Saturday, December 29, 2012

Blast Furnace Volume 2, Issue 4

First Hours in a Foreign Country 

I unmarried in a heat wave and, as compadres,
recruited my adolescent ghost, two high strung cats,
and a couple of goons named Many Mountains Movers.

When they were done I tipped them with a ridiculous fifty
and I got high on the devastation; I let in a hassled cable guy
nicknamed the idiot-box savior Some Tomorrow’s Emissary.

I napped on the box-and-tape blues track
in a dusty, no-name afternoon and I woke
to the television’s strident, phony drone.
A Lionel Richie biopic? I couldn’t dance
on no ceiling. So I fed those terrified cats
and departed downstairs (party, fiesta, forever).

Children etched blue chalk circles in the asphalt
as I nodded at prying neighbors and nosy fathers.

My new super greeted me and his wife
flashed me a faint, forced grin you get
in your first hours in a foreign country.

I imagined those kids mine,
progeny for the time spent,
kinship for the decade gone.

I resisted any urge to try to frame
what only subsequence can write.
I rested my schooner on hot bricks.
After swilling a floating foam-cloud,
I bid adios to Plan A. Maybe I cried.

The sky is our constant; the sky is constantly changing.

The possibilities of a singular tense are, maybe, almost, and infinite.
I ignored the senses shrinks suggest and, trusting what I hadn't created,
I pinned my prospects on adoption by the moon.

Tim Keane's first poetry book was Alphabets of Elsewhere (Cinnamon Press, 2007) and he has a recent long poem in the last Barney Rosset-edited online issue of Evergreen Review. Tim's work has also appeared in Denver Quarterly, Shenandoah, Mudlark and Modern Painters.

Double Destinations


originated in the east
a horizontal line
kept moving towards the west
point by point
until it rose, standing straight
like the axis of the earth
to be identical with the first person singular
with or with out a serif at the top
with or without a support at the bottom
until 1 and I became one and the same
presenting itself as a unity
one that is its own factorial
its own square, its own cube, the identity
for multiplicities, derived from tai chi or nothingness
first of all there was, there has been


I tried to join
the songs of birds
or clouds
            but both
birds and clouds
turned me down
            so I kept
flying like a bird
with songs held in my heart
and singing like a cloud
with my spirits drifting under the sun 

Changming Yuan, 4-time Pushcart nominee and author of Allen Qing Yuan, holds a PhD in English and tutors in Vancouver, where he edits Poetry Pacific at His poetry appears in 599 literary publications across 23 countries, including Asia Literary Review, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Exquisite Corpse, LiNQ and London Magazine.

The Bequest

When I die I shall bequeath you
a flock of run-on sentences,
tripping over themselves in the hurry to
define their obscure ambiguities

with neat edges of meaning,
jumbled thoughts in rigmarole that
nurtured insomnia,
bewildering in their intricacies
and subtle nuances,
which escaped in moments
of silently pregnant reverie.

I will leave for you

the coy moon who disentangled my verses
as they were entwined around
my fingers and quill,
refusing to cascade o’er paper,
the starlight that winked in whimsy after
reading my penned words,
telling me they were all

lucid, deep, meaningful,

The dewy, frostbitten morning 

of early December, when silence was palpable
as birds refused to greet
a drowsy, disgruntled sun with
chirpy enthusiasm in numbing chill,
and I could string my scattered ideas into
strands of sparkling sonnets,
every bead of syllable perfectly strung.

Pinecones treasured in carved boxes,

painted in gaudy shades to decorate drab walls someday
sea-shells collected from sandy beaches
every colorful shell with a pearl in its memory,
handkerchiefs knotted at the corners
with a wish captured within
and hope threaded in linen realms,

a book of old songs their words faded,
their tunes long forgotten but sung with sighs
alone in the shower at noon…

Dr. Smita Anand Sriwastav, an MBBS doctor, says that nature has been the most inspiring force in molding the shape of her writings. She has published two books and her poetry has been published in The Rusty Nail, Pyrokinection, Jellyfish Whispers, eFiction India and Contemporary Literary Review India. One of her poems was including in the anthology, Inspired by Tagore, published by Sampad and British Council. Dr. Sriwastav has written poetry all of her life, and says she plans to do so for the rest of it.

Water Music

She would spend summer afternoons
by the aquamarine
swimming pool, one
of those Technicolor adjectives
that describes the aura of the ‘60’s to a T.
Flipping through Vogues
and Architectural Digests,
longing for that Twiggy moment
instead of the one she’d aged into and covered up
with an oversized terrycloth towel
when I’d traipse out to the pool
asking about sleepovers or change for movies.
Maybe a Bach Toccata would suddenly march
through the tall organ of larch trees
from the outdoor speakers,
as if the composer himself
were stationed there, fingering on wooden keys
a music that blossomed through the branches.

When it was time for her
to turn over, she’d ask me
to turn away,
a request compelling me to peek
at what was spilling out
of her leopard print two-piece—
a preview of what I was
destined to become
or struggle not to—
Chopin’s Prelude in C
morphing into an irritable

I’d begin below her bobbed black hair,
and work my way in circles down her expanding midriff,
then catch swimming bugs in my cupped palms,
diving over and over
for horse shoes tossed into the deep end,
peeling off black paint
from the filter rail, blistered
by all the layers
of summer afternoons
that seemed to never end
and never did.

Handel now, awaiting his premiere
on the inflatable barge
along our Thames,
as I scissored my way
to my mother,
side-stroking luxuriously
across the shallow end,
a white bonnet protecting her new do,
glistening pools of oil
radiating from her
measured pulling.
I’d beg her to stop
and rocking horse me on her knee,
to make the most
of that delicious, weightless water,
Rachmaninoff and Copland
galloping around us,
as if the trees were made of music.
As they were.

Julia Wendell's most recent poetry book is The Sorry Flowers (Word Tech Press, 2009). A memoir, Finding My Distance: A Year in the Life of a Three-day Event Rider, was published by Galileo Press that same year. She lives and works on a horse farm in northern Baltimore County with her husband, poet Barrett Warner. When she's not writing poems, Julia is riding and competing her horses.


Returning just in time for the whine of the coal car switch,
she’d smack that annoying June Nazarene who
makes her play a Lazarus—
conjured from the south
up familiar sandpaper stairs.

Wading in sudden,
she re-lives to see a body unlike her recalls which
live tan, wick, and brutish in old t-shirts
under a two years younger sun— 
now spider-bagged beneath his eyes, slack
in a button-down making his shoulders droop.

Her bored tongue rattles for an hour
at grocery aisle anecdotes. Half stories
living beyond the hardwood root-line
with shore birds tracing the swivel of turtle tracks—

He’s asked her up in the heavy weather,
the day wet houses balloon on windshields
and kudzu spreads fast as hurt—

But he only retorts in turnstile about spaghetti,
bad plays, and a rotten gut
which now even willow bark cannot relieve.

Wide Eyes 

Always only a weird five feet from your door step,
on early fall six a.m.’s I feel far-away Virginia’s chapped hands,
the cool fogs, my sleepy eyes.
I can
smell the wet slip of tire-pressed leaves, how they churned worries
at gas stations 45 minutes from work
when I was already late.

Now, there is a sallow change, a sick twinge
in my favorite season. This warm morning I listen to the politics
of some lost boy in Florida.
Cautious, I avoid his affectionate sleep-slung hands,
recalling for a moment the equinox rewound—
how I gave work-morning “goodbyes” to you.

The Dust Chapter 

There was a romance between seeding grass and truck beds
in the rained-out junk yard. We rubbernecked their love like road kill.
Counted trees canopied to death by caterpillars.
Infantries of jelly orange mushrooms spread.
An old shed bent to the will of vines
swimming through its gutters. Tables bowed,
scaled by lizards lipping the dishware.
We didn’t find
the gull feathers stuck to our mud flaps and headlights 
until it was time for gasoline on our way home.

In April 2011, Amanda-Gaye Smith was broke and desperate for adventure. To ease this, she left the Blue Ridge Mountains on a Virginia Creeper-like path around highway overpasses down the Southeast coast for the swamps and cypress knees of Gainesville, Florida. Currently, her work is seeded from last year’s travels. Amanda says she has become obsessed with the flux of new-born decay and the teeming presence of life in every pattern of our daily environment. Her hope is that readers can explore surrealism as an exploration of origin: math with its patterns finally present in the evolving results. 

The Forbidden Herb Of Love
for Michele

I left the bicycle unlocked in
the doorway of Cleveland Hostel.
Walked in with a flyer to the front desk
and noticed she was wearing a diamond-
studded Star of David necklace.
Her hair was wild, white like
Janis Joplin’s voice with
a scent of Jasmine and Apple.
I pictured myself having a cigarette
at Rick’s Cafe enjoying her company,
wondering when she would slide her
room key next to my drink.
I was going to make a fool of myself,
kiteboarding down with a fresh
cup of coffee for her.
I was going to tell her about the
body, the soul—
that desire is the ingredient
on top of the cupcake,
that gingerbread men
smiling meant good fortune.
Her hair was fast talk,
a village full of discovery,
the missing note, the narrow
road to Wolf Mountain.
Her beauty a skipping
stone that never slows down,

                                    the human spirit that cranks
                                    out thousands of postcards
                                    of Fiji Islands sunsets.
                                    What if I couldn’t write,
                                    you couldn’t love,
                                    the world betraying
                                    the sacred lands—
                                    What if the words
                                    were a lost sparrow,
                                    what if you invited
                                    me out for a cup of coffee.
                                    What if I handed you
                                    a piece of forgotten history
                                    and you paid me a nickel
                                    for it and told me something
                                    wonderful was going
                                    to happen.

Vladimir Swirynsky started writing at the age of 45 after spending two weeks at Mardi Gras. Last Call to Escape Planet Earth is his latest book and his 18th book of poetry, Film - Found Poems, is due out in February from New Kiev Publishing. Vladimir is trying to move out west next year, he says his new home will be wherever his car decides to breaks down, hopefully Arizona.

February on Floor 8B 

for the little ones: Lungs,
this is what I wish
for you. Shuush
shuush of the mother-owl
flapping through pines
at dusk. The tube

taped to your minute foot
glows your toes,
red. Effervescent
red as though I might lift
your body, hold your lower leg
to my chest and locate
my missing muscle.
As though that glow could be
swallowed, Ariel’s voice returned,
coloring sheet after coloring sheet
lining your future fridge. I want
for you the real sea.
No misplaced pulse.
No waxed cheeks
or facemasks. Only a clean
expanse. Evergreen needles
to feather the nest.

How to Escape 

Learn not to ask questions when you’re wearing a black t-shirt that says, in
silver letters, “I can think for myself.” This from a young age. Figure things
out in your head and keep them there.

Example: a treehouse. This solitary loft in the woods surrounded by long
grasses and cornfields would provide a fundamental space for thinking for
oneself. Of course it can be built by one child with a hammer and stolen,
rusty nails. Anything can be built by hand. A life. An empire.

Note, however, that when secretly rotting wood and nails are combined to
form a ladder: though it looks like a picture-book ladder, it is really the type
of ladder that will cleave with a crack. Also of note, the best time for this
chasm to open is when you are descending the ladder to retrieve the
dropped hatchet.

It is a lesson in architecture, and gravity, and grace. The blood trail reaching
diagonal over stubbled field from tree to house is a lesson in patience, and
planning. Be grateful for that scar. That early-breaking ladder.

Sarah Leavens is the 2012-13 "Out of the Forge" writer-in-residence in Braddock, Pennsylvania. She received her MFA in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction from Chatham University, where she served as the Margaret Whitford Fellow and organized the monthly reading series, "Word Circus," in collaboration with Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery. Her recent work has appeared in The Fourth River, The Diverse Arts Press and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and is forthcoming in Weave and So to Speak. She teaches writing and visual art in Pittsburgh.

Blood: A Prose Poem

The first time we bleed and remember it, skin is torn and we look down where we are (a
playground, a backyard, our mother’s kitchen, a sidewalk, etc.) and notice a substance
that is clearly supposed to be on the inside of our body, on the outside, and wail at this
comprehension. It is so thin and red and willing to leave us. (What is willing to leave us
is a rather large category; its content, if deliberated on at all, should be left private.)

Alone in my room, I would feel the guitar vibrations through the floor, letting other
words and rhythms bleed into me.

To learn guitar your fingers must bleed and then form calluses. My best friend Sam
wanted to learn how then she found out about the calluses and said oh no thank you.
Blood is central to the narratives of many women, but not hers. I tried to learn guitar
several times, but would not bleed for it. When my stomach constricts it is not from
blood but hunger.

a word used to describe the margin of space between the "E" string and the
edge of the fretboard. If a guitar has too little "BLEED" it won't allow the player to

I am well aware how inflexible I am in spite of biology, the way in which I will not even
so much as move to cover paper I am writing on in the rain, watching the ink bleed and
bend without me. If it were not for that rigidity, would I continue to run like ink or blood
until I ran out? Even the deepest metaphors must be tempered.

I wonder if my ability to bite my cuticles has anything to do with the fact that I have
accepted blood, that a long time ago my attitude towards bleeding changed from: when
will it stop bleeding? to: will it stop bleeding? to simply noticing that my fingers, like
every other part of me, have the capacity to bleed and make use of it at various intervals,
sometimes, even on paper.

I had another teacher who said your writing in workshop is like a child when it is just
born. If writing is an act of creation, why should it remain painless? Why should it not
involve blood?

Sam’s story: A couple breaking up who wrote on each other with ballpoint pens that
made them bleed. It went on for several pages and never finished. Someone pointed out
that it was strangely violent and Sam did not notice. I thought it was kind of realistic, but
did not say so.

David’s Story: Two sisters who paint using one another’s menstrual blood. Sam and I
both rolled our eyes and stopped paying attention. You would need some kind of paint
thinner Samantha pointed out. I told her he probably hadn’t thought it through. Moral of
the story: When discussing blood, write what you know.

There is a sense of distrust towards anyone that bleeds continuously for several days and
does not die, never mind a lifetime. It is the fact that I have taken it on that worries me.
A fear of blood, of bleeding, seems so counter to the human condition. I have the type of
blood that can take anyone else’s, not the type that can be given to anyone else. Not all
blood is created equal.

But now the cold cracks open my lips so that I am reminded that they are fluid.
Possibility exists, even if we do not make use of it. My ex-boyfriend got nose bleeds all
the time, while dancing or laughing. Sometimes I wonder if it was just life rushing out to
meet itself, forgetting a container.

Blood always pushes us toward the extremes we can barely contain. I am thinking now
of sexdeathbirth because they encompass one another, the way blood will take anything
in without drawing boundaries. I am sorry that there is no single word that gets them all
across, the way blood can carry them all.

The first time I bled thick, I saw its potential not to birth but to kill, to drain someone and
was surprised that the imperative was not to stop it, but find something to absorb it and to
do that as quietly as possible. From now on bathroom doors get locked and bleeding is
your own business.

Dominika Bednarska's writing has or will appear in A Different Art, The James Joyce Quarterly, Avatar Review, Storm Cellar, Palimpsest, Muddy River Poetry Review, Wordgathering, The Bellevue Literary Review, Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, The Culture of Efficiency: Technology in Everyday Life, What I Want From You: An Anthology of East Bay Lesbian Poets, Ghosting Atoms, and Cripping Femme, and her poetry manuscript, Smothered Breath, is forthcoming. She teaches at U.C. Berkeley, where she completed her PhD in English and Disability Studies. Her full-length solo show, “My Body Love Story,” recently kicked off the 2012 National Queer Arts Festival at the Garage Theater in San Francisco. Dominika has also performed at Girl Talk, the Marsh, CounterPULSE, Queer Open Mic, Femme Con, Butch Voices, the Society for Disability Studies Annual Conference, and the Knitting Factory in New York City. For more information, visit her blog site at

River Girls

I will always like that we were river girls, will always be proud that we knew,
a concrete rectangle couldn't hold us, couldn't please us
because we weren't any one shape.
We were full, flowing, moving. We were not fit to be contained.

We cast our lines out like boys.
We caught buckets of fish and peeled their cloudy eyeballs
down to the squishy clear marbles underneath,
which we kept in our pockets for clarity.
We dissected a live frog with a pocket knife, that one time.
We were killers with no squealing, no squeamishness.
We pushed each other, like bullies, off the top of waterfalls.
We were brave and mean and capable.

We were as tiny as a bee's wing compared to the whole open sky.
But, it was good to be solid enough to stop water with our own weight
and feet and ankles, to force a river to change course and flow around us instead.

We learned how to be passionate from sexy dragonflies
flirting, flitting, determined to get laid.
We understood how to fall in love from the shy blackbirds,
wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
Butterflies taught us to be pretty by being both delicate and out of reach.
We burned with the energy of the last summer days
and we were cooled down only by stars.

We were right to bloom on a river, where we had a world of room
to widen, or envelope, or intertwine.
Much better than the strict, straight up we were forced to grow inside.

Sitting on the banks of the South Holston River,
with our feet dipped into our own baptismal water,
even dying would've been okay.
We were already familiar with the stink and the bugs
and the dirt and the washing away.

Brandi Christian-Judkins' writing has been published in Weave and Northwind Literary Magazine. Her short story, Kissing and Cousins, was chosen as Northwind Magazine's featured story in their Summer 2012 Issue.

Only You Can Do Your Own Work 

there are only your hands
at the ends of your arms
your eyes set in your head 

swing a hammer in an arc
press pen to paper and move across the page
sculpt skyscrapers from modeling clay

fingers fit into keyboard tiles
feet fill steel-toed boots
hips sway to trays held aloft

toes pointed en tendu
breath blown into the flute
hands pull thread through skin

burning buildings and back-lit stages
steel beams and basketball arenas
classroom white boards and factory floors

there is no such thing as unimportant
frivolous worthless stupid
only needs met, bodies fulfilled

Kristin LaTour's poems have appeared in several journals, including Fifth Wednesday, Cider Press Review, Medulla, and others. Her third chapbook, entitled Agoraphobia, will be released in 2013 from Dancing Girl Press.

Stuttgart Recollected 

Remembered with a clarity,
a dervish-swirl vision,
the myth seen at midnight,
the mysterious Schlossplatz
and it’s castle of enchantment,
constructed before democracy.
The surrounding streets were silent,
but in the distance I could hear
the voices of American soldiers,
cursing, mostly in southern drawls,
and a mad cry rising above them,
the lament of a defeated relic,
raving in the night about Hitler:
"Adolf Hitler war mein freund,"
ignored by passersby
on the war-ravaged, rebuilt streets
of supine, resentful Germany,
that avoided total destruction
and allowed survivors
twisted by hopes of resurrection
to spin illusions of the past,
bewildering too many tomorrows
with convenient forgettings
that absolve the hills of Stuttgart
from renouncing beauty.

I remember one harsh night
sitting alone and broke
in the squalid Stuttgart Banhof,
hungry and fatigued,
without cigarettes or hope,
the after midnight drear
throttling my diminished expectations,
my soul eroded by failure,
as I sat at comfortless table
listening to the German waiters
talk to the Italian untermenschen
as if they were children.

One brash, young Italian,
resplendent in a flannel shirt,
bounced buoyantly around the waiting room
babbling to anyone who noticed
in his search for attention.

He pranced and posed
for a tired, aging whore
sitting with his countrymen,
hoping for late night business.
He smiled, sneered, snickered
in sly pursuit that she ignored,
scorning his childish allure,
but no one else responded,
so she left with him.

I no longer know
if the wind still blows the leaves
along the sculpted paths
of Stuttgart schloss,
slick with winter frost
covering the pools where goldfish swam
in more peaceful times,
now abandoned for warmer climes,
leaving turgid, tarnished water
beneath the frigid surface
that cannot compel the brief day’s sunlight
to oblige the palace
with the thaw of spring.

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director. A collection of his poetry,Days of Destruction,was published by Marie Celeste Press. Another collection, Expectations, was published by Rogue Scholars Press. His novel, Acts of Defiance, is being published by Trestle Press. His poetry and fiction has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City.

The Door
My son talks of visiting his grandfather as if
stopping by the nursing home after school were normal.
He looks forward to keying in the entry code
excited to press the buttons on the security box
not realizing what he's unlocking.

Inside its another world

nurses, pills, wheelchairs, the stale faces of sickness.
Does my father recognize me? I'll never know.
He happily accepts the chocolate bar we've brought
a sweet offering. His fingers quiver, tremor,
so my son unwraps the candy, places it on his grandpa's tongue.

When we leave my father shuffles after us.
I tell my son we'll play a game: who can squeeze
through the tiniest opening? As the door closes
on my father's fixed face, caught up
in our fabulous escape, my son must think it odd
to see me frozen with my hands on the door.


Last night I sat outside waiting
for the shooting stars
It was the coldest night of the year.

In bed I want to ask:
Who are you?
A glorified rock, rubbing
Up against me.

Touch down always
Ends in damage: our holes
cannot be filled with the fine points
of your arguments.

I am frightened like the ancients:
The sky is ever darkening
You were my gift, my thunderstone.

Friction, I keep telling myself,
Makes heat: if only
we could vaporize into light.

Anina Robb lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband and two children. She earned an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and has poems published or forthcoming in Nebo, The White Pelican Review, Rilvendel, Emerge, and Oatmeal and Poetry.

Hanukkah with Britney Spears 

We are not Jewish and do not know
that story, the miracle of rededication,
so as Marcus, her bass player, lights
the fifth candle on the menorah,
Britney stares at me above the flame,
bored, her chin resting in her right hand.
Like a mother, I narrow my brow
and mouth, Sit up straight. Prayer
comes to our lips—Praised are You,
Lord, our God, King of the universe,
Who has inspired us and enabled
us to light the Hanukkah candles. 
She pops her gum. I wonder how
many commands of the Mitzvah
we have broken here. Eyes closed,
I see Britney as the Holy Temple:
years ago, we sought Immanuel, God
with us. We got Britney Spears. Received
her in our stereos and bedrooms,
in our gushing hearts and televisions.
Though not what was expected, we chose
her: salvation in a dark time. She rose
on a rope of our adorations, magazine
covers, music videos, advertisements.
Saviors fall fast and hard. She did fall
but still sings, You want a piece of me, 
disappearing into a screen of smoke,
into this dining room, before a Menorah,
across from me. I pray for her now: 
Blessed are You, Britney. May the new
coming of your temple be quick.
May we not miss the signs, beautiful,
sequined things that point to you.
May we think of what you do for us,
what we do to you. May we say Selah. 

D. Gilson is a PhD candidate at George Washington University. His chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2011 Robin Becker Prize from Seven Kitchens Press. His work has appeared in Moon City Review, Plain Spoke, The Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere.

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