Behold the king in his Nissan throne.
sounds like an ocean at high tide
and just to scream over it,
shout to rasp and rend my throat—
azaleas! Listen to bees
in the crape myrtle legging pollen,
a vibrating legion throbbing tree trunks
like augers. And look, there,
longleaf-nailed in stenciled red: REPENT!
And I should, of course, even as I stand
in the street watching cardinals, their dart
for rosalie sorrels
rosalie says love's a dog
named Dominic big tongue laps
her face after weeks
on the road Dominic's a saint
Spanish Black Friar Dominican
founder who sent nuns from Ohio
into my childhood Sister Ursula drilling
multiplication tables wood
from her pinkie to crack
bad memory's knuckles Sister
Thecla cracking John Sexton's head against the board chalk
halo billows from his hair Dominic's
my childhood barber Saturday
mornings new Marvel comics adjustable
chair paper collar fresh pin-
striped sheet draped around shoulders
neck shaved clean
by straight-edge stropped on leather
how the brain works
love dog saint nun hair
floating to flowers of green
& white linoleum blood
on a sheet love
is a dog
for as you know what we call nostalgia
is for the life we did not live
- Gerald Stern
15 & saunter
into Vinny’s Pizza on the corner of 86th
& Lex lean against the counter curling
inside another to watch
Big Tony’s stubby
fingers spin the pie high
till it rises to the tin
ceiling then slams
down a swirl
of sauce a toss
of cheese to hear
the jukebox chant
Gene Chandler’s Duke Duke Duke
Duke of Earl & The Drifters
making love under the boardwalk to look in
& a Coke
legal speed is
on the night shift street race
it’s like a man
it’s like a man;
I’m its pretty
I love to watch it walking sideways
(poetry has me where it wants me.)
Christina Shah is a freelance writer and editor living in Saskatoon, Canada. She's some kind of Hispanophile, and is obsessed with sheep's cheeses. Christina swears she's almost done tinkering with her first poetry manuscript.
it is hard not to hustle
the wheel over the continents
it has shaped. the land itself
wears a corset of scars.
a mountain isn’t so great anymore,
just another back to ride.
deserts that once schooled prophets
gleam like casino jaunts.
inside metal, speed is a game.
you cruise on the burning blood
of jungles and tundras.
a large herd of muskox.
with dials and buttons
like a fetus in a robot’s womb.
under savage pistons,
the machine can feel you kick.
you never want to sweat again,
or canter a horse.
you can’t imagine
sitting on a ziggurat,
cross-legged under Draco.
your life waits before you,
laid out on crushed stone.
in a long dark tunnel
unheard victims curse obscene
in reflective glares.
Ecofeminist Chris Crittenden teaches environmental ethics and women's studies for the University of Maine. He does much of his writing in a hut in a spruce forest, fifty miles from the nearest traffic light. Chris is widely published and was recently interviewed on Jane Crown Poetry Radio.
Church Hill Railroad Tunnel Collapse.
I don’t remember his face,
if he still had one. The boils
flanking his forearms, swelling,
a coal-matted waistband deprived now
of its pant legs, the blood and scorch
of his hair—these things are seared.
The men who lived had chanced
to see a tumble of rock, had run
for the mouth or burrowed beneath
a flat car, but this man and the conductor
were posted in the boiler room. After
the swift collapse of rock onto furnace—
the conductor welded to levers,
the boiler-man ribboned. I remember
the flesh ripping from his back
as he wedged himself from the rubble.
The skin lapping at his thighs as he burst
through the crowd and shed towards the river.
A Few Words on Certainty
Despite the broad strokes of his signature
and the sturdy furrow of his brow, I wonder
if when Sherman scorched his way
through the South toward the sea
he hesitated a little before he flipped
the switch or flung the first match
into a field of crisp grain.
I wonder if anything injected
a seed of caution into his mind,
or if, with resolve, he perched
on the lip of a craggy rock
somewhere near the Chattahoochee
and watched the flaming branches
heave from the magnolias. But then,
this is the man who gave us total war,
as if the next selection might be
mostly war, half-assed war, a pinch
of war, a war but only on Tuesdays.
I know a man who tattooed
a wedding band, now greening,
around his left ring finger. Even with
lasers, muting creams, and electric pulses;
even with the money and the tolerance
for pain—to be so sure of anything.
Kate Partridge lives in Fairfax, Virginia, where she is a student in the MFA program at George Mason University. She is the Assistant Managing Editor of So to Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, and her work is forthcoming in Prime Number.
Elegy For My Memory Of the Color Orange
I wore a white-on-white ensemble
to the steakhouse
but what I remember most
about western Nebraska
is the hardwood apprehension
of the five-on-five afternoon
until on the way out of town
orange shirts,the Ogallala Indians,
and not a single thought
of my alma mater.
B.D. Fischer has published fiction and poetry in places like The Delinquent, Indigo Rising, and Poetry Quarterly. He is also a contributor at the politics and culture blog http://www.publicdisinterest.com/. He was educated at Syracuse University and the University of Texas at Austin, and lives in Chicago.
Over 70 new types of toothpaste
The average number of teeth in a
human being’s mouth
remained constant. Read my lips:
Crest with lubricated whitening
crystals and cavity-fighting
microbial tanks saved my life.
Why buy the good stuff
when you can buy dentures
that last forever? My dentist
is a Christian lesbian who flosses
tenderly. My dentist
is a lesbian Carl Sagan with a macro
lens. If I buy soft bristles, what does
that say about me? 93% of Americans
brush their teeth daily. 7%
of Americans don’t give a fuck.
I don’t think about my gums much.
Once my gums were surgically
splayed. When I was 8
a Sugar Daddy robbed my tooth
of its filling. I was always jealous
of my friends who had their very own
orthodontists. Remember retainers?
The hands of my childhood dentist
smelled like baloney. About wisdom
teeth, what do we lose
when they are extracted? How much faith
does a priest have
in God’s holy molars? One’s
purity depends on fresh breath.
One’s sex appeal depends on fresh breath.
The mouth is the core
of contradiction. The tongue, too,
is important. I once kissed two men
who had tongue rings in one night.
One must not forget to brush
the tongue. Tongues remind me
of socialist governments. My friend
Dan lures in straight married men
with his teethy smile. 39% of men
received oral sex last year. 7%
of women received oral sex last year.
Whether oral sex is actually sex
remains open for debate.
The mouth remains open.
When my dad was 8 his front tooth
tore a hole in his lip. My mom
applies lipstick roughly 5 times
per hour. When I was 8
my brother busted my lip
with a Cabbage Patch head.
Red lips remind me of
sea anemones. How many words
pass through in a lifetime?
Curious Emails from Lisbon
June 19, 2011
Baby, this morning at the Praca do Comércio,
the statue of King José I
made me want to bone you.
I don’t know what it was—
the royal thighs straddling a steed all warrior-like,
the symbolic crushing of snakes,
the porto air—
but I just wanted you to know
that I was thinking sweet thoughts
I hope you are well.
June 20, 2011
Have you ever had a pastel de nata?
It’s this custardycreamthing
some nuns in the Jerónimos Monastery
dreamt up in the 18th century
since they weren’t getting laid.
I had one this morning in Café Brasileira,
nearly melted in my mouth.
I wonder if, at night,
a Lisbon nun ever crawls
into her starched sheets naked,
pulls out a secret pastel from her dresser drawer,
and slips it into her mouth—
taking it all in at once:
Father-, Son-, and Holy Ghost-style,
if you know what I mean.
Jesus Christ, baby,
I miss the divine Trinity
that lives behind your zipper.
In God’s Name We Pray,
June 21, 2011
Last night I gave in
and watched Internet porn
in my hotel room
before going to bed.
I was slightly drunk—
but I don’t need an excuse,
Remember to water all of my plants
EXCEPT THE ALOE!
Remember to drop off my library books
Remember my rule regarding skirts:
I’m currently wearing a skirt.
June 22, 2011
This afternoon I popped
into the Sé de Lisboa,
and even though I’m not Catholic
I lit a prayer candle.
I forgot to pray,
but the flicker of light seemed to turn
the wall behind it into quartz.
I always forget about molecules,
that aging cassock
of our fibers and bones.
Some days I remember
how dark it is
underneath—how no light
touches the heart,
so really it’s black.
And your skin—Jesus!
When I get home,
will you strip for me?
Look, what I’m getting at is this:
Would you ever be down
for making love in a church courtyard,
or maybe a cemetery?
I feel a new religion coming.
Northwest to Georgia O’Keefe Country
You’ll marvel at how her artistic vision was able to render the area’s ghostly intangibles, woven into landscapes and bones.
At first we laughed about visiting your ranch
because, to be honest, we’ve never really liked
your work and since Jaime has a Master’s Degree
in Art History from a big art school in downtown
Chicago and said she doesn’t see much depth
in your strokes, my distaste was reaffirmed. I mean,
she’s got the degree. But,
we decided to go anyway. After all, what’s a trip
to this region without seeing your vagina flowers?
So we drive to your ranch and when my car
gives out slightly as we enter red rocks I wonder
why we’ve come all this way when we don’t
really like your paintings but we love the idea
of you. We love the photograph of you at your ranch
on the motorcycle of your lover with your long,
gray hair pulled back tightly in a bun. You look
back at the camera like painting is the last thing
on your mind. We love thinking of you when
you are not painting but out on the bike, a pink
ribbon streaming past Abiquiú leaving baby
blue exhaust in its wake. And
so we get to your ranch and find that it is closed
to the public but we came all this way for a painter
we only like when she is not painting and we don’t
know why we’re here really. So we take pictures
instead of your adobe hacienda and the Chama
River curling through in a deep deep mauve
maybe you would like to have painted and
probably did when you weren’t painting flowers
or bones. And even though your house was closed
to the public and I drove all this way just to see
it and got lost in the process, I know, at least, why
you felt at home here and why you would
sometimes decide to put down your brush and
ride with Stieglitz away.
Expats eating sandwiches in the American style—
white faces draped in Canadian flags between
cheap draft beer and slumped shoulders. Canada
Day in Seoul and few have written on it. Lethargy
settles on the evening, seas of black hair in
the streets. Women averting their eyes as the
unfolding foreigners stumble drunkenly,
wax-eared and smelling of piss, seeking some
of oasis of familiarity. Restless surges in heat,
each one sweats the beer in the humid haze.
I laugh and listen to the slight-slur of English
against the sheens of vowels . Here people
are natural forces, countries are signs
and portents, rumors. Each running from
a notion of nation and also running towards
it. Soft air, sticky sweet sweat, and the smell
of alcohol as a perfume in the city dust.
It is almost to say anything about summer breeze,
even one off the Han River: Han, river whose sound
is lamentation and samsara about which grass sings
which cyclists bike the path. False fires in the mind’s
of men, wounds of being, evolving fire to fire until
the riven thing driven into wholeness as a clutch
of gnats rises from the river’s edge. In the center
of this city, the light from sky and neon, the song
that seems to clench in sadness defines the line
that cuts the beating center into its separate
spheres. So what is there to say of wind: hell-eyed
and wet from summer and the coming monsoons,
the city’s own dark machinery, mismatches at the
bases of buildings. I, addicted to being half-in-
love and half-in-time, long for another home
or the scent of the idea of home, the form
that is emptiness, the emptiness that is form:
home is what the heart lacks. Home like a
river of memories cutting apart a new city:
home, my prayer. Home, my samsara. Even
in the city park, there is always shattering.
C. Derick Varn has a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry at Georgia College and State University, where he served as assistant editor for Arts and Letters: A Journal of Contemporary Arts. Additionally, he has served as managing editor for the now defunct Milkwood Review, and won the Frankeye Davis Mayes/Academy of American Poets Prize in 2003. Recently, he has published poems in Backwards City Review, Cartier Street Review, Deuce Coupe, Rusty Truck, JMWW Magazine, and Unlikely Stories 2.0. He currently lives in Yongin-si, South Korea during the academic year and in Macon, Georgia during the summer season. During the day he works as a full-time instructor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies’ English Translation and Interpretation Department and, at night, he writes and paints.
Intimations of Immortality and Donna
at the Toot & Scoot
This one’s a fortress to the far right
of the wrong side of the tracks, and I’m on the fly and
late for my poetry support group
so I stop but even the copy machine, Z Rocks: 25 cents,
is hidden in a darkened room behind the counter.
Young hooded toughs, I hear, pirating copies
of Rememberance of Things Past
(Are those madelines undercover in Twinkie wrappers?).
So she (her plastic name tag shouts, “Hi, I’m Donna”),
takes my creation and vanishes behind racks of snuff cans
into the darkened doorway of the scriptorium.
Merlin-like in front of me & my pile of quarters,
she reappears, looks up and through her Juicy Fruit
says, Hey, this is a poem, huh? It’s pretty good.
I look at her again, that face, that high hair,
trying to locate where those words came from.
It’s blank, my mind that is, for an instant.
Then, suddenly, I have an urge to hug the girl behind the counter
who just discovered my little poem.
This flower in a crannied wall,
Ginsberg’s rose, named Donna, by the railroad tracks.
Now, with her I will gavotte for the surveillance camera.
We’ll spread our arms to the obscene lens-eye
like common cat-burglars of language, surrender
and I’ll read my poem, the evidence, while the audience,
any audience, gathers: the greasy kid who sweeps
and doubles as pump-jockey for the hundred-pound
woman in the Hummer, the old guy down the street
with Touretts, the Marlboro Man,
NASCAR drivers fronting Coke machines.
When this poem is done, I want to tell them all,
and ditto sweet Donna (and those hooded toughs whose
baggy pants dangle dangerously below the water line
of their underwear) in Eastwood fashion, You have made my day,
I’ll grab my rowdy sheets of paper, salute the camera
and twelve-step past the red & white yardstick on the door jam
noticing that truly, by any means and measure,
She has made me six foot five and rising…
Walt Peterson is a teacher and writer who lives in Pittsburgh. He has won the Acorn-Rukyser Poetry Award for In the Waiting Room of the Speedy Muffler King, and his short story collection, Depth-of-Field, won the Gribble Press Award for fiction. He is writer-in-residence at SCI Pine-Grove and Mt. Alvernia.
At the Saloon in Dreary
The bartender spins a prayer
glass high. Catches, tilts it mouth
open to the spigot
filling a miracle of hops
grains golden as holy grail.
The drinker waits
hoping clean suds
will wash away the daily grime
litanies of years and losses.
To drink to heaven: tighter muscles
newer pickups, younger women.
Friends, enemies, and hangers-on.
A lifted glass, a lit cigarette
strangers laughing. On television
the batter swings aaaannnd
a hit, no, it’s foul, uh oh, strike three
aaaannnd the bartender spins, fills, serves
another long night coming on.
West of the Missouri and East of the River Styx
Female, he says, Go wild, turn your back on education, shopping.
Be Eve, Calamity, Marilyn. I'll be Adam, Daniel Boone, John Wayne.
We'll play Garden.
She says, Already wild, don't let the china, napkins fool you.
Women picked your male genes, selected supple muscles, not so great brains.
So strut honey, bring home that bacon.
Furthermore, she says, wild as I am, I paint my nails, curl my hair
dress threefourfivesix times just getting ready to see you.
Bring presents: gourmet chocolates, long-stemmed roses, 10 carat diamonds.
Build me a new Barcelona. In Las Vegas, where else?
Garden, wilderness? Oh get your head straight.
I’m all ways too wild for you to tame.
Give me back that apple.
You have a new civilization to build.
Our Destiny is Manifest, sweetheart.
Sometime later—she/he says, What is this mess?
Did you eat the rest of that apple?
I don't know what happened to it. I think it spoiled.
Well something stinks to high heaven.
Yeah. Something's rotten in . . .
Was it Eden or Paradise or a City on the Hill?
You don't suppose—digging, clear-cutting, damming, grazing
paving, nuclear testing—
Well you did it
no you did it
no you . . .
Maggie Koger is Media Specialist with a writing habit. She lives and works in Boise pronounced and celebrates Le Bois—the trees the city is named for. She has published poetry in Poet Lore, Avocet, Mused, WestWard Quarterly, and Montucky.
Nudes waltz like the secondary
In mercantile realms
Stalking a quarterback
Frosting him at the 40-yard line
After Mark Sanchez feints with the long bomb
Every nude has a strategy
Whether coming down
Or going up a staircase
When the towel comes off
Mergers are made
QB’s tackled by the ingénues & debutantes
Bandaids and bandages on ankles
Orangeade saves the marriage
Long after the Gatorade is put away
Data is diddled and retirement incomes configured
Amongst the kerfuffles, scuffles, quarrels, which never quite
Eclipse the bliss of prenuptials.
Death of Suckling
Sir John Suckling’s sharp wit
Met its objective correlative when his butler
Left an open razor in the minor wit’s boot,
So that after morning coffee in Calais
It severed a major artery.
Strange royalist you deserved better!
You should have overturned Cromwell!
The Earl of Strafford could not help you!
Charles I was powerless to lend his aid!
“The malice of a manservant,”
The biography states, killed you in
May 1642. We will always read your
Poems, and remember your end.
Kirby Olson's poems have been in Light Year, Partisan Review, Cortland Review, South Dakota Review, Poetry East, and lots of others. He lives in the western Catskills, but grew up on the other side of Pennsylvania in Stroudsburg, where his dad taught sports fitness at East Stroudsburg University.
Post-Postmodern Love at a Poetry Reading
Anita sits down with a box
of Weetabix. A decade ago
we were officemates. She sneaks one
out of the box and says to my shrug,
I always wondered what they would taste like,
and when I saw them in the Mini Mart
they seemed so lonely on the shelf.
The box on the table is a statement,
and she is a swan dive into a cup.
By now the poem has started, so we cannot
say what could have passed between
two bodies crammed cubicle-close
all those years ago. The Weetabix
are a parade of longing. The poets
don clown shoes of unbearable pain
and try to sell us the product that life
is even worse than we'd thought. It is
longer than a run-on, and she whispers
that it always seemed so healthy and fresh.
She breaks a brick in half. People
are starting to glare at us, and some guy
reads a piece about the slaughter
of innocents. Anita gives me a chunk.
We are all ground down by the gears
of a brutal machine. I’d like some milk.
Todd Heldt's poems have appeared in Chiron Review, Laurel Review, Sycamore Review, Chattahoochee Review, Stirring and others. His first full-length collection of poetry, Card Tricks for the Starving, was published by Ghost Road Press in 2009. Todd lives in Chicago with his wife, Kelly, and son, Archer
Last night I fell
into balance over
the edge of the world,
by a chain
around my ankle
a chain linked
from slubbed strands
of my lover’s
hair and cast-off wool.
I watched sea
I watched the world,
green burl in the blue
cloud-barked wood of sky,
where I had lived
before the balancing
became small and small
until I thought
Who made that house?
Who lives there?
And then I saw
the windows were made of skin
and then through one window
hanging by a twig
from the ceiling:
sweet globed pome suspended
from the branch of the house,
no one there to bite
into its flesh of bloodied joy.
In Dallas we had a storm cellar,
trap door in the ground of a hard hill,
a set of steps going down
into the moldy dank of cobwebs
spiders, snakes and scorpions,
a filth of neglect drifting
down, each creaking stair
into the arms of nightmare,
and I used to wonder
which would be worse –
to spin in the black roar
of chaos, everything
you had come to call
your own falling
in around you, crashing
and breaking over you
or to open that door,
hinged jaw of the earth’s
foul and terrible mouth,
and climb down
into the hiss and skitter,
the crawl of creatures.
Before the storms
there was always silence:
viridescent, thick and swollen
with the weight of
possibility and power:
and a sense of trembled stillness
as if weather
had a human face
as if it held you, smiling,
in the palm of one
humid hand, the other
poised above you,
already black and heavy
with the fright
of the thousand loved things,
the thousand lives—
all that death—
it had already gathered
Naomi Benaron is the winner of the 2010 Bellwether Prize for fiction. Her novel, Running the Rift, is forthcoming from Algonquin books. Naomi's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Spillway, The MacGuffin, Comstock Review, Naugatuck River Review, In Posse, and other journals. Her chapbooks have been finalists in the Wings Press and Comstock Review contests.
In Consideration of the Rhetoricity of Shit
re-celebrating the poem of the act of the mind, which is not, in this case, of a man skating or a
There are few things more
Rhetorical than shit, though
This is not always understood.
It should be used with proper
Wit and due respect for its
Of course, the matter of inflection.
Shee-it is not the same as Shaeet
Nor Shih-it nor the compound
Of the two, and this is
In practice often understood.
But I am talking more of the
Different kinds of shit. Bull
Shit is not the same as horse
Or chicken or cow or the seldom
Invoked pig shit, and the pictures
You may find on the internet are,
Please understand, of little help.
In part it is a matter of the nose,
As my wine drinking friends
Would say—aroma, bouquet. The
Ammonia of a coop of fresh
Chicken, so intense it burns
Your eyes to tears and you turn
Tail, dropping your shovel
Gasping into the open air as you
Curse your foul luck from that distant
Safety where the peeling boards
Look as white and fresh as the dots
Of the chickens pecking about
For grubs and lice.
And while color and clarity
Signify little, texture does matter—
A sun-baked cow pie in the back pasture,
Especially if well aged, is as benign
As a haunch of rock, where the rain
Washing into the tractor rut has scraped
The dirt away, and one can peel
The flaky crust from the pale grass
And sail it spinning toward the trees
Along the creek. Or the clinging
Smear of dog shit on the fine leather
Sole of your black and polished wing tip
As you step out of the taxi, your mind's
Eye already waltzing among the glittering
Chandeliers of that evening's shopping
Mall of staged cleavage.
But even more what I would share
With you in this learnéd disquisition,
This reflective analysis on the
Rhetoric of shit, is how finally,
In the end what matters, or should,
Is the way shit has freed itself
From the mere decay of the bodies
That leave it behind to become
A play of associations, trapeze to
Trampoline, that tip-toed dance across
The high wire as the crowd gapes
In wonder at all the tricks, the circus
Feats of spiraling flight, mere mortal shit
Can be made to perform as we wave
Our black top hats from the center ring,
Intoning the authoritative Bull, playing the
Scale—Horse, Chicken, Fulla—as the whip
Tip flicks, here, there, leading us
By the eye as if by the ear, and Captain
Doom revs his cycle in the Cage of Death
And the Queen of the Nile offers the
Revelation that God has written
Into her thighs and which we could
Read if we were not mesmerized
By her sacred motions and the way
The pink and white twirls of Miss Arial
Keep drawing us above the enlaced
Rings of sawdust as if we too might
Along with the publication of various poems in journals, Tim Hunt has one book, Fault Lines (Backwaters Press) and two recent chapbooks: Redneck Yoga (Finishing Line) and White Levis (Pudding House).
Vincent Francone is a writer and lifelong Chicago resident who has been published in Rhino, Flask & Pen, Spectrum, and Three Percent. In 2009, he won the Illinois Emerging Writer Competition's Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize.
I'll go out with my head uncovered—into the nooned
neighborhood of old men and nannies. A redhaired boy
surely will be drinking at the Jolly Inn and a hen
will be panting in her chalky ring. The alum will be too hot
to touch and the basil will bolt. Just before the heat
peaks, the hours will idle like the briny ones
I thought lovers made—a dog'll roll on his back
and no one will be canning jam. But, even a half-spent
sorry won't be enough. I'll still be dizzy from hummingbird
wings and the strain of wheedling blue out of blue.
I hear that in Detroit the prairies are coming back.
My head's gone thick, but I can't help but think
about the buffalo and the beet farmers. The blue dogs'll chuck it
in, and the streets will still be crumbling from hard use.
I know: One cousin then a next will drive by, calling
for the cucumber man. It'll be too hot for bread
to rise and tomatoes won't set after a certain heat.
My hair's sure to be full of pie lard and petty stories.
Later, a snore'll rise from my throat. But, it isn't the heat.
It isn't the beets or the dogtail blue. It isn't canning
or drinking or pavement cracking. Damn. It isn't even lunch.
Wendy Willis lives with her husband and children in Portland, Oregon. She is the Interim Director of the Policy Consensus Initiative where she has the opportunity to work with elected officials around the country to develop collaborative problem-solving models. Her poems have appeared in Windfall, Poetry Northwest, VoiceCatcher, The Alhambra Poetry Calendar, Bellingham Review, Phantom Kangaroo, and Clackamas Literary Review.
this morning in negative hundredths
of per cent. You wrote, Really,
I just meant to say, Hi—I think
of you doddering down
to your mailbox in the snow,
a carnation in your lapel come by
anyhow, as in my mind
you never really leave the grounds—
maybe your Pomeranian, Shorty,
grows them for you in a frame
out by the drain tunnels
you invented to mock-
honor the steppes you seem
still to be slightly puzzled
to have come to—
a cigarette yellows up your fingers,
whatever you drink at home
a memory to get back
to some time later in the day,
the soft crack of the snow
around your slippers, a touch
of it melting over your bare ankles,
and the creak
of the mailbox door
one of a hundred true noises
holding you there in place.
They have you at yes,
those bland envelopes, Thank you,
they say, for your kind invitation,
where we would always rather be.
I’m jealous of the postman
tucked into his nightly chore of sleep
on a cold New England night.
I look out to my backyard
where innocuous leaves
make black pools under the trees,
under an orange night city sky.
The shed is decrepit.
The bleeding heart has shriveled to the soil.
Whose house tonight will I visit?
Who will look for me beneath the crisp halo of a lamppost?
Whose name will I thumb at the buzzer?
Who will peer from a lifted corner of window lace?
I will seek through the streets
a window alight, someone else looking out
onto the strange silhouette of an empty tree,
a whirlpool of raked shadows and a worn shack of lost tools.
And in the bitter morning I will see you walk down Ledge Hill
fingering mail slots to fill each with their own.
The young bachelorette will look from her morning cup
onto you for a letter, a name, a face,
and I will sit on my stoop to greet you
and put forth my cold hand for any reply.
I wonder how long his body can last without dialysis as traffic slows. Drivers
along the road let go of their brake pedals so their cars edge a foot closer to the
next bumper. A station wagon in front of me lights its turn signal, squeezes out
into the exit with a Wendy’s marked a mile down the road. I follow, and find
the parking lot packed with holiday weekend travelers.
Nowhere to park. Returning to the highway hungry, traffic halts and I’m idle
again behind a blue tractor-trailer from Saskatchewan. Its warning labels read:
intensive care ward. My accelerator pedal feels pliable and restless. I think, tap
the bumper and it spills. Tap it, coward. I press hard onto the breaks and light five
Marlboros in a row while waiting. How many does it take to ignite a drum of nuclear
Thirty miles later, I reach an exit in Botetourt County with a Taco Bell.
Throngs have waited for thirty-five minutes to hear their number shouted and
I add one burrito to the queue with a side of nachos. My “small” drink numbs
my hands and would stretch my cupholder if I forced it in. Kids are hungry
and the fathers are calling the employees idiots, asking for refunds.
I remember my mother’s suggestion that morning when I hit the first rest stop
on the way back from my grandfather’s hospice bed. “Isn’t there anything bad
for you,” she said, “you can find to keep you awake?”
My grandfather’s pictures show me staring down Bandit, a bulldog twice my
size. Bandit was careful around me, nudging me gently in the back with his
nose so I would stand. He died years ago. All the bulldog figurines on the
bottom shelf remember his shape but forget that he was a giant.
It took a twelve-hour trip to visit my grandfather in Kentucky, driving through
the Appalachian keystones of Maryland and West Virginia. We would pass
through Sideling Hill, a mountain road carved with dynamite, making a notch
that exposed hundreds of strata to the interstate. In the rest center, ancient
beavers climbed their muraled dams. Birds and reptilian creatures hung from
wires or sat on glass shelves, circling the double helix staircase that rose up to
the outlook. As we rode through, millions of years of dirt and composition
rose above our family’s car.
Scrapbooks of stamps were stacked in Pop’s den. I opened them to Queen
Elizabeth II from Rhodesia – though ‘Rhodesia’ since lost its name and the
Queen her vigor. His “Inverted Jenny” turboprop plane was fixed on its own
page, flying upside down. Pop told me that one was worth a million in mint
condition. The plane was reversed, so the pilot’s head seemed about to graze
On the top shelf, Pop filled space with Billy Graham biographies, Bluegrass
histories and Louis L’Amour novels that I never read. Never heard much
Bluegrass, but I saw it painted on the hills we drove by, as horses clapped along
the canvas. I tasted it mixing with cocoa and beer in the venison chili. I slept
in its echoes, as a dozen analog clocks ticked at night around the mattress I
pulled out from the sofa.
Driving through Sideling Hill, bones and hardened roots stick out of the notch
in the mountain and it looks like it all took forever.
Every once in a while
I am a sand creature,
forgetting what it’s like
to wear a dress. And then
I see a woman
sitting on a bench, adapting
to basic, feminine, come-hither tactics:
she wears a short, filmy, white dress
and swings her legs back and forth . . .
high heel sandals conspire with her racy grin.
Nothing about her spits brown and wooly.
Summer is her chain of pearls.
Mary Hamrick was born in New York and moved to Florida when she was a young girl. Her writing often reflects the contrast between her Northern and Southern upbringing. Mary's writing has been published in Arabesques Press, Architecture Ink, Cezanne’s Carrot, Coe Review, decomP, Howling Dog Press (OMEGA 6), Mad Hatters' Review, On the Page Magazine, Pemmican, Potomac Review, Rosebud Magazine, Tattoo Highway, The Binnacle, The Subway Chronicles and others.
near bolts and cans of nails.
Alone, resting in a shiftless
whenever the blades begin bending
with length and filling themselves to nesting depths,
shuddered by swelling breeze.
colored damp with chlorophyll.
These boots measure time by lawns.
No work needing their wears.
On the shelf in the cellar,
Spiders make them home.
The bluish butterflybush calls to me.
It has nectar to taste, mash against my nose,
summer spring-mist for my hair.
I want to swim in it. Have its stickiness on my arms.
I want to be heavy with slumber and fullness,
drunk with honey, slide my tongue in like a spoon,
flute it to get the most of it, and uncoil it into my belly.
Then who would question if I sprouted feelers,
if papery wings of symmetrical spots emerged,
if I migrated to Mexico and back
the honey locust tree would be next,
the brutal elegance of waiting
is impossible, the blossoms of music
is almost heard
from behind locked white doors
the blunt wildness cannot hold me still,
I am a pulsating moon
flinging fields of shaggy waters
Martin Willitts, Jr. has been nominated for five Pushcart awards and two Best Of The Net Awards, has eleven poetry chapbooks and two full-length books of poems. His forthcoming chapbook is True Simplicity, from Poets Wear Prada (2011) and My Heart Is Seven Wild Swans Lifting online from www.SlowTrains.com (2011).
Every Now and Then I Think of William Penn
Just one more spore infesting the round blue
earth burrowing in its wet green forests
scrabbling up its windy tors breathing and
burning avaricious bursting anxiously
extruding colloids, leaving lint where worms
worm their ways dry up inland seas under
my tears whole glaciers melt filthier than
scrofula boils canker an exceedingly
complicated pathogen shedding skin
my generations all heaped up like leaves.
Once I cried, “Look, I did something new!”
Now I sigh, “Look, I’m doing something old.”
In May the afternoons grow long
drenched by birds in amorous song.
On what the race of worms consumes
the garden gradually blooms:
mixing ecstasy with hurt
stems battle skyward, up from dirt.
Disconsolate yet satisfied,
accepting all I once denied,
deposing the better with the worse
through the effrontery of verse.
Though I have most of what I need
I don’t approve the life I lead,
cannot defend the nights I waste
or supersede my fatal taste.
I don’t go in for maudlin strains
or tête-à-têtes on crowded trains,
loathe trudging through the swarming mall
and don’t much care for phones at all.
I will bear any pain
if you let me complain.
It’s sentiment makes one write of the heart,
one’s heart, an eager self-deception
that even honesty can’t redeem
that truth will underwrite dignity
as the gardener props a tainted rose.
That straight-man, that disciple, begs to know,
“O Master! Master, what is the Buddha-nature?”
The old monk scorns the faultless azure sky,
discounts the whiteness of a matchless cloud:
“Look at that stick of dried shit over there.”
Surely satori’s a smash in the mouth,
concussing cognition, stripping one bare.
What are the besetting sins of this poor
spore? Only his self-hatred and self-love,
both sharing his cell, that movable cube.
He longs for apatheia, the virtue
of those waiting so patiently in line
their virtue is visible least of all
to themselves, neither urging on the ones
before nor pitying the ones behind.
Can such virtue ever be consoled?
He stood by a river, muscular, brown,
too thick to drink, too thin to plow,
dense as some stupid metaphor,
yet he stared at it anyhow.
Like everyone he thought one way before,
the other after, thought there goes now.
Can perpetual solitude atone
for the mortal sin of being alone?
Brown rivers, apathy, enamored doves,
defective emblems of some lives, some loves.
Words open and close on the hinge of thought
sealing in the found and out the sought;
squeezed in this bag of skin I glimpse a door
and clutch the knob and wonder what it’s for.
How About You?
After the chaplain finally shut off
the dripping faucet of his oily words
in which sense he felt was nearly made; after
his sister read his allegedly favorite
poem, three of his musician cronies
tramped up to the drums piano bass
secreted behind the pulpit and
rendered a loose and lachrymariffic
Someone To Watch Over Me, riffing with
eyes half closed though, given he’d hanged himself
in his office, no one there supposed he
believed anybody watched over him;
in fact, the Gershwin was a request from
his wife over whom he’d lovingly watched,
a truth featured in several eulogies,
who looked as though she’d endured successive
catharses after watching all the lost
plays of Sophocles and Euripides,
so drained of pity terror blood that she
scarcely noticed her two daughters, over
whom he’d also lovingly watched, one to
either side of her, fiddling with her skirt
staring across her at one another,
their perpetual war suspended by
this rude truce. He’d also watched, it seemed,
over colleagues, not all of them younger,
and students who looked at the wife as they
jokelessly spoke; the jazzmen played well
but we listened the way you do when the
music isn’t meant for you. After the
song a minute of disquieting quiet
before the provost stepped up to declare
official sorrow, the sadness of the
secretaries vice presidents trustees
then suavely announced the scholarship fund
and where our contributions should be sent.
Maddening morning traffic we made the
slow-motion drive to the cemetery
whose ashes maples sycamores copper
beeches looked as if they’d live forever.
Christopher Citro's poetry, forthcoming in The Lumberyard, Gargoyle, and PANK Magazine, has been published recently in The Cortland Review, Harpur Palate, Faultline, Inch Magazine, and The Cincinnati Review. His poetry has been featured twice on Verse Daily and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Christopher's poetry reviews have been published in Indiana Review and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.