Poetry

A Piece of Me

a piece of me
 
Tomorrow, a part of my body
will be surgically removed.
Not the head or arm or leg,
nothing obvious. I won’t be wearing
a prosthesis, no colostomy bag
to empty or catheter employed.
A radical tonsillectomy,
performed by a robot,
will remove the cancerous tonsil
as well as 2 centimeters of surrounding tissue.
2 centimeters? Hmm?
The width of a nickel,
length of a peanut, diameter
of my wedding ring.
 
Robotic instruments
will slice away
the lacy flesh then staunch
and cauterize veins and sinew. Cancer’s
expulsion will create
a more spacious place, but the room
will be less interesting
without my tonsil.
Tonsils are unneeded, they say.
For decades kids traded
tonsils for endless orgies of ice-cream.
If it weren’t for the cancer I wouldn’t have traded
mine for anything. For 66 years,
my tonsil has quietly guarded that nostril hole,
inspecting every breath,
protecting me from intruders,
and I’m not going to let it go
into—wherever—without a parade.

Nature Morte

Broom hare
 
I’m always painting dogs these days.
And Broom hares.
One in the other’s mouth
or both on the ground
in decay.
 
She asks about my sanity,
she says, because she cares.
She asks, I think,
because I’m poor.
 
Once, she told me I brought something organic, vital,
and in juxtaposition to the concrete city surrounding us
truly substantial
to the table.
 
I should have laughed in her face.
She should have laughed in mine.
 
Can I really leave a canvas blank?
Take a shower, shave, find a job?
Play a critic with a blog?
Or, like Robert Malaval,
to escape the boredom of repetition,
put a gun in my mouth?
 
I mean, it’s either that or
keep painting dogs, right?
 
And Broom hares,
 
alone, together,
one in the other’s mouth
or both on the ground
in the grass,
on the rocks
with the grubs—
photorealism is only any good
when you can’t turn away.

From the mouth of my uncircumcised son

clock
 
Whenever my toddler sees a clock he calls it a cock,
which got me thinking about some connection
between measured time and male oppression,
three dicks spinning round
in the same direction
all day long
daring me
not to look.
 
In the end, though,
 
unlike, say, a double rain
bow,
 
or a rain-glazed wheel
barrow,
 
or the
gravity,
intensity,
and cold
touch of
a steel
dildo,
 
I think it’s all just a false
construct.

Patricide

Patricide illo
 
Maybe because his back was bent,
left leg two inches shorter than right,
or because he was too tired to swing a belt
after fourteen-hour stints in gravel pits,
or because his own daddy was a pacifist—
 
well,
whatever the reason,
mine never went for corporal punishment.
 
When I broke shit
or backtalked
or drank gin
or got caught
screwing Becky Horvath in her hatchback,
my old man walked me out to the dunghill.
A soft enough place to sit,
warm, too.
 
If you didn’t mind the damp
and smell
and flies
and shut your eyes
you might think you were at a spa.
A nice weekly, steamy getaway
 
I sometimes stared at the horses,
thinking I should steal them,
sell them. I sometimes fantasized
about a wheelbarrow full of feces
dumped on Daddy’s bed.
He always slept on his left side,
way out on the right edge,
as if to make sure
he wasn’t hogging
all the real estate.
 
Mama traded him in
for Jimmy Henry Jackson,
a motorcycle salesman,
when I was ten.
When I was seventeen,
out of spite, I bought a bike from Uncle Jim,
drove it from Missoula clear to Tuscaloosa
’cause I thought I had a thing for southern girls.
 
It’d be nice to say, I never went back.
It’d be nice to say, I’m on some tenure track.
It’d be nice to say, I didn’t spend my days
shoveling shit for a manure manufacturer
outside Birmingham.
 
It’s not exactly any of that.
 
Sometimes you wind up up north again,
too tired to think past supper,
too tired to remember
the last time you had any blood
in your pecker.
 
I used to toss words
like lit M-80s
at my father.
I used to toss
lit M-80s
and start fires.
Have you ever imagined
a mountain of shit made into a funeral pyre?

Mud Lust

Mud lust
Have you ever looked at a mud puddle
with a hard-on?
 
Bear track at the edge
like the tramp stamp
on a hot mess?
 
There’s something so easy,
so accessible,
so approachable,
so delightfully inviting
about that mud, that paw print.
 
Jump on in, boy, get your feet wet,
lose your boots, boy,
wiggle your toes a bit.
 
I’ve been knee-deep in pussy 
since the day I was born.
 
Try telling that to the bear.
 
Where?
 
Over there, my friend.
 
Where?
 
Watching from the shadows.
 
Where?
 
There, there!
In the shallows.
 
Where?
 
There, in the middle
of the very mud puddle
in which you’re rooting about
buck naked like a piggy pig.
 
That bear is going to eat your nose,
my friend. He’s going to devour your mouth,
my boy. He’s going to gnaw your cheekbones,
your bone.
 
Heaven knows, you shouldn’t roll and rut
in wallows when bears are so very close.

Schadenfreude

schadenfreude
To the twenty-three-year-old face-down topless in the sand with the B-cups, blonde dreads, and translucent skin that, I might add, you have no real chance of tanning:
 
It isn’t that I think you’re a bitch
so much
or think you should gag
so much
on those grapes you keep sucking down—
 
it’s just, let’s say, that if you happened to craptastically
crap yourself and shuffle off this beach in shame
with your black bikini bottom bulging
in the wrong place
it would make my day,
probably.
 
If you could just for a minute lose control
of that bladder, that rectum, that easy decorum,
if your innie became an outtie,
if your boobs became bagpipes,
if your tan little tummy puffed and popped
on a scalpel and a parasite leaped out
and attached itself orally to your teats—
and if I could watch it all, record it all,
play it back over and over in some sped-up,
slo-mo time-lapse,
well,
 
it would really improve my mood.
See, it’s not even that I resent your face
so much.
 
It’s not even that I resent myself
so much
 
for once upon a regrettable afternoon,
letting some academic shitwit get his
dick wet (at a time, I might add,
in my blossom of youth, I might add,
when I looked not a little like you,
only hotter, surely, hair coiffed
more carelessly).
 
It’s just that these fantasies, like TED talks,
motivate me:
 
Kirstin, shave your damn pits,
trim your damn bush,
get your damn ass off the towel,
and make sure the kid doesn’t drown in the lake,
etcetera.
 
And another thing: don’t tell me
this is all symptomatic of postpartum depression
or that I should cut back on my drinking
or mind my meditation
or do some fucking yoga
or run a fucking mile
or find some dude who’s not a loser
or beg my mom for a little more help
or go and make some female friends
for like the first time in my natural life
or find a sense of community by reaching out
to my tech geek pothead green-thumb neighbors.
I don’t need that.
 
I got a Hitachi on my nightstand
and youporn on my iPad.
I’m a blissed-out
21st century
mommy,
honey.

Man in Tree

Man in Tree
To have given up
on everything that lies
below you. Darkness
pulled tighter than a shiver. Stars
swaying like clumsy drunks, you
gathered what little was given,
built your fortress from the shattered
branches, stocked up on pine cones, let
your last meal turn to shit bombs.
How distant
the traffic must have looked,
how difficult
the aim.

floor beers and bed rice

floor beers 2
 
Whatever stupidly infinite essence
of spice-powder
spilt over,
 
that’s how much power
is pumped through
the battery charger—
 
your fingers
in my shoulder,
 
your elbows and body-weight
negating tension,
 
loosening
fascial adhesions…
 
Release—
a temporal heaven,
 
a passing tissue state
undone by the passage of time.
 
Here,
I am the rung-out restoration
of the body before it becomes soul.
 
The perpetual accuracy of understanding
is a concept not lost
on the intelligence of your skin.
 
There are the theories—the pre-cog
knowledge of “touchable”
before an actual touch,
 
the space before
the placing of your hand
upon mine,
 
before the physical IQ
of the species supersedes
the wisdom
 
of one body
pressed
against another.
 
There is
the pressure of process, maturation—
 
stoppage impossible as the longevity
of our current closeness.
 
There is the threat
of something spiritual—God,
I guess,
 
a whisper from the gaps
between muscle fibers.
 
“Call your pain
by name,” you say.
 
“Name,” I say.
“Name.”
 

Skullduggery

skullduggery salmon
 
Is slicing a king salmon head off the backbone
and stuffing it down your pants
and going about your day,
daring anyone to ask
about the swell
or smell.
And sure it’s kinda crude,
and maybe, yeah, you’ll lose your job,
and maybe you’ll go and horrify your mom,
and maybe your friends won’t take your texts,
but at least it isn’t suicidal, homicidal, crazy violent,
delusional, arrogant, self-important, a run for president.
At the end of the day, man, it’s just a crown for your head.
Just a jewel to brighten your sorry scepter.
A fishface to munch your worm.
Just a fish, man, a fish!
A fish, man!
A fish!
 

Bruised Fruit

Bruised Fruit
 
Faded in Novato off of Highway One,
I miss you, sugarplum.
In my withered veins,
in between my toes,
in my desiccated bones,
in my scabs,
in my scars,
in the thrush in my throat.
In my bruised fruit.
 

THE VAGINA ECLOGUE (FREE VERSE)

Vagina Eclogue, poem cover
 
My boyfriend showed me his cock bib,
shit you not,
cloth hanky
tied round his rod.
He was all,
“Just cuz my dick’s hungry
don’t mean I have to get cream,
blood, and chocolate sauce
on my nutsack.”
Like it’s clean to begin with.
Gotta say I’m offended.
Gotta call foul on sartorial genital
accessorizing.
For either sex.
While I’m on it, I’m no fan of condoms.
Who is?
Mother says, “You’re a fool’s feminist,”
and may have something,
but hell, I got the pill,
got Obamacare,
got my antibiotics
got my HIV exotics.
Bareback’s one of those things everybody practices
but only rappers preach cuz the rest of us are rabbitized.
No matter how many Trojan MTV ads advertize,
the feel sucks
for cunt and kisser alike.
In movies, TV, women against contraception
tend toward baby craziness or trepidation—
afraid of their men losing confidence
(Read: Pushing slugs. Sensitive creatures).  
That’s changing.
Amen!
Can we get an AMEN
for XX chromosomes liberated enough,
educated enough,
powerful enough
to make the same mistakes as XYs
for the same delicious reasons?
And not petrified to say so—publicly?
Don’t sneeze on me, Sailor.
Don’t touch me arm, either.
Don’t tickle me cheek, don’t finger
me honey hole.
O!
How well you know the half of me?
Who you think I am?
A woman. White. Irish. Irish American.
My words any less important if I were black,
Asian,
Indian, Indian American?
German, Honduran?
A straight up guy,
all out gay,
hemale, shemale, tranny, bi?
I don’t believe half what I say.
Born again Christian (dead again).
True-to-God virgin (broken hymen).
Whateverthehell I am,
please,
bu-bye
to the bowties
on yer manhood.

MARITAL BLISS, IXe, 64 BVD. HAUSSMANN, PRINTEMPS HAUSSMANN, 6th FLOOR, BRASSERIE PRINTEMPS, SPRING 2013

MARITAL BLISS, IXe, 64 BVD. HAUSSMANN, PRINTEMPS HAUSSMANN, 6th FLOOR, BRASSERIE PRINTEMPS, SPRING 2013: poem cover
 
Mon Port Au Prince prince
prints prints
in le Printemps 
en le printemps,”
she cooed,
thrusting out our son,
quarter-dollar baby.
Prince prince prints prints? 
You dream that up all by yourself?
with that big brain of yours?
“You’re a bastard,” she said. 
Always abuses me with English.
Why you love me, isn’t it?
“Maybe it’s your money.”
I nursed a Cassis Blanc.
She nursed the boy.
What to do you do when wifey,
beloved object of/subject to obsessive,
worshipful, depraved desire
admits to being in it for the cash?
You picked the wrong writer for
goldie gold diggin, my golden
Goldie Lox.
“Don’t try salvaging yourself with words.
Mine were much more clever. 
Non, non love. Buy something por moi.
Something that tick tocks.
Something by Piaget.
If you need to, put it on the card.
If you can’t, beg. 
If begging doesn’t work, steal. 
If you fail stealing…”
I whispered to my son,
“Bite her, boy! 
Go ahead and 
bite her hard!”
 

2000 MILES

2000 Miles: poem cover
 
Open the blue screen door and rap on one of the windowpanes. No Chihuahuas yap, nothing stirs. Yuengling bottles on the kitchen table, down the hall.
 
He’d always said that he lived at the bottom of a hill, no matter which way you went. At the top of the next hill, coming around the corner by the projects, he said, “If you wanted to leave at 9:30, you should have come at 7:30… And if you’d said we were leaving at 11:00, it would have been 1:00…”  But his hoagie order made me laugh, and he paid for my coffee and bought a donut that he said he was saving for later.
 
Later, the cool, clean house in Towson, with oldies hits and the chocolate lab puppy and all the books on prayer.
 
Laughing inappropriately, helplessly on the porch. Watching the fly die in the web. Blood and ice cream, opening beer bottles with a spoon handle.  So much love. Portraiture and the intimacy of portraiture.
 
The six-pack from the Pilot down the road mostly gone, the motel room mostly dark. He worries he is seeing too much color—more color than is there. The shapes of the subconscious. We list off the people we know who seem unsuited for the world.
 
“You’re just trying to think of people who seem less suited to ordinary life than you. But Ted’s father sells skin.”
 
Without talking about it, we both set an alarm for 8:20AM.
 
Memphis is a brown city like the Mississippi.
 
The Rendezvous dark and quiet, the table eerily near to last year’s, the order unchanged. The little rib-eating monster, he worries that even as he tries to create, to transcend, he will still never be perfectly himself. Licking one finger to scrub the paint—or BBQ—off another.
 
Don’t think that watching someone write a song, stuck in endless construction on 40, pleather sun-hot against back and thighs, is glamorous or interesting. It’s not. Writing nonsense is a gift you have or haven’t, it’s not for faking. Put the mandolin away, read all of Alice aloud, the tune dissipates uselessly into the afternoon.
 
AR, OK, rolling by, the crescent moon a guiding light, “We could drive all night,” he said, and he didn’t know he couldn’t. Surreptitious one-handed texts signaling off while he sleeps in the passenger seat, driving to George Harrison and the moon, swerving sharply as our headlights hit the bulk of the dead raccoon.
 
East of OK City, maybe all Midwestern Walmarts are filled with nighttime consumers who trade their open outdoor vastnesses for the immensity of linoleum and steel shelves, white-wash lighting, bottled water and medication, overalls and tube socks and cheap sunglasses.
 
We drink the water, take Tylenol for toothaches, don’t wear sunglasses in the dark.
 
Never am able to tell when someone’s nose is crooked. Holistic view of faces.
 
Stop on the side of 40 to look at the stars.
 
Depravity.
 
There is no food between Clinton, OK and Amarillo, TX. Try all the exits anyway.
 
The atlas, every location from “Willin’.” More atlas. Imagining CA and the redwoods, the logistics for trips that will never happen, bank accounts and balances, bikes and busses and no more beer, not wanting to wait—is that an expectation or not? Driving the mysterious NM-104.
 
Arriving, beer in the fridge, dead jade tree in the bathroom. Dinner out, strangers must see us as a couple with nothing to say. We go home; I send pictures of the sunset to other people, he corkscrews the rubber-band ball, I whirl wildly around the house.
 
I stay so much more focused when reading to someone else. Do we all? The skunk traverses the backyard.
 
I said that I did not want to read a book on philosophy because I was too sleepy. “I’ll read it with you,” he said, and read to me as I fell asleep.
 
Not breathing, birds, using up all my questions.
 
Trying to read and the smoke rasping my throat.
 
The conversation about saying what you mean, on the patio with the lavender and the lemon verbena. Our egos interfere, make us express in ways and on levels that are not how we most naturally are, and maybe ultimately the best way to communicate and express is to be perfectly who we are, on the level we are meant to function.
 
We worry, and we find the moments when we are ourselves, perfectly.

“…sans everything.”

Sans Everything: poem cover
 
My father is a beach shell
almost emptied of life matter,
skin pale without the glow of nacre
that fakes a shell’s life force.
 
Nearly ninety,
his cheeks are knobs,
his flesh having fallen away,
his appetite lost with his sense of smell.
 
Thin skinned is literal for him now,
his bruises a map of bumps
against doors, tables, chairs—
his wheelchair too big, his rooms too small.
 
Hearing aid batteries
make a mine field of the floor,
the dexterity for insertion
now beyond his motor skills.
 
Our conversations
are childhood games of gossip:
We write fiction
every time we talk.

COUNTRY DANCE

Country Dance: poem cover
 
I watched
and I believed
it must mean everything
to sing out
the darkness,
in unison,
like crickets.
Rusty axles breaking
into hundreds
of dollars.
Friday night,
a Camel
and a hard grin.

BESTIES

besties1
 
I screwed your wife Tuesday
when you were at Little League,
coaching third base,
watching your son bunt in
the game-tying run
in the sixth.
Heard all about it.
I can only imagine the vicarious thrill
you felt reverberating
rectum to spine to brain base
as it compares in extremity to the sensation
my news is causing now.
 
Really, you shouldn’t be leaving her so
alone, alonely.
 
When you schedule your life
to the quarter hour, affairs become
as simple to run as errands for groceries,
car washes, vet visits.
 
Ball Kyle 4:30-5:15pm.
Clean house 5:15-5:30pm.
Dinner 5:30-6pm…
Tell hubby that from 4:30-5:15pm
you were getting a pedicure.
Show off the toes you painted yourself
yesterday morning, that you told him about,
which won’t be an issue because
he won’t remember
because
he wasn’t listening
because he never does.
You even wriggled them in front of him.
“Sugargum pink never looked so fine.”
That’s what Kyle said this afternoon.
Affairs are necessary so that someone
pays attention to you.
Husbands, anymore,
are low-rent babysitters.
 
Is it odd that I’m adopting the viewpoint
of your wife to tell you
why you’re being cuckolded?
Does that say something strange about me?
Show my cowardice, as if I’m simply a messenger
with no direct responsibility for my bedroom bandying?
 
Or do I get such an earful from your wife
that I know exactly what she’d say,
how she’d sound? Because she 
won’t stop speaking,
because a silent world
would shred her sanity?
Am I looking for a sympathetic ear?
Don’t be a misogynist, Kyle.
That’s what she’d tell me about that, yes.
Misogyny is weak, Kyle.
I’ll keep it mind.
 

LAUNDROMAT ATTACK

laundromat
 
Tazer’s paperwork.
I pull it out, don’t do nothing, paperwork.
I fire it, more.
I hit the sumbitch, reams.
Court dates.
My ass in jail.
If he has a heart condition,
well—
and if he dies—
don’t use no Tazer.
 
Mace the same.
Hydraulic needle pierces that cornea,
permanent problems.
Potential for positional asphyxiation.
Adds up to a welfare shitshow,
and me on the wrong side of five to ten.
 
Baton’s the shit.
Hit a leg just hard enough.
Don’t break it.
Put him down.
Slow him.
Hobble him.
Have a chuckle.
Wait for police
while you show your smile.
 
The convenience store-cum-Laundromat on
6th and Cormorant was just not the right place
for a five-finger discount. The attendant was the size
of a refrigerated truck and moved a good deal quicker.
I’d just witnessed him running down a thief, tackling him,
tumbling end over end like comical hoop snakes intertwined.
I kept looking at the recoveries in his hands.
Of all the things to steal.
Gummy worms.
A Mountain Dew.
And the thief well over fifty.
Guess he had a real sweet tooth.
 

ON SLAUGHTERING THE HENS LAST SUNDAY

slaughtering-hens
 
August clung tiredly
to the hidden parts where our limbs connect
holding our breathe on humid mornings
when full exhales seem hopeless.
 
“I don’t mind the noise,” the neighbor said.
“It’s them country smells that get me.”
 
But the indoor temperatures more approximate
the outdoors now, the air like a Mutsu
sweetening the view
of things dying while we dream:
lawns that stole our weekends away;
mosquitoes that chased us back inside;
weekend alarm squawks that awoke the block;
days so long that the possibilities
seemed stifling;
 
the chlorophyll that cloaked the sunset shade of maple leaves,
dried-blood oak, yolk-yellow ginkgo.
 
Now, with the freezer full, let’s be honest
fall was how we really felt
all along.
 

TWO-TONED VISION

two-toned
 
I passed a black man heading east on Lafayette,
leveled mental crosshairs on his chest, 
exhaled, steady,
squeezed the synaptic squeeze,
felt the tragicomic,
orgasmic release.
 
No trigger guard, no safety.
This fucking mind of mine
can’t let me be happy.
Better kill somebody.
Better off let my body
trash-compact
in a wasteland landfill.
 
If love’s blind,
I hate these hateful eyes.

ODE TO GEESE

dinos
 
What I love about dinosaurs,
I mean, really, really love
is they’re basically still here.
I mean, birds, right?
Yes. 
Birds.
I like to walk under power lines
and look up their skirts.

TAKING STOCK

ram
 
Ram me, baby,
ram me.
Gimme
mutton chops,
honey,
give ‘em to me.
Beasty looks out in fury,
set to stampede my soul.
Licks his lips.
I lick my lips.
Braise his ribs.
Watch his meat
fall off the bone. 

DEEP SEA STUDY

deep-sea-study
 
According to a survey conducted by fartcloud.com,
one in four individuals who attempt to ignite there own flatulence
will, in the next year, die horribly in a boating accident of some kind.
 
And it really is terrible to think about,
                                                             I mean,
the whole world up in flames
and you not able to be there because you’re thirty miles out to sea and barely conscious,
boom-bashed by a sloppy jive-ho,
the crook of your elbow slowly
slipping from a half-rotten life-ring
until eventually you start to feel the cashmere smoothness of seawater
washing over you, warmer… warmer… warmer…
then the inevitable strokes of sandpaper on your soaked skin
as the whaler sharks begin to circle…
 
Now, it’s not only that it’s such a monumental thing
to wrap your mind around,
the odds against our living forever:
 
It’s just,
                there’s the children to consider.
 
Not to mention starvation
 
amongst the spider crabs.

NIBBLE MY EARLOBES, MY SWEET

rv-king
 
I stubbed my toe on the step of your Winnebago.
My sister says, “He’s a cracker Lothario.”
My mother says, “He’s an egomaniac sans home.”
Darlene says, “Find a Cadillac dude to bone.”
I say, “Geez, Darlene, don’t you think I would
in an inorganic second?
If I could trade in this
sex lair on wheels
for an open-air lovefest machine—
I mean, how could I say anything but yes, yes
if it’d get me out of this shithole relationship
with the ‘RV King’? Don’t I want the smell
of forties off my breath? Chew stains off my dress?
Vinyl imprints off my ass?
My spit’s molasses from Camel Lights.
My eyes are marshmallows after
smoke-fueled nights.
But remember, please:
He’s a mattress steed.
No one likes to be alone, untouched,
a peony passed over by every bee,
untroubled by a single ant, glorious bloom
wasting daily, petals decaying, dropping,
insides rotting top-down until the stalk
falls to the soil. I obsess over death, Darlene.
El Dorado guys are sky pies.
My RV baron is flesh, shit, a smile,
a squeeze on the tit. He’s a man, honey.
He’s a man.”

BRAS

bras
 
This bedroom is overcrowded
with brassieres. Some hang loosely
or gather on the chair. The bed post
is a convenient perch,
but most are too tired for such a climb.
They sprawl exhausted, too worn
for the drawer, yet
not quite hampered.
The drudgery of daily affairs
wears elastic.
A shoulder strap limp
without its lovely arm. Clasps,
impossible to reach, now open
to anyone wanting to fiddle with chrome.
One can barely calculate
the capacity of so many empty containers. Leisurely
these lacy undergarments laze upon the carpet
as though it were a beach.
I wonder if they don’t imagine themselves bikinis.
Cups pushed tightly by
what might have been
one’s revolutionary resolve. Or
removed to roam freely,
to dance their semi-separate life of twins.
Though she no longer burns those lacy yokes
designed by men, my moxie wife magically
unsnaps from her daily routine,
then flings that thing like
flippin’ a middle finger to the man.
 
continue…

THE STAGES, IN BRIEF

the-stages
 
Enter first the child:
     his chimeras and mythologies, 
     everything wild and wide-eyed, 
     imaginaries sprawling impossible distances,
     visions too vast for the world to ever contain.
He sees everything.
 
Enter now all the evils that poison the child and make him a man
Enter:
Envy, malice, comparison of men,
striving, greed, smallness,
          all the ignoble days
cleverness, fakeness, two-facedness
distraction upon distraction, all the wasted days.
And, above all, blindness:
man looks outward and sees only himself,
his self like a colossus 
                     standing before him, 
                     occluding the sky.
He sees nothing: he has no idea how to live.
 
End then with the elderly
who are senile but begin again to dream…
The eyesight of the aged is oddly immaculate:
As their minds loosen free
          they know exactly
how they would have wanted 
          to live.

A BLIGHTED STAR  

blighted-star
 
 
I hope to one day have a daughter,
a fellow bibliophile.
I hope to equip her with a name
matched to a life of
excitement.
Romance.
Adventure.
Perhaps I’ll name her Lady
after my favorite Macbeth.
With overreaching
determination,
she’ll become
a queen with spotty laundry.
Maybe I’ll name her Emma B,
a romantic to the extreme.
A carriage ride around Roen
sounds terribly sexy to me.
The heroine who appeals most
is the hardest working D’Urberville.
With the rage of a wronged woman,
will my girl stab her rapist, too?
Tess’s end is tragic,
but hers is a crazy
I wouldn’t mind instilling.
God forbid, my daughter
grows up dull.
Nice would be even worse.
If she turns out no smarter
than Lydia Bennet,
I’ll have to strangle her. 

BEAR ON THE OP

bear-op
 
 
Today, I hiked down-mountain to the Humptulips
where I meant to reach a bank of sprawling rocks and sand
and slow eddies where I’d have a good view of game trails.
But I took the wrong path off the wrong road in the wrong drainage.
I didn’t recognize the error until I was overlooking the river—
such is the overgrown nature of the country
that one trail can look quite like another.
This was a tight clearing on stretch of fast water
where a creek cascaded deafeningly upstream.
Had I arrived providentially? Would a black bear
happen by me, rewarding my mistake?
I sat on the bank in the rain
with a tarp on my legs,
a rifle in my arms.
Water seeped in my jacket cuffs,
soaking my shirtsleeves.
Hunting in the Olympics
is like diving in a pool—
you’ll never come out dry.
Dawn turned to day and I
scrambled up the slope,
slipping in the mud, scraping through brambles,
my heart rate doubling, sweat seeping
into any clothing not already wet.
Why hunt on days like this?
Why hunt here at all?
I knew a man
who was lost two nights in these woods,
in this interminable downpour.
And it’s not like I’ve had much success,
not like animals keep bounding into my lap
and meat freezer.
But fall after fall after fall,
the Hump draws me back
like a salmon that just won’t die. 

JUMPING FOR JALOPIES

butte
 
 
You always confuse beauts, buttes, and butts,
one of which gets me all worked up.
How’s about you and me
find a place where the land falls
ninety degrees? You can cop a feel
under a cliff wall
while blabbing about all the buffalo jumps
of two-hundred odd years ago,
Indians disguised as wolves, stampeding the beasts,
1,500-pound buffs plunging to their deaths.
“They’re bison,” you’ll tell me. “Not buffalos.”
There you go again, killing my hard on.
There you go again.
I hate my single friends.
Here I am again,
about to be one of them.

HIDE IS IN MANHATTAN BUT SEEK’S THREE PLAINS AWAY

hide-and-seek
 
 
I am a lone
leaf in a New
England yard-pile 
watching turnstiles
turn
for miles         
…watching jets hold
holding patterns
out and over  
Newark ←….→ New Hampshire
Newark ←….→ New Hampshire 
…watching
up one way and down the next 
as my legs turned china
into midtown…. 
My proverbial can is filled with asphalt and rebar.
No sense trying to kick it over.
You must come and find me…find
me here, if you can, where 
fast jaguars blur into swamp-brush alleyways: I’ll be
hidden 
and glamorous as a frightened jungle bird. 

PAY FOR PLAY

courtesan
 
 
Three-hundred years ago, I’d like to think you’d have been a courtesan.
I’d like to think I could have bought your affections,
your body, your lungs.
Think how quickly I’d have accelerated our romance.
Think how much more we’d have gotten done
if our passions were based on monetary transactions
instead of a glamorous ballet of household chores:
dinners, dishes, exercising the dog.
Never any time to exercise the cat.
You only love me when the house is immaculate
and the kid’s asleep, and the pets aren’t shitting the bed
—once a month at best and sometimes
when I’m out of town, which sounds dubious
when I think it out.
Say, who bought you those Manolo heels,
that Gucci dress? Who’d you have to screw
for that Channel bag?
I don’t want you to answer.
Just know this:
I’ll give you more:
diamonds, a Cadillac, a fox fur shawl.
Wrap it round your neck.
Strip everything else,
hop into bed.
This is the kind of relationship
I can get behind.
 

CIRCUMNUTATION

circumnutation
 
 
This is the last
time I can say that last
time I was here
I wore that blue skirt all wrong
partly unzipped and rolled down below
the eight month orb
that buffered me from all embraces.
 
Last time I was here my heart was a balloon,
a waiting room, inflating, making space
for the softest supernova.
His eyes would unfold me.
 
Every day is an anniversary of something
I’d never marked on a calendar:
the first car, an appendectomy, the third kiss,
the pie crust finally unburnt,
the night he walked north, I walked south
arcing away from the dark center
of the silent playground.
Children readied for bed
in the surrounding apartments;
plywood doors slammed through the open windows.
 
Maybe this is the day I’ll mark
with the epiphany that nothing but clocks
move clockwise.
Not the climb of vine, not hips twining
around ghosts in the dark,
not the wheels of the train squealing
into the station
where he waited
a cyclone of acronyms for the most
inconceivable affection
last time I was here.
 
 
continue…

DREAM CATCHER

dream-catcher
 
 
When you sleep at night your dreams escape like hot steam.
I collect them on a sheet of clean glass.
Once the glass is covered by your subconscious condensation,
I tilt it slightly and let the dreams drip into a bottle.
I cork the bottle and hide it.
It takes about three months to fill it with your dreams.
I have to be very self-controlled,
making sure I don’t slip into temptation and start swigging at it.
Once it is full,
I take every precaution not to wake you.
I sneak into the bathroom,
lock the door
and drink them down greedily.
 
 
continue…

EXISTENTIALIST BEASTS

existential-beast
 
 
I was thinking about hyena spots, claws,
and predilections for aging,
living lion flesh. The greatest
dog-cat fights are
lion-hyena bouts, which
is an inaccurate statement
since hyenas aren’t canines.
That’s beside the point:
just imagine packs of hundred-pound
razorbacked grunters tooth to tooth
with quarter-ton kitties.
Makes me dwell on
my own mortality,
modern homo sapiens being
lucky or unlucky enough
not to have to worry
about becoming parts
of the macrobiotic diets
of other mega fauna.
We go through life thinking
in the end, we’ll be composting
worm meat. We worry about whether
or not we’ll be loved, remembered,
alone; in heaven or hell or the ground;
whether we’ll die slowly, painfully,
or quickly, suddenly.
Whereas lions know from the get-go
they’ll be killing hyenas literally
until the day they die when those
same carnivores will eat them quite alive.
No pretense of quiet ends, heartfelt goodbyes.
The empty wild, fangs, howls, yips,
blood-matted hair, and eager snouts
munching intestines.
If I had a lion’s outlook,
I think I’d be keen to get
more done while I’m still
in the good graces
of the pride.
 

ON THIS SIDE

on-this-side-2
 
 
Morning. And someone has
passed over the Jordan.
Going fast or leaving slow,
gone is gone. Listen.
Birds are living in the grove.
The ground below is a speckled
Gregorian checkerboard.
 
 
continue…

MR. MUFFIN

mr-muffin
 
 
She used to call me Muffin
when I stepped from the shower,
steaming and smelling
of shea shampoo.
Now she calls me
through her lawyer
who calls me Mr. Gregory,
a name that has always inspired me
to see myself as a member of the English gentry.
I asked him to call me sir, duke, or lord.
I asked him to drop the ‘y.’
Doesn’t Count Gregor sound damn romantic?
He refuses. I don’t mind. Titles don’t suit me,
truth be told. And I’m too poor to be confused
with aristocracy anyway.
I’d give my kidneys to still be Muffin but,
after baking my wife’s candle collection in the oven,
she doesn’t speak to me, no matter how
I butter her up.
I’m giving in, giving out.
I take cold showers now.
I tossed my shea shampoo.
 

ABOMINABLE ABDOMINAL

abominable
 
 
I was twenty-five days old on Halloween, 1982,
swaddled in green in the Montana snow,
spittle on my chin. A dragon’s egg
would be a liberal interpretation
for that costume—or a rather large
mountain lion turd.
I’ve been more adventuresome
in the thirty years since,
having tricked and treated in
a half-melted werewolf mask,
a home-sewn Tyrannosaurus Rex suit,
a Yankees uniform (odd: I was two; my parents were BoSox fans);
I’ve squeezed into a woman’s elf costume,
dressed as a dominatrix,
and was briefly smitten with the idea
of portraying a stillborn child (troubled lad)
before thinking better of it and going as Jay Gatsby instead,
then as Fitzwilliam Darcy,
then my favorite, as Captain Ahab,
replete with a peg leg and a speared, papier-mâché Moby Dick.
Now my May-born son is ready to slobber through his first
All Hallow’s Eve day (eve itself is bedtime).
He’s such an edible boy, my homunculus—
cheeks begging to be bitten,
tuna-pink in the cold—
that we decided he should be
a nigiri roll: sticky rice,
seaweed, toro, and
and pickled ginger.
I’m getting hungry.
I’ll start by nibbling
his pudgy fingers.

OPTIMISM

optimism
 
 
My sister asked if I got no dope.
Nope.
My brother asked if I ain’t got play.
Nah.
My uncle asked if I don’t have a dime.
No way.
Not in this negative mind state.
 

MOON

moon
 
 
You know everything about me
—my extraterrestrial life.
Slipping through windows,
curtains couldn’t keep you away—
your wandering eye, your brilliant
light rippling the linoleum, your 
backlit bones racked on hangers.
Even the air bent to your dark gravity.
Owls and hounds, monsters that wailed
from every sticky drawer. What darkness 
escapes you lingers in pockets, lost 
soldiers, dinosaurs forgotten. The lunch money 
mom gave me spent on “Jujubes.”  Sentenced 
to idle hours, in my room, like you, to a night 
without supper. I’ve watched your white lip burn 
at the edge of endless space—thin jaw open, waiting 
for stars to fall. I slept light on a wave of guilt,
arose each night to join you. Together we tagged 
shadows through alleys and empty lots. 
A pearlescent tide over the sleeping lawns, 
we jumped fences, passed through windows,
rolled over the neighbor’s floor, lounged, tasted
the leftovers, and allowed our hungry tongues
to feel how it felt to be home.
 
 
continue…

FREEDOM FIGHTERS

freedom-fighters
 
the Philippines victimized.
a million children involved in human trafficking around the world.
monster-shaped skies clacking like evil instruments of the fragile, impotent powers.
child prostitution, contractual exploitation.
we levitate in the soft breeze of our deadly ignorance while some are fighting for the victims of trafficking and sex slavery.
no sign of repentance of our insatiable impetuosity, of our pulsating supremacy.
youth and virginity are capitalized, traded, incessantly repeated in the untranslatable universe of atrocities crying to heaven.
who can interpret the mangling and gnawing language of the endangered lives.
lives lived in dreadful oblivion, disappearance and unmarked graves.
crimes are not unraveled, cases are dismissed, childhoods reamain stolen, profaned, haunted.
a flame of shimmering hope dying in the restless decay of the kinky afternoon.
languished willing mourned in torn lingerie vibrates terrorized like a mirage of unyielding hope.
teenagers are victimized in the burnt fatigue of pollution, overpopulation and poverty.
cybersex.
who provides an enclave, a shelter of hope, an oasis far from the undulating suffocation and obscenity?
 
 
continue…

I HAVE HEARD MERMAIDS 

mermaids
 
Across wet glass we rub our noses
To paint a picture that presupposes
Like confused footsteps that reach
Across some worn and weathered beach.
 
These words that fix you, find you,
Words, that bind you, words that blind you,
Words that lead you to a trance
Or spin you with some sacred dance,
 
Before your fingers can perturb
The petals of a rosebud undisturbed.
Within the jar the question lingers
As we count with broken fingers.
 
A mermaid sings in a distant sea.
Like stars she cannot be seen directly,
Etched in moon glow beyond all proof
Like some last Olympian, proud, aloof.
 
 
continue…

AFTER THE FUNERAL

after-the-funeral
 
 
The bones under
the sod
shift and sway,
a lurid
pandiculation.
We only wanted
to show due
reverence. We
only wanted
to do what
humans do
when faced with
the Final Black:
say something
like a prayer,
honor what’s gone,
and ask the
devil to give us
an eternal pass, we
who stayed behind.
 
 
continue…

VISIONS OF KAUAI

visions-of-kauai-2
 
 
Found her on the Hanalei sands,
silhouetted in the morning sun,
arms akimbo, kelp
across her torso
like a sarong in the wind.
 
Taste of Muscatel was in my mouth,
peonies on the nose—
she used to mist perfume at the ceiling,
let it fall in her hair.
Used more every year.
 
That warm, bright body had struggled
in the starlight, broken free
for a last-ditch dash,
labored breaths coming in
detached, cinematic rasps.
 
She was dead by my hand, and
I am damned. Yes sir, damned.
I brush fingers over her throat,
watch the tide, the mites hopping
from eyes to scalp.  
 
I’d been the beau. She’d been the bride,
a fireside lover to too damn many.
I’ll forgive her when bodily
we’re galvanized again
in fury and damnation.

DINNER FOR THREE

dinner-for-three
 
 
She must be having a bad hair day
the way our waitress passes
daggers with each glass. My grown
daughter got my wife’s mojito.
My wife got the Pepsi Light. 
 
The waitress’s eyes ignite
when I point out the flat
uncarbonated surface of my
Fat Tire beer. She bristles
but fixes it.
 
Her smile is almost authentic
by the time our entrees are displayed:
salmon laced in wasabi cream sauce, 
crusted tile fish nestled in mango chutney.
 
There must have been a spice
for rage mixed with hot wasabi.
Out of no where, the woman who
was once my little girl drops words
so hard they nearly break my plate.
 
I feel a thousand dishes slip:
those warm plates of French toast 
and pancakes, sausages and grits
go up in smoke as though
they’d never happened.
 
I want to toss the mango chutney,
and show the true flavor of my tongue, but
like the waitress, I know that by tomorrow 
those plates will be cleaned and stored, 
and that a smile, no matter how contrived, 
will be the only way to make it through today.
 

continue…

LOVERS’ GLEN

lovers-glen
 
 
The hand-drawn map was in the copy of Madam Bovary
I found in my school library when I was seventeen.
The label “Lovers’ Glen” marked a turn on a dirt road
four miles south of the baseball fields. I had to go;
I walked out in the evening, face down, trying
not to scuff my pumps, trying
not to appear conspicuously eager.
I flushed when I had to step to the side to let a Model A pass.
I clasped the novel in both hands; I carried it in my right loosely;
I gripped it in my left; I shifted it back and forth.
I stopped once where a fence overgrown with rot and moss
made a soft reading bench. I opened the cover and stared at the map,
the scripted lines (such penmanship! no elaborate loops, no hearts, no grandiosity;
A man’s hand definitely. Or a strong woman’s. A precise stroke in either case.
In either case, a hand I should have liked to touch, to have the chance
to examine intimately, to perhaps glance up from, to glimpse a face).
Finally, I came to a clearing under cottonwoods where the road hitched uphill.
At the bend was a wide birth of dirt, mud, and grass matted with the tire prints
of bicycles and motorcars.
The sky was black in the east,
and a Technicolor bruise in the west
that swiftly lost its hues. I was alone,
a little chilled, a little ashamed of my lust,
of my curiosity, of the book in my lap and the thought that,
not an hour earlier, I had dreamed I would touch myself in this spot
if no one else would help me.
 
Meditative castigations were cut short when a nearby branch broke.
Who was with me? Whose footfalls approached? I slipped
off my shoes. I left my book
in the muck.
I ran away in a dumbstruck fright
until my lungs burned and my sight blurred.
 
When I reached my house, my mother asked,
Why was I was crying? Why was I barefoot?
Where had I been? What was his name?
Silently, I collapsed in my room, caught between
thanking God for saving me
and scolding myself for my cowardice,
for sprinting off like a baby girl when womanhood was at stake.
 
Years later, I was reading about a double-murder in Cleveland
in which a couple were slaughtered roadside in their car.
A gunshot to the head of the him, to the chest of the her.
Unglamorous deaths, both: he without pants, she without shirt,
her breasts ruined with the mingled stains of their blood.
I thought back on my night in Steubenville.
I’d never returned for my shoes
or for M. Bovary.
I realized with regret I’d never picked up another copy,
never finished her story. Emma was still waiting, poor dear,
poisoned on her pillow…
 
I have never considered myself a virtuous lady.
Just lucky not to live in antiquity.

poem #62

echoing rain
 
ECHOING RAIN
 
In the distance, in the rain
lies the echo of your name
don’t bother to call it pain
same old sameness,
same old flame
 
– Virginie Colline

poem #61

the end of something
 
THE END OF SOMETHING
 
Beneath the window’s bay, in a perfectly
angular square of shade, there slopes the
sunken hollow beside a mound of grassy loam.
And in the space lies her remnants, arched yet
lifeless as the void dictates, an existence
rendered idle by the motion of the blade.
 
She is consorted in indolence, (just
as in the feats of covetousness)
by her partner lying prone in juxtapose.
They were red hot lovers these two,
joined in a licentious collective, until their
ardor paid heed to the soft brogue of steel.
 
Its whisper so persuasive, as the
contentions of an adulterous tongue,
beguiling lives along a barbed incline
to meet their end. Fleet, sinuous thrusts,
and their vigorous monotony, soon
curbed the wield of fanciful promise.
 
Whilst song, their song, diminishes to resonance
through a density of fabric, gallant fleets
of soil bound in time to throttled beats.
From a plunging brink towards the fractured
earth, each altruistic wisp gives itself to the
necessary exploits of reprisal. 
 
– Lewis R. Humphries
continue…

poem #60

desire
 
DESIRE HAS NO OBJECT
 
Desire has no object,
As in fall the maple’s leaf
Is borne unto the breeze
And sent away, a flicker
Across the open fields.
 
You that I am wanting,
I live now in a foreign city,
Where the days are empty streets
And the nights an endless boulevard,
And I cannot possibly know
Anymore where to turn or
Just what it is
That I ever really wanted.
 
– Matthew Saks
 

poem #59

smile
 
SMILE
 
Imagine a smile
as a stained glass painting.
 
Now imagine it disappear
in dwindling reds
until it becomes a flat marshland
of compressed grey.
 
It’s almost as if to say
things as beautiful as paintings
should never exist
in the first place.
 
– Andreyo Sen
 

poem #58

Mischievous
 

MISCHIEVOUS

at dusk

I return the shadow of a cat

to the cat:

every mouse recognizing hyperbole,

sensing my predatory nature-

in conference deciding who will

place a bell on Kitty’s neck,

who will catch her cat-napping,

which one will roll away fear,

like a ball of unraveling yarn.

 – Michael D. Brown

 
continue…

poem #57

through borders
 
THROUGH BORDERS
                     
Those who listen for the sound of ash
say fire is an animal
that grows by drinking
the sap of wood and bone
and speaks in guttural continuo,
 
gold on yellow waves
scored over black char.
 
Embers taken by wind scribe
the intent to crown
every need for rebirth
with a given fact of darkness,
 
that exile pulled back overnight
through borders the moon traces.                    
 
Guarding hope
in white light
dilutes the magical,
coyote not heard singing
the code to unlock all gates
and drop flints up moon-lit paths,
 
wings stacked on a bone-dry slope.
 
– Charles F. Thielman
 
continue…

poem #56

not about maps
 
NOT ABOUT MAPS
 
I was just reading Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Map”
and remembering a former lover who wrote a sestina
about a topo of Greece, then tangentially recalling a colleague
who dashed off a sonnet about an aerial of the Sudan,
when I started thinking that I
should write about a map
or, hell, a bushel of maps, an atlas even,
one poem for every county/state/country
border by border, route by route, road by lane by byway,
latitudinal by longitudinal degree. A lifetime’s work.
It occurred to me, however, that cartographical verse,
whether penned by demigods or the guy du jour
who has the combo to my panties,
couldn’t be more bland, right?
Spare me
the two-dimensional letters/words/lines
that describe
the two-dimensional dots/dashes/rivers/mountains
that are obvious
metaphors/allegories/symbols
for
life/love/time/space/blah/blah—
somebody set fire to the map poetry industry.
Torch the
longing/pining/agonizing shit (of which I’m guilty, plenty)
while you’re at it. And the whiney and self-referential poems after that.
Stick ‘em all in the burn bin so none of us ever again
have to hear about the road from St. Lucia
to your bleeding heart,
aching cock,
or weeping ego.
Thanks, muchachos.
 
– Kirstin O’Connor
 

WHO WOULDN’T WANT TO BE SANTA CLAUS?

sledding
 
 
In 1999, I sledded a glacier
in the Wrangell Mountains
in Alaska: three-thousand
vertical feet on a
sixty-degree slope,
reaching speeds over
a mile a minute, meaning
I covered 3,400 feet distance
in thirty-nine seconds time.
No one believes me. 
Who’d pay for a helicopter
ride to hop on a toboggan?
St. Nick would, I answer.
Or any self-respecting
ten-year-old boy.
That’s when a woman
will invariably call me sexist,
and the whole conversation
about my sledding fascination
goes off the rails.

poem #54

splatter
 
SPLATTER
 
When I look at the ground in front of my feet,
I pause before reaching for the next step.
Where my brothers see a line extending from their toes,
knowing with certainty the orientation of that step,
I see a splatter,
a glob, like paint dropped from a height,
the edges fighting to decide the right direction.I place faith in my gut that I’ll meet my brothers
at our destination in the end,
as long as I accept that my path
might look a little messier, the manner of my step
a little clumsier as I slip in the paint
and skate my way across the ground.

 
– Leanne Rebecca 
 
continue…

poem #53

stable outing-2
 
the stable outing
 
take the horses anywhere they want to go
how do you know just ask them
ask the horse he’ll tell you anything you want to know
name the fifth at Hialeah a love sonnet for the wife
sure they’re smart that’s why we feed them bathe them brush
them doctor them drug them put them down
race them for the odd purse
of course in the old days you could get real work out of them
come on Jock come on me heartie
 
– Christopher Mulrooney
 
continue…

poem #52

horsepocalypse 1
 
A HORSEMAN OF THE APOCALYPSE 
 
I’m not ready to get married yet but
when I am Miss Hooker will be my first
choice, she’s my Sunday School teacher and that
will be like marrying an angel and
get me in pretty good with God so that
when I die my chances of going to
Hell won’t be as great as they are now, I
sin a lot for ten years old but I’ll bet that
Miss Hooker, she’s 25, doesn’t know
the first thing about sin except not to
do it. I guess I could teach her but that
would land us both in Hell and me even
deeper because I’ll have led her astray
and that’s a heinous sin, too, as sins go.
After Sunday School today I caught up
 
to her in the parking lot before she
could drive away. I motioned for her to
roll down her window. She did and asked me
Yes, Gale, what can I do for you? I said
Ain’t you coming to church service today?
She blushed, which was hard to tell because of
her red hair, and said, I can’t come today,
I have to see a man about a horse.
I said, Oh–well, I hope he’s a nice one.
She said, Oh yes, he’s a real gentleman,
but she had a funny smile on her face,
almost as if she was lying to me
and maybe even fooling herself. No,
I said, I mean the horse–I hope he’s nice,
I didn’t know you liked ’em. Another
smile. Neither did I, she laughed. Well, goodbye,
she said, and waved, while I stood there
 
watching her ride off into the sunset
and it only eleven o’clock. Damn.
 
– Gale Acuff
 
continue…

poem #51

the tractor
 
THE TRACTOR
 
I was riding a tractor one time
with a mower attachment, cutting wheat fields.
The day started inauspiciously when I inadvertently
beheaded a bunny. The poor things feel the ground rumble,
get all quivery and scared, and sit tight. Too bad gophers
don’t do the same. In any case, I had my own fright
when the blades caught a stray strand
of barbed wire that snapped and
shot out in pieces every whichway.
One lodged in my left back wheel,
piercing the two-inch rubber like
rice paper. I was pissed ‘cause
I had to replace the tire. A few hundred dollars,
a few days’ pay. Now I think how lucky I was
that braided metal dart didn’t hit a few feet higher,
a few inches to the right, making a neat hole
in my back, kidney, liver, or lung.
I suppose the moral is
tractors are fun.
I mean, it’s the things that nearly kill you
that stick deepest in the brain.
 
– Lionel Harrington
 

poem #50

neanderthal
 
NEANDERTHAL
 
I guess there’s a little bit in most of us—
some of us, more than others. It’s amazing
that a species so well hidden can be so exposed.
Millennial bones in a Belgian cave no longer garner dust:
thick browed remains of a race thought inferior escorted
to the laboratory, to test tubes, to centrifuge, to an ethereal 
network of electrons, and now, we have a larger map
of who we are, what we’ve become. We were like an ameba—
absorbing our genetics whenever we crossed paths. I like
the union of this, the liquid sense of it, the thought of 
somehow melding the many into one. So different from
tribal divisiveness, our obsession with differences. What
is this empire? Global domination? Religion? War? Are
we struggling with weapons and words to accomplish 
what came so naturally tens of thousand of years ago? Imagine 
those heavy bones still wrestling within our skin, a thick brow,
deep set eyes, skillful hands cleaving slivers of flint, 
a world of wood smoke and burning meat, the luxury of never having 
to do the dishes or to take out the trash. No wonder, I’m attracted
to tools and repetitive tasks. Secretly, I strive to activate
those last few genes, still hidden on that obscure chromosome. I
want to throw my smart-phone at a mastodon and make love
with those lovely homo sapiens.
 
– Bob Putnam
 
continue…

poem #49

screwdriver 1
 
SCREWDRIVER
 
Dora said that poetry is only a symptom
of a deep hurt and a lonely soul
and urged me, to the best of my ability,
to show kindness toward poets
and offer them mostly understanding
in my manner and behavior.
 
She conceded that kindness
with a firm understanding of boundaries
and personal limitations is a good way
to treat everyone, poet or not.
 
Dora thought it might have something to do
with bottle feeding babies 
being the initial act of rejection 
experienced by a heart seeking sustenance.
 
She has no theories or thoughts about musicians
especially jazz musicians and the harmonious
discords of the lifestyle in concert
with the ancient Giver of Delight,
 
but Dora concedes that most lyricists
are about the same as a poet
and if you offer one 
a morning-after orange juice 
usually they will ask
for vodka to accompany it.
 
– Kenneth P. Gurney
continue…

poem #48

come eat with me
 
COME EAT WITH ME AND BE MY LOVE
 
Come eat with me and lose your scales
and gain lasagne, served with wine,
and ripe persimmons, plums and pears
my fragrant fruit, oh lover mine,
and we will laugh at diet cares
and low-fat bread that swiftly stales.
 
Come eat with me and feel our flesh
as soft as custard, warm as toast
as comforting as treacle tart
as healthy as a hot nut roast,
my love, who nestles in my heart
—no sell-by date. Forever fresh.
 
Come eat with me and be my love
with chana aloo, pilau rice,
with gravied pie and salted chips
and tiny pinkish sugar mice
and I’ll caress your curvy hips
forever, which won’t be enough.
 
Come eat with me. We’ll dine to please;
true love is not a certain size.
Our happiness is what appeals,
good appetite in both our eyes;
so let us revel in our meals
and never count the calories.
 
– Cathy Bryant

poem #47

spring fishing
 
SPRING FISHING FOR STEELHEAD, SATSOP RIVER C. 2002
 
A vision there
it was like a vision
frame by frame
 
spooling out
in front of me
my line bellied
 
and slicing like a cheese-
wire the surface of the river’s run
exploding into the shock-
 
bright of white water
all air-flung and with
a shake of the head
 
I was broke
off on the third
jump and you said “that
 
chromer was big sonabitch”
we don’t hook
many fish like those
 
we will hook another
one I said and we will keep it  
between you and me
 
you thinking I am not
so good a fisherman anymore
shrugging off a steelhead
 
like that you said
who’s this new woman
you’re wearing on your sleeve
 
oh she shows me planets
the moon I said the endless
middle of my mind
 
a moment you said
is the hardest so
infinitely divisible one
 
can easily wrap
one’s arms around
a decade a year a season
 
yes it is the season
for fish I said
up river
 
near the log jam
we might find another
 
fish you said lets look
 
– Richard C. Armstrong III
 
 
 

poem #46

escape
 
ESCAPE
 
She crafted wings out of pliers,
taking the metal
and making it flare out
against the sun.
No hollow bones for her
but ones poured out of silver.
She tested them,
her glittering limbs,
feeling each groove like teeth
against her skin,
and,
with one flex of her hands,
took off into the morning.
A shiver of light in the sky.
 
-Valentina Cano
continue…

poem #45

solitary fire 2
 
SOLITARY FIRE
 
The shore is dry as the tide retreats and dabbles with the moon
The waves are a far echo of a cave, a canyon
 
The life that consequence brings and abandons at our doors
is a garland of flowers long ago tossed by someone walking
 
Through passageways that disappear into waterfalls
and the soft sounds of everything still and eloquently wise
 
The dialogue of places begins in the thaw of knowing
that every longing has its syntax and solitary fire
 
Every heart is a gap in an echo that would resound
uninterrupted but for the weeping beyond hearing
 
All of everything is not a sum or a loss but a grief
and the zero penetration that frost becomes in winter days
 
With the incessant drifting of boundaries and the need
to leave the whispering and loss behind
 
– Christina Murphy
 
 continue…

poem #44

continuum
 
CONTINUUM
 
The thoughts. The hope. The ludicrous and ravaging expectations. Boundaries have been set and I walked far over the limit. I almost lost myself, I clearly made myself a predator as much as a prey. Devastating monster he called himself. I think he is more like a tumor, a gangrenous, malignant mass. Calcified yet not impossible to extract.
 
Already, in a surgical way, I incised the numbers, the pictures and all the words left here and there so as to hide all the shameful secrets from the eyes and the ears of the formidable fairies.
 
Now there are feelings—the hardest to combat. Like a storm they shatter everything into tiny pieces, they flood all the space I have kept for the one and only, my lovely leprechaun.
 
–  Walter Ruhlmann
 
continue…

poem #43

PBJ
 
SHE BUYS ME PEANUT BUTTER TO SHOW ME LOVE
 
My mother was in the Comfort Army-
her battle was against fearful men. They
opened her legs like oyster shells to
look for pearls they could never hope to
find there; to dip in the salty brine of
my mother’s aspirations, leaking down
her chin. She sends me sensible shoes
and peanut butter on my birthday so
I can remember that these things are
not always bought with money; although
some men are generous, maybe like
my dad. She tells me that he was the
nicest one, even though she still drank
dong quai after he left so that his child,
her daughter, would never be anything
more than a dream. So I would never learn
how to stare through eyelashes like picket
fences until the shuddering nights when it’s
best to not look, or how to hide bruises
with sliced potatoes. She sold all her dreams
for the key to the bed of a man who was
guilty enough to marry her; so I bought them
back with my diplomas and jelly sandwiches
and the way I whisper in her ear, “Mother,
you birthed pride and I rose up out of terror
with a neck as straight as matriarchs,
your pain was the foundation upon which
I will lift you up; on a dais will I comfort
you with every drop of my love. Come
home, dear soldier, you don’t have to fight
no more.”
 
 – Pattie Flint
 
continue…

poem #42

miss carols dumplings 3
 
MISS CAROL’S DUMPLINGS
 
Every month or so
on a Sunday afternoon
I skip the football game
and get in my truck
and drive out from the city
into farm country
to visit Miss Carol
and get my hands
on her plump dumplings.
Biggest I’ve ever seen.
Best I’ve ever had,
terrific with her
legs and thighs.
When she lays out 
her chicken dinner  
on that white tablecloth
I start drooling before
I even get a hand on it.
A farm girl, she says 
she’s never met 
a man like me
so nuts am I
about her dumplings.
Usually, she says,
men like breast meat,
when it’s moist,
and I allow how I
like that as well
but not as much 
as her plump dumplings
on a Sunday afternoon
and her pluperfect
legs and thighs.
 
– Donal Mahoney
 

poem #41

weather map 2
 
WATCHING THE WEATHER CHANNEL IN JULY
 
Hot and dry, upper 90´s in Dubai.
The rains remain across England.
Typhoons once more, south of Lahore.
New York is humid as usual.
 
Spain dry, Belgium wet.
Jakarta, Doha, Rio, Peru:
faraway places, shaded red or blue,
white for snow. They don’t seem so, so
faraway. Perhaps I will call
an old lover in New York
and ask if it’s all really true.
I will say, ´So it’s humid in New York.´
Every day, she will say. Every single day.
 
Baghdad is hot, as Baghdad ought.
Germany got the rain it expected.
London is rainy, predictably grey.
The storm moves south on Tuesday.
 
Typhoons in Malaysia,
typhoons in Jakarta,
a time for sun, a time for fog.
The timing of the storm
was right on time.
 
But things cannot be like they are,
said a faraway voice, insisting.
How are you there? Are you really there?
I do not think New York today
feels at all like New York.
 
Dubai hot and dry,
rain in Berlin,
floods in Bangladesh.
Dubai was Dubai,
New York was New York,
I was myself,
it was all as it was,
it’s always cold in the mountains.
 
You were you,
I was me,
my life was my own
to live
and reality –
well, that’s reality.
 
Of late I begin
to disbelieve the weatherman.
Things are not, perhaps,
at all what they are.
Today Dubai
is hot and dry
and raining, raining, raining.
 
– Matthew Saks
 

poem #40

ocean going
 
OCEAN-GOING
 
We sit on rocks, dangle toes over striped-gray sand.
The water’s always coming in, always going out.
With the ocean so restless, why shouldn’t we be?
I could just as easily be with another,
but eventually I’d come back to you.
You feel that same pull away from me,
then the inevitable tug into my arms.
Ten years together, ten years of such tides.
But some water stays behind, burrows into sand,
laps about the stones, froths in place.
We can dip our fingers in it. The coldness soothes.
A small pond but a page out of our life story:
the stillness, the small circumference,
and yet contentment in the lack of movement,
the manageable horizons that never get away from us.
We love the beach like we love each other,
awed by the oceans but safe in our pools.
 
 – John Grey
 
continue…

poem #39

Composed decomposed
 
COMPOSED YET DECOMPOSED
 
At the Point, the fog horns bellow
in shades of gray so desperate
I can feel the rock shore tremble
with pity. The upthrust of schist
and pale weathered gneiss challenges
my shaky old legs, but I step
from ledge to ledge by faking
grace I’ve never received. Farewell
to the island view, the sailboats
that might be tacking out there.
Farewell to ghostly kayakers
slipping too close to the breaking surf.
The fog renders distance useless,
folds the shore and surf together.
One misstep and I’ll break something
and flop like seafood while the gulls
peck out my liver and share it.
At low points, tide pools whisper
about crabs and barnacles and weed.
I try not to listen, but musings
in low tones the ear can’t define
always distract me. By noon
this fluff will whisk itself away,
leaving a sheen on dimensions
too delicate or stubborn to hide,
but for now the imposture’s complete.
No wonder I’m a little dizzy:
I forgot my dawn medication,
that creepy little pill that sears
the throat and settles like ballast.
In this density I’d forget
my name if it didn’t adhere
in five syllables to my pulse.                     
Three terns pose against the gloom.
I’d snap a prize-winning photo
if the effort wouldn’t topple me
into the foam. Better sit down
on a dry slab and recover
what remains of my senses.
I’ll convince myself a horizon
still lurks out there to help me
distinguish upright from prone.
 
– William Doreski
 
 
continue…

poem #38

if all goes well
 
IF ALL GOES WELL
 
He’s leaving soon. Very soon. I’ve been thinking lately that it’s strange how I feel about
it. He’ll be missed, of course. He’s a regular installment in the house now. But for some
reason when I think about the leaving, I can’t see beyond to the return. I can’t picture
him coming back. It’s like I’m never going to see him again. Oh, he’ll come back. But it
won’t be the same. He won’t be the same. Something in him that has caused him to find
himself in this place in his life will leave him, if all goes well. It has caused his family
to see that he needs a change. It has caused him to see that he needs a change. And he
knows it’s about to happen. When he goes away, he won’t come back the same. He’ll
come back without it, if all goes well. A piece of the boy in him will stay on the remnants
of that glacier that has been destroyed by the global warming that doesn’t exist. The
freezing tumultuous terrain will shoot cold splinters of manhood through him, if all goes
well. A lot of grief has been in the making of this expedition, and a lot of love and care. It
will all be worth it in the end, if all goes well.
 
– Dominique R. Scalia

poem #37

socks
 
LOVE AND SOCKS
 
My fiancé relishes his nudity: no undies, no wife beaters,
no Brooks Brothers khakis, and no sneakers,
which would be fine if he wore no argyle socks
to boot, so to speak. They cling to his feet
like twin leeches with diamond blood patterns
imprinted on their black skins. Starkly, they offset
(and seem to consume) his calves, knees, thighs,
crotch, and torso, too, which are a paler
shade of ecru. He’s thirty but looks eighty 
in those socks. I say, “Take them off.”
He tells me the feet et la tête
(he’s a Francophile, God bless him)
are responsible for ninety percent
of human heat loss. Sans socks, he’d be cold.
The claim is absurd, but I can’t get in a word
edgewise, can’t get him to see that practicalities
don’t have to dictate reality, anyways,
that it’d be better for my eyes, sex drive,
and therefore him if he’d peel his socks
down his shins and roll them off his toes. 
He rubs cock-first against my denim-clad buttock
as if to prove his virility in this state of temperate harmony
he’s created by wearing only nasty socks. My feet are bare.
I feel like I’m trampling over miniature tumbleweeds
of dust and lint wherever I walk.
“The wedding’s off,” I tell him.
“You never sweep the floors.” 
 
– Kirstin O’Connor

poem #36

teddy pathology
 
TEDDY BEAR PATHOLOGY
 
Someone once said,
a teddy bear is a projection
of your early fears of spaces
& absolute stillness.
Of losing yourself in the shafts
endless as you. You rip Teddy to shreds.
You stitch him back together.
Tell him it was all just a misunderstanding.
You tell him to be quiet.
 
– Kyle Hemmings
 
 
continue…

poem #35

The Goat-2
 
GOAT GRUFF
 
How many times has it chomped my fingers,
how many times has it tasted my earlobes,
how many times has it charged
my behind, butted my belly,
bloodied my clothes,
trampled my toes,
bruised my bones?
How wicked is the goat,
braying with laughter when I stumble?
 
There in the dirt pen, hen-pecked and speckled
white, brown, and gray,
there in the alfalfa, mowing the green,
there at the mailbox, splayed obscenely,
waiting to nip a postman’s hands,
a sheen of sweat on its neck,
a cake of dung on its tail,
in full regalia lies the goat,
barking with hatred when I approach.
 
Down in its soul, it knows it will die;
down in its blood, it pules with fear;
down in the muscles under the roots
of its hairs, it tenses, it twitches,
it bristles; it opens its eyes
and regards the barrel
of daddy’s pump gun.
Away runs the goat,
old billy, whinnying like a kid.
 
Now in an oven, tossed with carrots,
turnips, shallots, white wine,
now on a plate with suprêmes of clementines,
now in my mouth, pulling apart,
masticated, luscious, lovely,
a buttery treat for my tongue
and tummy is the meat
of the ornery goat.
I say, “Pass the gravy.”
 
– Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #34

Venice Reprise
 
SLEEPLESS AGAIN IN VENICE (REPRISE)
 
Close my eyes and they’d
arrest my pasty ass, call
me a public nuisance, and
book me on a malfeasance
grievance. Eyes open, though?
No problemo.
Wait, isn’t that
Spanish?
 
I’m bloated on pizzelles.
I’ve got this moldy anise
stink. Fifty-six sleepless oras
in the Venice streets.
Too low on soldi
to afford both
a hostel bed
and
a sugar high.
 
My teeth are as fuzzy
as the fluffy cattail
bristle of a bulrush.
Got no toothbrush.
No mouthwash neither.
Just a George Dickel fever,
bottle to my lips, cocked like a pistol.
 
My sister says I’m an ugly American tourist.
She’s a boorish Puritan absurdist.
What’s wrong with tipsy?
Aren’t I class act? 100%
Tennessee lass. Notes
of sour mash whiskey
on my breath. A crucifix
between my breasts.
My God loves me
whether or not
I piss and
pass out
in San Marco Square.
 
– Kirstin O’Connor 

poem #33

Snakes
 
BOUND IN COILS
 
Fox snakes, worm snakes, garter snakes, green snakes
brown snakes, milk snakes, kingsnakes, queen snakes,
black racers, blue racers, timber rattlers, rat snakes,
earth snakes, copperheads, copperbelly water snakes,
hog-nosed, red-bellied, ring-necked, ribbon snakes,
Kirtland’s, Massasauga, and smooth earth snakes
are the serpents of Ohio.
 
My son has caught at least one of each.
Every spring, he brings a specimen home,
puts it in a fish tank, feeds it a mouse, a goldfish,
or a big locust, and calls it his pet. You’d think
that’s the kind of childhood fun a boy should have.
But he’s nineteen and last year gave his fiancée
a baby rattler in a glass jar with a cheesecloth lid.
She screamed and dropped it. We’re lucky
it didn’t shatter, lucky the fabric didn’t rip.
It’s the babes of the bunch that don’t know
the punch they carry, that let loose
with every drop of venom from their glands.
 
This is what my son says. He’s a zoology major at Duke
and has been injecting trace amounts of fer-de-lance juice
every day for the past month to build up an immunity
so that he can handle the buggers quite literally
without worrying that he’ll die.
Already, he’s been bitten some twenty times
by everything from cotton mouths to cobras.
For the sake of my heart,
I wished he’d spare the details.
 
But for the sake of curiosity, I’m glad he tells me.
I’m the one who taught him to catch them in the first place,
to hold them just behind the head, to keep them from hurting themselves
or hurting him. I find their motions fascinating: Water moccasins swimming
or sidewinders shimmying across the sands of the Mojave desert.
In my dreams, I see hoop snakes, tails in their mouths,
wheeling across the plains. I could watch
a death adder slither
all the livelong day.
 
– Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #32

slick pig
 
SLICKER THAN A GREASED PIG
 
The real business behind the curtain
swallowed up that April’s sun as soon as it arrived.
 
Bad-luck-struck from the get-go, unable
to see the multitude for the tree-peoples
of personal hopes and dreams, we were
(simply put) only somewhere:
 
still behind the eight-ball of everything,
still the mocked sons of industry’s fallen king.
 
How long could we carry on just carrying-on?—
The carrion of a generation’s education
spread thin amongst the vultures of the information age?
 
How far would the veil be pulled up over
our heads before the slow satin of another era’s
dawning would drop fully down upon us?
 
Bleakness became us.  Built for the blunderbuss,
we were abandoned in the realm of the battle rifle.
 
The ballistics of corporate realities had us
rightly bought-out before our very eyes…
 
There once was a man who said
at the heart of any true endeavor
 
is a tethered ego and a willingness to release
that which is rightly ours to hold onto.
 
Yet to give up more
than that which belonged to us in the beginning
is an impossibility.
 
All we really ever had
was our own lives to live.
 
– Richard C. Armstrong III

poem #31

muldoon
 
WITH APOLOGIES TO PAUL MULDOON
 
In my opinion, New Yorker poetry is shit,
to say nothing of the shittier fiction.
So of course my friend’s piece
on transubstantiation
was accepted.
I had to congratulate her.
“Dear,” I said, “I think you can be
another serialized
hack now,
stripped
of vitality and identity
the rest of your pitiable life.”
To which she replied,
“Fuck you, Kirstin.
Fuck you.”
 
– Kirstin O’Connor

poem #30

tristeza
 
SORROW

How could you describe sorrow?
That deepest sorrow that demands silence, to
keep you from screaming.
I like to guard in my heart the good, the loving.
I weed to dig out what worries me, but now
I have to save it and it oppresses me,
sealing my mouth.
I hadn’t wanted to, to stay confident,
but I couldn’t.
How long can this last?
Why should this happen to me, when it
happens to no one else?
Did I do something wrong?
Too many times my mind has wandered
while I stand fixed in the same spot…
When it seems happiness will come over you,
the heart assualts you.
I never wanted to learn, but I realize that
the science of love is life and experience.
It is the absence of innocence.
 
– Kire (translated from the Spanish by Kire and Thomas McCafferty)
 
TRISTEZA
 
¿Como se podria describer la tristeza?
Esa tristeza profunda que hay que callar, que no
puedes gritar.
Me gusta guardar en mi corazon lo bueno, lo amoroso.
Suelo sacar afuera lo que me preocupa, pero ahora
tengo que guardarlo y me oprime.
Sellare mi boca.
Yo hubiera querido no hacerlo, tener confianza,
no se puede.
Cuanto tiempo durare asi?
Por que me tiene que suceder esto, que no les
sucede a nadie?
Tanto mal hice?
Tantas veces he partido
quedando fijo en el mismo lugar…
Cuando parece que se va acercar la felicidad,
te asaltan el corazon.
Nunca quise aprender, pero me doy cuenta que
La ciencia de la vida y del amor es la experiencia,
es la falta de inocencia.
 
– Kire
 

poem #29

conversations
 
CONVERSATIONS THAT MY FRIENDS WOULD HAVE IF THEY WERE HONEST WITH EACH OTHER
 
A:  “I like men who look good on paper.”
B: “But treat you badly in actuality.”
A: “I like to think I can mend them.”
 
B: “I like men who aren’t ambitious. Who are sweet when they’re with me.”
A: “And cheat vigorously when they’re away.”
B: “I have stunted self-esteem.”
 
C: “I like men who have bottomed out already and have zero expectations.”
D: “And never take you on vacations. Or buy you anything.
C: “I know what I won’t be getting.”
 
D: “I like men who like other men but are with me for religious reasons.”
C: “That and you dislike sex.”
D: “So what? Amen to that.”
 
– Kirstin O’Connor

poem #28

powers
 
THE POWERS THAT BE
 
Yesterday, my eighteen-year-old son met a Don,
which is strange to jot down.
Wouldn’t it have been better
if he’d met a dean?
 
Deans have no pull at smelting plants, he tells me.
Deans got me in this mess in the first place, he tells me.
He admits, The Don didn’t say a word or even nod
in acknowledgement.
 
Nonetheless, he got the job. How do you say
thank you to that kind of favor? Send over
homemade cider? Or write a letter
expressing your opinion
that your boy never
should have seen you
to begin with?
 
Now my son will have a lifetime of black lungs
because one summer he wanted to earn enough
to cover college and leave Ohio for good.
 
I think if I were to tell the Don, he’d laugh.
He’d say I’m in the emotional throws
of motherhood.
 
– Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #27

fox
FOXY
 
Reverence is a concept
that reminds me of lost objects
like the life-sized fox I sewed
and gifted to my first beau
when I was fifteen: a labor
of love, Nubuck, and deer leather,
filled with down feathers.
He collected that kinda thing.
 
I presented the fox with a bow
round its faux fur neck,
matching the collar I wore.
I was otherwise unadorned, buck-naked
and unawares I was bearded, too.
He thanked but didn’t fuck me,
and called me his buxom lady, but
what he wanted was a cocksy lad.
 
Now I wish I had had the sense
to cuckold my foxy beau
and keep my stuffed fox
in reverence for
the time I spent
mocking and chalking and
cutting and sewing it up.
 
– Kirstin O’Connor

poem #26

tuna eye
 
AHI EYE
 
It’s a heckuva
tuna flapping
on deck and
bleeding from
the gaff wound.
 
Wound up and
plenty still alive,
looking me over like
humanoid roadkill,
wanting to damn me
to some shitsphere.
 
Algiers comes to mind,
my UN buddy having
got hisself blowed
up and all apart
there via car
bomb
in ’07.
 
Fishy here’s
sure enough
murderous,
meaning to rise
up with the swell,
bring its muscle
to my face like
a ahi anvil, snap
my neck back.
 
Shitty luck for
Mr. Skipjack. ‘Cause
I got me this fileting
knife. And I got me
this appetite. And
I’m gonna be all
eating me sashimi
in the glory of
South Pacific 
sunlight.
 
– Ricky Henry Harris

poem #25

busses and peace large
 
BUSSES AND PEACE NO MORE
 
Every drop of blood reminds me
It was never in the cards
It was never in the stars
It was never in our future
I was never in your heart,
Save some little space reserved
For the temporary visitor
Like a guest house
Mother-in-law suite
Or drawer under your bed.
Run around the entire earth
Fifty times if you can
So slowly you ran
It was always your plan
To never find a home.
 
– Dominique R. Scalia

poem #24

Venice
 
SLEEPLESS AGAIN IN VENICE
 
Yawning under the Bridge of Sighs
feels tragically malaligned.
Alas…
 
– Kirstin O’Connor

poem #23

Ohio
 
OHIO
 
When he doesn’t touch me,
I think about the others
he may have known,
in the biblical sense,
in the Ardennes or
in Morocco
or in Turin.
 
He drove locomotives in the nights
from ‘42 to ’44, running
with no headlights,
not knowing
if dynamite
was on the tracks.
How can Steubenville
compare with that?
 
The only pictures he’s shown
depict him smoking
colorlessly with
infantrymen
in the shade
of buildings
that may have been
brothels, chickens
at their feet.
 
How do I measure with damen,
femmes, and donne?
Widowed, young,
saintly, or plain?
I wear a stained
apron.
Cynically,
I’d might as well be
a chambermaid.
 
How do I understand when
the worst thing I’ve done,
experientially speaking,
is put a bullet
in the brain
of a maimed
Paint Horse
when I was ten?
 
I’ve known him since age five,
but I would not fault indiscretions.
And I do not need confessions.
He didn’t woo me
until after the war.
Were those three
years a blessing
or a nightmare?
 
I will never ask directly.
He didn’t bargain for
forward questioning
when he bought me
a ring in 1945—
after he’d returned to
an empty home, his father
dead of a stroke, his mother
hanged on a rope, his brother
full of gin.
 
I’ve patched him up,
given him children,
washed his clothes,
cooked his meals.
At least he’s in
working order,
in the strict sense,  
driving trains again,
and futzing in the garage
with odds and ends.
 
He’s so busy now that he’s quiet.
He’s so quiet now that I worry.
Where are the girls he loved?
Where are the boys who died?
I’ve never seen him cry.
I’m not sure
I could bear it.
 
– Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #22

the professor
 
THE PROFESSOR THINKS ABOUT TURNING BACK
 
The rage of time inside the space
between his cupped hands and ears
was proof enough—he’d gone too far.
 
But it would be silly to turn back now,
halfway through a life, hunched over
at the long table in the cafeteria,
 
surrounded by gibbering omnivores
with their compartmentalized trays,
their divided lives…
 
He had a good chance at getting the Chair
if the Chair ever died. And his next book,
the important one—they’d expand
 
his Wikipedia entry. And what would he do
if he stood up right now and walked out, the pilaf
still steaming on his tray? Fishing?
 
TV? The Plebeians seemed to get by fine
with a six-pack and a lineup of celebrity game shows,
vampire sitcoms. He could blend right in.
 
The Korean man at the deli
wouldn’t think twice if he brought a bottle
of malt liquor to the register, asked for a pack
 
of Camel Lights. Thanks, Lee. See ya t’morrow.
And what would he be giving up?
After the lectures, the office hours,
 
the board meetings, the applications,
the hiring committee, applying for grants,
grading papers, reviewing the relevant journals,
 
after all that, to burn, to crave the unapportioned time
to sit down and what? Write his articles,
chase a fly around the room with a dish towel,
 
crack his neck, pace? And if he did give it up,
then at parties, when someone’s wife said,
And what do you do, Martin?
 
he could say, I work at the Port, offloading containers,
or, I run my own landscaping business. And she’d say,
No, you silly man, I mean, what do you do
 
do? What makes you get up in the morning?
And he would say, What do you mean?
And she would say, Never mind.
 
But of course, he wouldn’t be at parties like that,
at the parties he’d go to, no one would ask
what you do do. That would be nonsense.
 
But it wouldn’t be so easy as all that,
to get a job at the Port, start a business, etc.
And he’d put years of his life
 
into getting where he was now—a respectable position.
No, it would be silly to turn back now.
To turn away from the one thing he was good at.
 
Which was what, exactly? Obsessive
introspection? An unparalleled
ability to sit inside his own head
 
without going mad? Without going
mad? Without going mad?
Hello, class. I’d like to begin today’s lecture
 
with a thought experiment. Let us
imagine a man. He is just like me,
only older, and fatter, balder,
 
more able to get away with
being the acerbic asshole
he’s always been. He doesn’t drink.
 
He’s divorced. He wakes up at seven each day
and masturbates, before
making a pot of coffee, or plopping
 
a few ice cubes in the remnants
of yesterday’s pot. He eats
a bowl of cereal while grading the papers
 
he didn’t finish last night, he rushes to class,
discusses chapter six, catches himself staring
at the Chilean girl, gets flustered,
 
eats lunch by himself, arrives
at his afternoon lecture, locks the door,
puts a .38 special to his head
 
and says: What is happiness? Answer
in the form of a short essay. You have
until the end of the period.
 
– Horace Thursby Blandemeal, PhD

poem #21

morning omelets 
 
[MORNINGS SOME EAT OMELETS…]
 
Mornings, some eat omelets,
evenings, marrow stew.
Regardless of the hour,
I nibble only you.
 
The English dine on cod,
the French on croque-monsenieur.
But I am just a mutt,
and all I crave is you
 
Passover is gefilte fish,
Easter is spring ewe.
Is it irreligious if
the meat I munch is you?
 
-Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #20

canibalism
 
INTRA-SPECIES ANNIHILATIONIST QUANDARY
 
The other day, I got caught up in an ethics lecture, saying,
“Suppose a cannibal’s wife, full of pregnancy and
large with bursting breasts and belly,
has a stillborn as she enters labor.
Mr. Cannibal says, ‘Delicious!
What a tremendous mistake!
Mind if I wash her down
with a sip of colostrum?’
What should we think?
Let us say she acquiesces.
He begins nibbling,
sharing with his wife,
suckling her breasts,
holding some milk in his mouth,
kissing her, and dropping into her mouth
her own milk to compliment the meal.
Certainly, we have moved beyond
good taste, yes, but is the story
offensive to cannibals?
And does that matter?
Or are cannibals, like Nazis,
a group to whom we can attribute any evil
without self-reflective worry, morally speaking?
Of course we must analyze the evocation of ‘evil,’
but so what? I wish only to say, here we have man and wife
feasting on child, glugging on mother’s milk, and isn’t it
the least bit
funny?”
My professor
said to me, “No.”
 
– Kirstin O’Connor
 

poem #19

Begin again
 
BEGIN AGAIN
 
“It isn’t what I wanted,” he said.
“It isn’t quite perfect,” he said.
“This life isn’t fair to me,” he said.
“I think I’ll quit it.”
 
“Did you leave a note?” she asked.
“Did you give two weeks?” she asked.
“Is it fair to them?” she asked.
But he had bit it.
 
– Dominique R. Scalia
 

poem #18

beachfront psyche
 
BEACHFRONT PSYCHE
 
Asking too much of me, this life has never-the-less
made a turn for the better.
And I am as surprised as the next guy about it.
 
It’s not like I’m the most nominated film of the year,
but (speaking cinemaphorically) I’ve put the few million bucks worth
of butts in the seats it takes to break even.
 
Consumed by desire, I am going to give it all another try.
My self-hypnosis cassettes are rewound placebos:
My subconscious is crammed full of surface-level self-esteem.
 
Beauty is in the boredom, I think.
I think a lot too,
although that is a strange thing to say because
 
even always thinking of nothing
is a lot of thinking,
I think…
 
– Richard C. Armstrong III
 
 

poem #17

digging for love
 
DIGGING FOR LOVE
 
Rick Diamante was a Piemonte vintner
who loved currants and ginger.
He said he owned a diamond mine.
He asked if I would make him mine.
He wasn’t brilliant.
 
Greg Argentum jammed in Kingston.
He wooed me with a silver tongue.
He said he owned a silver mine.
He asked if I would make him mine.
I didn’t trust him.
 
John Aurum was from Harlem
where he lived in a gilded loft.
He said he owned a gold mine.
He asked if I would make him mine.
I found him soft.
 
Kyle Cuprum collected pennies
in the Spanish Pyrenees.
He said he owned a copper mine.
He asked if I would make him mine.
His love was tarnished.
 
I have no silver, copper, or diamond mines,
no golden valentines, no fortunes.
I’m a hard-hearted woman.
It’s just as well.
The man for me
is a man of steel.
 
– Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #16

i don't like you
 
I DON’T LIKE YOU
 
“I don’t like your poetry,” a man said to me the other day in the street.
“It’s all everyday observations. Dig for something more interesting.”
Yes, yes, I agreed. I’ll write some good confrontations next.
He walked off smiling. In retrospect, I see
my aesthetic sensibilities
killed the tension.
 
– Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #15

the pomeranian
 
THE POMERANIAN
 
The cod skins accounted for the stench,
which I knew, though I didn’t remove them.
“I’ll have to dispose of those fish,”
I told myself, day two,
between bourbons,
before drinking
two more.
 
The third afternoon, the skins transcended
into an olfactory veneer that made me
lightheaded. “Have some respect,”
I said. “Don’t be heroic,
persevering.
Take the
trash out.”
 
I met a Pomeranian, then, yapping at my step.
“Too late,” I told it. “The cod is bagged.
I’d bag you, too, if I wanted.”
It bounded at my heels
like the grease
that sparked
when I fried the filets.
 
I’d compare the pest to my ex-wife,
but she died; and my current wife
has separated (from me) bodily
into an alternate social ether,
more akin to carbon
monoxide
than a punky dog.
 
I’d compare it to Cobain’s hair or Warhol’s wig,
but Kurt and Andy have also passed
while the Pomeranian is vivaciously
wedging its pig-face through
my cracked door
as I take the trash
sack to the alley.
 
In its excitement, I’m sure the Pom will piss and retch
everywhere, as dogs do—the way my son used to
as an infant. I’ll coax it back
by extracting the skins
and flattening them
flesh-side up
on the doormat.
 
– Thomas McCafferty

poem #14

ballade
 
BALLADE
 
Brothers who live while we have died                        
Don’t turn hard hearts against us, we             
Are poor, and if you pity us    
God will sooner grant you mercy        
You see us dangling, five or six                                   
The flesh which once we so sated                               
Long since was eaten, is putrid                                               
Our bones are now ash and powder                                       
Let none laugh at we misfortuned                              
But pray God give us His pardon.                   
 
If we call you brothers, don’t deny                 
Don’t disdain, we were slain justly                 
For as you may know, by and by                                            
Not all men have sagacity                               
Then ask our pardon from Mary         
The Virgin’s son, since we are dead,                                       
See that his grace hasn’t wilted                       
That he keeps us from hell’s doldrums            
Let none harass us, we are dead                      
But pray God give us His pardon.       
 
The rain has rinsed us and dyed us                 
The sun left us blackened, blistery
Magpies and crows have scooped our eyes      
And torn our beards and eyebrows, we
Are never easy, resting free                             
Here, then there, as the wind is mended         
At its whim it blows us suspended                 
More pecked than thimbles of pewter
Don’t in our brotherhood be joined               
But pray God give us His pardon.       
 
Prince Jesus, of all empowered,                                  
From hell’s reach keep us unbounded             
With Satan we owe no payment                                 
Men, this is no joke that’s uttered                  
But pray God give us His pardon.       
 
– Francois Villon, translated from the French by Elliott Dawes

poem #13

animal dynamism
 
ANIMAL DYNAMISM
 
A woolly dog is under
my neighbor’s primrose bush
eyes closed, belly in the dust
 
every day in the same position
from which he’s never moved
though his hairs glisten in
 
and out of rhythm
so I’m pretty sure
he’s breathing.
 
– Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #12

not about the new prince
 
NOT ABOUT THE NEW PRINCE IN 17 LINES
 
“I hate topical poems,” she said. “Don’t you?”
Like about news? Yeah, but hang on a sec. I just read
that Will & Kate’s son was born eight pounds, six ounces
the same weight as Bailey, only sixty-eight days later.
 
“I hate overly referential poems,” she said.
Oh, the worst. Bad as stale Cheerios. Do you realize
this kid is so bald he actually makes Will look less bald?
They should name him, like, Mr. Potato Head.
 
“I hate metta poems,” she said.
All that self-referential crap?  Who even writes it?
I feel like tweeting nasty things at those sonsofbitches,
but in, like, a clever kind of way. With a rhyme scheme.
 
“I hate your poems,” she said.
I’m with you, there, sis. I mean, I’ll be with you
as soon as I’m done shredding this poem and
writing a new one for the new no-name prince,
 
that is, unless, #welcometotheworld sticks. 
 
– Thomas McCafferty

poem #11

roast chicken
 
[THE SHEEN OF PINK BREASTS AND PLUCKED SKIN]
 
The sheen of pink breasts and plucked skin
Peeked up from the roasting pan
You clucked, It’s a big hen
Then added rosemary and pepper
Shallots, thyme, and coriander
You bathed it in the Chardonnay
That I found fortuitously
You wanted white, not red
The bird mustn’t bake off color
 
I fell in love with chickens
Smothered in butter
 
I sometimes gauged us by the number
Of fowl we roasted and times we thundered
Against each other in the bed or kitchen
Dirtying oven pans and silk linen
One act as messy as the other
You roasted the chickens better
Than me—when I had cheddar
I bought the Champagne
 
You fell in love with me
You tired of that refrain
 
I tired of that refrain
We had nothing left to toast
No more chickens to roast
 
Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #10

jack and jill untold
 
JACK & JILL: THE UNTOLD STORY
 
Jack and Jill went up a hill
to pop a bunch of pills,
and Jack, bending back,
leaned o’er a pail of water.
But he wasn’t fetching it, no.
For in his hand, he held a crow,
And he was aholding its head under.
Jill gave Jack a smack and said,
“A crow’s a terrible thing to waste.
Let’s charge admittance.”
They painted a sign and the people
came and stood and gaped to see
the crow that would no longer breathe. 
Jack and Jill made more than a pittance
on that hill—but Jill’s ornery brother Phil
didn’t get a cent and in resentment
wrote the slander we all know:
that Jack fell down
and broke his crown
and Jill came
tumbling after.
In fact, Jack and Jill
bought more expensive pills,
kissed on windowsills,
and hung Phil
from a rafter.
 
– Kirstin O’Connor

poem #9

mfa blues
 
MFA BLUES
 
I said to her, “I wish I could undo my MFA. Don’t you?”
“Even college, I think, was a mistake,” she replied,
reading glasses obscuring her eyes.
“What if we’d been high school dropouts?”
“Wouldn’t that have made our writing vital?”
“I’ll create an avatar and name him Jason Parsons.”
“Don’t name him after a school,” she blurted out.
“Fine. I’ll name him Jason Mason.”
“I hate double first names. You’re trying too hard.”
“I know, but isn’t that something that someone who has no MFA would do?”
“Oh, name him Jason Jones, won’t you? JJ. He’s the kind of boy
I would have dropped out to be with.”
“You wouldn’t have for me?”
“You wouldn’t have let me.
You knew how important college was.”
“I miss college,” I said, sentimentally.
“Me too. And grad school. Workshops. Critiques.”
“We could re-enroll and get creative writing PhDs.”
“I used to think those were a joke. Doctor of writing.”
“Would people call us doctors?”
“We’d call each other doctors.”
“For about a day.”
“Let’s apply to the P-Town residency instead.”
“Oh let’s! Cape Cod and other writers. Artists.”
“Gay men and lesbians calling us breeders.”
“It would be so novel. So dreamy.”
“So dreary. So fantastically bleak.”
“In that Virginia Woolfish way.”
“We would be so cool.”
 
– Thomas McCafferty

poem #8

Cowboys and Candy
 
COWBOYS AND CANDY
 
His hair in tornadoes twists
his breath touched with a Mint Julep
his tongue, his lips, his whirlwind kiss
wrangle me to heavenly bliss.
 
– Casey Whittaker

poem #7

Kodachrome Days 
 
KODACHROME DAYS
 
In my applesauce was the face of God.
I fished out my Nikon
and a fresh film roll.
Wouldn’t you know,
I overexposed the shot.
“You made a green God white,”
my sister said. “Miraculous.
Easier for the masses to digest.”
But He was already pretty palatable,
I mean, my God, He tasted good.
 
 – Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #6

Elephantine Ponderings
ELEPHANTINE PONDERINGS
 
My newborn son wears a surprising number
of shirts printed with pachyderms.
My wife calls them cuuuute.
But is it paranoid to see
political conspiracy?
 
I mean, he’s never decked in donkey-dappled Polos—
am I unwittingly rearing the next Marco Rubio?
And is that bad? Isn’t it, from a certain light,
admirable that the GOP has invested so (top)heavily
in dressing our future generations?
 
“No, it’s creepy,” my wife tells me.
She has an answer for everything. She says,
“But the Dems are just as bad, my darling.
They back the nudist child movement.
Literally. Asses bared.”
 
– Thomas McCafferty

poem #5

Babylonian Gestures
 
BABYLONIAN GESTURES
 
I swear, the latest malfunction in the marketplace must be
a serious calf-cramp for whichever Last Atlas is supporting
the working class in a constant sphere of semi-solvency.
 
Down State Route 101 there is a sign for disposable body parts, $3.39/lb.
I drove past it eight times a summer, for eight summers before
buying $216 worth.  I bought it more out of pity for the struggling
body-part-harvester than I did out of a need for anything extra or disposable…
 
After quickly eliminating any immediate strategic uses
for extra body parts, I began to call into question the merits of
charity-consumerism; picking my nose with a pinky
selected at random from a bag  marked “MISC. FINGERS”
and making out a mental list of good friends deserving a call
from me that week, I drove away from the carcass-stand internally conflicted.
 
I began to wonder why it is so difficult to feel sympathy for the dead,
while, conversely, it is those living with a healthy ac/dc
of self loathing and self praise who, sympathetically,
find difficulty in the day to day.
 
Not surprisingly, the economics of ethical living
began to overwhelm me. I felt it was time for me to be rid
of the spare appendages. “Certainly,” I thought,
“there are charities that can turn anything harvestable
into a resource for rescue organizations.”
 
But then I thought, “Isn’t it better to drive
to the city, parcel up the appendages,
and sell them at an emergency
retail price to quack doctors in need?” 
 
So I stopped for ice to keep my flesh fresh,
then drove home.  That afternoon, I began to sell the spare parts
around town.  Before long I was down to a couple fingers and a leg.
 
The next morning I received a phone call from a street doctor
who had an uninsured patient— a former soldier, discharged while
still in Iraq, in need of a new knee cap.  I said I had one and could deliver.
 
The doctor thanked me profusely.  His patient, he said,
had been wounded by an explosion when his Unit failed
to fire soon enough upon a young boy with a hand grenade. 
 
The boy, he said, was trained by his parents to taunt American soldiers—
singing, dancing, getting closer and closer;
holding the grenade over his head,
pulling the pin in and out with his slender, boyish,
middle finger held high…
 
– Richard C. Armstrong III

poem #4

Rilke poem
 
[SEEK TO NOT UNDERSTAND LIFE…]
 
Seek to not understand life
for then it will become like a celebration.
And let each day happen to you
just like a child, with the passing of the breeze,
is given a cluster of blossoms.
 
To gather up and save them –
this never enters the child’s mind.
He shakes them softly from his hair,
where they were so happily captured,
and holds out his hands anew
to the glorious years of his youth.
 
This poem was written by Rainer Maria Rilke and translated from the German by Matthew Saks
 

poem #3

The Fall of Jesse James
 
THE FALL OF JESSE JAMES
 
I bought a mirror for twenty bucks
that’s smaller than a Cadillac
but bigger than a Buick.
 
My calico toppled it, broke it,
and brought me seven years bad luck.
 
In the slivers on the ground,
I thought I saw a gunslinger on a chair,
unaware that his buddy had a gun to his neck.
 
I wanted to say, “Hey, Jesse, look quick.”
But I tripped and cut my hand.
 
Damn the cat.
 
– Evelyn B. Hirschworth

poem #2

Ode to Bailey
 
ODE TO BAILEY
 
Home, hearth, a piecemeal Jacuzzi,
and Harry Potter DVDs playing ceaselessly,
preludes to the first mewls;
Mom and me sit in tub or on toilet,
listening to the midwife impatiently:
Push, push, push a little more
 
Eighteen hours’ labor and no son:
Speed to the OR, to epidural injections,
a C-section—wifey on the table, scalpel
at her navel, belly bronzed, legs splayed,
a turkey; the anesthesiologists say
Does that feel cold? Does it pinch?
 
A grand entrance: bloody glory,
eight pounds, six screaming at me,
expanding cat-sized lungs; the brunette nurse
lets me cut the umbilical that was already cut;
the blond nurse prays; Bailey lays on his mother,
And like he was born to, takes her breast.
 
 – Thomas McCafferty

poem #1

Custom Bailey pics

 
BAILEYS
 
Bailey, from the Middle English bayles,
bayles being the outer walls
of medieval castles.
 
O bayle, grant us asylum lest we perish!
 
Bailey, from the Latin balium,
meaning something along the lines of heather thatch.
 
O balium, be our roofing!
 
Bailey, homophone of baillie,
which has to do with stewardship
or jurisdiction.
 
O baillie, show us scribblers lenience!
 
– Brent McCafferty