Monday, January 21, 2013

Photos from The Worcester Review #33 Launch Party

Thank you to everyone who attended The Worcester Review #33 Launch Party on Sunday, January 20, 2013!
 
The event focused on a celebration of Chris Gilbert with a panel led by Jonathan Blake (Panelists: John Hodgen, Mary Bonina, and David Williams). The panelists shared their past memories of Chris, the poetry community of the late 70s and early 80s, and the story of how the Free Peoples Workshop was initiated based on a request by poet Etheridge Knight right before he left Worcester.
 
At the end of the event, members of the audience shared their favorite Chris Gilbert poems. Catherine Reed also shared her poem in memory of Chris, which was published in Issue 33.
 
Here are a few of the pictures captured at yesterday's event.
 








Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Worcester Review Issue #33 Launch Party - Today!

The Worcester Review Issue #33 Launch Party: A Celebration of Chris Gilbert
Today, January 20, 2013 @ 1:00 p.m.
Worcester State University
Student Center Blue Lounge



Come celebrate the launch of The Worcester Review's latest issue, #33 "Chris Gilbert: Into the Emerging Landscape" with a panel discussion and readings honoring poet Chris Gilbert. Featured will be former members of the People's Poets and Artists Workshop, in which Gilbert took part in Worcester, MA in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Join us in the WSU Student Center Bue Lounge

• Live music/welcome

• Words about issue #33 by Diane Vanaskie Mulligan

• Panel with John Hodgen, Mary Bonina, and David Williams

• Q&A

• Readings of Chris Gilbert's poems by those who wish to share

• Food and conversation

 

Sample Poems: Volume 32, Numbers 1 and 2

Local News
By Charles Edward Mann

Kindled, the fire fed itself,
seething, ebullient on blistered wood,

fuming and reeking in the humid night.
The crimson sky above the house

pinwheeled and snapped in shingle
blast, roof twist,

the blaze of burning air.
At the head of the stairs

three small boys,
Jontae, Andre, Fontel,

held each other
and screamed. Transcalent,

the steps sagged and gave way.
Illuminate and hot blooded,

their tiny hearts were cauterized.
But on their mother’s tongue

their names remain
as vowels, incombustible.



For the Last Catamount
By Ralph Culver


The round, descending
eye of fire narrows down
the gunsight valley.
A hawk hangs perfectly still,
then sheers toward the river.

Day-heavy, lazing
on a warming rock, the gold
head of teeth and thick-
lidded opals shifts, yawning
under the sun’s attentions.

Her paws go soft now.
She dozes. Skirling blackflies
and the quick water’s
reassuring purl meld to
a rustle of parting growth.

She recognizes
what can only be summoned
in dreams: his likeness
driven from and nearing her.
He stands in wait by the trees.

Night and hunger, one
being, will fall soon enough,
patiently hunting
the mouth of the river to
follow the valley upstream.

She wakens without
expectation. Water, kill,
sleep, the passing light—
the labors of a daily
birth, in a world of endings.



Heuristics, Not Facts
By William Doreski


Two weeks before Easter, John Milton
haunts me, his big square head
popping up like a crocus,
his copy of Paradise Regained,
worn out by handling but unseen
in his blindness, thrust before me

like a dead tongue lolling. The light,
Einstein noted, moves in waves
but also composes itself
in particles. A heuristic,
he said, not a fact. A way
of thinking, not a finished thought.

Einstein should meet John Milton
in a churchyard in the Cotswold
where tourists snap digital
photos of mossy gravestones,
catching the wave. Milton would note
the timbre of Einstein’s accent

and decide from which German city
he derives. Einstein would note
the oceanic feeling embossed
in Milton’s bedrock countenance
and realize that converting him
to the terms of quantum physics

would require more energy
than a solar year produces.
Two weeks before Easter I’m sure
I believe neither that Jesus rose
nor that light makes both particles
and waves. Ecumenical

to the core, I reject history,
myth, and physics, and focus
on the next opening of the door,
on whether Milton reappears,
or Einstein, or maybe Freud stroking
his terrible pubic beard,

or Darwin come to observe
my mating or lack of mating
habits. I have to stop reading
the books that have fractured me
into prismatic colors
too distinct to ever rejoin

the plain white flow of photons
Milton lost when he lost his sight.
At least he saved himself from theses
like Newton’s, Darwin’s, and Einstein’s—
page after page darkening the world
like dusty Venetian blinds.

Sample Poems: Volume 31, Numbers 1 and 2

With My Last 20 Dollars
By Donavon Campbell


With my last 20 dollars
I’d fill my tank
and hit I-70 heading East.
After 35 minutes I’d pass the Regal Inn,
where I used to joke
the mayor had his whores,
then I’d hit route 13
and get off going South
past that lonely red house
surrounded by petrol depots
with the “for sale” sign in its window
that comes and goes
but always has the same number,
and in a few minutes 13 opens up
and I cruise through miles
of that good ol’ Ohio farmland,
I cut through fields
smooth green like bed sheets
populated only by the occasional,
solitary tree
ready-made for poetry,
the kind of spots
that make me want to stop,
write a sonnet for the grazing cattle
then lean my head back
and dream
because for that instant
I am Wordsworth, Frost, Blake.
Soon enough
I hit Somerset,
a small town
with a round-about square
where people stop and wave politely
as they yield to the right,
where the elementary school
sits directly across Main Street
from the church
and just past the bait shop
up on the right
sits General Sheridan’s house
with its humble pillars
and quaint Victorian charm
and the people of Somerset
keep it just like it was
because they’re still proud.
After that it’s a hard left on 669
and I weave through foothills
like my dad used to
still holding my breath
as I pass the cemetery on the hill,
still doing a double-take
at the old white house
with its wall of solar panels,
still wondering
what life must be like
for the kids who grow up here
and go to Crooksville High
as I catch sight of it
on that small stretch of 96.
Then it’s 669 again
and a few miles
of flannelled men
on rotted front porches
before the right turn on 555
and the only pop machine in Deavertown
and the last turn of the journey,
a vague left
on route 3,
Stub road
that bends around Sharky’s place
with his baying hounds
and then I break through
the final wall of trees
that mark the end of the world
and the beginning of
Campbell land
because there are ghosts here,
voices I recognize
that I’ve never heard.
The spirit of a black dog named Bear
watches over these fields
big as a horse
protective as an old grey wolf,
I feel her running
along side the car
at the edge of the road,
I see her in glimpses,
shimmers of the dying light
that flicker past the window
until I slow
and come to a stop
in the gravel
across the road from the house.
Somewhere along this stretch
Stub turns into
Tridelphia Road,
the address on the mailbox
reads 10110
so funny
to find binary code
in a place like this.
Getting out of the car
I head first to the smithy
where they used to make their tools
holding itself up
mouth wide open
among Oak trees
whose very roots
break through its foundation
and climb bracingly
up walls of wood planks
so old
I have to strain my eyes
just to see the grain,
in here there is a scythe
forged by hands long dead
their departure marked by years of rust
on a brittle-dusted blade,
in here there are shelves
filled with screws
blackened by age
placed generations ago,
perhaps lost
only to be found
on this evening
long after the task is done.
I pocket a few
as I leave
and head up to the house
glancing briefly
at a pile of lumber
that used to be a barn as well,
a place where once
rugged fingers milked cows
and threw slops to swine,
where Ivor took his whiskey,
and where men,
not so long ago,
drank beer together
and, with blood-wet numbing fingers,
skinned deer by flashlight.

Walking past the house
there is a bench swing
in the yard
where I sat once
with my fiancé
and my father
eating blackberries
picked off the land
from a milk carton
with its top cut off,
and there is a pump
to draw drinking water
from a well gone dry
only an ornament now,
its tin cup still hanging
painted red
its lever,
no longer useful
painted blue
and I hesitate a moment
as I pass the door to the porch
and I don’t want to go inside,
I came from there,
from the indoors.
I make my way past
the small shed,
“the hunting lodge,”
littered with the corpses
of thousands of houseflies,
Ladybugs and Yellowjackets
swept clean but once a year,
each November,
to be used for a week
then forgotten
until deer season comes again.
I walk up the hill
that crests behind the house
under the arms of a great Birch,
and that is where I rest,
sitting on a log
balanced on its end
next to a cold fire pit.
I close my eyes and listen—
out here the wind
plays the fields like a flute,
a song unique
from any other wind
traveling any other place
its touch musses my hair
and chills me
as I wait,
my last 20 dollars spent
not knowing where I’ll go
but knowing where I am.



Twice Möbius
By Salvatore Attardo


I) Möbius Trips


One day, walking in his neighborhood,
In what he took to be uniform space, Möbius tripped.
Being near the Albertine library,
A crowd assembled, to assist the illustrious professor
Who’d sprained his ankle.
A young woman brought a glass of schnapps
And, this being Leipzig, in 1820, blushed.
Möbius saw and understood.
They married just three months later,
She already pregnant with their first child,
Möbius smiling and wearing an oddly knotted tie.


II) Möbius Strips


Thirty-eight years after these facts
Möbius is in his bedroom,
His wife snores softly in bed;
He sets down the candle
And looks with affection.
Möbius feels a stirring and starts untying his tie.
But the knot resists. He gets nervous.
“Why will this knot not untie?”
Möbius pauses and collects himself.
“Surely this tie will come loose
If only I twist it the right way.”



Playing for Rabbits
By T. Alan Broughton


When I was raking the lawn
a woman stopped to say,
Are you the one who plays the piano?

I confessed. Everyday she walks slowly
up the street, then back in half an hour.
We’ve smiled before, praised the weather.

One morning I saw a rabbit on your lawn
sitting up, listening. We both did.
It was still listening when I left.

Next day I opened the window wide.
This time three came, an old fellow, gray
in the muzzle, others blinking but attentive.

They left when I quit. All night
I tried to sleep, stay calm.
What, I wondered, does a rabbit hear?

Do they prefer Mozart to Bach?
Will they listen again, shake their heads,
wander off to the neighbors’ yards

where on a sultry evening blues twang
from some kid’s guitar? Isn’t Classical
dead? I woke, looked at the empty lawn,

went down as sun burned off the dew,
and began. They came slowly, by threes
and fours. I tried not to fluff notes,

played Bach, saw by solemn twitch
of many noses they understood intentions
were as important as polish.

For days they brought their kin,
even telling the snowshoes to travel
from their lonely fields into the city.

Soon they began clapping their ears,
a soft rubbing of fur I could hear
only because so many cheered me on.

When I tried Chopin or Brahms
they began to graze, some even dozing
as if bored. Only Goldberg would do.

And so I gave them each variation,
starting at dawn’s first, soft light.
The old one’s eyes pooled with tears each time

I unwound the tangled, plangent twenty-fifth,
that Black Pearl of wisdom even trees
held their leaves a little longer to hear.

Then came first frosts, clanking of steam
in heating pipes, and when snowflakes
turned our world into a shaken ball

where rabbits, the house, the naked trees
were quaint as a Christmas card,
they left with numerous progeny,

having coupled often on our golden mornings,
until one day I closed the keyboard’s lid,
came to the window still cracked open,

stared into the cleft-lipped face of the old one,
and we listened alone together to the variation
we loved, played only in our minds,

knowing, come spring, he wouldn’t be there,
the dream gone back to live in the music
which on some mornings the walking woman shared.

Sample Poems: Volumes 30, Numbers 1 and 2

Wren
By Michael D. Riley


I would choose the wren’s day,
first wash of morning, bloom and clear.
Gold leaf evening, when night delays
each edge, then spreads like water.

I would be brisk about it, too,
small and purposeful as a girl
playing house, quick as a piccolo
over the world’s stops and scales.

I will ventriloquize,
surround their house with sound
immanent and rare. For eyes
I will give them ears, just found.

I will sing with a voice
three times my size, fill the season
with turned heads and pure choice.
Beauty is the reason

we will mistake for instinct
the hymn of transition.
Dawn and dusk the same distinct
summation from the lowest limb.



Nos Pinokia
By Ewa Chrusciel




 



 

Pinocchio’s Nose
For Stasys Eidrigevicius
(translated by Katarzyna Jakubiak and Ewa Chrusciel)


Pinocchio gains self-knowledge
Pats necessity gently on its shoulder
If he allows, his nose
Will become useful
Serve as a sailboat mast
Or for a grandma to hang her shopping bag



The Horatio Alger Story
By Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
When you hear the phrase “Horatio Alger story”—describing someone who succeeds with nothing but honesty, industry, and ambition—you may think it refers to a fictional hero. Instead it denotes the author of over a hundred such tales, called Horatio Alger, Jr., to distinguish him from his father.[1] Alger (1832-1899) was once among the most popular writers in America; that is no longer the case, but his name lives on as shorthand for the attitudes and values conveyed by his books. Some readers turn it into an adjective—as in “the Algerian concept of the infinite possibility in this country for the enterprising” (Behrman v)—and some into nouns like “Algerism” or “Algerology” (Garrison 327, 329). Others use it to promote his philosophy. The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans gives Horatio Alger Awards to public figures for “remarkable achievements accomplished through honesty, hard work, self-reliance and perseverance over adversity”; it also distributes millions of dollars in scholarships, encouraging students “to pursue their own version of the American Dream” (“About”). The Horatio Alger Society, another organization, aims “To further the philosophy of Horatio Alger, Jr. and to encourage the spirit of Strive and Succeed that for half of a century guided Alger's undaunted heroes” (“Welcome”). As Richard Weiss observes, “This timid writer of children’s stories somehow became identified with the golden age of American plutocracy. A later generation used his name to symbolize the spectacular success that was possible” then (48-49).
Even those acquainted with Alger as the author of novels like Ragged Dick may not know that he grew up in Central Massachusetts. Alger has been associated with Marlborough since his family moved there in 1844, when he was twelve. The History of the Town of Marlborough—commissioned to mark the town’s 200th anniversary, in 1860, by a three-person committee which included Alger’s father (Hudson vi)—contains a “Marlborough Bicentennial Ode” that he wrote for the occasion (Hudson 508-509). Ella Bigelow, in Historical Reminiscences of the Early Times in Marlborough, identifies Alger as the town’s “author of juvenile literature”—although she bestows more praise on his sister, suffragist Olive Augusta Alger Cheney, for her “intellectual gifts and versatile pen” (30). The Marlborough Historical Society owns a collection of his novels, and the Marlborough Public Library keeps Alger materials in its archives. In 2006, however, the town decided to rename the annual Horatio Alger Street Fair after officials learned about the “historic allegations of pedophilia” once lodged against him (Maguire).[2]
Up by One’s Bootstraps: Working in Marlborough
The opening essays in this collection trace the region’s influence on Alger. As Gary Scharnhorst explains in “Horatio Alger, Jr., and Marlborough, Massachusetts,” Alger always considered that to be his hometown. Scharnhorst draws on Alger’s own descriptions of Marlborough to convey the impression it made upon him. At the time, according to local historian John Bigelow, it “was embarking on a career as an industrial town with shoes as the principal business—made in small, isolated shops which employed in each maybe ten people. As this business prospered, larger shops were erected” (qtd. in Weiss 50). Scharnhorst shows that many of Alger’s novels are set in similar small, pre-industrial New England towns.
One such town is “Lakeville,” where Bert Barton, the hero of Five Hundred Dollars, works in a shoe-shop. The novel’s first chapter, “A New Arrival in Lakeville,” appears below. It not only illustrates Alger’s habitual style, characterization, and plotting, but also suggests his view of Marlborough as a rural and manufacturing community. Indeed, the focus on Bert’s uncle—who comes back to Lakeville after making a fortune elsewhere—may express Alger’s thoughts of returning to his own hometown. In 1889, when Five Hundred Dollars appeared as a serial, he too was successful, but his family had left Marlborough over twenty years earlier.
Carol Nackenoff’s essay, “Keeping New England’s Factories off Limits: Horatio Alger’s Erasure of the Industrial Landscape,” examines Alger’s fictional treatment of the shoe-shops and other manufactories that flourished in Marlborough during his youth. She points out that the typical Alger hero seldom works in a factory—and when he does, plot incidents conspire to get him away from there as soon as possible. Nackenoff’s essay explores the reasons why Alger felt, as she puts it, that “the factory was not a good place to deposit heroes.”
Even so, Alger’s fiction often alludes to his hometown’s major industry, from shoe-shops to bootblacks to pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. “Entrepreneur,” a contemporary poem about work in a Central Massachusetts shoe factory by Mary Fell, offers a sardonic take on the resourceful, practical spirit shown by Alger’s protagonists.
A Man’s Worth: Class and Gender in the Gilded Age
Like many novelists, Alger began as a poet, writing odes and occasional verse at Harvard, where he graduated in 1852. His first book was a collection of didactic stories and poems, Bertha’s Christmas Vision (1855); the second, a satirical poem entitled Nothing to Do: A Tilt at Our Best Society (1857). An excerpt from Nothing to Do shows that even at the beginning of his career, in a work in another genre, aimed at an adult audience, Alger was already concerned with the issues of poverty, social class, virtue, and manliness that dominate his juvenile fiction.
Alger’s satirical poem thus introduces themes explored by our next two contributors. Lisa Fluet’s essay, “The Unsocial ‘Purfessional’: Revisiting Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick,” focuses on the novel, first serialized in 1867, that established Alger’s reputation as a writer for children. Fluet shows how Dick’s success is linked to his philanthropic gestures toward other boys; meanwhile, he shifts to middle-class status by casting himself as “professional,” even if others resent him for separating himself from them. Drawing on analyses of social class by Paul Krugman and Bruce Robbins, Fluet compares Alger’s story to Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld’s recent novel about a scholarship student at a New England boarding school.
Carol J. Singley also examines how one of Alger’s protagonists moves between classes. In “Horatio Alger’s Tattered Tom: A Tale of Two Genders,” she considers the case of Tom, an orphaned street boy in Alger’s 1871 novel who is actually a girl named Jane. Singley argues that nineteenth-century stories about adoption were highly gendered: male orphans learn to make their own way, thanks to help from mentors, while girls settle into domesticity and are reunited with birth families. Singley shows how Alger shifts back and forth from the boy’s plot to the girl’s plot in Tattered Tom, in keeping with the apparent changes in Tom’s gender.
Hometown Heroes: Role Models and Readers
The next two essays consider Alger’s writing in the context of others’ lives in Central Massachusetts. John Anderson’s essay, “Models and Mirrors: Alger’s Worcester Contemporaries,” discusses Alger’s three biographies of self-made men, beginning with From Canal Boy to President, a life of James Garfield (1881). He establishes their basic plot, which parallels that of Alger’s novels: a poor boy succeeds against all odds, thanks to hard work, good character, and the assistance of a kindly older man. Anderson finds these elements in the lives of some of Alger’s local contemporaries, suggesting that Alger could have written similar biographies about figures like Matthew Whittall or David Hale Fanning.
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney’s essay concerns autobiography as well as biography. “Borrowing Privileges: Horatio Alger, S. N. Behrman, Milton Meltzer, and the Worcester Public Library” explains that Alger’s heroes often study books—including the lives of successful men—to improve themselves. S. N. Behrman and Milton Meltzer reveal in their memoirs that they were similarly inspired, as poor immigrant children in Worcester, by reading Alger. Poor children, however, depended on public libraries for books, and the Worcester Public Library banished Alger from its shelves in 1907. Eventually, Behrman and Meltzer became successful writers, too, and now the library owns works by all three authors.
Alger was already dead—of heart disease, in 1899—by the time that Behrman and Meltzer read his stories. Few children are familiar with Alger today; his books are more likely to be studied by scholars or hoarded by collectors. (The illustrations in this feature section, ranging from engraved frontispieces to covers of dime novels, indicate the various forms in which his work appeared over a fifty-year period.) The conditions that Alger described still exist, however, including children who are orphaned, homeless, poor, or otherwise needing to make their own way in the world. Two poems by Eve Rifkah—describing a child’s experiences in Massachusetts, several generations after Alger grew up there—provide a poignant comparison to his tales of luck and pluck. “Picnic” and “Escape” recount incidents in which “the kid” finds momentary respite from a hardscrabble life, first on a trip to the country and then at a public library. The perspective of Rifkah’s young protagonist helps to explain why the “Horatio Alger story”—with its themes of hope, charity, independence, and upward mobility—was once so popular among millions of American children.






Works Cited
“About the Horatio Alger Association.” http://www.horatioalger.com/aboutus.cfm. Accessed 10 August 2009.
Alger, Horatio, Jr. Bertha’s Christmas Vision: An Autumn Sheaf. Boston: Brown, Bazin, and Company, 1856.
-----. Five Hundred Dollars; or, Jacob Marlowe’s Secret. 1890. Chicago: M. A. Donohue, n.d.
-----. From Canal Boy to President; or, The Boyhood and Manhood of James A. Garfield. 1881. Philadelphia: Archibald Press, 2009.
-----. “Marlborough Bicentennial Ode.” 1860. Hudson, History 508-509.
-----. Nothing to Do: A Tilt at Our Best Society. Boston: J. French, 1857.
-----. Ragged Dick; or, Street Life in New York with the Boot-Blacks. Boston: A. K. Loring, 1868.
-----. Tattered Tom; or, The Story of a Street Arab. 1871. Philadelphia: Henry T. Coates, n.d.
Behrman, S. N. “Two Algers.”Strive and Succeed: Julius; or, The Street Boy Out West and The Store Boy; or, The Fortunes of Ben Barclay. By Horatio Alger, Jr. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1967. v-xii.
Bigelow, Ella A. Historical Reminiscences of the Early Times in Marlborough, Massachusetts, and Prominent Events from 1860 to 1910. Marlborough, MA: Times Publishing, 1910.
Garrison, Dee. “Cultural Custodians of the Gilded Age: The Public Librarian and Horatio Alger.” Journal of Library History 6 (1971): 327-36.
Hudson, Charles. History of the Town of Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. From its First Settlement in 1657 to 1861. Boston: T. R. Marvin and Son, 1862.
Maguire, Ken. “Alger’s Past Leading Marlborough to Reconsider Name of Fair.” Boston Globe 22 Sept. 2006. http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2006/09/22/algers_past_leading_marlborough_to_reconsider_name_of_fair/ Accessed 12 August 2009.
Scharnhorst, Gary, with Jack Bales. The Lost Life of Horatio Alger, Jr. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.
Weiss, Richard. The American Myth of Success: From Horatio Alger to Norman Vincent Peale. New York: Basic Books, 1969.
“Welcome to the Horatio Alger Society.” http://www.thehoratioalgersociety.org/ Accessed 10 August 2009.


[1] I am grateful to librarians and staff at the American Antiquarian Society, the College of the Holy Cross, the Marlborough Historical Society, the Marlborough Public Library, the Syracuse University Library, and the Worcester Public Library for their help. Thanks, also, to the scholars and poets who contributed their work and to the production staff at The Worcester Review.
[2] As Gary Scharnhorst and Jack Bales explain in their definitive biography, Alger was accused in 1866 of engaging in sexual acts with adolescent boys while serving in his first post as a Unitarian minister in Brewster, Massachusetts. The church agreed not to press matters further if Alger left the ministry altogether, which he did (1-3, 66-67). Alger, who had already begun writing for children, devoted himself to a career as an author of juvenile fiction and as a philanthropist who improved conditions for newsboys and other child laborers.

Sample Poems: Volume 29, Numbers 1 and 2

For The Hell Of It
By John Hodgen


Saturday afternoon, drunk already on the surprise sixty degree January sunlight
and the two scorpion bowls we just left empty as churches inside the Ho Toy,
not like the churches in the game we used to play with our hands when we were kids,
here is the church, here is the steeple, turn it all over and here’s all the people,
but totally empty, drained, even the fruit sucked dry, like two fishing boats abandoned,
the pink and blue straws like fishing poles hanging out over the sides. I mean Roanoak empty,
empty as hell, like the Mary Celeste, that ship they found floating out at sea with no one
aboard, the captain’s log filled, the table all set, the people nowhere to be found.
We toddle our way across the Great Plains of the worn and cracked parking lot
and you ask how many years we’ve been coming here and whether I will ever tire
of making the reservations under the name of the Donner Party. I say I feel a little like
the Donners right now coming down from the Sierra Nevadas after the luncheon buffet.
We squint stupid like Bush at what’s left of the rest of the day and wonder why anyone
ever drinks this much this early, or better yet, why everyone doesn’t, the day turned to lint,
horsefeathers, fuzz, the day rode hard already and put away wet, the day pretty much shot,
or at least winged a little, the day narrowed, divided into good driver, bad driver, drunk,
non-drunk, us vs. them, the other poor bastards who’d better get out of our way.
And I remember the day in junior high when we elected a bad class president,
when the word had spread from the snitches to the teachers to the extent that both
the principal and the vice-principal showed up at the meeting to talk us all out of it,
to warn us of the dangers inherent in voting that way, to strive in our hearts, in our better
selves against even considering the punk kid with green hair who had promised free beer
in the Coke machines and a class trip to Hell Mountain at the end of the year, but we did it
anyway, just for the hell of it, to fulfill perhaps the infinite prophecies of all our elementary
school teachers who had been screaming for years that we were all nothing but trouble,
that this class was different, to the degree that people all over town were actually wondering
what our parents had been up to nine months to the day before we arrived, the power outage
along the East Coast perhaps, all our parents having gone to bed early that night,
drunk and disorderly, except for one couple, the parents of the good kid, the one wearing
glasses, the one with perfect attendance, the one we didn’t vote for, the one we left standing
on the stage by himself, who, for all intents and purposes is standing there still,
tears in his eyes, looking at us, wondering who the hell we think we are.



Laundry
By Cynthia Snow


You come to me at a bad moment (because
they are all bad moments, really, or so instinct
tells me). You lean across the table, place one hand
on each side of my face, my arms folding laundry.
It always begins like this. There is the moment,
and there is me considering the moment. I consider
your hands. Warm. I consider the morning sunlight
slanting across the room. Hazy and bright. I consider
the laundry. Wrinkled. I consider the papers waiting
on my desk, the tasks I’ve listed on the 24 lines
for each day in my pocket planner, the inevitable
pick up of children at 3:15, dinner, clean up,
phone calls. Most days, I look you in the eye,
kiss your lips, then swish you away. Today,
I tell my instinct to go to hell. I tell it
what my 6-year-old daughter once yelled, “You
are not the boss of me.” I close my eyes,
tell myself, “These are his hands.” I hold them.
I circle the table, press my cheek to his neck,
tell myself, “This is his blood, pulsing
through his body.” I adjust the length of me
along the length of him, rib cage to rib cage,
hip to hip, tell myself, “This is his breath
moving into his lungs. This is his breath
leaving his body, breath damp and circling
in rhythm with mine.” I stretch my arm
around his middle, tell myself, “This
is his belly. It is benevolent.” I hear,
"Take this. It is my body, and it is good."



Katie and the Poet
By Curt Curtin


Isn’t he grand?
The man has such a way with words,
how they flow like god’s own thoughts
from somewhere you wouldn’t be likely to know.
And he does it all with bits of talk
scattered about like a cunning puzzle
instead of a thought you could get all at once.
It’s deep he is,
and learned in things you wouldn’t understand
any more than a goat in church.
Ah, but wasn’t that a grand poem he wrote,
full of words that I haven’t heard more than
twice in my life.
And he read it all with such wonderful feeling,
you’d swear to god he was a priest.
My Tim was making eyes all the while,
but I can tell you I was deeply moved.
The whole thing just flowed, like water over a bog,
a river of words and not a one of them too plain.
I wasn’t all that sure of his meaning, but
I get the drift, as they say of fog in the morning.
We shouldn’t be too proud, you see,
pretending to know all the deep things
a man like that could say.
Still, I wonder, does he talk that way all the time?
It must be a fine headache for his wife
to be always thinking,
what does he mean?and does he expect an answer?

Sample Poems: Volume 28, Numbers 1 and 2

For the Man Who Practices His Saxophone In The Apartment Next Door
By Tom Fitzgerald


Ignore the calls and complaints.
Keep practicing Coltrane through the cold city night.
Forget the wind Advisory on the news,
possible flooding on poorly drained streets,
torrential downpours past midnight.
Play your heart out, loud, as if we all knew we had it coming.
Don't stop for anyone, not the police, your past,
the hand you remember once through your hair.
Forget. Wake us all.
And when you hear the knocking at your door,
Simply play louder, play for me,
pour yourself into the flooded streets of the world.



My Father at the Bone Factory
By William Neumire


He works making bones for the ones who need them:
a set for the woman whose husband has been MIA for three years;
Here's what we can offer now.
A parcel for the parents of a teenage runaway
who've quit their jobs, their friends, their evening
cuddle; this to bury or turn into ash and blow away.
At the end of his shift last night - he was in a giddy mood-
he made one finger bone and whittled it into a flute
for the little one who plays at the park between the factory
and home. Here he said it's a gift.



Across the Street
By Denise Bergman


Her feet land slowly one by one
on each wooden step -
a memorized (could do it
blindfolded) flight of stairs.
A million times she's walked
apartment to entrance to street.
In her sleepwalker-outstretched arms
a bundle, wide, flat
wrapped in a blanket soft as night rain
green as summer woods.
This is noon, clear skies, January.
She wears a shift, her other children
at most a pair of sweats,
the women behind her
short-sleeve shirts, a cardigan navy blue.
Across the street I hide
from the frozen fist of wind.
Who wouldn't move earth by handfuls
to spin this mother's journey into reverse,
to stop the hearse from parking,
unlatching its wide door.
To push back the stretcher
dangling like a tongue
from the open, waiting mouth.

Sample Poems: Volume 27, Numbers 1 and 2

Mary Walks on Water
By Jackie Bartley


The river in winter: snow,
a white heart falling, splintering
into its icy selves,
streams delivering their chill,
the unsung verse of a song she used to know.
If only she could remember, the white
ribbon of thought could make it whole,
bring out the god in this wilderness.

They had wanted a scapegoat,
a person, a reason for sorrow. At first,
she had been unwilling, had her doubts.
But now she sees they'll drive themselves mad
without some comfort.

So she walks this river hardened past the solstice,
a crust over water flowing dark as coal,
to enter the dream of the bear
in its cave somewhere in these hills,
to be like the salmon
laboring its way in the shallows,
a muscle of fear glinting in the sun,
the bear's first meal.

Bear of my grieving,
Bear of hate and fear,
Bear, on the edge of sleep,
do not enter that blackness fattened
into lethargy, dulled by the cold.
Let the dream come back in new form
as matter reshapes itself according
to its state.


How softly she treads.
Her senses ready themselves
to the slightest shifting.
She walks on water, prepared
to ease its flow, alter its course,
sure now of what she has chosen:
a way to retrieve beauty, savor
love, enter the bear's dark heart.



The Wake
By Allison Baker


July morning, white sky fat
with the planet's condensed breath,
bay slick as oil, the quick red fox
slips her nose into the shallows
and slides a mollusk from sanctuary.

A dance and toss, a swallow, and in dusk,
under cotton sky on hard soaked sand, I attend
the last moment of a razor clam.

I breathe. Without a glance she turns and trots
toward the raw new house on the bluff.
A leap into saw-grass and gone.

And then the dawn.



A Walk-Off Home Run
By Theodore Deppe


for David Ortiz


Your teammates scramble
          from the dugout
                      to greet you at home plate
 
and, as you approach,
           they start singing your song,
                      or, trying
 
to sing it
          (few of them know
                      the Spanish lyrics)-
 
most serenade you
          with their own wordless
                      versions of the tune,
 
chanting meaningless syllables
          that merge
                      with the crowd's din.
 
The camera
          pans to the bleachers
                      where no one's going
 
anywhere, and for once
          the announcers
                      are silent.
 
Enough to let the roar
          and pictures tell the story:
                      the crowd's
 
dancing in place,
          everyone with their own
                      dithyrambic shouts of joy.
 
and yes, there's power
          in a song
                      when everyone sings and
 
believes the same words,
          but better still
                      this anthem of chaotic praise,
 
strangers and friends
          finding their own
                      ways to celebrate:
 
two nuns doing the merengue
          in the aisle, a boy who can't
                      stop jumping up and down,
 
and this one old man
          quietly weeping,
                      his mouth opening and closing
 
as if unable to find words
          for whatever's passed
                      like a dowsing rod
 
over him. The stadium lights
          shine on his cheeks
                      and he shakes his head
 
as if he knows
          this was just a game, and yet
                      something has happened
 
that's left him speechless.
          All around him
                      people sing in tongues,
 
thirty-something thousand
          variations on the hymn to joy,
                      while back on the field
 
the players
          try now to look serious-
                      there's one more game to win
 
to make the playoffs-
          but the crowd keeps cheering,
                      the Boston night
 
is filled with song, and the camera
          returns for one last glimpse
                      of the weeping man,
 
his mute words
          somehow necessary
                      in this chorus of praise.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sample Poems: Volume 26, Numbers 1 and 2

Requiem for Remembrance
By Frank Miller


        Ad Deum, qui laetificat juventutem meam.

In me my dead lie dying, faint and fading
voices held in the hollow of the curve of sea.
I see them now in mythic places lit
by the votive candle's flicker, a penny's worth
of light, censored of remembrance, that coils
and scents these aisles of time.

In the mix of memory and myth I see the house
high above the gray wash of dock side water
where unknown things drift and where, in childhood dream,
the erratic clang of bell floats in from harbor mouth.
Small waves slap soft against pitted pilings.
The curling water floats out the weed like hair
then purls black rock barnacled white and beige.

I wake to mist and morning dazzle; feel
the amber gaze of glass eyed gulls
perched on the gray slate roof outside
the room that smells of cat where my battered
wooden horse peers with painted eyes
at the mist wreathed rim of sea and sky.
On peeling, patterned paper, forever young,
God high upon a mountain top, a pictured cousin laughs.

Someone's husband owned a farm outside a town
which held, wine sweet, the gloria of ancient bells
chaliced by Roman walls. Flowers burned in dew tipped grass
where I lie in the clovered carpet of my magic world,
sit on the bridge that grows across the stream
where silver fish nibble my naked toes. I dreamed
forevers in mayfly hours not knowing I would live
my love in one summer of a day then wake
to find my kingdom ruled by others who did not know
my name.

Faces, ill remembered; half forgotten places.
An uncle owned a factory. A cousin blinded
in a war. An aunt that no one spoke of.
Politician. Baker. Priest.

There is a tall sideboard; polished oak, brass hinges,
knives, pearl handles slotted in their proper place.
My changeling face swims in the silver bowls
of serving spoons guarded by trident forks
Neptune is carved on the cupboard door which hides
the shell thin china. He watches as I trace
his tendrilled hair till it tangles in a wreath
of weed. Tip-toed I can see the polished top
where, sepia in a silver frame, a tall man
with fierce mustache leans heavy on a cane.

I dreamed my friends in flowered spring
as lilaced May grew summer folk.
I played in the harvest of my peopled day,
in haloed smiles of Christmas faces
but all the names are jumbled or forgot.

Forgive. Forgive. I was springtimed,
busy being Arthur, too busy being king
to know your names, to be gentled by gnarled
fingers, the loving touch of pudgy hands
sweet with cake, the benediction
of slim fingers cool on summer skin.

Out of hearing's touch your nameless faces
smile beside my bed. I strain to find you
in morning mist and dreams, to read your names
on the parchment of my hand, to hear you
in the kite's sweet swoop, in the hum
of summer sky as I lie curled beneath a tree
reading of Robin and eat the comers
from each delicious page while a sleeping uncle
plays my friar, froth mustache painted on his lip.

I am last and left the task; separate the Carlies
from the Jims, the Ellens from the Anns. No one now
can tell the grammar of their way and make simple
the syntax of their days.

Grandmother, you would remember. Large with life
you would remember as you play your jokes
on my doting father. You are joking now
lying small beside your bed in the silken box
My father's clever hands surely made for you.
The candle sheens on wood and polished brass.

I have seen my father's hand mirrored
at the morning shave: smiled to hear in teacup talk
the ring and rise of mother's lilt and burr
above the steam and I am child again, green-gold
beneath the timeless tree that grows in endless
hallow of evening play. My sister calls, her voice
floats in lilac air as my brother, returned
from school yard jousts, lifts me to his shoulders
to carry me up the stairs to the scented steam
of magic meals, to sweets, sweeter than any sweet
could ever be, and ever was again.

I am left the last, the one who joyed the book,
the tasted word on the nibbled pages of my world.
I am the remembrancer who forgot. In me
all that ever was, now is.

Mother, I see you tethered by the pain
I would, but cannot, even now, forget.
You wake from some past vision, see me
man in years, as raw kneed awkward boy
and send me out to play.

Father, you are done with jokes, with memories.
Photographs are gone. I find their silver bones
in cardboard boxes. You are silent now building
forgetfulness from scraps; a chessboard, the box
to hold the pieces that you carved, left without
a word. You read late. Light spills out
beneath your door and when you die we find
an open book beside your bed.

Sister, you are orphaned now to me,
to my love and guilty anger. You take so long,
so long, to die and I am tired in nightlight dark
and the blear and bum of days I stagger through.
You are white on white, barely mounding sheets
bleached and stiff with starch. I tend you,
as you had cared for me as child; feed you,
clean you, fill the silence of your fear
with sound to pass as talk. I am nodding, dozing,
rapped in a shawl of sorrow and of guilt,
when you ask, small upon your bed, if you are dying now.
I know (but I had always known) what you would do
and buried you, as we had buried mother,
on my birthing day.
Oh ladies, sich a gift ye gied me.

Brother, you can never know that once
I would have died to live as you; bright
where I was dark, swift where I was slow.
You drew away as each one died, remade the legend
of your life until we faced each other across
this last and common grave where you, my knight
in muddied boots who tamed the dragons
in my boyhood dreams, turned away to take
condolences from friends I did not know.
You took the marrow of our years; left memory
brittle bone. You took, until I thought there was nothing
left for you to take, and then you died
and took the mourning too.

Now all my life seems drifted dream,
a wreath of mist on a curve of sky.
The past I dream now seems a dream itself,
a candle snuffed, its little smoke shadowed
on the wall and I see my shadow on the wall
in my next-to-Sunday best, cloistered
from the playing day, fidgeting as a maiden aunt
rituals through her ambered joys and sorrows.
Throned uncles, folded hands on the blessing
of their bellies, nod indulgent in the drone
of family offerings.

I need your magic Merlin. Live me backward
through all my days to where the high, sweet sun
sings holy in the tree-ribbed vault
of arching sky. Live me back and I will sit
tucked in a comer, see tired uncles nod,
hear the click of needles as forgiving aunts
knit simple talk. Live me back that I may know
their names, hear my sister's voice in honeyed air,
see the sparks as my brother clatters up the stairs
of home.

Mother, find me now that raw kneed awkward boy
you sent to play. Hold him. Hold him forever
flowered in the harbor of you arms.

Father, my fight bums late. I am silent
hewing things of cross grained sound,
painting pasts with words that I might
make live, a little longer, these dead who die
with me.

Children, let your houses sing.
In the beat, the metronome of time,
feel, uncounted, the cadenced years
as your children windchime down your days.
You are the staff, the notes they sing
in the mass that they must make.
Hold them, as I now hold, loved and loving
in the dying of my years.

I praise my children and my children's children
and I sing.

Ite, missa est.



Letter to SPC Elycia Fine, Outside Baghdad
By J. Allen Hall


You're probably joking about your hairy legs
and the obscene numbers of days you've gone without
a shower, like the time you and Becky drove to L.A.,
then slept on the street just to get tickets to Leno.

Maybe you remember the summer nights, outside evil
ugly Debra Radak's house at 3 a.m., pouring acid
into an empty 2-liter, adding strips of glinting tin foil,
rolled liked freakishly long cigarettes. We launched

the capped missile on to cross-eyed Debra
Radak's lawn, then got the hell out of there.
When it still hadn't exploded, seven block later,
you turned the car around when suddenly

our ears filled with the sound of air, liberated
from its plastic prison. We laughed because
Debra had spit on you; we christened our new
identities with acid: agents of corrosive justice.

How does the large-footed girl who served detention
for making cat and chicken noises in French
class become the humvee-repair person who speaks
five tongues, decodes mottled stains of language

on the western perimeter of a besieged Baghdad? I read
in today's Times your friend died in a suicide
car bombing. I don't know the right words to say
I'm sorry. I don't know how to stop thinking

about his family, the man whose body exploded
through your friend's, and I cannot condemn
that anatomy's strange courage. But still I watch
for your face beamed through the sparse, dark air

from distant satellites, the picture as grainy and full
of reprieve as the bits of sand that populate the creases
in your never-long-enough letters, delivered sliced
open, expertly disembodied. If I were there,

you'd keep me awake to analyze the terrible ways
you were loved by men. Instead I dream
up ways to halt your progress. You are not my friend:
you are a numbered rifle who keeps cigarettes

beneath a helmet, except when you write letters,
bridging with disbelief. Holy Shit, James,
I invaded Iraq. But history needs more from us now.
I cannot embrace you between the bombs.



Touching the Earth
By Fred Ferraris


Jesaru Durango hurtles through the brush like a runaway stagecoach. When the wheels fall off, he sews himself up, blows himself out. Whispers to a cottonwood, "How about a quickie?" Then he calms down a little, whips out his amex card and feeds it to a coyote with eyes like Earl Bostic. The coyote says, "Thank you sir, may I have another?" All of a sudden a big wind slams the freezer door shut, but not before Jesaru catches a glimpse of Keith Richards's delaminated face cracking wise in Paul Simon's ear. Jesaru has never much cared for morality plays. His experience with border guards who trash his euphonium and close his couplet has left him a bitter cowboy. He resents the way they turn out his pockets and spill his cave art all over the floor. "We have no use for your senseless productions," they tell him. When he protests, "I don't know how to speak your language!" the border guards laugh and rip off his lips. They force him behind the wheel of one of their broken down vehicles, a tricycle built by Red Grooms. It's a nice trike, with orange tires. The top guard tells him, "If you don't like the way we handle the unities, you can just pedal your eclogue right back to Barnumville." So he takes to the highway, humming "I'm On The Road To Nowhere," though for all he knows he could be on the road to Karachi, because the signs are written in Urdu. It may be time, he thinks, to run down a flag man and force a complication. Next thing he remembers he's sitting in the Lonely Lizard Lounge, chatting with a Ricky Ricardo impersonator who's been making a living on the baby grand, making love to Inflatable Lucy. "I do thees to raise money for the benefit of the Night Soil Party," Ricky confides. Jesaru explains that life used to be simpler in Barnumville before the cubist poets took over. "Did I mention," he says, "that I was the one who invented the phrase, 'the sea wind's mournful dirge'?" "I've heard that once before," says Ricky. "Our mutual frien The Traveling Epiphaneer, tol me bout it, just before he got himself joisted on his own pathetic fallacy." "So what I should do now?" asks Jesaru. Ricky glances at the bartender, who once shared a recognition scene with Keith Richards. Just as Richards is about to speak, a fly bearing Paul Simon's head lands in Jesaru's ear. Simon says, "Wake uP.

Sample Poems: Volume 25, Numbers 1 and 2

IRISH HISTORY EXPLAINED IN 16 LINES
(or Did You Ever Wonder Why So Many of the Great Writers Are Irish?)
By Jack McCarthy


As anyone who’s considered being God
will know, at Pentecost the gift was not
of tongues, but ears.

                              Their lovely bloody language
was the weapon did us in. The sound
of it, the treasures of its lexicon,
the endless ways of telling what to do,
what god to worship, and what arse to kiss.
They pronounced death sentences; listening,
we heard troubadours. They dictated terms
of our subjection; faerysong to us.

It wasn’t us that they betrayed, but English.
They didn’t live up to it, they were not grand
enough, magnanimous, and now it’s ours.
By fierce, barbaric love—because we let
it charm us and seduce us, we own it now
in ways they never did, and never will.



"PO PROBLEMA"
By Fred Yannantuono


After the din of the day
All of the postmen are braying.
Jesus, just lay me away.
How long do they plan on staying?

All of the postmen are braying,
Shouting out postmodern jokes.
How long do they plan on staying,
Braying and lighting up smokes?

Pounding out postmodern jokes
Crammed with Neanderthal diction,
Braying and lighting up smokes—
God how I wish this were fiction!

Damn their Neanderthal diction—
They’re the guys bring me my letters.
God how I wish this were fiction!
I’d make them all Irish setters.

They’re the guys bring me my letters,
Curly and Larry and Moe.
I’d make them all Irish setters
Silent, observant, and slow.

Curly and Larry and Moe,
Jesus, just lay me away.
Silent, observant, and slow
After the din of the day.

Sample Poems: Volume 24, Numbers 1 and 2

"Love"
By Michele Wyrebek


It starts with stripping,
layer after layer
getting as bare as possible

the surface - it's necessary
for preservation
to treat the wood first

before restoring it - for hours
he can sand and scrape
in silence.

Something is wrong
with me, according to him,
and he's right, of course -

I have yet to get the hang of it,
life, I mean - the living of it
happily.

We are breaking up. He says
he doesn't tear down walls
he deconstructs them -

he builds and repairs, has a gift
for resilience - things improve
in his hands. Except me -

I see suffering's
blueprints wherever I go
and I can't help

wandering through
the plans it devises,
lingering in the details -

simple homes
with plain rooms
and little storage

or intricate structures
with ample space and built-in
shelving - the layouts

for harm are infinite - multi-floored
with well-placed landings
or one-storied open foyers

that welcome hopelessness
and long hallways
that lengthen pain.


Editor's note: This poem was sent to me in September of 1995. Michele had moved to Arlington (MA) but was still attending the Princeton writers group when she could. In her letter, she said, "The poem has gone through many transformations - especially with regard to the title (and I'm not sure "Love" is the best one...)."



Filling My Pen For Action
By Sam Hazo
 
 
I thumb the plunger down
  and siphon black ink up
  the way a hypodermic needle
  siphons plasma from a vein.
My ink of choice is ebony
  because it promises to last.
But last as what?
                              Notations,
  doodles, letters, labels,
  numbers, signatures on checks
  or shopping lists?
                              History's
  no guide.
                   Our circumstances
  change.
                Regardless, writing
  what we think makes thinking
  truer when we see it written down.
The bravest pages of a poem
  or a book began as blanks
  that craved the consecration of a pen.
And written words increase
  in value over time.
                              Shakespeare's
  one surviving letter ( a request
  for money from a lord ) now seems
  as holy as the hairlock of a saint.
The same applies to Jefferson's
  hand-written declaration, Whitman's
  jottings, and ( for me ) my mother's
  letters in a hatbox or my aunt's
  last sentence on an index card....
Recalling this, I watch my nib
  change ink-blood into words
  across this very page to show
  why every word should be as sacred
  as the final word I'll write.
 
 
 
Letter to a Son at War
By Robert Duffy


I thought of you this morning, no
you needn't answer, it's just that
I thought of you. I was in the loft
to throw down the hay; the first
bale broke and blossomed wide
as if flowers dead and pressed
inside had come to life again.
Dust rose on the air and the sun
struck swords of light through knots
and gaps between the boards, and then
I saw you. Kneeling
in the ghastly white of slow
descending flares, your many
shadows shifting dancing on
the rhythm of the fall, your face
as fragile and dangerous
as a looking glass.
I threw down two more bales
and looked again, but the salt wave
of distance troubled my eye like heat
above a pavement. So I went down
the ladder to finish the chores,
chores I would have sent you to do,
if you were still here. The cows all turned
their tan-dark eyes to see their hay,
or perhaps to see if I were you.
Or if you were me. Cows, who's to say?
I'm told they're worshipped
in some places, and I wondered
half-seriously if I might try
to pray to them, except
I couldn't imagine what I ought to say.
Thinking now, something simple,
perhaps a bedtime prayer
from childhood might even be enough.
Do you know one?
There, you see? This
is what it comes to: foolish notions
carefully packaged and sent away,
not knowing whether they'll arrive
or what they'll mean if they do arrive.
Except I know I never meant this,
I never meant to send any
complaints into a desperate war,
one labored page then waking late
to wonder, whatever did I intend?
Let me offer this instead, a bargain
of sorts: If you will find me
changed when you return,
only this, nothing more, nothing
difficult like love; if you will do it,
I will engage to search your face
for wounds to be regretful of.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sample Poems: Volume 23.2

A Branch Of Beach Plum
By Donald W. Baker


Most days I walk the old track under the pines
and over the dunes to the beach.
I have chosen for you the bend in the path
where a thicket of beach plum survives the backhoes,
where at noon in our season the air
used to be heavy with the smell of blossoms.
This morning I walked on the brown needles
as gently as I could so that no abrupt
gesture would temper the music of the warblers
in the spruce. Returning, I broke off
a branch of beach plum and carried it home.
Now it rises from the blue vase on the mantel,
the flowers, fragile and pink, beginning to wither,
one broken twig oozing a clear drop.
Yes, that is where I should like to meet you,
halfway between home and the shore, knowing
that back there are kitchen and books and bedroom,
a house full of lives and living,
and, not far ahead, the comforting sea.



Pulling In The Mirrors
By Jim Daniels


The sign we missed said Park Here and Walk.
Intoxicated by the tilt of that hilltop village,
we keep driving till houses squeeze
the road to a slender path we can’t squeeze
down. Can we back up? We pull in the mirrors.
I climb out and lead you back inch by inch between
the darkened stones. Fifteen years together.
How long is a long time? Too long?
Behind the wheel, you inch the van toward me
as I walk backward through the village,
your eyes full of desire to see this through.
An old woman shakes her head
from a window above us, the side of her building
scraped with other fools like us.
I signal carefully, guiding you back
as if there were any other way.
 
 
Ab irata
By Linda Warren


Don't tell me all the angles
unless you talk geometry
I want words that hold their own with truth,
Quod Erat Demonstrandum of the heart:
Euclid knew his language.

Say what you mean in Greek:
I want to be your complement
I want to be your supplement
I want to lie beside you with the sides of us
adjacent from the vertex out forever
so the missing pieces of each other
form a horizontal line
that cuts the universal plane in half.

I'm not playing with probabilities.
I don't want decimals.

I am Hypatia, with her mathematics
and I know she died for what she knew
but let me tell you
she was not stoned to death
because she was obtuse
she was stoned because she was
right

and it's true the truth can get you killed
but it also draws a long, straight line
one unassailable dimension,
ad infinitum
perfect connection
my soul to yours
and we do not get there
baby,
when you speak
oblique.

Sample Poems: Volume 23.1

Elegy for Denise Levertov
By Fran Quinn


"When you hear the voice
pause, you pause."
Clearly the sky is
overcast and the lamppost
is doing its best to hold it
up; the weight of heaven is
much too much for us. "Listen
again....

This pause is much longer and more
necessary than the first." A foot
hangs from the clouds, her foot,
recently risen there; with it
she is gone to do other
work, not the work we
see, but the work we
hear.

Being one less
we move on. We could wait
to see what will arrive
next, but when it arrives
it may not arrive here, because
she is gone, even the foot has
withdrawn.

But don't believe that
nothing's left; the lamppost
is there and the sky;
and, especially if we don't
fill it there is the
silence.

We have no way of measuring
that, so our job is to listen,
clearly listen. "The mountain will
say it to you through the
mist:

'Now that she is gone,
she has gone right
here,

heart.'"

Sample Poems: Volume 22.2

I Owe My Dog Everything
By Peter Harris


Four times a day, the bulge of shag
who's draped across the couch top
under the big window that exposes
the insides of our house to the every dog,
every person street, wakes up,
yips, yanks me, leashed, outside
where it's always winter, or
about to be, or recovering. Much of
the time, darkness reigns. And cold.

Now in the backyard, I must
attend as, first, she whiffs subtle
bodies in the air, then teases
the news from trace molecules
in the snow or mud or what passes
for grass, then paces a tightening,
self-entrancing oval that
leads her to the Absolute
Exact Spot, so as to express
the day's remains - glacially,
it seems, if she's snarfed a napkin
from the trash - while the cold
closes in around me
like a chuck around a drill bit
reminding me: God is choice:
either I can be at-two with
my shivers, smelting lead minutes
out of gold standard seconds
or I can listen to the wind
rustle sibilance from the six
dead leaves left stranded on the white oak,
listen and watch as my dog hunches,
ripples her peristaltic muscles,
waits, ripples again, succeeds
in providing me intimate,
much-needed, instruction on
how to do the nothing new
as if - no, not as if -
as actually giving birth to
a warm, glistening new world.


Icarus
By Brenda J. Cook


A dog stands on three legs
in the middle of the street,
blocking traffic
while he scratches behind his ear,
heedless of the little girl crying
in the yard where she can't find him
and of the man three cars back
who has just left his wife,
who cannot comprehend his suffering
or he hers- she sees the one true union of her life
now broken, and this pain and shock
blind her to the pathos of a friend
whose stability falters now and again.
No one, it seems, takes notice either
of the small figure high in the sky
whose wings begin to drop away,
and even he, just now, I'm sure,
couldn't care less about the pesky flea
behind the ear of that dog.

Sample Poems: Volume 21

DUST BOWL
by Lee Price
 
 
Remember when the storm came flashing?
Thunder cracking? Black sky on fire?
Sucking up bone-white
Blood-red, swirls of dust
into the raging squall.
 
Sometimes three times, sometimes twice a day
We draped Old Glory over some
dust-blown West Texas town....
Six men to a box.
In white-gloved splendor....
We brought back what we could.
(Funeral Detail 1969)
 
 
 
1924
by Juli Nunlist


Millicent Davis lived upstairs,
Millicent Davis, pale of skin,
dark of hair, with eyes like buttons.
 
Millicent was a perfect child.
I know; my mother told me so,
and so did Millicent.
 
Her hair was always combed and curled,
her dresses neat. My skirts were torn,
I chopped my hair with pinking shears.
 
One afternoon in every week
her mother came to tea with mine,
bringing Millicent, of course,
 
and Millicent's favorite china doll.
They came downstairs in their Sunday best,
Millicent's mother wearing a hat.
 
The china doll was bibbed in white.
Millicent carried a handkerchief
and sipped her tea and was polite.
 
Millicent was the teacher's pet.
Millicent was good. She knew
the answer to every question asked.
 
Everything that Millicent said
was gospel truth. I lied a lot,
and wished that Millicent was dead-
and knew that I would roast in hell.