Rodney Wilhite
July 2, 2009


Hold out your hand.
I did, and into my palm she dropped from a vial two
ovoid black stones.

cold, leaving a fine charcoal dust from chipped crevices
fluting my palm.

I put their chalky impenetrability to my nose and sniffed:
odorless, asensual.

Struck together,
they clacked faintly, a liminal portent in the silence
of her parlor.

Know what they are?
I didn't, but saw murks of green in the depths of that blackness.
She laughed softly,

a slow moment
for her to savor my ignorance, and then she whispered
They was in my gallbladder.

I dropped them
onto the carpet with a gasp. She reached a slender, frail
hand toward me

and I bent low
to retrieve them and returned them into her offered vial.
Perhaps it was

cruel to place
those ossified artifacts of her body's transience into the innocent
hand of a child;

or perhaps
it was cruel of the child not to see them for what they were.

Sydney Lea
July 2, 2009
Bio: These poems are from a forthcoming book entitled Young of the Year, Lea's ninth collection. His most recent one is Ghost Pain (Sarabande, 2005); the prior collection Pursuit of a Wound (Illinois, 2000) was a Pulitzer finalist.

Wherever You Live
--Washington, D.C., 2008

 Surely you guard it with fierceness as great as your playing
Is poignant. Or so I imagine. I see it's a Selmer,
Top of the top of the line, the kind of sax
You could pawn for at least a grand -- and more than that,
Though even ten wouldn't cut it. Your pants belonged
To somebody else at one time, their grubby cuffs risen
To display a strange blue latticework of lesions
On ashen shins. The pasteboard placard's scrawl
Is HELP IM A HOMELESS VET. Now who would have thought

You smoked? A pipe of all things, whose wet rough stem
Is poking out of your pea coat's rough side pocket.
You're good, you're good, and some good part of me floats
To a long-closed club, with someone like Sonny Stitt
Sweetly trotting his horn through "The Sunny Side
Of the Street," which happens to be the song the Selmer
-- Above this tuneless traffic -- sweetly offers,
Quietly but so intensely it seems the flesh
Under the hat you grabbed must actually flinch:

raveling, ravaged watchcap, it creeps and shivers.
I might of course recall the other Sonny,
Lester Young, the underprized Lucky Thompson.
Jack and I spun them all in that student apartment
Where, kids that we were, we imagined ways to resolve
The world's most unaccommodating problems,
Of which, at least to us two, Racial Relations,
As people said back then, were among the first.
We were children, but worshipped the art that Roland Kirk

Had dubbed Black Classical Music. And here you are
To push me back into that old reverence again.
You slide without rest to a blues in minor key.
It's new to me. Eyes clenched, you rock and sway,
The tenor igniting the stars. Blue pigeons drop
From government marble, as if their specks of brain
Could read the mix of resolution and pain
The music spreads around their strut, their plumage
Appearing now to glow more warmly, the damage

That any life attracts appearing more clearly.
Bright meets dark: the blues' old burden. Glib,
These poetics of mine as I heard for a high-priced meal.
To hand you a coin would somehow be to feel
A lesser person. I wonder where Jack lives now...
The Lucky, the Lester, the Sonny, and hundreds more --
Gems we'd gleaned from hockshop and secondhand store--
Were stolen one night. If only we'd kept up our guard,
It wouldn't have happened. If only we'd known to hold

To what we treasured, the way you hold to your horn...
Or so I imagine. It's all I can do, imagine:
You huddle beneath whatever wrappings you gather
Against the cold at night, the noble Selmer
Locked in both hands on your chest, the pearl of great price,
As you sleep and wake and sleep. Now evening sneaks in
While you moan an aching cadenza to end the tune.
Commuters pour downstairs to the Metro, unhearing.
The pigeons flap roostward. Not long before there's nothing

For you but to lie down again with what you love --
On a grate, or under a bridge, wherever you live.


Under her influence, the atman, (soul) mistakenly identifies with the body.
--The Heart of Hinduism

1955 -- a hot brown field,
whose only life was a grasshoppers' rattle.
People were calling out a name, but whose?
Bits of clothing for bases, a squarish scrawl
in dirt for home. A grim gray boulder slumped,
fallible backstop, behind the catcher.

It felt like a fight to recall that the game had innings,
that the team to score a greater number
in nine would be winner. I also think I remember
one of the sides was sulking. Losing.
But memory's thinner than mist. What I know I knew
was the sense that I was peering from under

the eaves of my skull, or someone's, onto this scene.
Something somewhere was going on
but all I saw seemed immaterial, shadow.
An ensemble of voices repeated a name:
it appeared they thought it was mine -- but what was mine?
Whoever owned it was supposed to come

and grab a thing they named a bat and swing it
at another thing they named a ball.
The bat was slick with sweat. That much I could feel.
Did the others imagine I hesitated
because of self-regard? They taunted and cursed
how slowly I or somebody walked

across the stubble field, then idly watched
an object sail from some farmboy's grip.
I record all this having just felt something alike:
a moment ago I beheld a hand
that reached inside a cabinet for box or can,
and wondered at its ownership.

To whom did the hand belong, and what was belong?
Another day was starting. Whimpers
of a dog expecting food. The thump of its tail.
A hollow sound. All nondescript,
birds outside a window were listlessly stalking
insects in a meadow umbered by summer.

A kitchen's sheetrock walls dissolved into wanness.
A wife and daughter, as people name them,
lay sleeping somewhere upstairs. The one named I
heard ancient jeers: Just who do you think
you are? Head-high above the stubblefield
were gnats, and higher, vultures -- I gave them

no meaning whatever. That playing ground was shorn
by machines, so that even through their shoes
some must have felt rough stalks, through which a figure
was approaching home, a polygon
scratched in the earth, which with that minor boulder
seemed the only solid thing in view.

My Time Machine
--for John Phinney Works (1942-1966)

I believed I was too hip for words
and I wanted Susan to know it
and wanted her to know --
and anyone else who wanted
to know -- how well I knew
my way around the Vanguard
How just for example I'd found
that that odd little triangle table
to the left of the stage was best
for taking the music in
for taking presences in
and that night the presence was the great Charles Mingus

Given the times you might challenge
my small preoccupations
but who but some Quakers had heard
or cared about advisors
somewhere in Indochina?
It was said that Mingus once fired
his whole band right onstage
and legend had it he punched
Jimmy Knepper his own trombonist
in the mouth in the midst of a set
and indeed on the evening I summon
as his men performed You better Get It

In Your Soul his shouts seemed to burst
more with rage than enthusiasm
or that's how I hear them now
That night I made a mistake
which even today I ache
to reel back because its recall
rekindles a hopeless dream
of some magical time machine
that could disembarrass me
and get me back to Susan
back to that sort of evening --
minus the famous blunder of course --

though I know that Susan and I
were scarcely made for each other
and more than that I know
my life could scarcely be better
today than it is with the woman
of my better dreams and besides
Sue and I were mere babies
wacked out on booze and speed
which would knock us both to our knees
in the years that lay in waiting
My dream-machine would change
much of what came with those waiting decades

beyond the disaster I launched
when I started shouting too
when I started shouting with Mingus
It wouldn't be long after that
till it seemed that everybody
including my good-hearted roommate
began to die over there
and life all around us got angry
to put the matter mildly
Mingus put nothing mildly
but cursed me back to my parents'
and even my grandparents' generation

He came up with terms I can't
or won't make myself repeat
a hard voice roaring inside
a room gone otherwise silent
My friends and I would all
be activists soon for a while
We knew what we knew which was rage
We let everyone know how we felt
about what we found cruel or absurd
We made careless and furious love
When Mingus wound down his tirade
the band took up Gunslinging Bird

The 21st Century

She could pull the string with the porcelain knob
and drag down the folding ladder. Why hasn't she thought of this sooner?
She could climb it and lie down quiet
in the baby clothes and withered sheets
she's meant forever to bag and drop at the bargain shop,
if someone could please explain
when in the world she'd scare up time

with the job,with keeping house. If she lay stone-still, who'd ever find her?
She could bring some apples, some whiskey.
She pushes aside the breakfast pots --
putrid with sodden crust she'll  later have to scratch off --
and clears a spot on the counter
to rest her elbows, and then almost sleeps,
her head in her hands. She half-smiles, as though remembering were sweet,

and daydreams back almost a decade,
2001. Her gown was not
as white as it looked. It had a cute little tint of pink.
He showed their guests he could make
a circle nearly around her waist
with his thumbs and middle fingers. Big, she believed, but gentle.
He'll pick up Sue and Kevin

from daycare on his drive home after work.
She never thought she'd be glad she stayed in school,
if you can call it glad.
She fought like a cat with her mom over that.
He's all I want, she'd scream -- and kids: one boy, one girl.
These days she scarcely leaves
her chair except to pee.

In school she learned something: she can figure how to make
a service book for these foreign toaster ovens
using information there on her screen.
But once she gets it together, what's it supposed to mean?
How will the booklet change her life?
The children are four and two and seem
to hate each other's guts, which her nosy mother says
is only a normal phase.

Does that mean she has to like it?
Whining and snot and stink. Why don't they ever run
to him? He isn't evil.
He's not a bad guy in fact. She levels
her eyes at the kitchen clock, each damned hour measured
by the clock-face's birds,
which squawk or coo. They all take turns.

She braces herself. Soon, it'll be that nuthatch.
All she knows about a nuthatch
comes from the clock, a rasp
so ugly and aggravating she hopes
it's got the song all wrong. They'll all be home in a minute.
She wouldn't stay for long,
just long enough -- barefoot and a little bit drunk --

in the attic, breathing the nice clean smell of camphor in it.

Jessica Wickersham
July 7, 2009

Taxi cabs worm through
  the neon blur of a city
in its Lite-Brite masquerade,
toward a cheap motel
where a sign flickers
quite contrary to the spirit
of its faceless pilgrims, the
glittering assholes, the 
taxidermal beauties
whose secrets sink
under scarlet wallpaper
and soil the carpet
with their bullshit.
A cheeky little harlot
with butterscotch stilts
and a cherry pout
swings open the door
of a cabaret where
the wind-up dolls
play their night games.
It's dark and still
her dead eyes hide
behind polarized moons;
mirror mirror, deja vu.
Inside, she collects a meager
tax and (securing it
beneath ripped fishnets
and bustier) begins
her sun dance seduction,
bruises, burns, and bite marks
veiled by the tangerine glow
and cigarette smoke screen.
The burlesque queen
with her Kentucky Gentleman
and mescaline dreams,
romantic as spermicidal
lubricant and feels
about as much as
her anesthetic cream. It's
taxing work, being
a whore. But,
just like her faithful patrons,
she could use a decent

Words To Live By

Write an ending
that'll make it big.

Like Plath's
Number Nine.
Her cheek, porcelain
where life left,
sank in a ripple
through the oven rack.
Sandbag head shoved deep
in the charred darkness
(she always did
have a thing for
Holocaust allusion).

She had tasted a sourness
and waited
as death

lungs. Same with Sexton
just a bigger oven.
She lay still in the garage,
tongue limp in her mouth
from death's kiss,
as the car pumped
poison into the air
and through her veins.

And Woolf,
coat pockets heavy
with stones, buried herself
inside the cobalt
blue of a river.
Drowned in a stream
of unconsciousness
on The Voyage Out.

the only way for a writer
to make a living.

Old Man Hemingway
choked down
a double barrel
and blew away his genius
in a Farewell to Arms,

crimson brilliance
splattered like a Jackson Pollock
across the wall.

Thompson too,
17 years past 50,
banged out a note
on his typewriter
and wrote himself
off with a gun.
Human fireworks.

They ached for death,
but they are still
and I am
Anthony Alessandrini
July 15, 2009
Anthony Alessandrini is a poet living in Brooklyn and an assistant professor of English at Kingsborough Community College-CUNY. He has published poems in Tin House, Hanging Loose, and MARY Magazine and is currently collaborating on a poetry/visual art project entitled an alphabet called torture with the artist Rukiye Sahin.

Night Falls.

                  They've closed the park
and the cops are here. Framed
on this cafe wall the child stands
before a desk staring straight
at the camera. They've dressed her
like a miniature adult except
for the pink bow in her hair. Outside
in the street the woman pushes
everything she owns before her
pausing occasionally to announce
People are eating people in this city.
Inside two huge baby carriages
collide before my table. I sit
writing statements: the park
is closed. The trees breathe
in the dark. The coffee goes
cold. My lover had to take
a second job so I could write this.
Outside in the street someone
is playing a penny whistle.
The quick notes float in between
the voices buzzing around me.
A few lies: it's noon, not night.
The park's open and full of dogs
babies and couples. I was drinking
tea. But she really was pushing
everything she owned in that cart
shivering in a tattered jacket and I
really am writing this and my lover
really is working behind a counter
serving brunch drinks while I
write my useless life-long letter
to her. And here in this city
people really are eating people.

New Jersey Transit, Easter Evening

It's been too long
since I wrote you
a poem. The whole way
on the train, I watched

the wind playing through
the weeds, dark water
staining the rocky shore,
New Jersey passing

too slow before my lonely
eyes. They come when they
want, these words. Some
times I wish they could be

ordered like items from
a store, when I want to
give them into your hands
like kisses or pearls or shiny

chocolate coins. The place
where I was born was
ugly and still is. There:
I've said it as simply

as I know how. Also
I miss you. Another hour
back home to you,
at least. The best words,

you know, you send them
somehow, lover. I don't know
how it works but please
send them now, scented

like your hair each morning
when it climbs my pillow.
It's hard to write this
standing on the train

carrying a bag full of
Easter shit from mom
in the cradle of my left
arm. I don't believe

in chocolate rabbits
pink eggs or second
comings. I'm only waiting
for your poem to arrive.

Words to turn weeds to gold.
Katie Ashworth Chamblee
August 3, 2009
Katie Ashworth Chamblee is a first year at Yale Law School. She grew up in North Carolina and studied poetry at Swarthmore College.


That spring I was coated in a film of magnolias.

I walked down streets cobbled with pennies

we'd thrown as children,
each filmed with wishes.

I could barely see you behind the smell of magnolias.

You were treading the air,
a coin through the water.
You were possible against the air,
   cool coins against my eyes.

Into pillows of air I said
Take this. Take this.

You tied my love around your wrist
like a balloon,

Take this, into pillows of air,
lungs ballooning against them,

I offered it to you, as though I had made
my own beautiful, functioning bloom.

it floated, a balloon
a loose period behind you,
you'd duck under
without pausing,

as the sky,
without pausing
reaches, reaches,

with absolutely nothing in its hands.

Heather Hodges
October 25, 2009
Heather Napualani Hodges received her BA in English with a focus in creative writing from Lewis & Clark College, in Portland, Oregon. She studied under the nurturing gaze of poets Mary Szybist and Jerry Harp, who helped her with this little thing called inertia. She is currently working on a collaborative visual art/writing installation project entitled Pieces, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with visual artist Julie Jansen. Each day something is created, placed carefully, then left behind. She is busy upending cups and overturning couches in an attempt to raise enough money to apply for an MFA creative writing program. Her fingers are crossed. Her toes, too.

The Sadnesses of Galileo


The man
standing alone in the room.

What poise.
The oscillation so quick he is quite still. 
Home: the ribcage of a tepid hummingbird.


The room adjusting its bearing around him.
The compass commanding different directions,
the dialects turned delicate.

The demure contents of the room 
mapping the syllabic constellation of the idol’s posture, 
pirouetting around the body,

calling that faith.


But look, the body is idle!


The barbaric ballerinas we all are descended from, loyal, delicious.


The flowers hesitating at the threshold;
their sudden breath in, signalling the tragedy.


The morning bereft
by the sudden loss of birds.

The vernacular taking hold in the branches outside.

Something dark rustling. The small king crying out his large fear.


The man standing alone in the room,
trying to make everything better.

Exchanging the martyring orbit for a sorrowful honor of shoes.


This is what we came to,
this petite act:
the filling in of afternoon.
Naming the calendar days after a series of discontinued loyalties.


The horrifying fact: nothing is ever sudden.


Oh, but you should have been born a threaded ruin instead of a man.
It is not a mark of patience or grace that you are still standing within the same walls.
The walls tried to take their leave, but you, tiny tethered creature, tiptoed after.


Disassembled now.
like so many things;
undeserving of the room.


Recant the passage of days, quick, before they settle in and take hold, asking for bread and milk.

Unsing the faith, but do it fully.

Things have a way of coming back.


She: untended,
garden unwinding beneath her
tree letting go of the roots.
And shrinking back into hardened seeds, things run.
Hurried gathering in of a thousand small scents.
The bird's mouth withdrawing a siren from the air
to climb back into the pieces of broken egg.
The morning restored to stillness.
A careful process of reversal.

Her white hair growing calmly back up from the floorboards, pulling past the velvet armchair, moving the curtains, shifting you in your seat.
Entire inches climbing back. The scalp shivering as it becomes the loom.

The head growing smaller, softer, tiny ball of pale clay,
falling quickly up through the space between someone's parted legs.
The legs closing. The promise whispered backwards.

The people waltzing counterclockwise.
The terrace holding the bodies.
The hands releasing their hold,

The sky falling outside,
Intricate origami cities.
Houses full of families
The window gone, now the roof, now the fence, now the patriarch,
flattening into piles and piles of shiny paper.
The water pulling itself back across the table to jump into the upright cup you have only just begun to hold. 
A child crying under a blanket,
The movements practiced a thousand times.
The fabric stretching to accommodate the body.

The thread unstitching itself
to let in the cold.
Catherine Owen
October 30, 2009
Catherine Owen has published six collections of poetry, the most recent called Frenzy (Anvil Press, Vancouver BC, 2009). Her work has appeared in international literary magazines, been translated into three languages and received multiple nominations, including the BC Book Prize and the Air Canada/CBC award. Freaks is a poem from a manuscript in progress titled Truss.


On the subway over the Hudson, an armless man puffs
into the harmonica slotted into its yoke
around his neck and, pitying his lack of prosthetics,

passengers drop pennies in his Starbucks cup, stare
out the graffitied glass at the black
wake behind him. There is no longer any fanfare

for his strangeness, his Darwinian
predicament. Once Barnum and his freaks
took to the rails, a herd of wonders clacking from Mississauga

to Minneapolis, fats, dwarfs, giants, tribes, Jojo
the Dogface Boy, Admiral Dot the midget, Jane
Devere whose 14 inch beard flowed darkly over her corset, three

rings of lyphodermal limbs, double vaginas & ectrodactylic
hands, posing in Eisenmann's faux parlors on the Bowery
wearing real furs, taking tea with Queen Victoria whose boudoir

flaunted its own pickled punk amid snuff and fans.
We have laser machines, wax and scalpels so that
smooth, proportioned, we can attain to the level of technicians,

programmers, torn from the noble pantheon of curiosities,
birthed into the invisible world of acceptance.
O why didn't they let me live in another century, stay

bird woman, alligator girl, with my extra set of molars, that
one incisor that stuck out from my palate, waiting
for its untenable shell. How I would have boxed with Zip

the Pinhead, quaffed one back with Lobster Man, lolled about
with Corpulent Blanche, then every night the gilded
applause as I parade in my cage, sweet princess of feathers,

while now, extracted, braced, perfected, I am lonely.

Cody Kucker
November 4, 2009 

Cody Kucker lives in Fairbanks, Alaska where he has recently relocated from Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Chena Ridge

Along the ledge, Aspens shiver and are flayed into brown boils.
An axe would still them with well conducted shock, but the wind  
instead uses slight, sublime slices that embellish monastic aesthetics.

When frost accretes on the leaves, the wind
struggles to move them; stiff indeed, and sharp
against a backdrop of river clogging with ice shards,
their amber edges like an Ulu knife turning
and letting a wedge of sun slide along its blade.

Against a tapestry that’s dimension is dependent upon the winding body
strewn with jewels gleaned from the dipping impetus that brittles them,
the trees, hard as they are beautiful, can do nothing but sway and wave
all the autumn spades of dead ideas that are frozen to their limb tips.

Ideally, they would like to stand forever as so:
shaken free from the weight of their leaves,
safe, silent and pious in the callous cold.


A clinical amanuensis sticks
to specifics by the hospital beds
but notes how the edges of her serifs
embody her subjects’ skeletal bends.

She marks the torsos' change from n’s to u’s
and the joints that quickly turn to Sanskrit
and then simply die (which she mustn’t forget)
soft-eyed in the lamp’s medicinal hues.

She always wanted an imagination,
but wonders how, of all things, she was led
to comparing shapes of letters to the dead,
and at times regrets her collations

out of fear of some grave disrespect;
but often, when she stares at these bodies,
she can’t help recalling the pale prefects
in portraits at the Met; though their bodies

are all garbed and shapeless and albatross
white like the white of paper on these faces,
the vestments and cheeks of priests in places
that would be lost if  not painted, lost

and erased by the hush that permeates
around ruins and within these clean curtains
where she watches the creation and certain
end of all the words that she translates.

Duane Locke
November 10, 2009 

Duane Locke, Lakeland, Florida, has had 6,450 poems
published. 3 books, 2009: 376 paged YANG CHU'S POEMS, Crossing Chaos,
Canada (order Amazon), 36 paged VOICES FROM A GRAVE, erbacce, England,
Press E book, Calorornia,\ ( free download).

The Old Body
The old body
Had accumulated too large a vocabulary
To remain mute
                        Before the winking eyes
Of crossed legs.
                         The catastrophe was
That the amazement was young and the riverbank
Had the love calls of frogs.
Speech could not be articulated
                                           In a country
That did not exist to have a native language.

                 Sensed their tango
Was a
It was not any different at an art dilemma
In Soho,
             Although her shoulder’s bareness
Multiplied and became vaster even with the
Recognized disaster.
So soliloquies brought pocket tape recorders
To authenticate
                      They had actually spoken to
Randall Marquardt
November 14, 2009
Originally from Nebraska, I began writing poetry at 15.  I studied poetry and literature in college, and taught writing for many years (mainly Freshman English).  Currently working in the business field, I live in Massachusetts with my wife Deborah, daughter Leah, and dog, Molly

Ice Skating

We warmed the car with our chattering,
banging the doors, dangling our feet
above the parking lot as we wrapped
into our brown corduroy coat
with the hoods long gone, putting
on extra socks so the skates would fit.
We had to learn to walk anew
on silver blades, as slow as
Boris Karloff as Im-Ho-Tep,
down to the lake, its surface stilled
by a hard freeze of ice, but
underneath we knew the bluegills
and bass still swam with slower
strokes than in the summer
because of the fishing huts
filled with fathers.
When we closed out eyes
we were flying
or falling, giddy either way,
unsteady as she goes
as we tried out figure eights
while the ice went from clear to green
as we spiraled away from each other
in ever widening circles until some mother
yelled out for us to get back
right now.
As the cold caught up with us
we slowed down and started to look,
and saw trapped in the ice
a dead sunfish, I think,
immortalized for the winter
as long as its new cold skin
covered its old.

An Old Song

The dancer
in the living room
brushes her feet
a feather’s width
from the TV
as I shake
my head and say
why don’t you
walk like me
regretting the choice
of words
as she breaks
into a palsied
shuffle, and later
when I sing
out a line from
my mother’s favorite
song as I pass
by, my daughter
tells me,
“You weren’t young

Under the Mad Cow Moon

After midnight, we spout our mantra out
just a few times an hour, only for show.
Nobody's roaming or willing to pay
extra dollars for those unplanned minutes.
So for awhile we read, play crazy eights,
solitaire, but we have to stay awake.
As staff thins out-the talking starts up slowly.
At first, as we vamp and crack wise about
all callers under that new mad cow moon,
or we philosophize on British beef
now turning brains to mush, and how to soothe
our broken hopes and make those bad thoughts cease.
And soon we're talking like demons, a gift
to get us through another graveyard shift.

William Doreski
November 18, 2009
William Doreski teaches at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is Waiting for the Angel (2009). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Natural Bridge.

The Cave of the Nymphs

In Blake’s painting the nymphs bear
water jars and shuttles because
water and the act of weaving
regenerate, refresh, and affirm.
When I enter the cave of the nymphs,

however, the looms lie shattered,
the jars smashed. One cluster
of nymphs shares a crack pipe. Another
crouches at a computer, shopping
on-line at Victoria’s Secret.

These domestic scenes unravel
as soon as they spot me. They rise
and bare powerful halogen lamps
instead of breasts. The light scorches
the hair from my head and drops me

to all fours. I scoop a handful
of earth and eat it, chewing hard
so they’ll pity me. The light dims
so I can see their faces grinding
like machinery. They’re deciding

whether to kill or merely
dismember me. No longer weavers,
since no one believes in the soul,
they’ve outsourced their work to China.
Bored, nearly inert to drugs

And alcohol, too prescient
to enjoy poker, bridge, or chess, too wise
to benefit from reading books
written after the age of Plato,
they’ve waited  twenty centuries

for a man to enter this cave
with eyes and pores wide open.
They button up their lamplight
and kneel around me cooing like
children encountering a kitten.      
Without their speaking a word
I realize they’ll spare me because
the handful of earth I’ve eaten
anchors me to a world they’d rather
not believe in; so they lift me

by my arms and legs and toss me
into their shallow little river
and I drift coughing downstream out
of the cave to wake in the bathtub,
wrinkled and chilly but clean.

Jungian Debris

A bombastic yellow forest
says goodbye to October
in terms the hunters understand.

We’re hunting only for mushrooms.
Their white caps nod through the leaves
like puberty’s first brave acne,

but most of them are toxic.
We prize the potato-colored
boletus, but the season’s late

and the wind tastes like Canada.
I recount a dream that featured
a plastic moon tumbled from sky

the color of undercooked beef.
When I retrieved it, I realized
someone had beheaded a child.

You agree that Halloween dreams
mean less than the moss on boulders,
that a prescription for sleeping pills

would change our lives by erasing
decades years of Jungian debris.
We read his books on alchemy

when young enough to inhale
all that Neo-Platonic matter
without sneezing or coughing to death.

Now the forest undressing
to face down winter suggests
how authentic we should have been.

Here are a few boletuses, small,
and here a dozen slime-caps
sneer at our sad old exertions.

We should go home and read Jung again
while the wind strips the last oak leaves
and be glad we never believed.

A New Range

Raking leaves in the ruined light
of November, I feel too small
to account for myself. Blake
at my age had littered the world
with cloudy, muscular figures
braced against eons of myth.
Milton had rendered Paradise Lost
out of scraps of bible no one
had read carefully enough to catch
the epic winking in the background.
I rake the leaves into brittle piles
like papyrus that famously burned

at Alexandria. Greek texts
remain Greek to me, a lifelong
lack of discipline denying me
Homer’s naked voice. And now
a delivery truck rumbles up
my driveway, and two bulky men
wrestle a new range to install
in my kitchen. More debt to claim
a place in my life. The leaves drift
like dunes. I lean on my rake
and watch the delivery men slide
the old range onto their truck to dump

in a salvage yard in Nashua.
This world is too matter-of-fact
to comprehend Blake or Milton,
the creaking of the big white truck
as it rumbles down the driveway
more rhythmic than Jerusalem
or Samson Agonistes. I rake
the oak leaves from the driveway
with a regular sweeping motion
that represents the epic I no
longer want to write, the silence
too gray and simple to break.

Tom Faure
November 24, 2009
Tom Faure is a student supervisor and adviser to the student newspaper at the French-American School of New York in Westchester. He graduated this May with a B.A. from Columbia University, where his poems appeared in the undergraduate magazine, the Blue and White. He wrote extensively for the student newspaper, Columbia Daily Spectator, and went on to serve as the paper's editor-in-chief. He really picked the wrong time to graduate, especially given his interest in newspapers, but is sure he'll be able to cash in soon on all that philosophy he studied.

When my tears dried I was blind
Most of the time I listen, I don’t talk. But
I must speak up to disagree with you on one small point:
When you’re in love it isn’t like you are in a dream;
When you’re in love, it is the one you love who is in the dream,
Because you forget they exist—
You forget that chasm between you two, that virile chasm,
And adapt a complicity of point of view.
So I suggest when you’ve found someone like this, someone
To disassemble and dissuade,
To revere and enslave, 
Take this love to a quiet place. Ask:
Through which window do you see the child tripping on tree roots older than all the garden’s fallen leaves.
They will say, “Sit down, let me tell you everything.”

From a Parisian refrigerator 
Ample time and
Some sense of homesickness—
We illustrate with fridge magnets:

“Who is touching me,
Fine wine and more food,
I can’t remember my own name
I’m glad you’re seeing things my way”

Friends drop by for a beer—
Yes, they enjoy beer in France but it’s piss—
Instant poetry emerges,
With a touch of
An accent and incandescent meaning.

“Listen to the stranger
Without blood on Kitchen dances
We shall give laughter
Poking and kissing and muffin yes Ecstasy”

Language is not a barrier,
It is a refrigerator door, displaying everything
Paris has gained and all that
It doesn’t understand;

“Music loves me!
I’m dressed to impress,
Can I Have some dessert to?”

Then, “Vive l’Amerique” scribbled in Sharpie—
And some expletives too—
After drinking milk from the carton, reading this,
I step out of my small apartment and listen;
Fine tongues stroll by, incomprehensible
But refreshing.

Sunshine, and Good Luck
 Goodbye, she said,
and left out the back door--
she could only
root root root for the home team,
and i was in a league of my own.

Moving on, I went to the store,
bought toilet paper and booze,
got some money, went to analysis,
and told my shrink the truth.

He was amazed at my inkblots,
took the dollar bills and sleeping bulls as
a sure sign, yes, a pretty damn sure sign--
then prescribed sunshine and good luck.

So I went home and napped,
then put the liquor and toilet paper away,
wondering why
the sum of all shadows
is a hair shy of the truth.

Carol Lynn Grellas
November 28, 2009
Carol Lynn Grellas is a three-time Pushcart nominee and the author of two chapbooks: Litany of Finger Prayers, from Pudding House Press and Object of Desire newly released from Finishing Line Press.  She is widely published in magazines and online journals including most recently, The Centrifugal Eye, Oak Bend Review and deComp, with work upcoming in Breadcrumb Scabs, Past Simple  and Best of Boston Literary Magazine. She lives with her husband, five children and a little blind dog who sleeps in the bathtub.

A Mall in California
(After A Supermarket in California, by Allen Ginsberg )

What needs I have for you tonight, Victoria Secret
for I stroll past the naked mannequins, half-dressed
with funnel shaped breasts and hair of lacquered pearl.
  A girl who prays for moonlit nights to angle light
just right and bombard my windowpane with galaxies
of unknown inventory. But you with your aisles full
of thong-back panties and lace-net bras of fleur-de-lis,
I can imagine the husbands hallelujahs. What plums
with hidden nectars- ripe as teats for nursing babes.
And you Johnny Depp, I am here a minute past
the dressing rooms.

I saw you Victoria Secret, I saw you placing your mirrors
akimbo to the walks, rose-toned halogens brightening
up the ambiance. Are you my savior? My wingless
goddess giving me hope? I danced in serpentine
steps between the cashier and the husbands needing
a centerfold;  but I am old and my mind is hostage
to fantasy. I pass the girls with robust frames, standing
amidst the pendulums constant tick. The clock whisperer
is calling my name.

Where are you going, Victoria Secret? Security is closing
the double-chained door. Which heels are best for this nudity
show? You are the mother of bringing sexy back and arousing
desire from some pitiless sight, my plight a nude desire
where ambition is fueled by fire and no man can say no
to an unhooked bra.
 Ah, Victoria, sweet encourager of support and midnight
fallacies, what has become of the flower-child bohemian
mantra, the breathing heart of uninhibited passion, where
nothing proves as beautiful as bosom pressed to skin?

Candy Addict

Do you offer them candy?
Only if they beg for candy and their whole
body quakes with need, but after the first
day we confiscate everything.
What do you feed them?
Whatever they want, except no candy.
I have mint cigarettes that suffice
for those who suffer withdrawals.
Don’t they all suffer withdrawals?
Yes, but not all care for mint cigarettes.
Sometimes we use Cyberkinetics
Do they complain about the pathology
of fate and harm?
Yes, sometimes they threaten to slit their wrists.
What do you tell them when this occurs?
I hold out my arms and show them the scars;
Do they think you’re an idiot for such a display?
No, they kneel beside me and pray.

A Battenberg collar holds her delicate
face like an opened flower. She pouts;
lips the color of blushing rhododendrons.

Her portrait rests on the dresser in a gilded
frame. I heard she had six husbands,
a love for alligator handbags and one

child who was my mother.

Derek Richards
December 6, 2009
After performing both music and poetry around the Boston area for twenty years, Derek Richards shed his fear of rejection and began submitting his work this past August. So far his poetry has appeared in over twenty-five publications, including, Lung, Word Riot, Cantaraville, Soundzine, The Centrifugal Eye, Opium 2.0, Calliope Nerve, Right Hand Pointing, Breadcrumb Scabs, Tinfoildresses, Poets Ink, The Foundling Review and Underground Voices. He has also been told to keep his day job by Quills and Parchment. His dog, cat and two ferrets admire his attempts to be honest, direct, brilliant and lucrative. Also, he wants you to know that he has compiled over 50 fantasy sports championships. Happily engaged, he resides in Gloucester, MA, cleaning windows for a living.

Sympathy Red

she was buried
in her favorite red
cocktail dress
a white rose behind each ear
she had been the dictionary of eighteen
and beautiful, streetwise innocent,
twisting curls around the hearts
of young men and old desire.
volunteered to work on the alzheimers unit,
pocketing pills no one
would remember tomorrow
there was never any pain, just a compulsive
ache to obtain more than enough
at twenty-five she'd been red-flagged
by emergency rooms throughout
a ninety-mile radius
hip pain and back aches
abusive boyfriends
she would hold your hand and kiss your neck
while slyly stealing from your pockets.
we called her sympathy red.
when she raised her hand
explaining how she couldn't stay sober
couldn't sleep
couldn't love somebody who couldn't dare
to hit her back
she was buried
in her favorite red
cocktail dress
we thought white roses
might get her home

Confessions of Wayward Reason

liquor stores sell cigarettes and that sells me.
after the last valium overdose,
i decided to stop attending meetings
and focus on my lungs.

the rose garden across the street
is cursed with beauty and honey bees.
a place i want to stomp, rumble,
a pleasant haven for procrastination.

graveyards have never been quiet places for me.
there are songs i hear, love notes torn,
repeated phrases about pain, profit and purgatory.
and so i reason, i cry mercy, i wilt and stumble
all the while, pretending to hallucinate genius

april whispers december

april whispers
murder by barbituate
by clean thick water
accidents prosper along old cow paths
one way shotgun alibis

so who wants to dance down by the river?
who takes this hand
in sickness and in health
and in hell
who lights the merry may candles?

the weaker children steal our lighters
burn among the corn
smooth limbs rub the mud from baskets
while june encourages rain

we teach the tarnish of forgiving
gasp at horrors of wealth
the fourth of july tastes like suicide
when pillows dirty
and the chickens go mad

august whispers
prayer by flashing flood
for sweet dumb decay
holidays linger among young blind girls
raw cold switchblade prophecy

so who wants to dance down by the river?
who takes this hand
in sickness and in health
and in heaven
who cries septembers tears?

everyone goes home in october
thrust out penny-luck eyes
sheets of birch bark entertain fires
careless sex and busy angels

i am the tidal wave of torment and turkey
cranberry veins failed by church
dogs grow bored and fat as november begets
jesus, frost and fairytales

december whispers
ice curing the goats milk
glorious disease wrapped in paper
sacraments torn by sweat and glove
long lost morals fuel the furnace

so who wants to dance down by the river?
who takes this hand
in sickness and in health
and in love
we cry when we sleep

Kenneth Gurney
December 10, 2009
Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM, USA.  His work appears mostly on the web as he spends SASE and reading fee dollars on flowers for his lover.  To learn more about Kenneth, visit http://www.kpgurney.me/Poet/Welcome.html

Unique Little Fellow at 4th & Central

You are blue stone,
rose quartz, a river
running uphill.

Shadows try to grab
hold of you and fail,
fall behind like leaves
from branches 
reaching for the sky.

You are secular homilies,
yesterday’s chewed gum,
a dab of paint in the background
on an artist’s canvas.

When you walk by
all phones ring
with no one on the other line.

When you absent yourself
all the wristwatch seconds
hold their breath 
and stand still—atomic clocks 
contemplate fusion.

Daughter of the Red Cliffs

You are cherry-red candy,
the blue of a Delft teacup,
the Albuquerque rain falling up.
The instant the Blue Woman’s daughter
was born, the earth spoke harshly: 
everyone listened, some ran out of the hospital, 
some crossed themselves and muttered prayers 
to the blessed virgin.

Like any mother warning an intruder
to stay away from her child, 
the Blue Woman screamed  
with the final flexing of muscles
that pushed her daughter 
into the attending midwife’s hands
and the earth backed up three paces,
spoke again, but softer, conceding,
then grumbled its discontent
in another part of the city.
Martin Ott & John F. Buckley
December 14, 2009
Raised in Michigan but now living in Southern California, John F. Buckley and Martin Ott began their ongoing games of poetic volleyball in the spring of 2009. Poetry from their collaboration has also been accepted by the Bryant Literary Review, Compass Rose, Confrontation, Conceit Magazine and Eleven Eleven.

A Lone Star Stomachache

A mound of brisket like a Boot Hill midden buries the platter before
the contestant. He plows through it, tilling the beef and protracting
teeth, letting barbecue sauce ride high on his face, sowing flecks

along a brow furrowed by early memories of caking kitchen salt
on his belly grumbling with hunger, on his education for devouring
everything in sight taught by pigs and cows on a human salt lick.

He recalls the first time the Rangers brought him back home, having
caught him chewing brands off cattle on a nearby ranch. He warned
them of his passion for revision, barbed canines like dog-blue pencils,

his endless nights with farmhands smoking Winstons and devouring
diaries of 19th Century women pioneers, which he recast into bawdy
limericks for dinnertime chants, iron triangle ringing, provoking a pace

in his veins like the hum of a corpuscular editor seeking buffets.
He yodeled "Belief...it's what for dinner" to faithful coyotes sniffing
for answers on the horizon, out where the antelope plagiarize recipes.

He remembers performing at the birthday gala of an ex-president
who dared Secret Service agents into matching him for each skirt
steak and sirloin slider, and only when the sun sank into his maw

did they look down his craw to a grunt's gut in Kandahar, stippled
with shrapnel and marbled with fat, the intersection of East and West,
all hanging out on the side of the road, by the sprightly poppy heads

bouncing in the audience as he neared his final swallow to the firing
of the ceremonial pistol and his father pretending to be tagged,
doubling over in pride and laughter, his state-sized son victorious

in his Plate of the Union address, the paean to consuming the substance
of others. The ululation of gullets crackled like stuffed M-16 carbines,
and journalists nodded as the tightened belts exploded like fireworks.
Cutter Streeby
December 16, 2009
Cutter Streeby is a graduate from the University of Riverside, California.  He attends King's College, London, where he is studying for an MA in modernist babble.  When not brain-dead from the expansion of literary space, he writes poems.

Obbligato, an Aria

I have to play the king to win the war, 
but my soloists are nervous.

the director bow-drills eyes 
notes dripping on the marble. 
clearing spider throat webbing,
he breaks the movement’s back.

the corridor is stilling voices.

pews tremble, veined in hands,
clinging desperately to church.
booted footsteps, Gothic light. 

while I light votive words,
praying quietly for wings,
the baton raps, taps 
the blood beat of the world. 

Sarasate smiles, 
earthquakes tear the sky. 
the rock of my soul cracks:
spreading an orchestra on the sea. 

and the China dances in the cabinet.

trilling up and down the scales.

A Lily Growing in Drummond Castle Gardens

I stood on top of a tower,
the old, venerated kind
that guards Medieval hills
against marauders that won’t come again,
the kind where you can look
down and count stone blocks still
swimming against the grass and
know for sure how long each has been there,
know who stood where before you
in exactly what spot, 
because you’ve read about it
on the bronze plaque in the courtyard.

I stood there looking back

into a wind that 
pulled music from the battlements,
and drummed from the turret’s ancient lid 
a challenge 
against the vanity of
and wished I could
unlearn everything I know.

Matthew Rohrer
December 21, 2009
Matthew Rohrer is the author of A HUMMOCK IN THE MALOOKAS, SATELLITE, A GREEN LIGHT, RISE UP and A PLATE OF CHICKEN. With Joshua Beckman he wrote NICE HAT. THANKS and recorded the audio CD ADVENTURES WHILE PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF BEAUTY. With Joshua Beckman and Anthony McCann he wrote the secret book GENTLE READER! It is not for sale. Octopus Books published his action/adventure chapbook-length poem THEY ALL SEEMED ASLEEP in 2008. He teaches in the creative writing program at NYU and lives in Brooklyn.


Everything is more distracting than the clouds
they are never there they move
on no one can say remember that
cloud we saw in college it’s still
there let’s go see it again they
walk their dogs in the park they
raise the plastic shade on the airplane
window and see a low region surrounded
by thin peaks all of it unreal
white needle shaped mountains like a scroll
of Chinese painting a landscape not even
imagined which disappears when the plane flies
through it and emerges in the blue
air over the monotonous sorghum fields below
and everything changes a diet coke sprays
open the distracting flight attendant glides past
but the clouds continue to gather they
fail and dissipate they come from the
east where the sea makes them foam
up or they come from the west
full of ragweed and pollen too small
to see everyone breathes it all day
distracted by a song a friend sings
over and over white miraculous shifts overhead
the clouds reflected in the surface of
a cocktail completely ignored drink and cloud
ignored while a woman takes her clothes
off in front of a man who
smiles intermittently shaded by the passing helicopter’s
rotors tearing up the stratus clouds and
flinging now her shirt at him rain
falling in her almost unnaturally light blue
eyes when he looks closely reflected there
in the morning the whole sky is
a lusty pink lamp turned on a
little girl stands open-mouthed in her pajamas
she is his daughter it is five
o’clock in the morning the city still
sleeps the clouds fly out to sea
how many people saw them this morning
later the government uses its Confuse Ray
on its citizens who turn their backs
on the leaves and insects who turn
their faces to the light of their
rooms when the clouds are the color
and shape of flaming brigantines gone up
in a dark harbor but they’re distracted
from the mares’ tails if they looked
up they’d see there’s nothing to be
afraid of a high pressure system is
moving in the air is cooler now
the sky is a mild blue something
has changed


I like to get up early
in the summer

and lie beneath the trees
waiting for the fruit to fall

pretending to live a gentle life
of ethereal mildness

I stare at the tufts of grass
until they appear holy, or speak

I wonder if the girls are mad
at me – the house is silent

Karissa Morton
December 25, 2009
Karissa Morton is an English/Writing student at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where she is a writing tutor, literary journal editor, and president of her university’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta..  She enjoys having these things to whittle away her time while anxiously awaiting next winter, when she can start applying to MFA programs.  Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Lyrical Iowa, Words-Myth, Flutter, Breadcrumb Scabs, Writers’ Bloc, Fogged Clarity, and Leaf Garden.

Forests of Atlantis

have i told you

that making love to you
is like
searching for atlantis,

       using a tiny wooden boat
       to navigate
       the riverbank of your mouth,

words foaming on the waves
and trailing
       spirals of smoke.

semisweet like sparkling wine,
fractal bubbles
breaking against the goblet of our bodies,

quoting the wind
and melting my need for words.

i bow my head to you
       like a deer toward ivy,

tree trunk periscopes
rising through
fallen leaves

as i feed you my fingertips
to taste,

and wonder
if you were carried here
in the beak of a pigeon
       who was trained to bring home
               to me.

Escape By Wing

if i spend all night
pushing through wheat fields,
dripping with saltwater tears
and beaten blue as a bruise,
my wings slicing like scissors
in the haze of airbag dust,

if i weave through stalks
where depressions are daisies
and the dawn is sketched in swirl
with bats hanging from the sky
like seed pods,

will you cry yourself awake?

will everything rise and fall
like the sea,
like your breathing

with "sleep" and "dream"
as the cardinal points on your compass,
the one you carry in your pocket
because it reminds you
of your grandfather

like the scent of juniper
and the feeling of crossing the border,
filled with the hope that just maybe
you'll never have to go back.

Proposal With Smoke Ring

if intently on the street corner,
i watch the way
you                exhale                smoke
from your cigarette,

it’s only because
i know the taste of your mouth,

know the sensations of caffeinated fervor
as we writhe in bedsheets,
         rocking chaotic
         like babes in the bathwater,
         your hands an umbrella over my skin,

curving together
before you snap me in half
and i become a stick of charcoal,
rolling between your fingers,
shading you

if your eyes contain anything but images,
articulate me a map
of how to stay here forever,

teach me to pen us into a metaphor,
something like pulling the blanket
over your head,

         something like a hieroglyph
         spelling out proportioned rosebushes

because like a yacht drowning in waves
of engulfment,

                   i sail manuscripted seas,

occasionally pinched by recognition
and the crash of mutual neurosis.

we pirouette like pearls and skinned knees,
something sweet like vinegar in our veins,

                   and an agitant that would become
                   a photograph                you refused to pose for.

butchers' gaudy blades caress our bones
after our thighs repeat the creative process –

                                                        and i wonder if you sleep on my side of
                                                 the bed
                                                                                       when i'm

Stacy Campbell
January 7, 2010
Stacy Campbell lives in Hurst, Texas. She teaches English to special education students in Arlington, Texas.  In her free time she plays the guitar, writes poetry, short stories, and drinks very cold beer. She is previously published in Writer’s Digest, North Texas Professional Writer’s Anthology, Orange Room Review, Autumn Leaves, The Smoking Poet, A Little Poetry, and other on-line publications. She was a 2008 Commendation Award Winner from The Society of Southwestern Authors.


The dirty cracks in a beggar’s hand
told more about me than him

A spurious smile transparent to his eyes
heaved humiliation upon me

as I passed.  Sliding thoughts
to a half moon place I pretend doesn’t exist

the fallacy of goodness falls flat to the ground
beneath the outstretched hand

of the needy I say I love
when I’m foolishly dressed in black

for a party.  The serrated words
hang in the air, like fog above a man-made lake

and I find I can hate myself duly; my cleanliness
makes fun of me in purchased fumes

that peck away my delight of lobster bisque
served in a hand made bowl from Africa.

Somewhere, he sits hungry on a curb, and I listen to
Miles Davis pretending I understand the meaning of life.

The Famous Dead Lady

The relevance of her life
is not for me to answer
she twisted her paint and oozed
her pain on you, her only son

with broad strokes of genius and torture
I am only a witness of the past present
in the dim light of a whiskey stained heart
bedraggled bodies now buried

hers, yours, mine
beneath tattoos of the trade, tricks
of the wicked
spray painted pretty

enough to eat, hard enough
to break your teeth
by thoughts abandoned
long before she was gone

a note from the bottom

my mood
has charcoal edges
it scrapes the day black
I can’t stop thinking about what is real

Sunless mornings
with scrambled eggs and sin
weighing me down

I cry

again    and    again
scratching mosquito bites
from yesterday

a jackknifed
woman still in bed

I know
I will only end

Michael Estabrook
January 26, 2010
Michael Estabrook is a baby boomer who began getting his poetry published in the late 1980s. Over the years he has published 15 poetry chapbooks, his most recent entitled “They Didn’t Leave Notes.” Other interests include art, music, theatre, opera, and his wife who just happens to be the most beautiful woman he has ever known.

the hallowed buildings
of Harvard waiting for the reading
to start, not looking
like a student nor
a faculty member either,
but trying to fit in when suddenly
it begins to rain.
I try this door then that (like a rat
in a maze) but I don't have a key;
cannot get into Harvard out
of the pouring rain
without a key.
Drenched, I have
a vision of Dad dead now all these
years, perking his head up
from under the hood
of his broken Buick, staring
at me, saying finally,
the cigarette dangling from
the corner of his mouth --
Serves you right
for thinking you could hang round
a place like Harvard.

April Michelle Bratten
 February 1, 2010
April Michelle Bratten is a writer currently living in North Dakota.  She has upcoming work to be featured in The Orange Room Review and Boston Literary Review.  She is the co-editor of the literary zine Up the Staircase (www.upthestaircase.org)

"13 Birds"

There is a yard,
where 13 birds all gave up at once.

They just tucked in their beaks
and gave up their will
to death.

Her mother found them,
little piles of crunchy bones
stacked in neat little rows.

She was told not to go there
because the disease was catching,
and a dead anything
was not for this child's eyes.

But she ran down that grass
with no shoes on,
and she did have a smile like syrup

when she stepped on
a white bone
cupped in a bed of black black black.

That bone splintered off in brittleness
and pulped that perfectly plump foot.

Her shout
must have sprang out
like a fierce heart inside a pocket,

but she knew she wasn't dead yet,

and she wanted just a white fearless pang,
a color,
that would finally touch her bird-less sky.
David LaBounty
February 8, 2010
David LaBounty's recent work has appeared or will soon appear in Rattle, Night Train, the New Plains Review and other journals. His third novel, Affluenza, was released in the summer of 2009. He lives in Michigan.


things fall
apart &

the two of you
can’t agree
on salmon

so you
start from


but she
groans at
the thought
of chicken

true enough

has been
so many times

you say,
let’s try

she shrugs

& says
why not

so you
do your
best, you
the swordfish
in rosemary
white wine
throw it
on the

feeling new
you decide
it’s best to
with swordfish,
a surer
having only
the napkin
on your
lap in

than only
on the
of the


Claire Akebrand
February 12, 2010
Claire Åkebrand is a Swede who grew up in Germany. She has a BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing from Brigham Young University. Her poetry has been published in Inscape, Metaphor, and X-Magazine: Daring New Poetry and Prose and she was nominated for the AWP Intro Journals Contest. Claire currently lives in Baltimore. 

You played father because you were a head
taller, your hair cut shorter. You’d pull rocks
out of the brook and imagined it was bread.
We’d pretend to bake flat stones like fish, pick
at the gray flesh, and sigh and smack our lips
using lower-pitched voices to sound old.
And when we got thirsty, we cupped and sipped
the mossy air till our lungs were full of cold. 
When we first found that tree curved over the brook
hidden from the playground, its hollow little room,
our hair was lighter and smelled musky as wood
from playing house in that elm tree tomb.
The only beds we had were our sweaters,
laid out over the dirt. But you never slept.
You were too anxious about raiding meadows
for the sugar buds of stinging nettles.
We never thought we’d find our old selves in the river’s
mirrors. The sky broke through in some places
like rumors of adulthood, with sun slivers
in the dark sieve of branches. We’d trace
the passage of time by the growing stillness
out on the playground. When was the last day
our mother called us out into the silence,
unto the pavement, into the open sky—
a blank canvas, like an empty sheet
we would have to spend the rest of our lives
filling until it covers us once again like trees,
like the roil of a brook, the murmur of hives?  

Midnight rain gusts against the tent’s drape.
What height might the already tall waves since noon
have reached. No light illuminates the felted seascape.
Just a dim glow of froth, and dune,
waves all ruffled up pages of a book
no one has entirely read. How the sea pines
for a reader. I hear her slinging her hooks.
No one walks the shallows at this hour. Her brine
would tow me quickly to her heart. What sea
creatures might gape for me there.
Drowsing off, I’m swallowed, and reeled
again and again by the wake and snared
to a place each human has been before
to find nothing but the sallow ocean floor.

October Plush
This violet, on her way to winter months, waits
beside me at the crosswalk—

her deflated sleeves,

         her shivering waist, too skinny for that dress
so eager
                  for every last
      hour of sun.

I cross, she stays.
I can't love one more dying thing.

God Almighty, might this violence
not follow me into the shadows of my home, of winter.

Christina Murphy
February 16, 2010
Christina Murphy's work has been published or will appear in a numerous journals, including most recently ABJECTIVE, A cappella Zoo, Counterexample Poetics, and Blue Fifth Review, and has received an Editor's Choice Award and Special Mention for a Pushcart Prize.

Miss O'Connor and the Roses

            June 11, 1957: I write to Flannery O’Connor asking if I might visit her at Andalusia and discuss what she calls “the larger questions.”

            She writes back: Only the larger questions? And below: Certainly. Come in September, one of my favorite months. Come late in the month and late in the day. It will be cooler then.

            I make the journey as instructed, the autumn air turning cool and inviting in the late afternoon, and find her seated on her porch, waving to me as I drive up.

            She is most gracious when I arrive, greeting me with gentleness and curiosity, and suggesting a stroll around the grounds. There are peacocks and roses in a garden where twilight falls in shadows deepening to a golden luster.

            Within the mosaic of the colorful roses, I say to her: I know you admire the   philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, so, as a good Thomist, do you too believe that darkness does not exist—that it is the absence of light, just as silence is the absence of sound?

            Yes, something must exist to be.
            Absence is non-being, which does not exist.
            The distinction is an important one in understanding
            what is true and what is not.

            What does exist here for you—
            the roses, the twilight, but not
            the approaching darkness?

            Darkness is an illusion that misleads
            the intellect into thinking something is there that it is not.
            What we perceive as darkness is a
            misinterpretation of the true nature of light—
            and therefore the true nature of reality.
            I think it would be a simpler world, indeed,
            to say that darkness does not exist and is
            not a truth of being. But doesn’t the heart
            know differently by not splitting the world
            into such easy dichotomies?

            I am not one to deny the heart its strategies
            or its beliefs. But the heart loves what it knows,      
            and love, like knowledge, changes with new understandings.

            Ah, yes. Love and knowledge. You do believe, like Aquinas,
            that they are the same in essence and purpose?      

            We are constituted in spirit to want to know to the fullest
            that which we love. Isn’t that the longing of every human heart?
            And if we seek to know something with our whole heart,
            is that not love, too? What else can hold the heart and
            mind in such steadfast devotion?
            The heart, yes. But what of the reason?

            I do give credence to reason, and reason leads to the
            same truth—that the passion of the intellect and of
            the heart are joined in love and knowledge. Love
            and knowledge are the basis of faith, which is
            the purpose of reason.
            As the sunset moved toward the tree line,
            I said to Miss O’Connor: Night is coming.
            Or a period of absence, as you would say.
            Are we now entering into non-existence?

            No more than are the moon and the stars.

            Are they one with the darkness?

            No, and neither are you. But the moon and the stars
            do not misperceive—as we humans often do.

            The sadness of it, to enter into a darkness
            that is an absence of being.

            Or the wonder. Understanding the truth within
            the illusion is the great challenge—and joy—
            of finding one’s way.

            Miss O’Connor smiled. And now my way is returning to
            my home in the darkness, the illusion, and
            with the hope that I will live to see the light again.
            That is my greatest love, you know, the search
            for what is true and lasting—and what role
            I play in such cosmic grandness.

            Thank you for your time and this conversation.
            I will never look at the darkness the same way again,
            or at the light.

            True, no doubt. With such a gain in your perspective,
             perhaps I should leave well enough alone and
            not tell you that evil is an illusion, too, an absence of good.

            That would be difficult to understand, given
            all the suffering in the world.
            The human world, yes, because it manifests
            many illusions, but not the universe.

            So should we be of the world?

            We are of the world—we must be. It is our path.

            No choice?

            No choice—just perseverance, my friend.
            Life and its illusions and truths are
            our journey, our path, just as the roses
            in the garden are one with the path of blooming.

            Miss O’Connor politely took her leave and
            returned to her house. I left by the path through
            the rose garden, aware of the delicate scent
            of hundreds of roses existing within the darkness.

            Weeks later, I received a letter from Miss O’Connor
            in which she wrote: In every grace of being
            there is a current gorgeously held,
            an arc of time, overflowing, into images distantly near.

            And at the bottom, beneath her signature, was a postscript:
            The current is not an illusion, no matter
            how much we may think—or wish—it to be.
            I placed the letter on my desk near my own rose garden,
            where it stayed for years, sharing with
            the roses its own knowledge of love and being. 
Kenneth P. Gurney
February 17, 2010
Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM, USA.  His work appears mostly on the web as he spends SASE and reading fee dollars on flowers for his lover.  Over a 14 year period he edited 3 poetry reviews either in print or on the web, with the best known being Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry.  He hosts a poetry salon once a month and ventures out to open mic readings from time to time.  To learn more about Kenneth, visit http://www.kpgurney.me/Poet/Welcome.html

Top Hat

You thought the moon
placed upon my tongue
would dissolve,
like a lozenge,
Selene would
flow through
my veins
and I would
begin to understand
your femininity,
but all you accomplished
when you reached
up into the sky
was to pull Chang-Ngo's
jade rabbit
out of a night-black hat.


We survive
our love
of fighting
with make-up kisses
that red-dress
the expanding blues
of our bruises.

Sara Kaplan
February 24, 2010
Sara Kaplan's chapbook, Moon Talk, is published with Trilobite Press.  Individual poems have also appeared in The Antioch Review, Harpur Palate, LIT 9, The Cincinnati Review, Talking River Review, The Meadow, InLand, Ruminate, The New Vilna Review, decomP magazine, Failbetter, & MO: Writings from the River.   Currently, she is an English Instructor at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas where she teaches Creative Writing, Composition, and Literature.

A Boy & His Mother

After imitating the Rorschach ink prints—particularly,
the image of (obviously) a bird akimbo,
I figure I can draw more than cylinders
piled into snowmen, the house with four windows,
chimney, & lawn accessories.  Once drawing, I calm
as I do during monotony—pedagogy & laundry—
and that means I’m a certain personality—I fear
not of grackles that line the telephone wires in spring,
but of the need to hold my hand still as a surgeon.
And even now I think of the portrait & know it’s no bird:
a boy in a park trying to hold his mother.

David Ayllon
March 15, 2010
After learning at a young age that Batman was not a practical career option, David Ayllon is now a graphic designer, poet, and righty who writes like a lefty. His designs have been published for the Art Director’s Club of New Jersey and he took home a 2009 IAC award for Best Design Website. He’s featured at the acclaimed LouderARTS poetry series, and has performed at venues such as New York University, LaMama Experimental Theatre, and the Bowery Poetry Club. He is also co-curator of the OUTloud poetry series. David’s participated in panel discussions and has spoken at colleges including the School of Visual Arts, and has had oil paintings and poetry published in the online magazine Acentos Review, as well as Ganymede magazine and Union Station Magazine. He has also recently launched his own clothing brand, People Like Me. This Long Island boy wears his heart on his sleeve, among other organs. 

Kissing the Wrong Boys Goodnight

On our last date I sent you a stunt double.
He looked enough like me, and I told him
to be relentless in his romance so that you
wouldn’t get suspicious. When he got back,
his tongue was fat as a trout and he told me everything—
how the two of you ran across the backyards
of strangers, right through the ghosts
left to dry on clotheslines, how the both of you
groaned like hardwood floors, how you fell

asleep together in the grass
like the young moonsick animals that we are
and he heard you breathe heavy, like a giant
dinner plate was parked on your chest.
Then you started to talk while you were still sleeping.
He had an entire conversation with you that way.
You told him things I didn’t want to know.
Like how we were only still dating
because my name was David, too.
And you liked screaming your own name during sex
like a penitent mime.

Autobiography #32

When I was born, I was stowed
in a hollow applause sign and cast
down the river. I was found and raised
by a wild pack of celebrities
who gave me live microphones for rattles.
For years I thought there was a camera crew
hiding under my bed, and that the ocean
was a giant vanity for a goddess in the sky
to check her make up. Father always told me
to live my life like a television show no one’s seen yet.
Because of this, I still get homesick
whenever I see a stray tabloid.
I’ve never really stayed in one place,
jumping from rehab to rehab
praying I’d be lucky enough
to find an addiction I can call my own.
Do you think you’ll ever feel at home?
the interviewer asked. I paused,
and saw the sweat on my forehead
form a crown of sequins in the camera’s reflection.
But I’m home now, I said,
as the black and white audience
in my heart cheered. Mother told me
this was called a soul.

On Sleeping and Dreaming

Today you asked me
why I always fought
sleep as a child. Why I raged
against the mattress like an angry ocean
in your arms. Why I can’t love you
when my eyes are closed.

I always thought when I was in bed,
You and Dad threw parties where
drag queens had martinis for hands,
Wine stained carpet like inkblot,
Confetti took suicide jumps from the ceiling,
friends were as intimate as coves.

When I’d ask you about it,
You’d laugh like a kazoo.
You never explained the bowtie
In the cereal bowl or the top hat
In the cupboard. I would have given
Both my eyelids for an invitation.

I got so mad that I’d go deaf.
My pillow grew tired of holding
Such an ungrateful head.
Sometimes I was so lonely
I prayed. 

Glenn Freeman
March 28, 2010
Glenn Freeman lives in Iowa with his wife and two cats. He teaches English at Cornell College. He has degrees from Goddard College, Vermont College, and the University of Florida. His first book Keeping the Tigers Behind Us was published in 2007 by Elixir Press. His new book Traveling Light is forthcoming from Wordtech Press.

The Night John Lennon Died

I’d taken the acid myself, flying solo
on some vision quest locked in
my bedroom with its blue walls & shag green
carpet. Eyes open or closed,
the colors stream from a sourceless light,
particle & wave & the radio
turned on low, low enough
my parents won’t hear & I’m on the edge
of it, almost there & the lifeless
drone of a pledge drive
on a station I’m too occupied
to change, too high now
to turn back, and they’re asking, or begging,
a few dollars, but really
I’m on the precipice of understanding
and there’s a flash of news, tidbits,
phrases: Gunshot, Dakota, Dead
and just as quickly they’re back,
their desperate pleading & did I hear it
right? Outside, a light snow falls.
Beyond that, who knows?
I sneak downstairs, call in a pledge,
twenty bucks, and go back
to my room, hoping to god
that maybe that will shut them up.

The Palm Reading

She’d blown everyone’s mind, reading palms and telling, with stunning accuracy, their lives. It was late. I’d been standing in the shadows waiting my turn. Finally, beer in one hand, the other palm upward, I stood before her. She stared, actually turned my hand over, staring at the wrinkled skin on the back. She turned it over again a few times, cocked her head, rubbed the palm with her finger. She took a drink, rubbed lightly again. This is your life line, she said quietly, then added, It shouldn’t do that.  I could tell in her face that was it.  What do you mean? It was simple: my life line didn’t go places she understood, didn’t intersect with others at places she could decipher. And there in the late smoke and haze of our slight drunkenness, she told me what I could have easily told her: Sorry, but I don’t have a clue.

Ken Craft
April 2, 2010
Ken Craft, an English teacher in Massachusetts, divides his time between the Commonwealth and Maine.  After reading poems aloud to students over the years, he finally decided to try his hand at writing them himself.  His work has also appeared in Wolf Moon Journal.

A Sound Unanswered

When you wake early, you make the best of it,
take the dog out to the back of the island,
look across the lake to the east shore
where a pine top ignites briefly –
a trick of first light—followed by the quiet dignity
of narrow fingered sunrays sliding between branches.

There’s something to be said for a newborn sun,
how cheerful and innocent,
how pregnant with possibility,
nothing like your more forward suns of noon
or your jaded disks of dusk.
Today the sky is streaked with stratus
and the dusky lake shows a watery
black eye, purplish and pink.
Rain, maybe, or humidity lying in ambush
at the noon pass of approaching day.

But now, in stillness as holy as this
even the dog stops and listens,
his ears two arched black tags,
his nose like dark pitch trembling
for the scent of chase, the musk of capture.

You hear voices across the water –
fishermen, talking each other awake.
And then, downshore, a stick snapping,
the dog’s head swivels
and waits on a different silence,
the achey kind swelled by want,
only this time the ache seeps
into clumps of cinnamon fern,
Canada mayflower,
pine needle decay.

All dog disappointment, my companion
turns his head again, begrudgingly.
Perhaps it’s better that the noise
chooses memory over movement
this morning, for I’m of a mood
for the unanswerable
and have no interest
in sudden epiphanies
on an island still asleep.
I take a deep breath while the dog,
nose alive with wet hope,
peers his "Why not's?" at me.

If he only understood: this is why
a man can be married to being alone,
why a man can forget the great “out there”
that is the world; because here,
in the held breath that is dawn
on this island gripped by this lake,
the world constricts
and, dogs notwithstanding,
men can choose to hear --
or not hear -- in the case of silences
that punctuate snapped sticks.

James E. Allman, Jr. 
April 6, 2010
James E. Allman, Jr. is a Southerner, with degrees in biology and business, but sees life neither dissected nor austerely economized; is now a Database Administrator due to the recent paucity of poet laureate positions on monster.com (he blames the current recession). For that matter Burt-Wolf-Substitute would suffice but has failed to materialize; would also consider Glutton, Wine-Snob, Cigar-Aficionado or Resident-Genius if pay far outweighed workload. In the meantime, he lustfully admires the poetry of T. S. Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mary Karr, B. H. Fairchild & Charles Wright between DDL, DML and DCL; also in the meantime, he has found himself a semi-finalist in the 2009 New Millennium Writings Contest and published (or forthcoming) in the following online and print journals: Anemone Sidecar, Black Words on White Paper, The Centrifugal Eye, Glint and Splash of Red. Additionally, "The Omnivorous Empire" is one of Splash of Red's official 2010 Pushcart Prize nominees.

The Omnivorous Empire

You have learnt something. That means, you have lost something.
                                                            —George Bernard Shaw

See. He has genus Amoeba for eyes—
of the family Amoebidae, order Tubulinida—and lids like pseudopods
              for foraging.

Secretes itself; the light limpid, lube like, and oozing spies
the world and eats it. Not in parts; not quite but neither
              completely different from a snake bite—unhinges

its aqueous jaws, runs and salivates
(runs and salivates), leaves an undigested lump in the gut.

Darwin’s Theses:
              Eat or be eaten—
  it’s only the vigorous, the healthy, and well fed that survive.
              There isn’t profitability without extinction—
  great destruction is required.
              No specious arguments,
  or ambiguity. Rely only on advantage:
              the long catalogue of dry facts
  like an animal’s diet listed on an exhibit placard.

A Grocery List:
  loaves of ciabatta ranch houses,
  beds of pulled pork mulch,
  Sencha lawns,
  clouds of meringue,
  something supple and easily bruised like peach meat,
  asparagus spears,
  meat stew (with or without Pelops),
  a swaddled stone passed off as a god,
  bread and wine, likewise,
  a mortar and pestle to pulverize,
  an electron microscope and a centrifuge.

Remember, Natural Selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing.
Hide in the Manichean darkness from the light eater; who bares eye-teeth
for chomping—pupils unoccupied, hollow and wide—
swallow, promising redemption from opaqueness and recipes
for everything—mis en place; everything in its place and mended of its mystery,
then written into formulas of tablespoons and measuring cups.

A Taxonomy:
  The infinitesimally small is somehow related
  to the profoundly ignorant;
  but then again so, too, is the immeasurable
  and unfalsifiable.

A Recipe Card:
  With a cleaver, chop the turkey necks into bite-size
  pieces and blot to remove excess blood.
  Make a roux. Add the turkey necks and simmer an hour and a half past sepia.
  Salt to taste.

Don’t we all consider books without equations
too much pinch and dash chemistry—more like incantations then gastronomy?

We cry, “Let’s make the small bits into bologna
and eat the elephant one mouthful

at a time.” But the monstrous, the kraken, the gorgon and the god
present us an altogether different challenge. They resist Malthusian
              assessment, the wet mount slide, the omnivorous empire;

are themselves a darkness that is a kind of light even if appearing as emaciation
(even as bunk), and who appreciate that food, like the interrogated,

has value in its unknown and undigested
parts—is otherwise

Theology of Fitness

           …there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence.
—Charles Darwin

A nursling’s so unlike living fossils
like rhinoceroses or elephants dressed up in grey granite
armor or crocodiles in cardigan gravel:
who’ve a record against extinction,
can take an honest-to-God punch,
and don’t have glass jaws—weak chins—glass
skin. Finds itself ill-equipped for this life of bare-knuckle boxing;
rather, in successive snivels is the nursling—suffering
Yahweh with tiny pleas in every whine and wail,
yearning for solace—the slough
of granite plaits from mastodons, throwaway
calluses to patch the porcelain of pummeled
calfskin—unfit for the world. Observe the newborn thinness
of its buttresses, the baby soft
of its skin. God knows its no frame for igneous,
and I suppose cherubs to model a more durable
material. But didn’t Darwin distrust immutable
things; observing the frequent struggle for existence, he preached
a vatic if not natural sanctification
ringing though with scripture: “made fit through suffering.”

Rob Cook
April 9, 2010
Rob Cook's work has recently appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Zoland Poetry, Aufgabe, Rhino, A cappella Zoo, Caketrain, Weave, and Best American Poetry 2009. He lives in the East Village where he co-edits Skidrow Penthouse with Stephanie Dickinson.

                                                            (for Tim Savoca, 1951-2003)

Off the coast of Asbury Park
a viking longboat
left in the cinders of jellyfish

You prayed to the bedsheets it wasn’t there for you

The last weeks painful as the bones
blackening across your x-ray

and held together by the television
where the world flickered

and your lungs filled with the eggs
of Japanese cranes,

meat from charred ash trays

You let your youngest daughter
take pictures of you disappearing
after a month of radiation

when the stairs to the bedroom were mountains

and your face swelled
into that of a man sitting

with clouds inside him

You wore a hat in the living room
so nobody else would be cold

Because of you, the highway ran
through street lights without looking

and a late-night bus
parked by an Allenhurst fishing pier,

its radio broadcasting
the counties of winter

where you’re still teaching troubled students
how to design pages in Quark

and you put in your pocket the new house
that drifted north without you,

past the shark and lobster orchestras,
and the mercury blood of the Atlantic,

the gypsy guitar your brother played
while you slept

into a man who will stay warm under a clam shell

and follow maps in the boardwalk
carved by vandals

Your family shoveling snow out the window,

white noise from the blankets left of you


You only were—
red hair that grew in the direction of darkness,
freckles where the alcohol’s children
counted your footsteps to the bottle emporiums
closed beneath the lake
or somewhere in what you’d already said.

You only were and never—

red freckles, hair that didn’t bleed,
a broken window in our house—that stupor—
the smell of a word that darkened the sun.

Your clothing slept with everybody.
I thought it was you,
or at least what lived only in your sweat,
the way each of your
exaggerated friends betrayed you.

But it was the clothes you wore.
Such a tasteful anxiety
of syphilis sewed into the seams.

Two years I looked at your face.
Two years I whispered
different chords
to each eye.
Two years I thought there might’ve been
a trace of water.

Two years to see there was not
one human feature.

Your voice repeating
the vodka’s desperation to be human:

a sentimentality in the patterns
of cigarette smoke from your
unfamiliar lips

while your blouse crept shyly around you.

Rebecca Wyrick
June 13, 2010
Rebecca Wyrick currently resides in Maryland, but is on the hunt for a new home. That home should include: wall-to-wall bookshelves, a claw-foot tub, high-backed chairs, secret passageways, an attic full of old-time thingamajigs, and one or more ghosts. When not writing, thinking about writing, or thinking about thinking about writing, she enjoys collecting old records and idolizing Nikola Tesla.

Oh, Hegel!

It’s good to hear your voice,
I’m at the ER and the bitch won’t give me Xanax.
I smoked some bad shit,
I’m going through the eight stages of death.
can I use that computer to check my Facebook?
it’s good to hear your voice.
You’re like some pseudo-Faustian shit,
you’re like—
Oh, Hegel!
You don’t understand nothingness.
I’m dying here,
tell them I won’t be in to work today.
Sartre would understand.
I’m Sisyphus,
I’m flying.
Nurse! Xanax!
you’ve got to pick me up,
I asked and no one here’s heard of Hume.


The crack in the old barn door
allows spirits to pass through.

She sneaks in after dark,
concealed by an Egyptian robe,
smoking her grandfather's pipe.

She digs her toes into the hay
and waits.

Cherri Randall
June 29, 2010
Cherri Randall is currently Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown.  She has a PhD in Gender Studies from the University of Arkansas where she also holds an MFA in Creative Writing.  Her work has appeared in Mid-America Poetry Review, the rectangle, Lake Effects, Hogtown Creek Review, Paper Street Press, Bewildering Stories, Permafrost Review, Paddlefish, The Potomac Review, Literary Chaos, Main Channel Voices, storySouth and Sojourn.  She has green eyes, fiery red hair, and arms spattered with freckles.  She lives with two teenaged daughters, a Chihuahua named Zora for Zora Neale Hurston, and high hopes for the future. 

Red Herring
Hearing is the ultimate lie. Buying tickets to the charade of sound.

My father used to box my ears when I was a kid. I finally asked my best friend in second grade why those bells kept ringing. She told me they must be angels since I was the only one who could hear them. Always in trouble for not listening, I became a teenager with no stereo speakers but a set of Koss headphones which cost an entire summer's worth of baby-sitting. They were so big and so frequently on my head my mother declared me to be a new species of walleyed arthropod. I bought magazines that printed the lyrics to all my favorite songs. I figured nobody else could hear the words either. Why else did they publish those magazines?
One time the teacher asked us if a tree falls in a deserted forest, does it still make a sound? Technically it does not. Falling makes sound waves vibrate, but the only place sound exists is in the brain. The ears are just receivers, tuned to a specific set of frequencies. Wired for sound. I wondered for the first time if some of my wires were crossed or shorted out.
Grown-up, men whispered in my ear and I would nod, never knowing to what I had given assent. I always waited for movies to come out on video so I could rewind the quiet parts. I took speech lessons. The audiologist also suggested a hearing aid, but it didn't make the sound more distinct, it just made it louder. I said what makes someone become an audiologist anyway, and he said being colorblind; it got him interested in perception until finally one thing led to another. He asked me to describe the color red to him. I honestly tried. I kept thinking of things that were red: roses, a robin's breast, valentines, ripe tomatoes, blood, apples, Coke cans, atomic jawbreakers, cummerbunds, silk ribbons in little girls' ponytails, male cardinals, radishes, foxes, ladybugs, anger, barns in the country, a little boy's wagon, the Red Cross logo, flashy Corvettes, summer sunsets, pimentos, poppies, swirls on candy canes and stripes on flags, balls on Christmas trees, cherries in July, certain shades of lipstick, strawberries on pound cake, stop signs, fire, Santa's clothes; I went on and on and on until I had to stop because he was laughing so hard.
But this is not like being colorblind I told him. He can still see the shape of a stop sign, still bite into a cherry and feel his lips pucker from their tangy tartness. Singing sounds like wind to me, whispering like a slight breeze. Certain decibels are secrets I can never be in on. The waves come in but their signal is the nothingness of air. Glenda or Brenda, I never can tell unless I see the name in writing or someone spells it. I hum along with the radio.
He answered by saying I could "hear" names and words when they were written down. That I can see the words when I can't hear them. He cannot hear the color red.
I asked him how he could be sure we weren't all a bunch of brains plugged into a computer and everything we think is real is just some show going on inside our heads. Is the color red real just because I can see it? In his universe there is no such thing as red. In my world, whispering is just breath.
One night he says I wish you could hear what I just heard. What was it? I asked him. He said the sound of my heart falling -- in love with you. I smiled with my red lips and wondered if he could find them. In the dark he answered. In the middle of a white nuclear winter. Later we went to PTA meetings with our kids and when we came home they would tell me what was said in that crowded auditorium over those tin-can microphones. They tell me the lyrics to all my favorite songs. I don't know who buys the magazines anymore, or if they're still even printed.
Once I said, How do we know if love is real? Maybe it's like red or whispering. Describe love to me I said. He said it's like color. You know it when it's there. He put my hand on his chest and said this is where you perceive love, in the heart. Two cells of heart muscle will beat independently in a petri dish, but once they touch, they will synchronize their rhythm. Truth is love, not the mountain where your heart lives but the mountain that your heart becomes.

Erica Romkema
July 31, 2010
Erica Romkema received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University, and has been previously published in dirtcakes, Root Stock, and Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. She enjoys entangling herself in agricultural adventures, and recently went from volunteering on organic farms in France to serving local food from a school bus kitchen along Colorado's Front Range. She wishes for a pair of red cowboy boots. 


her fingers stung for hours
after plucking the nettles
for his soup. like an elbow
hit hard, that same irate burn
gathered up into fingertips once

soft enough to stroke his face.
now he hid it behind a beard,
and kissed her with scratches.
still, he kissed. and so then.

she dug and picked for this soup
when nettles grew in spring
and after dinner, soaked her
fingers, while he coaxed and
plucked the strings of his violin,
the fire dancing behind his chair.


Across the road, the neighbors
ploughed up clay pots,
arrowheads, a skull, learned
they lived on part of an old
Sioux Trail. Some warrior-
traveler must have died
right on their property,
and now here he was, white
and hollow-eyed, an artifact.

A small green sign hoisted,
marked the spot, but behind
stayed the machinery, old
implements kept for parts.
And a white barn, dismal
as white barns become
without regular painting.
A herd of Holstein cows
confined to a manure-thick lot
overlooking one man’s
burial ground.

A hundred yards away,
I sat on the hill gazing down
into our meadow, to where grass
reached pond and marsh, our small
wilderness. The wind, coming up
over the rise, found my hair
and tangled into it.  And I
wondered if that same wind
remembered, before, the black
locks of  some Sioux girl
who wandered from the trail
to listen to tree frogs
singing in the wetlands.

The grove behind
the alfalfa field gathered
deer bones, skulls and
the long femurs of legs.
Smaller skeletons too,
rodents we couldn’t identify,
guessed, studying the neat
ivory organization of those
remaining partially intact.

We climbed on the pile
of rocks at the edge of the
grove and our dog sniffed
around madly—rabbits hiding,
maybe.  Deeper in the trees
the soil dipped in concave
circles, odd places, like bowls
carved in the dirt by human
hands, though not ours.

The grove beckoned those
bright afternoons, in the
mystery of ancient things.
But night warned us away,
starred, shot with moonlight
grasses, rustled, twigs cracked
in the restless quiet. Foliage
heavy with the dark. From
our windows in the tall white
house, we could hear a wind
wailing over whatever
had been lost.

Howie Good
August 16, 2010
Howie Good is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Lovesick, and 21 print and digital poetry chapbooks. Additionally, "Star Sapphire" is one of Splash of Red's official 2010 Pushcart Prize nominees.

Autumn Song

The sunken old-
man face

of the sunflower
by my door,

its seeds
like sealed


purple gray

Alison Willson
August 20, 2010
Alison Wilson was born and raised in England and returns to visit family most summers. She teaches English in Nebraska, where she and Art built a house on a corner of eighty acres of rolling hills. She has recently finished an MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and her poems have appeared in English Journal, Baybury Review and Vermillion Literary Project.

Dry Island

In this mist
I can take you there,
rain having turned
life fluid
like fish
with tides.
It is home
work rocks
under waves.
Pink and lavender
lupines ribbon
through yellow gorse
raging along trails.
English visitors stay
to own cottages,
milk-white scraps
on hillsides.
Leaving angry red dresses
for wool and wellingtons
they ramble around
hairy highland cows
down to sand
and sea.
slick with rain.
Buoys and masts
float naked, punctuate
Badachro Bay.

Rodney Wilhite
August 29, 2010
Rodney Wilhite is an MFA candidate at the University of Arkansas. He is currently working on a collection of narrative poems about rural folkways.

Slaughtering Day

Slowly calmly so the yearling barrow’s panic
wouldn’t spoil the meat my father unconcerned
by any death but his own stuck him in the neck
and let him kick and bleed out. The dogs sniffed
just out of kicking range as the children scraped
the hair cradling the pinkened carcass
still steaming from the scald spreading him
intimately like an obese woman.

We hung him by the gambrels from the barn rafters.
My father taught me to detach the pizzle
by carving out between the hams and peeling
it back by the roots. One deft slice
let the innards rain down into a bucket.
All the while shooing the slavering dogs.

R. L. Kurtz
September 5, 2010
R. L. Kurtz was raised in Mansfield Ohio.  He received his BA in Literature and Philosophy and then a Masters in Literature in 1998 from East Carolina University.  As an adult he has traveled extensively around the world, teaching English in such places as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Barcelona, and Taiwan. He is currently Director of an English language school in Taiwan, where he resides with his wife and two young boys. Additionally, "Star Sapphire" is one of Splash of Red's official 2010 Pushcart Prize nominees.   

Star Sapphire
Town to town, islands of atlas
navigating roads beyond our latitudes
he became Odysseus
who bore on his vanishing hand
the trifling weight of sapphire at 240 degrees blue.

And whenever to home as fates would demand
it preceded him,
like a familiar pebble of apology across the dark
rapping small contritions on a night’s door sure to open.

Now it’s mine for the study.
I habitually spin it on an axis of bone,
slide it along the annuláris
across rimpled knuckle to the apogee—never beyond.
There’s comfort in the silver band riding my skin.

But the star within the stone I admire most
perfect illusion born of flaw,
a skittish fish beneath the surface hue
until light washes over the blue face
and six white arms radiate to embrace it to the hilt.

Even moonlight will coax it out.
Any solitary source will do, but summer sun is best—
from star to star I guess, as my father journeys now
with Ithaca here, on my finger.

George Bishop
November 3, 2010
George Bishop was raised on the Jersey Shore before moving to Florida where he lives and writes. Recent work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Evening Red Press and Prick of the Spindle. Forthcoming work will be featured in Grey Sparrow Journal. His chapbook, Love Scenes, is available from Finishing Line Press and new chapbook, Marriage Vows and Other Lies, has been released by Flutter Press.


Each day the old man,
crooked cane and good leg leading,
winds up and down the streets
of our small, broken town—
odd size lots, roads ending
then beginning again
blocks away.

And each day,
sitting here waiting for the same bus,
I wonder if the rest of his day falls
into this same pattern as he waves
to everyone without looking away
from his path.

He’s got the coffee from Fay’s
and stop lights timed, raincoat ready
and change for the paper. Rhythm
is his order of living, diamond-
cut, mirror made. His Sousa-steps
engage the ground like the hidden
gears of a fine watch

and as he disappears
around a corner I notice
the bus is late and the traffic’s
begun to thicken. Postponements
drop out of my eyes like light snow,
landscapes become more manageable
as the necessities of a sign start to fade—
and an old man in me fiddles with keys
in front of an overgrown, vacant lot.

Bible Story

I want to say something
in the dense August air
kept repeating, buy it, buy it,
as I held the palm-size Bible
up to the light of a dying estate
sale. But I also want this
to be believable, something
to measure the holiness of home,
if there is such a place.

It was given to Sadie Schofield
at St. Paul’s Sunday School
in 1877. Riverside, somewhere.
That’s what the inscription said
on the first blank page.
And judging by the four leaf clover
I found deep in Chronicles
she must’ve known something
about the consequences
of clicking her hidden heels
a certain way and closing
her eyes against a world
suddenly larger than her own.

At the very least, she’d discovered
even a golden path has to have cracks
to breathe, expand. Which is surely
why she gently trusted these tiny
leaves of legend to a book teeming
with households held together
by a patchwork of prophecy.
It’s no secret we’re only complete
when something’s missing,
it seems to say. There’s a place
for it, I thought, as my wallet
finished speaking in its familiar,
tuneless tone. And I imagined
the clover coming into Sadie’s
eyes all green and rootless,
half prayer, half answer.

Steve Castro
March 30, 2011
Steve Castro lived in East Rutherford, NJ for a year where he was the manager of Hispanic Ticket Programs for the NY/NJ MetroStars (New York Redbulls) of Major League Soccer.  He was in charge of creating the first Honduran Heritage Day in the history of Giants Stadium. Publications: Grey Sparrow Journal, ASKEW, Andar21 (Galiza / Galicia, Spain), Underground Voices, This Great Society, Divine Dirt Quarterly, etc.  Forthcoming: Cricket Online Review.

Bread Crumbs

If I died and kept writing, would that be perseverance.  The fact that
there’s no question mark, is. When you shoot the shit, does that mean
that the hunter’s bullet penetrated through the deer’s anus?  People
call me and I answer or I don’t; people are what they pretend to be
and I, I should.  If you refuse to listen but inadvertently pay
attention then you’re multitasking, which is.  If you sleep with your
eyes open, then you’re a person who cut off your eyelids during a
dare, a bad LSD trip or you’re dreaming that you’re a fish.  Many
French poets shower twice a week and it’s once a week too many.  In
San Francisco, I’ve never been there.  I travel the world, but my
younger brother doesn’t.  I wish I was you reading me right now, I
really do.  If you understand me then you’re crying right now; I’m
sorry.  My mother is beautiful like the two Angels who were disguised
as two very kind twenty-something year old men from the African
continent, who helped me find my cell phone in Chicago; I blundered
when I asked them if they liked soccer, which they did; I should’ve
asked them if they’d pray for me.  I love the sound of my own voice
when it’s silent; it reminds me of the eye of the storm; if I built a
shack in the eye of the storm, it’d be a mobile home with an elevator,
but no windows.  I think that the person who coined the word Déjàvu
was an idiot or French, probably an idiot-savant left-handed French
poet, who was so pretentious he showered three times a week.  The best
thing about me, I will take with me; these are just the crumbs that
fell off the table.

Kristina Moriconi
June 13, 2011
Kristina Moriconi is currently completing her MFA through the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. She teaches writing in a suburb of Philadelphia and runs a nonprofit organization for professional students in Haiti. Her work has appeared most recently in The Smoking Poet, Philadelphia Stories and Fox Chase Review.


Later that day, after the second mammogram, a brown-gray sparrow
struck my bedroom window. My thoughts rattled
then lurched back to my childhood home, to the old man down the street
who built birdhouses out of recycled barn wood.
Nearly fifty different houses hung in his backyard, some nailed to tree trunks,
others twine-looped, dangling from low branches.

Hundreds of birds gathered in his yard. He identified them by their feathers,
their bills, by the way they perched on a branch.
He knew their flight patterns. Each day, he wore the same painter’s pants,
his pockets brimful with bent nails and birdseed.
I followed him around, learning about the birds, listening to his stories.
Birds are harbingers, he said. Always be aware.

Or had the old man said beware?

A week later, as I waited for the phone to ring, another bird hit my window,
a hard thump of its bill, its feathers splayed,
falling head first to the ground. It is considered unlucky to have a sparrow
fly into your home, the old man had once told me.
This bird hadn’t flown inside, but it had died trying to go through the glass.
I felt certain that had to be unlucky.

The body is a strange hiding place.

I drove to the doctor’s office alone, a blue green swallow flying out
from between two parked cars, startling me.
It landed. I stood staring at its white belly. According to the old man’s legend,
a swallow carries two precious stones within its body:
a red one to cure insanity and a black one to bring good luck.
The lumpectomy had been scheduled.

The surgeon drew on my skin to show me where the cuts would be made,
where she’d carve one incision, arcing, along the curve
of the nipple. Another would follow the line of the breastbone. One mass. One cluster.
She would take the cells and the dense sections of tissue
in which they hid. I woke, my chest bound tightly in stark white bandages.
I knew what had been taken from me.

The precious black stone of the tree swallow now resting in its place.

Molly Curtis
June 24, 2011
Molly Curtis is the author of Mouths Full of Glass in the Abandoned Bathhouse (Zero Ducats Collective, 2009). She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Montana, where she was awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize, and her poems can be found, among other places, in: Beloit Poetry Journal, Third Coast, Oak Bend Review, apt and anderbo.


Find her in the mulch-scented attic
among its many boxes, they

are not coffin-shaped and they
are labeled. Every one of them

marked: Bits of string too small to save.
Each one filled with threads

just long enough
to secure the braids of waif

girls who mutter questions from Ecclesiastes -
How bone can be created in the womb.

It was somebody else’s grandmother
not hers who kidnapped children for baptism

to wash them clean under
the eyeballed steeple of the sky.

But when she had scarlet fever
and her grandmother told her

possums always wash their food
she thought of their prehensile tails.

Like starfish lodged in darkness
with these

their fifth limbs.
Now imagine tide pools

those shallows of her fever dreams.
The fear of being pinned down

by long wet gowns when the tide
moves always in.

Imagine the quiver of a stranger’s hands
as they wash your body for god.


I love you best
on dust-colored mornings

when your forehead
is furrowed like all things vulpine

and the creatures that burrow
into your gray matter

-rattling like rust-
feather your cerebellum

with spindleshanks and spools
of surgical thread.

Loom sounds like womb
because we are making something here

if only flaxen clothing
for ragdolls, or rags for the yard-dogs

who are lowing into the night, who we imagine
to be cold, though it’s not yet autumn.

The driftwood fence is gray
and the dappled dog choking on its rope

that is tied to the fence
is gray. When you imagine a beachscape

is the water gray? As sand and scattered
exoskeletons, the shells of crustaceans…

Or do you picture something
brighter there, because it’s elsewhere?

I collected sea-glass all day
that day. For the color, yes, and because

it lacks the capacity to cut.
I wanted sand dollars, broken

by the waves and always gray, though
I would prefer to call them fawn.
And I found you sleeping
like a skeleton fawn in the riptide,

its dappled hide, your skin -
so many layers of shale.

But in the mad twitch
of jaundiced eyelids we were running

through a shocking field of glacier lilies -
their petals yellow,

unreachable as imagined planets.

David Chorlton
August, 1, 2011
David Chorlton was born in Austria, grew up in England, and spent several years in Vienna before moving to Phoenix in 1978. Among his books are Waiting for the Quetzal, from March Street Press and The Porous Desert, from Future Cycle Press. He recently had a poem included in the anthology, BIRDS, from the British Museum, won the Ronald Wardall Poetry Prize for his chapbook The Lost River, from Rain Mountain Press and the Slipstream Chapbook Contest with From the Age of Miracles. His newest book is fiction: The Taste of Fog, from Rain Mountain Press, set in 1960s Vienna.

Earth’s Own

We fancy ourselves fast
or in flight. We carry mountains
on our backs,
we press our rocky profiles up against the sky.
We are silent and the tips of our noses
are moist. We rub our cheeks
against tree bark
and strut with wattles hanging down against our chests
before we flap and heave
our weight into a sycamore. We float
and croak. We slither over stones
with a column of vertebrae
slack inside our skin. We hang from the sky
with an eye
for misfortune
then strip its bones clean.
With our legs in the water we stride
a way, stop a while, watch
for a wave we can split
on the way to a fish. We’re still on a branch
jutting out from the bank
and small as a thumb on a stem
leaning in front of a flower.
We’re so small in a storm you would think
of us lost, but when the clouds clear
we call back
in the light, we take wing
and become
specks of dust in the sun. We flow
and sway, we grow tall and soak into the ground.
We’re a flash as we pass, looking nervously back,
coyote quick and shy. We appear
one by one but imagine
us gone and a shiver
runs under the skin of the Earth.

The Book of Distractions

Here lie the thoughts that got lost
on their way from beginnings
to fulfillment. Here
are variations that never
had a theme, plus the byroads
and narrow paths
leading into a canyon that forks
into impossible choices.
This is what keeps me
from writing something else, and I don’t know
what it is I’m distracted from. Here
are words which escaped
and ran in all directions. Every page
is an unintended consequence,
the record of a journey
taken for the sake of it, a constellation
of stars from an uncharted galaxy.
Here are fragments
that never fit together,
loose ends on paper
masquerading as a plan, connections
on a schedule of trains
that run without having
stations in which to arrive, only
observers who stand by the tracks
as they pass, waving handkerchiefs
white as the unprinted page.

Entering March

On quiet days with winter running down
to a few last squalls before
the citrus trees bloom and we ride
their scent into the heat
that lasts until October, the thrasher calls
at the edge of light
and the black cat slides
around the house to look
for his first meal. Monday, Tuesday,

and by Wednesday there are still
unfinished revolutions in the world,
far away from our untended yard
with weeds taking courage
from the recent rain, and still
the slow, unending chipping away
at life forms
by forces we can name
but never see.
There is trouble

as usual in Afghanistan, trouble underneath
the helicopter circling Central Avenue
with an angry motor, trouble
to the north with unions and a governor,
trouble deciding how free
speech can be before it’s just hate,
and trouble in the checkout line
where a man decides to shout
instead of speaking. And the planet

creaks as it turns
on a rusty axis, with bits
of coral breaking away and some feathers
floating off into space.

Walter William Safar
September 26, 2011
Walter William Safar was born on August 6th 1958 Sherman-TEXAS- . He is the author of a number of a significant number of prose works and novels, including "Leaden fog", "Chastity on sale", "In the falmes of passion", "The price of life", "Above the clouds", "The infernal circle", "The scream", "The negotiator", "Queen Elizabeth II", as well as a book of poems, titled "The angel and the demon".
I am standing in the street of my childhood,
and the blue April sky
rises above me,
glittering like a dreamy eye.
Down here, the wind is marching
behind my dark memories,
but unfaltering,
like a tiller behind his plow.
Tell me, steady wind:
How shall I escape the screams of the past?
For years you’ve been pushing me to all corners of the world,
as I was your unwanted child.
You know, wind,
that with my restless spirit, I belong more to You
than to myself.
From You, I inherited the yearning
to travel the world and seek:
the Morning in a golden cradle,
the Day in an angel’s embrace,
the Night in a bloody dress,
and midnight in black,
that preys on lust
like death preys on life.
I am standing in the street of my childhood,
next to the same window
from which I used to gaze at you, wind,
during my childhood,
and dream of the day
when I would fly on Your soft, sweet back
to a better world,
far away from poverty;
the flies captured in the spider’s web,
the miserable cries of worms
eternally crawling beneath the feet of soulless masters,
far away from the grass
and the tear-swept flowers.
I am standing next to the window
in the street of my childhood,
as if standing next to a bloody cradle,
and the memories,
my ashamed children,
cry out into this April night
with their silent screams,
reaching their invisible hands
out to me.
And I,
driven by the gales,
I am rolling across the world,
like a raindrop
looking for its grave,
in the cracks of the arid crust
of the betrayed earth.
Paul David Adkins
September 29, 2011

Paul David Adkins grew up in South Florida and lives in New York.

“Extensive experiments on Guadalcanal . . . have shown that this louse inhabits coral atolls in the South Pacific . . . Breeding grounds around the Tokyo area, must be completely annihilated.” Leatherneck, 28:3, March 1945
My mother explained her father,
an Okinawa vet,
blasted flaming gas
into mountain bunkers.

The Japanese popped up blazing,
it seemed from earth itself. 

She showed us how he did it,
sprayed us with a hose.
She whooped –
Remember the Arizona!

At twelve years old,
I aimed a can of Raid
down a kitchen crevice

because Raid    
     Kills Bugs Dead.

Walls shook.

Roaches bubbled
legs and wings
from crack,

I fled the noxious fog,
returned in an hour

to find Mom
standing on a chair

The dead draped dishes, floor.  

NEXIUM ® (Esomeprazole) 

Drop a coin in coke,
it will dissolve in a week,
my dentist warned –
the danger of soft drinks.

I never tried it,
took his word.  He would not
unpocket a quarter.
I did not want
to chance my dime.

The light above the chair
warmed my forehead,
dried my mouth.
A curved tube slurped saliva out.

Years later acid slipped
like a black snake
up my throat.

I recalled the dentist,
procured the purple pill.

It rode scored flesh
to plunk –
a penny in that well.

A wish.  

And how I flipped
coin after coin

sliding like beads of water
down the sides
of a quivering bell.

R. L. Kurtz
October 11, 2011
R. L. Kurtz is Director of an English School in Taiwan, where he lives with his wife and two sons.  He’s a published essayist (North Carolina Literary Review-’96) and recent poet, penning his first piece less than a year ago. Since then his work has appeared in such literary journals as PIF, Clapboard House, Ann Arbor Review, Splash of Red, Amarillo Bay, Avatar, and others.  He was Splash of Red’s 2010 Pushcart Prize nominee.

The Honor Guard

Loquacious as a cat
always opaque in offering less of himself
than sidewalk nickels
he nevertheless related once
that his service in ‘52 was doing Honor Guard—
pressed-in uniform and commanding a casket
on a train plunging like fate toward little towns
with little names like Apple
Ash and Flint
hubs coughing up hearts
to play some arcane part in Asia.

In short, Death’s delivery boy
escorting the stitched and close-lipped cargo
to home ports.
His sentence was curt but actually heroic—
in the most stoic sense of the word.
Imagine the composure invested in the delivery
of a woman’s son posed like Lenin in shiny, decorative box,
the tsk-tsking of a clock while he stood in wooden foyers,
the parentheses of a silence enclosing them under wing
and always his right hand hugging the left
covering the too-bright buckle and spine
stiffened in the onslaught of the awkward,
always reverent in the quixotic face
of loss.

And at a loss himself to offer response
to that vague question eternally perched upon their lips
while he, hero and goat, dutifully guarding the unspoken
absurdity of the boy’s demise,
stood always eyes front,
chest out,
and ever under mortal threat
of a stammer.

Erika Meyers
October 18, 2011
Erika Meyers earned an MA in Creative Writing at University College Dublin and is currently studying for a PhD in Literature at the University of Edinburgh. Her first novel, Strangers in America won the first place prize in the Great Lakes Novel Contest and was published in the spring of 2010 by Bottom Dog Press.

Yet there is a stillness
to rooms occupied
by waiting.

And a change
to the accent
of footsteps
when both our
results come back
and the space
of our countries
overlap like a map
folding in upon itself.

The Wordless
These are the
wordless roads
with curves
like quotation marks
where I look back
for perspective
as if the truth
can be adjusted like
a rear view mirror.
He holds someone
who is not me
and they smile together
like they’re waiting
for their pictures
to be taken
by a camera
I don’t have.

I watch her settle
into the backseat
of a car that she
does not own.
She smiles again,
shows a chipped
tooth up front
and on the radio

Ashley Shivar
October 29, 2011
Ashley Shivar received her MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Currently, she teaches English at Cape Fear Community College. Her work has appeared in, or is forthcoming from Blustem, The Portland Review and Pinion, among others. In her spare time she attempts to blog about poetry via creativepoetess.wordpress.com. 

After The Burial

inspired by Andrea Hollander Budy’s “For Weeks After the Funeral”

even seven layers of golden cake, homemade
chocolate frosting, cheese casseroles and dozens
of packs of cheap sandwich meat couldn’t appease
the house. It refused

small fuchsia buds from perpetual houseplants                     
that began to litter the living room, and moving boxes
settling under the weight of family heirlooms—
silver- plated serving pieces, Christmas china.         

Stray cats came out from under the house,
random visitors arrived and left, yet still     
the house refused to be appeased               

because it’s just a house, a shell
of seventies era wallpaper and shag carpet.  
Nothing more than bricks and stale nicotine.

And no matter how I hard I look in closets for shadows         
of ghosts, there’s nothing left except For Sale signs.            

Nothing to do except sit in the garage and cry
while the stray cats consume the emptiness.
Benjamin Schmitt
December 15, 2011
A graduate of Boise State University, Benjamin Schmitt was born in Columbia, Missouri. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington though he has spent most of his life in Idaho and Wisconsin. Over the years he has worked a number of odd jobs including dishwasher, banker, janitor, and customer service representative. His work has been published in Pearl, The Evergreen Review, Poetry SuperHighway, The Fine Line, Danse Macabre,Otis Nebula, Poetry for the Masses, and Subliminal Interiors.

The global conspiracy to get you in bed
At the entrance to the bar
a sign reads “we are an equal opportunity exploiter”
opening the door the patrons leer at you
there is a global conspiracy to get you in bed
discussed by the nazis and their Illuminati cohorts sitting at the booth behind you
as you sit on a stool and order a rum and coke
advertising executives control the rise and fall of hemlines
but they are powerless when confronted with your prominent well-displayed back
the men who killed Kennedy consider offering you a drink
they like your red dress, your dark hair and eyes
Chinese assassins sit with Pentagon scientists who have seen supernovas
up close after traveling light years in a grey metal box
yet one astronaut says this bursting star could never compare with your ass
another says your neck is a nebula of tears
a few seats away former KGB agents talk to African Shamans
they look upon you as international intrigue, as an incident that needs to be covered up
in their blankets, naked only for their eyes to see
a once jailed Cuban poet sits with a group of memoirists
saying how much you remind him of a girl he once knew in a forced labor camp
but the memoirists aren’t paying any attention to him or you neither
they only want to talk about their books
philosophers sit with the bankers who run countries
from dark rooms where they watch the puppets on TV
they stare at your legs from where they have sat for decades
greeting each new administration from the same worn out chairs
media moguls speak with cyborgs and alien hybrids
discussing the way your lips curl around that glass
a former American president and a secret Marxist official
gulp simultaneously as you adjust your bra

you were supposed to meet a friend here
at the most exclusive club in Manhattan
you have sent a dozen texts to her
but have not gotten a response
Bach is playing on the stereo
there is no dance floor, no techno
you notice a picture of Hitler behind the bar
this is just too much
rising up to leave
you find the memoirists have blocked your path
to tell you about their books
detailed accounts of horrible childhoods
one of them raised by widow spiders
another by unemployed alcoholic clowns
the bankers can’t stop staring at your legs
J/J Hastain
January 10, 2012
J/J Hastain is the author of several cross-genre books including long past the presence of common (Say it with Stones Press) and trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press). j/j has poetry, prose, reviews, articles, mini-essays and mixed genre work published in many places on line and in print.

Elizabeth Cantwell
January 15, 2012
Elizabeth Cantwell is a PhD student in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Southern California, where she also acts as Editor in Chief of Gold Line Press. Her poems have recently appeared (or are forthcoming) in such journals as the Indiana Review, PANK, Matter, The Los Angeles Review, La Petite Zine, and RHINO. 

Learning Curve 

The Atlantic Ocean had been burning
for four days    We were told to stay inside
but we’d forgotten which houses
belonged to us    Now we lie on the beach

watching the local theater company’s
production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream   
In the audience one lumbering
ash man walks up to an ash

woman and leans over    He looks
surprised at all the ash    Like a man who
hits a deer with his car and stops
to see his full name written on its back

in Sharpie    On the makeshift stage
Helena speaks of cherries    We try to know
what cherries taste like    Your gas mask
on top of my opera gloves    The whole

wide world doused in ethanol and lit
up    We’d peel our skins off
for each other    for one glorious incandescent
cruise    one saltwater bed of again   again   

Out of the corner of the sky
something is writing words    They
look like they are in our language
But we both fail to read them    Maybe this

is starting over  

My Memories of You Are Silent

In that country there is a train
that stops when it gets tired    It doesn’t bother
to read the signs    There is a man in my car
who claims to be French
but does not understand me
when I ask quelle heure
est-il    He shows me a picture of a man
and points to himself    And the man
in the picture has a different
face    For weeks I have been woken up
by dreams in which I open my mouth
to speak    and only then discover
I am underwater    In the backseat of
a cab I go through all the Arabic phrases
I know in my head    how much  
is the bread   and    the son
is in the garden with the cow    and    I love,
I am a woman    In the front seat
it sounds like the cab driver is yelling
at the man next to him    I think
they are discussing the best streets
to take    Meanwhile under another country’s
ocean certain navy officers produce
horrible noises to scare away
the whales    The navy needs this portion
of the ocean to be devoid of whales
so they can perform
exercises     No one in the navy
bothers to learn the language
of the whales    They think that if their noises
are loud enough
the whales will get the gist    In the city
I meet another American woman    She says
she is having a party in her apartment
When I get there everyone is speaking
English    We sit on a rug in the middle
of the floor and she serves us
Hamburger Helper    Everyone is talking
very loudly and I do not have anything to say
to any of them    In the middle of a bite
of artificially colored pasta
I look up and see you looking
at me    You glance at your plate
and then back up at me and
you roll your eyes    We do not speak
a word out loud    I swim up through
the surface of the water
and take a deep breath    I hope the whales
are still living in that ocean    saying
to each other    what was all

that noise about  

Byron Beynon
January 26, 2012
Byron Beynon lives in Wales; his work has appeared in several publications including Poetry Wales, Agenda, Poetry Ireland, Poetry Salzburg, Quadrant and The Black Mountain Review. Recent poems have appeared in the anthology "Evan Walters: Moments of Vision" (Seren Books, 2011).

Here the famous guests are scattered
in funerary plots and calculated divisions,
with sculpture, some reminding me of sentry-boxes,
ready and made to accommodate whole families.
During the hour or more
I stayed among the dead
I found the black and polished grave of Proust,
his name remembered in time and letters;
I searched for Balzac, Bizet,
and the young American
Jim Morrison of the Doors.
Blind men! But who's to say?
One by one the shadows disappeared.
At 89e Div 1-2 I saw
graffiti on Epstein's monument
to Oscar Wilde,
Oscar who? Someone had scrawled
in dark paint.
A gardener pointed
to Piaf's place,
smothered in flowers and notes,
as children from a school party
sketched Chopin's marble face.
Nobody could disturb them,
they had completed their cycle
in a city touched by sunshine and dust,
where unknown visitors leave bouquets,
vulnerable petals that see in the light.

The sound of doors
shutting inside
anonymous rooms
during the quiet
hours when there is still
light rusting
in a remote sky;
the atmosphere clears
like a table
after a meal,
the long distance of yesterday
creeps in
faded like a memory
caught in a yellow beam,
untouchable like a silent
photograph developed
in the mind,
retention breathing
inside a native ground
patient as discovery.

It is difficult to see
down the valley tonight,
only the street lights
stretched like buoys in a dangerous world
offer the meat of comfort.
Here during winter
icicles resemble witches bones.
“Snow weather!” my uncle says
in a voice deliberate and frozen,
the colder elements annoy him.
We shiver together
as the mountain streams
soften into silence,
their music is primitive
as they return
to neolithic caves
forming elephant trunks.

Lilah Clay
April 6, 2012
Lilah Clay (b. 1982) is a writer, painter and performance poetry teacher. She has written a dark psychological-suspense novel for young adults, a crushing memoir about surviving Lyme Disease, and is currently working on a collection of poetry entitled Tonight the Wind Rebels. She lives in Hawaii and has been published in Her Circle.


Mobster dreams float 
on the surface 
of last night's rain, 
soggy backs to the sun.

Underwater creatures suckle 
the tips of their shoe laces
and golden crosses
where Jesus hangs 
watching seaweed
strangle out the stars.

I wake up in a pool of sweat
that smells of sugar pine
and tuberose.

I wake up with criminals
cleansed from my psyche,
and an empty mind
that snuck from my head

to nestle in my hands
like a baby dove--
white, gentle and blinking.

I will feed it
pearls of ink today,
in the color of midnight blue.

I will make a nest for it
from torn books of poetry
that whisper of candle light
balanced on the ivory
of a priest's departed 

Tomorrow I will crush 
beached sea shells
into fine powder
and blow it from my palms.

Go off into the world
new dreams,
and pollinate the stars.

You know me well enough by now:
I will never tire
of the woods,
the ocean, or the moon
on my page.
You must figure
we are all old friends.
Maybe we went to the same school,
though it had to have been segregated
with trees on the left
and water on the right.
I sat between them.
The moon stood up front,
and taught us 
about poetry
against the blackboard
of the sky.
We were all good students.
It was only the things
that lived inside of us
that got in the way.
Animals came out of the woods
and mermen came out of the ocean
and they circled me
with their beady eyes
asking to pull the dark forces 
from my body and surrender them 
to teacher.
Funny, that I would arch my back
and resist.
I was afraid of what was locked 
in there.
That I might terrify the night
by showing it
a doorway into itself.
I did not know then
that the moon is many things
besides a poetry teacher.
It is a ring master,
a door knob, a locksmith
for all locked things.
And it was as though our classroom
suddenly became holy
like a cathedral,
when the light of the moon
to pierce me.
Black bats with steel tongues,
and tides of centipedes
came out from their hiding places,
and the ocean 
and the woods 
took them in
for they were not mine
to bear.

Judith Cody
May 2, 2012
Judith Cody, poet and composer, won national awards from Atlantic and Amelia magazines, as well as numerous honorable mentions. One of her poems, with its historical documents, is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution. Her poems are published in over sixty journals such as: Stand, Nimrod International Journal, New York Quarterly, South Carolina Review, Texas Review, Fugue, Distillery, Cumberland Poetry Review, Fox Cry Review, Louisville Review, Madison Review, Phoebe, Quiddity, Primavera, Poet Lore, Poem, Xavier Review, Caduceus, Arabesques Review, Language and Culture, others. Anthologies include: Oakland Out Loud, Anthology of Monterey Bay Poets, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, others. She is currently the editor of a PEN Oakland anthology; and the editor for a NASA division history. She wrote the internationally notable biography of composer, Vivian Fine: A Bio-Bibliography, and Eight Frames Eight, poems. She has received the University of California Master Gardener lifetime achievement award. Visit www.judithcody.com.
Soil Heaves. Something Is Growing.
Audacious seed creature

alone, minute as a mote in the eye,

is heaving lumps of earth

no bigger than the tip of a big toe.

There! The tiny crack begins caught on

the lance tip of an anaemic, green embryo

thrusting upward to touch the heat of day.

Audacious seed creature

twisting to an advantageous

hold against earth

steering to light

firm as a sailor’s

grip on the rudder

you, dicotyledon, splay

two fresh, green sails inclining

toward particles of photosynthesizing

radiation racing from our lonely star.

Audacious seed creature

bearer of absolute genetic knowledge

to seek the perfect portal where

you will become a Dawn Redwood,

a carrot, or, perhaps, a rose.
Panagiota Doukas
May 6, 2012
Panagiota is an undergraduate studying English and Creative Writing at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she spends her time volunteering at a collectively-run, non-profit radical bookstore. She is currently beginning work on a small collection of poetry as part of a senior thesis project. This is her first published piece. 

Greek Handcrafts

They made a zig-zag fence on the edge
of the dirt-paved road, those heaps of worn and abandoned tires.
They echoed the engines of German trucks, which hummed the village to sleep.
Cradling the black, warm tire skins like dead animals we longed to eat,
we took them home in our arms.

During war, you learn to improvise—
so my dad took his only knife and cut clean through the muddied skin of a tire.
He pulled out the smooth inner lining, cut out a small square, folded two edges together
to a point like a bird’s beak, pinched the back and sewed up the front and sides.
Looks like their boats he said, and handed me my new shoes.

Joshua Stuyvesant
May 15, 2012
Joshua Stuyvesant was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and currently resides there. Besides being a poet, he is also a screenwriter, playwright, filmmaker, and painter. This is the first time his poetry has seen publication.

Another Vain Poet
Einstein sat in a swivel chair and said
books would be forgotten. Kubrick rarely 
spoke a joke without peering over the rim
of his glasses. And then Renoir--the women 
he painted adored every one of his commands.
I’ve walked and walked through the desert 
and only gained a mouthful of sand. If a thin
man told me Chaucer dawdled with a captured
feather in his studio, I’d remember his name.
I whisper: be less loud. Be Thoreau. My words
have said, “Wasn’t there a man who figured
he’d never be quoted?” They are happy
to stay sand in a mouth--reluctant to be 
feathers in a wind. Go. Find ears to pray.

Your Love of Old
We’ve happened in front of a vintage sink
that you simply adore with its hourglass
stand and bronze, shelled accents. We already
have a sink. This antique store boasts a saddle 
that sat under Wyatt Earp’s ass. You use 
the word rococo a lot. You sit on every
victorian-schmictorian chair. You kiss 
me with your forehead so I flip through playboys
from the sixties. You look young in old mirrors.
I say I’m going outside for a smoke but instead
stand behind glass and watch you sniff old
bottles and rub leather against you cheek.
Outside, the dust hasn’t even settled while
we’re being buried under the musk of it all.
Manik Sharma
July 8, 2012
Manik Sharma lives in the hill town of Shimla from Himachal Pradesh in India. He has authored a collection of poems, "The Land Above Water," printed under the writers workshop guild. He has also seen publication through the Bitter Oleander and most recently in the anthology "Inspired by Tagore" published by the British Council.


The mistress in my room,
why does a necklet hang by her neck
and everything else is a pale reflection
of her body?
The branches of a tree outside
are flailing off my forehead
but I can only stare at her
with my imagination filling the room,
She moves away slowly
as if apathy is whispered to her.
It starts to drizzle
and the morning is a climax of sorts...

This City
This city is too many lights,
to look down upon with a clear heart.
The walls too thick,
to run through and find yourself again.
The whores too tired,
to not be whores again.
The air too thin,
to have the stomach for rain.
The dead too many,
too late.
The windows too many to look into,
too few to look out from.
An honest man's ego too small,
to die for some good.
The sidewalks too wide,
too small to sleep on.
The faces with too many teeth,
too few to show and fewer that bite.
The heights of rage too small,
too big for your convenience.
It is never quiet in the city.
And it is never strange.

Helen Wickes
August 20, 2012

Frost, then Ice and Sense of Direction are from The Moon Over Zabriskie, and unpublished manuscript. Helen Wickes lives in Oakland, California, where she worked for many years as a psychotherapist. Her first book of poems, In Search of Landscape, was published in 2007 by Sixteen Rivers Press.

Frost, Then Ice

The coyotes’ dawn sound—

ice fragments chipping the air.

Sprinkle of stars, white on the mountains.

Rain stings the tin roof at night.

Lightning glaring into this window, into the next.

All day the wind roars in from Chama.

The big-bodied crows flail

and take to their fence posts,

the vast meadows shove the mountains back.

In this one acre there’s a still place,

where you can’t hear trucks

grind uphill toward Colorado,

or that distressed, bawling sound of cattle,

as if they knew their fate;
but you can hear small things: water in the creek,

the wings of a raptor who scours the ground.

He tilts, I should know his name, my mind’s vague.

In the Cebolla graveyard

five iron bedsteads guard the few graves.

Here lies, rest in peace, cribs for the babies.

When the Spanish came, this valley smelled

of wild onions. Today it smells of snow.

My bird’s a marsh hawk, he owns this meadow,

a diurnal flesh eater, the books say,

takes prey live. Behind me the empty hammock
lashed from elm to porch, thrashes in the wind,

colors bled, strings sprung, a sad thing.

Someone should climb in, anchor it down.

Today the whole world is thin ice and we’re skating,

giddy with speed,

swerving the rough places,

always about to turn for home,

which is farther than we thought.

Sense of Direction

From the ridge the lake’s a granite lip,

tongue of water, nearly a mirage.

Farthest north, a compass needle

would careen in confused circles.

In the forest the ground smells of drying out,

dampness rising collides

with the heat, yields.

Nothing’s bloomed except in possibility,

closed flowers, before color, before form:

owl clover, blue larkspur, penstemon,

the ferns are curled monkey paws.

What Delacroix meant when he said,

One never paints violently enough.

The day, the year half over, I want a prize,

a squirrel jawbone, snakeskin,

or oriole feather.

Something to ease the descent.

Here are puffball mushrooms,

white spheres, patterned brains of creatures

spawned underground, released too soon,

waiting for their bodies to grow,

afterlife in reverse.
Stephen Page
November 4, 2012

Stephen Page is the author of The Timbre of Sand and Still Dandelions.  He holds two AA’s from Palomar College, a BA from Columbia University, and an MFA from Bennington College. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize for Poetry.  He loves to teach, ranch, and spend time with his family.

 How September Begins for Jonathan

He rises from his reading chair
(when he is on the ranch without his wife
he sleeps in his reading chair
in order to be close to his books)
and opens the shutters of his office windows.
Overnight, the apricot trees have flowered.
The plum trees have budded.
Two russet  ponies walk along the yard fence—
one was born last June and the other in July.
They still have their downy pony hair,
and the youngest still has disproportional legs and knobby knees,
but the older is balancing out the body,
looking more like a young horse. 
He sees a hawk scrunched in a nest,
probably atop eggs.
About thirty yards away,
in lot #4,
he sees the new calves,
some about a month old—fat and leaping about;
many younger—wobbly legged and glancing about unsurely;
a couple born last night—shiny and resting on their stomachs in the grass,
steam rising off them,
their mothers standing over them,
licking them clean.
He goes to the kitchen,
scoops four heaps of coffee
into a recycled-paper filter,
fills the tank with water,
turns the machine on,
and goes back to look out the window. 

 Today, Yesterday, Waiting

A calf died this morning,
born breech and stuck half-way out.
The gauchos arrived too late to save her.
She suffocated in her mother’s vagina.

The yardkeeper works outside,
bending and straightening, bending and straightening,
piles of fallen twigs on the ground
mounding inside the yellow wheelbarrow.

Yesterday, the first good rain in months fell,
only 10 millimeters, but the grass is greening,
the clover spreading, the dandelions seeding.

The cows eat and eat and eat,
chomping and ripping, chomping and ripping.

A  gaucho rides his horse on recorrido,
a raincoat strapped to his saddle.
He scans the pastures for new calves,
glancing repeatedly up at the gray sky,
each time holding out an upturned palm.

Catherine Simpson
December 2, 2012

Catherine Simpson is a cellist who lives in Santa Barbara. She has been previously published in the Big River Poetry Review, Right Hand Pointing, Spectrum, Step Away Magazine, and Into the Teeth of the Wind.

He came up to me while I was on a
Swing, at night, a dark-eyed young man
Smoking a cigarette. He, “I thought
I’d talk to the girl on the swing.”
His hair was as neat as a boy scout’s.
He told me about his girlfriend, his
Ex-girlfriend. I pointed my feet between
Constellations. I said, “I don’t have any
Love problems. I’ve never been in love.
Nobody’s ever told me that they
Were in love with me.” He said,
“I’m in love with you. It’s easy to say that
When you don’t know the person, but I’m
In love with you.” I said, “Well, I’m a virgin.
I’ve never even been kissed.” He said,
“I figured. You’re on a swing. How fucking
Victorian can you get?”

Kenwood, CA
In the fall the row of grapevines
Are lit red with changing leaves, their
Hand-shape turning in on itself
With that autumnal collapse, and the
Shoulders of vines are yoked with grapes
And grapes, staining the air with a
Sweet tannin at night, when the sea-fog
Wends its way through the mountains.
The smell of salt and grapes and the
Burn of September grass-fires that
Redden the moon is so pungent that
It makes it hard not to take walks at
Night—that, and the clamor of
Grasshoppers rubbing their half-note
Songs of mate me, mate me.

Santa Barbara

A man without his shirt
Wafts down the street on his
Yellow cruiser—his belly

Distended, skin reddened, white
Fluff of chest-hair spreading down his
Navel, across his shoulders—

That is Santa Barbara, I thought,
A middle-aged man on a cruiser on
A Friday afternoon, the

Fat tires of his bike
Crushing peels from nearby orange
Trees into the pavement.





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