarette; disappeared under a crush of smoke.
Alex lives in Minneapolis.
List of Poets
J. A. Sutherland
LOVED AND LOST
i.m. Wilfrid Treasure
If you could spend an hour on a bench
with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
I began to notice benches when a friend
posted a status on her Facebook page.
‘If you could spend an hour on a bench
with anyone, who would it be?’ I replied,
‘Well you, of course.’ I proceeded to send
her pictures of specimens: contenders;
benches rotted by rain, warped by winter,
sunned in spring, tatty, peeling, august,
painted pink, tarnished, or red with rust.
Unfortunately, she left our beautiful city
before I had the opportunity to share
that precious hour with her; drinking from
our flask of tea, putting the world to rights.
Wandering through the Botanic Gardens,
this memorial bench catches my sight…
I read “Beloved” on the inscription.
Then almost without closer inspection
I see the name of someone I knew well.
Fellow musician, poet, playwright… friend:
you died too suddenly and much too young.
Guilty that we’d fallen out of touch,
I sit on your bench, alone, feeling
like a trespasser, remembering
recitals and concerts we used to give –
I sang Lieder and English Song; your sensitive
piano accompanied my subtle baritone.
A robin joins me on the bench, and with
a high-pitched ‘Cheep! Cheep!’ attempts
to claim its territory with a delicate staccato.
I greet the bird, enamoured with its sweet tone.
A recollection comes tweeting back to me;
how on another bench, when we performed,
a tiny, piping voice would sing along
to my rendition of the Songs of Travel.
As Robin hops onto the floor, I stand
my ground and, letting this thought unravel,
figure I belong here on this bench.
You who were belovéd never saw
your daughter into adulthood. What’s more,
being denied the right to call yourself
her father broke your spirit – and your heart.
I share with you a sense of grief and loss.
But justice isn’t based on what is fair;
less so on fact and even less, on truth.
You were a parent to the child you bore.
Imperfect – yes – perhaps, but aren’t we all?
My child exists, although I also never saw
him grow. Like you, I only loved too much,
and seeing love not lost but stolen was a wrench
that licenses the reason for this bench.
I sit here, contemplating for an hour
a man who showed how love can overpower.
J. A. Sutherland is an emerging writer, based in Scotland, performing frequently on the Edinburgh spoken-word scene. For three consecutive years Sutherland received Special Merit in the Scottish National Galleries Inspired? Get Writing! competition. Using artifacts, visual art, and photography for inspiration, Sutherland has produced three limited-edition, hand-stitched art-books:Walking on the Water (poetry), 26 Treasures (sestudes), and Charlotte & The Charlatan – and other Cautionary tales (flash-fiction).
Besides poetry, J. A. Sutherland has had short stories published, and writes drama for theatre, radio and spoken-word performance, and regularly blogs on http://www.throughtheturretwindow.blogspot.com/
List of Poets
I MET A TRAVELER
I met a traveler from an antique land who said:
You guys just don’t get it, do you?
When he stumbled into our village,
high on heroin, on fear, on his own stupid ideas of
manhood, I recognized him right away.
We had met at Ypres. And before that at
Gettysburg. And before that on the Ohio Border in the
badly misnamed French and Indian wars.
He saw me. But did he know? I remembered that I was the Jerry
who got him with a hand grenade in the clouds of poison gas on that
Tuesday in May and I remembered he was the Yank who put
a bayonet in my throat on the Second day of the Battle for Little
Round top and then I remembered his cabin on the
Ohio River and going for him with a
tomahawk just after my braves with their painted faces
stormed his wife and daughter and on and on it went
back and back and back
for generations yet untold.
And so that night I didn’t move as he stepped into the
fire light where I was drying fish, the hearth
where my father was teaching my little boy
to read, the fire light where two nights before the Viet Cong
had rested from their tunnel digging and enjoyed my cooking.
I was a woman at that time at home in my village, the able
bodied men all being away to fight the war of liberation
against the American invaders.
I saw him and I knew. I had my
cooking knife and I could have put it in the hollow of his
throat but then it would have started all again and I just
wanted off of that wheel and so I sat there, staring into his eyes.
And the M16 came up and he and his men killed us all. Later they lied
about it to the press. It was one of the few occasions that got what
is called Press Attention. He was stoned and we were the “enemy,”
although that night we had no weapons: our only weapon was the food
we had fed to our neighbors when they asked.
But the Americans killed us all and later they lied about it.
Sometimes I visit him in his sleep. He lives in Hagerstown, Maryland and
doesn’t remember that the reason he likes to be by the river is that
it resembles that part of the Ohio where he once had a homestead
and grew potatoes and cabbages and put up his own sauerkraut
by the barrel and had planted five hundred
apple trees. Now he’s a baker in an organic restaurant, obsessed
by the purity of the ingredients with which he cooks.
He’s sixty-eight, balding, with a whiskey cough and a bum
knee from a rugby injury he got when he returned to the States.
He works nights and weekends, shifting his weight
to favor his bad leg, standing on the tile floor in his
Adidas sneakers, slicing the peaches for pie, pounding and
molding the sourdough, pushing himself with burning eyes
because he’s afraid of the dark, afraid
of what he will dream.
In his nightmares he never gets it right.
He recalls my face and then wakes himself shouting and sweating before the dream
even gets to the part where he activates the incredible killing machine
called an M-16. He’s afraid of the look on my face.
He still doesn’t understand it. Even though he’s revisited it often, often, often.
It wasn’t fear, that look, it wasn’t horror. It wasn’t even grief for the loss of my
village, my father, my son, though we all died that night and I
knew we were all going to die. It was acceptance. It was a prayer
for peace. It was, dare I say it, Love. Love of a kind
he has not found since in this his life, search
though he can, forage though he may, suffer though he will.
Susan Thornton’s memoir, On Broken Glass: Loving and Losing John Gardner, was published in 2000 by Carroll & Graf, New York. Her short fiction has appeared in The Seattle Review, the Best of Puerto Del Sol, The Literary Review (2015) and Dark Fire Fiction (2014, forthcoming 2015). She has received fiction fellowships from the Massachusetts and the Pennsylvania Councils on the Arts.
List of Poets
A WAKE OF SORTS
It’s time to say goodbye to my penis
We’ve been through
a lot together
so it’s hard, you know,
but enough is enough.
Enough inexplicable excitations. Remember
Enough of not being able to stand up because
Enough worrying if it will.
is out of the question.
Enough of it being the measure
of your man,
the shortener of your attention span,
the lengths to which
Enough of it filling a void
which can never be filled.
Enough of it being turned down
because it’s 3AM, she says, and
we just did it yesterday and you were nasty
to me last week when we had dinner with the Mirskys.
Enough of it refusing to do
what it once could do
or at least what you’d like to think it once could do.
And enough of it proving that just like
it can make babies that grow
to break your heart.
Marvin Waldman, a New Yorker, is a veteran advertising creative director who for the last ten years has concentrated mainly on not-for-profits, with the occasional corporate client to keep the bills paid. He has had stories published on and offline and a ten minute play he wrote was produced and shown in libraries around Long Island.
List of Poets
It is cold on our walk
the slush seeps into my boots
you kick the dog
his whimper pierces the cold white sky
You never say his name
call him “Bastard”
“Son of a bitch”
You are kind to me on the walks
pointing out the formations of snow on the marsh
taking my hand to cross the black ice
It is an unspoken understanding
that we are the unloved misfits
Patches loved so completely by my mother
that he is to be hated
still I wince at his cries
I leave home at sixteen.
Patches dies of cancer a year later
cancer discovered during a routine kick
when his cry turned to a howl
I hear my mother held him
caressed his black and white face
while crying into his fur
I hear she let him suffer too long
I hung on to the scraps of your domesticity
it was the little things
how you smoothed floral scented talcum powder
on to clean sheets when making the bed
weekend afternoons you spent making
batches of apple butter
how you let me dip my bread
into the pot for the first taste
the collection of stickers
you kept on top of the fridge
doling me out a new strip on
rainy afternoons so I could
arrange it in my sticker book
your attention stopped gradually
calling your name “Mom” used to mean
a few seconds then it blurred together
into one long silence
by the second grade I’d learned not to
ask for anything
you sitting on the couch
the sunlight catching the dust particles
as they became part of your hair
you became a fixture
like the couch itself
unyielding to the environment
I had to wake you for work in the mornings
my hand on your shoulder to nudge you awake
would be the only touch between us for the day
I smelled your dirty shirts so I could remember you
learned to live without understanding how you could
be gone but still there
Michelle Watters’ poetry has appeared in Vending Machine Press, The Lake, Yellow Chair Review, Bop Dead City, and elsewhere. She has work forthcoming in Not One Of Us, three drops from a cauldron, and Allegro Poetry. Michelle is an assistant poetry editor for Mud Season Review. She lives in Shelburne, Vermont with her husband, daughter and two dogs. For more of Michelle’s work, go here.
List of Poets
Laura Madeline Wiseman
When I go to an allergist, I tell him I’m a vet. I tell him I ail. I don’t say cats. I don’t itch my hands. I don’t sneeze. He takes notes. He shows me a diagrams on his laptop. He says he’ll scratch me, but I’ve got to take off my shirt after he leaves. I take off my shirt, one covered in cat fur, the pale hairs like kisses on blue cotton, and put on a gown. He returns to scratch me fifty-six times and leaves, again. I wait. The nurse waits with me for the scratches to rise up pink and bothered. They do, every one of them. I’m on my belly, can’t see the proof of damage, can’t see what insurance covers, can’t think of anything but scratching my back. I chant like a mantra, Not cats. Not cats. Not cats. When the doctor returns with clipboard, prescription pad, and flowing ends of white coat, he says like an apology, Oh boy, you’re allergic to everything. I don’t say, I’m not a boy. He doesn’t say, No more cats. I go home, cuddle cats, take a bath with the door wide open. Tabbies sit on the counter. One sticks a paw in to drink. One rolls on the floor, yawning, teeth clicking. I put my head underwater to hold my breath, listen and think. The doctor didn’t say, everybody. He said, everything. Everyone knows a cat is more than a thing.
Laura Madeline Wiseman’s recent books are Drink (BlazeVOX Books), Wake (Aldrich Press), and The Bottle Opener (Red Dashboard). Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, Ploughshares, and Calyx. Her collaborative book Intimates and Fools (Les Femmes Folles) with artist Sally Brown Deskins, is an Honor Book for the 2015 Nebraska Book Award.
List of Poets
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Edited by Roderick Bates
RAT’S ASS REVIEW VOLUME THREE, ISSUE 2 WINTER 2015 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED