Home Poetry

Birth

By Susan Jennifer Polese


The tide rises
The coast shimmers
And I smile and sigh
And recall
Coming out of those waves
Chilled and ready
Pushed by the sea
Tumbling with crusty eyelids
Salty mouth
Skin glistening
Gasping, afraid and excited

Our ancestors arrived that way
Delivered into the world
Sprouting legs and walking like fresh, damp foals
Around the beach, up the mountains, across the plains
Their Manifest Destiny to be
Reptilian no more, now furry, legged, live-birth beings
Clannish, while peeking at the stars
Barking, and drinking water from fresh lakes
Dining on flesh, baying at the moon

And still, we remember our becoming
The bloody patches, the white linen, air surrounding us
Tides of atmosphere
Parting it lets us emerge, holy, hungry, searching
Violent and beautiful
Thrown
Abandoned
Taken in
Floating on the breeze, our slippery skin molts
Our many toed feet burrow into the sand
Upright and alert
Faced with the certainty of change



Pain Becomes

Pain does the laundry
folding sheets
into small, tight squares
stacked and ready

Pain serves dinner
little Bento boxes of foods
separated and safe

Pain sweeps the floor
fast and with fury
bracing for the next time

Pain takes nightly pills
set in a row on the counter
arranged to manage, not cure
to maintain, daily

Pain lays down carefully
eyes close slowly
all is orange swirls and tingles

Pain goes deep
allowing slumber
surrendering to nothingness

Then the movie starts
smell of popcorn
sound of hushed chatter
a slurp of a drink

Pain has become
            a heroine
            a cowgirl
            a freedom fighter
            a discovered relic

Pain morphs, pushes, requires
constricts and expands
Like a plot that stretches and surprises
Like breath that keeps on coming



BIO

Susan Jennifer Polese, LPC NCC is an American poet, journalist, crisis counselor and award-winning playwright whose poems are included in the Writing off The Walls exhibit at Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art. Her plays are seen regionally and at such venues as La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, HERE Performing Arts Center, The Midtown International Theatre Festival, and Planet Connections Festivity in Manhattan, NY. Trained in New York at The Wonderhorse Theatre, Herbert Berghof Studio, and Hunter College she has taught writing through Purchase College, Axial Theatre Company and has facilitated “Playwriting in Paradise” in Key West, Florida. Her work is fueled through social justice and is often performed as fundraisers/awareness enhancers for non-profits. Susan is a member of The International Centre for Women Playwrights and Theatre Without Borders. She attended La Mama’s International Playwright Retreat in Umbria, Italy and was a resident-artist at Bethany Arts Community, 2020. She is published in Alexander Street Contemporary Drama Collection. Susan is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America and New York Women in Film & Television.





Stumbling Over Imaginary Chairs

By M. A. Schaffner


Every old car dies with new parts
and every one of us
looks in the mirror and sees seventeen
then, with our spectacles, a stranger.

There’s time not lost to recollection
but simply disappeared
into dimensions we forget to dream about.

One looks back from the era and asks
Have I done this before?

There it’s Twenty-Seven/Fifteen
everything sleek and streamlined as death
yet mentally cluttered in ways
that make refrigerator doors seem clean.

Now it’s winter again and one worries
about spring and having to wake up
to another day as a subordinate
in someone else’s dream, waiting for life.



Seasonal Affect


It feels like another country,
not one I’ve gone to but one where the dogs
still bother to mark all the boundaries.

It’s past football season here,
still undecided on the number of players,
or where to imprison them till fall.

Meanwhile trees have begun to plan leaves,
considering all the colors that might work
before compromising again to avoid arguments.

In the distance cars go back to work
and the planet returns to sighing.
A heavy burden of newsprint settles in.

Everything I fear has still not happened,
but I know I won’t reach the end of the book
or manage to again hear the LPs
before the turntable falls into the sun.



Seasonal Affect, Part II


Spring returns with all its obligations,
its early sun and ever shrinking night.
I can’t tell now when peace will book a stay
but I guess we’ll save some money on lights.

While making this morning’s halting run up Taylor,
I crested Seventeenth and saw two blocks ahead
a white-tailed fawn flitting across Nineteenth.
One runs to keep their vices, the other to not be dead.

It was nice to look at winter as a time
to finish what I’d left undone last year,
It’s nice to do without the sure reminder;
I’ll want the same when winters disappear.

And there’s the joke, I guess, of all ambition;
not goals achieved, but hopeful repetition.



Generation Ghost


With this morning already yesterday
and the day before but vaguely seen
through the lens of the sixteenth century
we wander in between
strange rooms on stranger missions.

Pug fur on the staircase
clouding our ascension to the loft,
a hole in the carpet revealing
six layers of fractured stains –
why would one ever want to clean that off?

Pets reigned like pashas
unbothered by books.
The mice and the wasps and fans ran free.
Drooping cobwebs graced a private history
curled in every thought.





BIO

M. A. Schaffner lives with spouse and pugs in a house built cheaply 110 years ago in Arlington, Virginia. Their work has recently appeared in The MacGuffin, Illuminations, and the anthology Written in Arlington. Earlier appearances included Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland, and The Tulane Review. When not avoiding home repairs through poetry, M. A. wades through the archival records of the Second United States Colored Infantry (1863-66) with a view toward compiling a regimental history.








My Private Interstellar

by Ali Asadollahi



1.


O, dim sparkles
Late stars
Light intervals
-between our eyes
and what befalls-
O, Millions and millions and millions
Distance in distance in distances,

‌‌This endless line
Will be bent
And the death
Adjoins                       
Two                                           ends.

2.

The mirror…
My black hole, it was.

There was gravity and gravity
And whatever passed by it
Fell in the midst of it.

The death;
Before me, it was:
.I fell               in               to I.

3.

Silence:
The singularity, indeed.

Billions of billions of galaxies of words
In a willing-to-bang throat

The silence of mountains
The silence of skies
The silence of the man -who knows, is gonna die-

– Tell me what you did.

Silence.
[The singularity, you read.]



BIO

Born in 1987, Ali Asadollahi is the composer of six poetry books and the winner of some distinguished domestic poetry awards, such as Iran’s Journalist Society Award (2010). He is a permanent member of the Iranian Writers’ Association and currently studying for an M.A. degree in Persian language and literature at Tehran University. So far, some of his poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Roanoke Review, Palaver Journal, Alchemy Journal, and The Persian Literature Review.



I Dream About My Dead Dogs

By Glen Vecchione


I don’t see them.
They wrap themselves around my head
in a kind of turban, their balls dropping
down over my ears in satchels of parfum de chien.

My dogs: four or five of them—none
of whom have ever met the others.

I know they’re excited to see me
because I’m scoured by a swooshing of tails.
It’s like I’ve stuck my head in a car wash,
my face scrubbed by the rotary brushes.

What a comedy, this dream: invisible dogs.
And yet I feel sad when I awaken
and have to record my thoughts about life
on my smartphone.

I never dream about cats, although I owned one.
It took a nap under the hood of my car
because the engine was warm.
That was that for that cat.
Why dream of cats, anyway? They never show up.

After lunch, I check the notes to myself
and have a revelation: the dogs are my helmet.
They protect my head. My thoughts. My hurts.
Although they loll about, they’re alert and ready

to attack, to warn whatever else is out there
Leave him alone.
They are my personal Fu dogs, even though
I flunked Asian Studies at U.C.L.A.

or maybe my wardens, set there by Sigmund
to lock the chaos in my head and not let it
loose upon the world.
That means I’m stuck with it, with them

and it’s too late for therapy.
That means it’s too late for therapy.



Trinkzeit am Abend

(Evening Drink Time)


Here in Basel, the evening swans
nibble the ears of Rhine bathers
and the beaconed derricks
                                    swing their cargos.

A tram hums beneath its catenary.
The moon shreds, nicked by a tower.

Three penciled women in the bar. One
takes the cap from my head and reads the stitch.
San Francisco, she says, Was ist mit Amerika los?
Big question, I reply.

Tips her cigarette towards my groin.
I can supply pleasures behind your belt, says she.
I could be your grandfather, say I.
Ja, she says, blowing sideways. We do it draußen.

I wonder if she’ll wear my cap when we do it draußen,
but once outside, turns her back and grabs her E-bike.
The trouble with America is that you are all thieves!
she says, tipping her trophy from across the street.

In Basel, people cycle to work humming ditties
but never yield the street to foreigners.
In a neighborhood where hanging laundry is verboten
I pass a worker with a flashlight scrubbing bricks.

In the window above, a shirtless man screams in Italian
and from what I can make of it, says,
Stop me before I break the law!




Brain Scan


I’m apprised by the neurologist
of a frayed connection between what’s there
and what arrives, so many shorts possible
along the circuitry. Still, the jumping letters,
clown-colored, wriggle across the newspaper
and that unrecognized thing suddenly becomes
a daffodil; the word for it too, once rooted,
now unmoored and prone to slip away

until I snare it back.
You’ve seen this before, doc, holding
my scan to the fluorescent. Now
how do I drop anchor to keep this skiff from drifting,
the lights flickering On more than Off;
or is this the true way home—the stars
confounding, compass wonked, the sea breaking
the moon’s soiled plate into shards, teeth,
a black maw that shreds before it swallows?




Wal-Mart


because there are glaciers here
                  striations of merchandise
cataracts of cardboard amphorae with crushed corners
                  in a crazed ascension to fluorescent nirvana
because it is pure-plumbed
                  has aisles with vanishing points

and the people   or the men mostly
                  they move with their broods about them
like a boat in an oil slick
                  the hull pushing through here and there

where the sound is that of some underground place
                  without the dripping   a squeak and
clatter of split rubber bearings
                  swathe-cut wiggly through the crushed

spangles and cacophony of fabrics
                  because it resembles an airplane hangar    contains a city
of appliance boulevards   the clacking and swishing
                  of strapped feet and greasy billfolds   everywhere
the plenary stink of America.



BIO

Glen Vecchione is the author and illustrator of 28 science books for young adults as well as a fiction writer and poet. His science titles have been translated into seven languages and are distributed worldwide. His poetry has appeared in Missouri Review, ZYZZYZA, Comstock Review, Southern Poetry Review, Adirondack Review, Indiana University Press, and Tar River Poetry. His short story “The Rose Light” appears in The Main Street Rag. Glen also composes music for television, film, and theatre. He currently divides his time between Palm Desert, California and New York City.





I was never taught how to use a lawnmower because my parents didn’t want me to lose a foot.

By Christine Horner

If you could see how clumsy I am, you would understand.
When God churned me into this world in his heavenly cauldron, he forgot
the pinch of hand-eye coordination and he left out
the tablespoon of social grace, but he added
a few heaping pounds of childhood obesity
as well as a handful of major depressive disorder—just for good measure.
I was formed into a messy, buttery compound and thrust
into this world to be spread on burnt toast, then dropped on the floor face-down.



Leaving Home

Leaving home is not like “flying the nest”—
            it is like diving head-first into a shallow public pool,
            chlorinated water flooding your sinuses
            as your skull thumps the slick concrete at the bottom.
            You float to the surface, blood spilling
            out of your nostrils, staining the water red.
            Bubbles rise from the bottom half of your bathing suit
            as you struggle to reach the ladder, eyes shut tight
            from your head pain and the bright sunlight
            that litters your face with freckles
            and dyes your skin hot pink. You had hoped
            that the pool would cool your burn, but
            the pool was heated, and it stung
            almost as much as your crush’s laughter
            at you, at your pain, at your embarrassment.
            He looks like a younger Orlando Bloom,
            raising his finger to point at you,
            finally getting out of the pool
            only to trip over a plastic chair.
            Tears cloud your round, blushing face
            and bloody snot oozes from your nose into your mouth
            while you cry for your mother to take you home.



I Will Age like Whiskey

I have heard that I’m supposed to buy
creams
and cleansers
and serums
to prevent premature wrinkles
and that I should stay out of direct sunlight
lest I look like a seventy-five-year-old woman
when I’m a seventy-five-year-old woman.

Raisined knuckles turn people off
as do the happy little lines on my forehead—
indents from delicious laughter.

“Like a fine wine,” they say.

But what if I’m not a fine wine?
What if I’m whiskey, hearty and direct
with a profound finish?
I don’t desire to age like a fine wine
left in a cold cellar to collect dust with bitter cabernets.
Barrel me in a cozy wooded cabin and
leave me to ferment there.
I’ll mature in my own time.





BIO

Christine Horner (she/her) is a poet who recently received her AFA in Creative Writing from Normandale Community College and is seeking a BFA in English from Augsburg University in Minneapolis. She is previously unpublished and enjoys knitting, cooking, and reading when she is not writing, working, or going to classes.



ARREST

by RE DRUM cadre



Embarrassment
of riches
& yet we still
wrap ourselves
in cellophane.
To escape just
to be caught again.
Bad synesthesia
keeps us up.
Practice spitting bitch
in the dark.
They said:
“Put your hands up
for the bubbles.”
They said:
“Put your hands up
where I can see them.”
And the summer
was orange.
And the summer
was over.

·

Running always
a cramp,
body
question-
can I run/
should I run—
Rub the calf.
To the feet?
Already a light above.
Should I run:
“Should I run?!”

·

As if he lived
exclusively
in darkness,
surfaced
only at night.
As if some
nocturnal thing.
The sequence
hard events
to parse
beyond
the triggering kiss
we know comes first.
Next, the soldiers
rush from right—
iron-black arm
claws for throat
beneath
the traitor’s furrow—
conscience—
drive the ensemble
left, into
the Evangelist:
stumbling, scrambling,
beseeching blind—
upturned eyes ablaze,
his cape
a crimson halo
betokening
the martyr’s fate,
framing his only-open face.
Here, he abandons
his lord.
Behind it all,
the artist, absorbed,
holds a lamp
to see—to show—
obscure—seizure.
Flesh & metal—
the surfaces
he most illuminates
with brutal moonlight;
the taking of Christ.

·

Turn on the TV.
Turn off the TV.
Try to take
a walk before
the mayor takes
your walks from you.
Turn on the TV.
Turn off the TV.
Try to listen
to only the people
marching:
Their breath.
Their breath.
Their Breath.

·

Whether rich
with weathering
or shackled
with flight
soft pad
before dark
along goes
an observer.
It is on, this
along of them,
for retroactive
or foresight,
shaded and
graded, gray
boons skyward.
Belief intangible,
consequential,
a quotation,
and engraved.



BIO

RE DRUM cadre is a Seattle-based poetry collective with a partially rotating cast of contributors that makes work for both print & performance. For the “cadre” project, core members Alex Bleecker, Willie James, and Jeremy Springsteed were joined by Greg Bem and Justine Chan.





Nothing Happens

by Vandana Kumar

Nothing happens really in this city
Where everything has already transpired
It is night
Nobody is up
Asking questions
Or staring at the moon

The generation that argued
Wanted freedom
Did not fight enough
Suddenly packed bags instead

The little kids in the neighborhood
Are a little too little
Their noises are too basic
The kind that
Children make
Demanding
Crying for food
Or for sleep

The noise of defiance
And angst
Has left the place
The nights are moist
With boredom
And yet it doesn’t rain

No smell of first love
No awkward teenagers asking
Each other out
Talking of movies first
Then plays
Then genres of books
Asking names of favorites
All the while wondering
How and when
To touch each other

The city has only the silence
Of status quo
We know our daily visitors
And our weekend guests
Even though
We ask them to sign in
Each time
At the entrance gate

This isn’t a place anymore
Where rebellion grows under the nails
Like a garden
Where a new strange bird
Sits on a windowsill
Every now and them
One that you keep admiring
As you figure out its name

This isn’t the sort of place
Where magic happens
Where
Fireflies dance
Where the month of July
Could happen at any time of the year
Where it isn’t about its natural progression
Into the month of August

And in the quiet of the night
Love isn’t enough a force here
To overwhelm
The city has its center
And its suburbs
And I can’t tell one from the other



Be Our Guest


How strange that I see
What I now see
So differently!
Once ice cubes melted in whiskey glasses
By the warm glances we exchanged
Across crowded rooms

How odd that I now see our home
As mere house
In perfect array
No longer strands of hair
To tell the tales
Duvets in place
Have deftly replaced
Those crumpled sheets
That made both –
The novice and veteran blush

Gone are the days
When visitors shifted toes
So long was their wait
For us to make it to the door

Beware of my house
Where only
Fine porcelain smiles at you
And the cutlery gets counted twice
Once before you arrive –
Once after you are gone



Killing the Good Bacteria


The weekend would be inconvenienced
We told the children
About the impending pest control
About termite treatment and fumigators

The elder one had no complaints
In that direction
How much more legitimate could a reason get
To abstain from the daily homework drudgery

Much younger than the daughter
The son is at an age when
You can’t, but help question
The status quo

He wanted to know who had given eviction orders
Who gave us authority? He asked
To drive away rodents, ants, cockroaches
To hunt out strange rain insects
Perched on bright lights
On the neighbor’s balcony

We took over forest inspection
Then we crushed every anthill
After precise identification

I tried to reason with him
How termites infested the magic in our story books
How the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’ hard bound special edition
Turned to dust
In my much coveted book shelf
‘A necessary attack on imperialism” he quipped

I showed red bumps and insect bites
Dengue claimed lives
In our sub-tropical regions
Son was not to be convinced
Just self-defense he said
We sold gated community apartments
At a premium
These creatures all need asylum

He had the last word
It went thus …
Isn’t being different from us
After all
Punishment enough




BIO

Vandana Kumar is a Middle School French teacher in New Delhi, India. An educator with over 20 years of experience, she is also a French translator and recruitment consultant. Her poems have been published in various national and international journals and websites like Mad Swirl; Toronto based Scarlet Leaf Review; Philadelphia based North of Oxford; UK based Destiny Poets, Lothlorien Poetry Journal; Saint Paul, Minnesota based Grey Sparrow Journal; California (U.S.A.) based The Piker Press, Dissent Voices; Canada based Halcyon Days, Founder’s Favourites, W-Poesis; Singapore based Borderless Journal, Madras Courier etc. She has featured in anthologies like Houston, Texas based – Harbinger Asylum, US based Kali Project of Indie Blu(e) Publishing etc. The Kali Project anthology is now in the North Carolina Regional Library and it was a Finalist for the 15th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards. In November 2021, a poem of hers featured again in the Indie Blu(e) Publishing anthology titled – But You Don’t Look Sick. One of her poems on women was shortlisted in a competition organized by the Woman Inc. – TWIBB Sakhi Annual Poetry Awards 2019 (results of which were declared in March 11, 2020).

She has been published in two volumes of the World literature series on Post-modern voices and critical thought. She also writes articles on cinema that have appeared on websites and journals like Just-Cinema, Daily Eye, The Free Press Journal, Boloji.com and The Artamour. She was one of the judges for an “All India Poetry Competition” organized last year. She also co-edited the print Anthology that resulted from this competition.



Stairs

by Hoyt Rogers

I unlock a side-door,
step into a waterless
well. Blind, I wait
until my cat’s-eyes
brighten in the dark.
Warily, I climb a hundred
stairs: they angle off
like branches, creaking
in a funnel of wind.
I pause; pause again.
I frame pictures
engraved on air.


Room


A cramped landing
before a convex door.
I turn the tarnished key.
A cylindrical room,
a ring of portholes,
scattering yellowed
disks along the floor.
I seem to be in a tower;
I look out, safe at last.
The sea is taut, a ribbon
of navy-blue foil.
A quarter-moon
skims the horizon,
its prow and stern
on an even keel:
a shiny boat,
a primitive toy.
I reach out
and pick it up
with one hand.


Boat


I hold a toy boat,
but I am inside it,
the only one who knows:
we’re adrift, lost at sea,
and will never come back.
The passengers and crew
still believe in a port.
They talk in their sleep:
their babbling coma
keeps me awake.

My only refuge
is the captain’s deck.
No one remembers the day
when he fell overboard.
I lie in his hammock
and stare at the sunset.
The sky tilts
from red to gold,
aquamarine to blue,
violet to indigo,
sinks at last
into limitless black—
and then reignites,
a cinder-cloud of stars.



BIO

Hoyt Rogers is a writer and translator. He translates from the French, German, Italian, and Spanish. He has published many books; he has contributed poetry, fiction, essays, and translations to a wide variety of periodicals. His edition of Yves Bonnefoy’s Rome, 1630 received the 2021 Translation Prize from the French-American Foundation. His translation of Marco Simonelli’s Will: 24 Sonnets appeared in February 2022 at Mudlark Editions online. His forthcoming works include a poetry collection, Thresholds (MadHat Press), the novel Sailing to Noon (book one of The Caribbean Trilogy), and a translation of Bonnefoy’s The Wandering Life (Seagull Books). For more information, please visit his website, hoytrogers.com.



What It Means To Escort Her

by Jason Visconti

To soften the body at its creases,
a deranged animal in a zoo of kisses.


If I Were A Father

I would come into this world as well,
Just mark me in your inventory,

I would bait the sunrise to a newsreel,
If that’s my child’s story,

The disclaimer to love is so very small.


If Nature Were Natural


The flower of the grand ode should bloom,
Tree stalks airbrush into their journals,

The sun keeps west as landscape for a poem,
The true moon is rolled like a marble,

The night sky fills with hungry phantoms.


Imagination


He is bending the scene from the lake shore of his crib,
for the swans of his mind have joined in a circle,

the sun is color coded upon the cloth of his bib,
the space between the bars means something whimsical,

he kicks up his feet with a modest stab.



BIO

Jason Visconti has attended both group and private poetry workshops. His work has appeared in various journals, including Literary Yard, California Quarterly, Valley Voices, Allegro Magazine and The American Journal of Poetry. He especially enjoys the poetry of Pablo Neruda and Billy Collins.





Diluted

by John Maurer

Another year has slithered past me
Left me in knots that can’t be untied
Like being pinned between a car hood
and a tree; they are all that holds my organs in

The deceit of sheepskin I pull over my own eyes
So I won’t have to recognize that I’m the wolf
the one left behind due to injury but who refused to die
Too brutal for the masses, too gentle for my own kind

I’ve grafted my own skin to replace itself
Like eleven eggs split across two baskets
I either have six in one or a half dozen in the other
Neither both, what is given must be taken, life’s a balancing act

I’m lying on the ground with half my bones broken



Sophomore Year



I’ve got a pill box on a necklace
A cigarette behind one ear and a pencil behind the other
A regret I continue to commit in my hand

Drafting this poem with a tattoo gun on my forehead in a mirror
Like it’s the best idea I’ve ever had
Cut off the bloodline like honestly, where was it leading?

I have whiskey on my breath; she says I remind her of her dad
She says my cigarette smoke reminds me of her mother
I don’t say anything at all, I drink, I smoke, I try to smile



BIO

John Maurer is a 26-year-old writer from Pittsburgh that writes fiction, poetry, and everything in-between, but their work always strives to portray that what is true is beautiful. They have been previously published in Claudius Speaks, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Thought Catalog, and more than eighty others. @JohnPMaurer (johnpmaurer.com)  




JUST GO AWAY

by Juanita Rey

Sorry.
I refuse to be hit on
in a laundromat.

I sit on this bench,
expressionless,
senses shut down,
as if I’m in a coma.
So don’t speak to me.
I am not a person.
I am not here.

And you’ve mistaken
the intent of that green dress.
the message in
that strapless black bra.

You misread the situation.
My clothes did not
put you up to this.


MY NEIGHBORS

Sounds pass between
these adjoining apartments
but bodies do not.
My neighbors dine
at their small kitchen table.
I pick on leftovers at mine.
I hear their shower
but I don’t rinse under it.
We each have our own water,
our own bodies to scour.

I say hello when I see them
in the corridor.
And they return my greeting.
But we each go in our own doors.
There’s no comingling.

My neighbors are a middle-aged couple.
I am a young single woman.
If years and situations
were a wall,
they’d be the ones I hang my paintings on.


THE GOOD NEWS WON’T LAST


I am learning,
for the first time in so long,
that all my tests are normal.

The doctor advises:
more calcium in my diet,
exercise regularly.

She still prescribes something.
It’s in her nature.

She knows
wellness is the first step
toward sickness.
In the meantime,
have a cure.



BIO

Juanita Rey is a Dominican poet who has been in this country five years. Her work has been published in Pennsylvania English, Opiate Journal, Petrichor Machine and Porter Gulch Review.



Indigo and Half Moon

by Paul Rabinowitz


11:46 a.m.

A woman wearing a down jacket with silver duct tape clutches the hand of a young child. She throws a half empty coffee cup into the bin under the counter, walks past a full length mirror and glances at her reflection. Twisting her torso to fit into the frame she piles her hair atop her head and notices a gentleman in the back of the cafe gazing at her. She turns towards the exit then cranes her neck to check storm clouds gathering over a playground at the intersection of Pitt and Grand Street. She hoists the child and steps out. Moments later they return. She hushes the crying child that clutches her soaked jacket. The gentleman in the corner of the crowded cafe signals to them to take a seat at the table where he sits. She glances at me sketching the scene then releases her wet hair. I watch as it falls around her shoulders. She sets the child down as the gentleman rises, waving to get her attention. The woman saunters across the floor like a prima donna on stage. He reaches into his worn travel bag and gives the mother a bright blue bird. She rubs her hand over the soft fabric. The child grabs the stuffed animal and runs to the mirror. Glancing at her reflection, she sways back and forth with two hands clutching the wings. She catches my gaze and freezes. The mother turns away from her daughter’s reflection, pushes a candle jar to the edge and leans across the table close to the gentleman. She remains focused on the movement of his lips. The child stomps her feet, puts the bird under her jacket then disappears among the crowds gathering on Grand Street


2:53 p.m.

If I use
a phrase
like
bird enthusiast
with
blue eyes
gentle
voice

in the
first stanza
of my poem

will I need
anything
else
for the middle
or end

to explain
why you
grab

star chart
and dream catcher
earrings

and meet
a bird watcher

to view
a male
bunting

perched
atop
a cactus
singing
to stake
its claim

plumage
brilliant
and shiny
illuminated
under
indigo
sky

waiting
patiently
for nightfall
star patterns
to appear

for clues

to navigate
a vast
intoxicating
desert

while
half moon
in the distance
rises

4:43 p.m.

In a state
of hypnotic
hyper-focused
confusion
a moth
hovers
near a chosen
candle

thinking
the flame
is the moon
glowing

the nocturnal
creature
rises
then falls
unable to
break
its evolutionary
navigational
system

as when you
limp
past the mirror
check
storm clouds
eyes glazed
like a boxer
hit on the jaw

neck snaps
light dims
while falling
to the ground
wishing
someone
laid a pillow
on the canvas

and in a state
of hypnotic
hyper-focused
confusion
you twist
your head
glance at me
sketching
the scene

throwing fresh
words
on my paper
like a painter
under night sky
full moon
igniting
desert
landscapes

as you rise

order coffee
extra cream
and sugar
find a cushioned
chair
to rest upon
until storm clouds
break

as I slide
my poem
across the table
revealing
colorful phrases like

new places
we’ll travel to

sand soaked
in orange light

eternal summers
with no past

break the chain
around your neck

like Jackson Pollock
day after day
I’ll splash
new words
against adobe
walls
indigo dripping
over
raw sienna

so when your offspring
returns
finds us
burning
from both ends
we’ll watch
as she throws
the animal
into the air

and wait
to see
which direction
the dry wind
blows

where
the bird
lands





BIO

Paul Rabinowitz is an author, photographer and founder of ARTS By The People, a non-profit arts organization based in New Jersey. Through all mediums of art Paul aims to capture real people, flaws and all. He focuses on details that reveal the true essence of a subject, whether they be an artist he’s photographing or a fictional character he’s bringing to life on the page.

Paul’s photography, short fiction and poetry have appeared in many magazines and journals including New World Writing, Waxwing Literary Journal, Pif Magazine, Courtship of Winds, Burningword, Evening Street Press, The Sun Magazine, Grub Street Literary Journal, The Montreal Review, The Metaworker, Adirondack Review, Bangalore Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Oddville Press and others. Paul was a featured artist in Nailed Magazine in 2020 and Mud Season Review in 2022. Paul was nominated for Best of the Net in 2021 for his Limited Light photo series and also nominated for the Maria Mazziotti Gillan Literary Service Award. Paul is the author of Limited Light, a book of prose and portrait photography, and a novella, The Clay Urn. Paul is working on a multimedia novel called Confluence, and has completed a poetry collection called truth, love and the lines in between. His poems and fiction, Little Gem Magnolia, Villa Dei Misteri, Confessional and The Lines In Between are the inspiration for 4 short films. Villa Dei Misteri and Little Gem Magnolia won best Experimental Films at the RevolutionMe and Oregon Short Film Festivals. 

Paul has produced mixed media performances and poetry films that have appeared on stages and in theaters in New York City, New Jersey, Tel Aviv and Paris. Paul is a written word performer and founder of The Platform, a monthly literary series in New Jersey, and Platform Review, a journal of voices and visual art from around the world. Paul’s videos, photography and poems appeared in his first solo exhibit called Retrospective With Reading Glasses at CCM Gallery in New Jersey. He is currently at work co-writing a television series with author Erin Jones called Bungalow.

https://www.paulrabinowitz.com/

Fragment

by Stephen Mead

To rip the stars out of yourself
you must first become sky, a horizon with tugboats,
foghorns blasting underneath. How, though dulling sight,
mist amplifies everything. Poke it, a piñata, you pierce your own flesh,
shower panes, cut crystal, a tinkling crescendo.
Swirl, retrieve all. After this, feeling is easy.



Mesmerism

Black lake, paddle boats, the foot bridge silhouetted,
an elegance crossing over as mist slowly blots,
mist taking the waves, the small shores,
the surrounding woods into a Chinese scrim,
its dogwood images in ink, hand-painted,
& the liquid of all of this, the fluidity being
damp London rooks lifting from the gray,
the nostalgic brown, the stark branches…

Here happiness comes upon me,
happiness as childhood travels, adolescence prolonged
over soggy fields, hills, grass blades, all a twisting
vine of half-winter, half-spring before the boundaries
of parks, undesignated, nature preserves, nature stakes
claim in with every crooked creek a jagged ribbon
streaming through…

Cool tributaries swollen with thaw, my veins are
the life blood of some legacy’s landscape bequeathed fresh
from my parents for, god, how I love, taste
all this old agelessness calling us spirituous as we shift,
dissipative, return true again surely as this great lace of air,
air everywhere, holding us out, in, out, in, out, in.



The Loss

Rooms return you, rooms, the cafe, hallways, memories in a flood of flickers & you, suddenly back, Jack-lovely in this destiny pack.

I hold the cards still & you are not missing any more than a cloud floating from my gaze to trace the entire sky.

Maybe heaven really is so planetary & global with you one of the stars over a very private sleep.

From dreams I wake wondering if you’ve been here & I slept too sound except your gone face shows up, intensifying the lack.

I make coffee, smoke a cig, & divine your life in mine yet heart by heart, the flow of rooms, hallways, walks, those paths that crossed to last beyond the knowing of my time or your’s.



We’re a Little Nervous

Lighting a firecracker with a cigarette – pops, pops
all around the picnic table, old knots blown smoky—–
Watch the wood fly. Count your fingers. Check
your hearing. Dad’s reliving a ten-year-old’s Fourth:
gun powder, gun powder, a Western shoot-out
in his hands.

No wonder the dog’s hiding & mom went in the house.
Listen, I’m trying to keep my eyes open.
Whose turn is it? Uh huh, uh huh. Give me that thing.
Don’t go ’til just before the moment – come on, come on
This time let dad sweat a bit.

Now comes lightning, hours later, a storm watch incarnate:
winds slamming doors, toppling plants, hard rain sheeting
the screens, the too-long heat wave & fireworks gone to ash.

Dad’s pacing somewhere. Mom’s wishing she didn’t quit
Virginia Slims. Leagues away, here I am, sound-wired
& wondering where is the cat. Flash. Bang. Crackle.
Damn that animal—–

Any candles? A flashlight?
The tempest rumbles crash.
This umbrella’s got a metal tip.
These loafers aren’t leather.
Hell, Zachary, where are you?

Coffee in a slick fist, gas for the search party—
I breathe fire, wet silver, yellow gasp
showing sea-blue depths, & I think of Hitchcock,
& I think of warfare, & I think of the dread-laced thrill
of a cracker, little soldier, combusting sparks
in fingers just ten years here on earth.



BIO

Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum (The Chroma Museum), artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations and allies predominantly before Stonewall.



Aesthetic Transmissions:
A Conversation with Robert Hass

By George Guida

Robert Hass, U.S. Poet Laureate Emeritus, Distinguished Professor in Poetry and Poetics at Cal-Berkeley, and long-time environmental activist, published his first collection of poems, Field Guide, in 1973, and his latest, Summer Snow, in 2020. In all he has published seven collections of original work, eight volumes of translation (seven of Czeslaw Milosz’s writing and one of Japanese Haiku), and four volumes of criticism. Hass has won a myriad of awards and prizes, from the Yale Younger Poets Award to the Pulitzer Prize, and for five decades has been a presence on the California literary scene.

George Guida: Did you understand from an early age that you wanted to be a writer?

Robert Hass: I didn’t know how you got there from here, whether it was a pipe dream or not, but that’s what I thought I wanted to do. When I graduated from college, I was writing poems, stories, essays. It was in graduate school, when I was 21, 22, 23 years old and had access to a library that had lots of literary magazines, where I really started reading contemporary poetry. I also took a couple of graduate classes with teachers who were very charismatic.

GG: Who were they?

RH: One of them was Ivor Winters, who was an incredible reactionary. I didn’t agree with anything he said. Actually, I didn’t know enough to agree or disagree, but I had never heard anyone talk so passionately about anything in my life as he talked about poetry.  He was extremely contemptuous of his students. He’d say, “I’m an old man, but you’ve come to hear me, because I said, ‘Crane got sold the Brooklyn Bridge by Emerson and Yeats is an overrated poet and a fascist.’ Let me tell you this: Poetry is a serious art. People go into it with almost no apparatus to defend themselves against their feelings. My friend Heart Crane killed himself. My friend Ezra Pound ended up in an insane asylum. Coleridge was an addict and a depressive. I don’t have much use for you. I think you’re going to become sentimental old college professors, dabbling, to the destruction of your betters,” and he walked out the room. First day of class.

GG:  This was at Stanford?

RH:  Yes, in 1963. I thought, “Wow!” But he interested me, and, again, I was reading the literary magazines, which featured novelists of the period: Bellow, Roth, Updike, Cheever. And I read the poets and thought they were way more interesting.

GG: Who were those poets?

RH:  Gary Snyder, for sure, for California writing. I was also reading Ed Dorn at that time, and William Stafford, because they were also Western writers. Then too I read the New York School and the Black Mountain School. The Donald Allen anthology, The New American Poetry, had just come out. It seemed like there was this incredible range of ways you could go about writing poetry and also of materials you could get to from writing it.

GG: At that point did you feel not only that you wanted to write poetry, but also that you wanted to be a part of that world? 

RH: No, I didn’t imagine such a thing. The world that I imagined joining existed in the literary reviews—The Partisan Review, The Hudson Review, The Nation, The New Republic—but it wasn’t particularly about poetry. The world I was signing up for included James Agee writing about movies, Clement Greenburg writing about art, Delmore Schwartz writing about Kafka and existentialism. It was a world of ideas and art. It was thrilling to me.

I could see that among the poets at Stanford there was this little clique of people who were trying to write in a way that Winters would approve of. And I knew that there was a Beat scene, where something really interesting was going on, and that was also a community, I didn’t particularly think of it as a literary community. I thought of it as a countercultural—though we didn’t have that word then—community.

GG: What was your relationship with the countercultural community, other than seeing it from afar?

RH: In high school our older brothers and sisters, not mine but my friends’, were in North Beach. They were the people who were sort of the outsiders in high school and who listened to Jazz.

GG: Were you a city kid?

RH: No, I was a Marin County suburban kid. In the city we got snuck in with fake IDs to the Anxious Asp, to hear Jack Spicer read his poetry on Blabbermouth Night. At the time I didn’t know what I was seeing. It was only years later that I read about the event.

GG: So you probably ran across a lot of the figures of the era without knowing who they were?

RH: I knew where City Lights was, and I recognized who Ferlinghetti was. Another thing that would give me a sense of community were the journals in the basement of City Lights.

GG: The mimeographed magazines?

RH: Yes. I remember that Ferlinghetti published a magazine called The Journal for the Protection of All Being. It came out once a year for a few years. There was an essay in it by someone who, at the time, I’d never heard of, Gary Snyder, called “Buddhist Anarchism.” And I thought, “I’m not sure what Buddhism is and I’m not sure I know what anarchism is,” so I started reading. And then there was the symphony and the kids in my high school who were interested in classical music, which I knew nothing about. Wednesday night was a student night in the balcony and I would see these older students, now college kids, wearing black jeans and black turtlenecks, alongside all the fancy folk who had symphony tickets and were dressed up.

GG: Did you come from a family of intellectuals?

RH:  No. My parents were socially a bit unusual. They were from the Depression Era. Their parents had been to college, but they didn’t go. They were plenty smart, but they were just raising kids. My dad was a tax attorney for an insurance company. They read the Saturday Evening Post and subscribed to the book of the Month Club.

GG: But you had this younger generation around you and your grandparents.

RH: My grandmother would recite poetry

GG: What would she recite?

RH: “Godfrey Gustavus Gore / would you please shut the door? / I’ve told you again /  I’ve told you before.” But she could also recite some Joris-Karl Huysman and the poets a literate college girl of her generation would have known.

GG: So your entrée was mostly the older kids and what you read when you got to college.

RH: Also the Donald Allen anthology gave me a sense that there were poetry communities and a poetry world. At that point I was trying to write stories and poems both. I was involved in activism on civil rights and against the war. I started a weekly newspaper with friends, called Resistance. The first issue we called Commitment: A Journal of the Asylum. It reflected the existentialist ideal and our political commitment. The more radical people in our group wanted a more militant sounding name, so we changed it to Resistance. A lot of what we did was research into military contracts. The Stanford Research Institute was helping to prosecute the Vietnam War.

GG: I know when your first book appeared, and I have a timeline of when you start publishing your work, but when did you start perceiving yourself primarily as a poet.

RH: Sometime after 1967. At Stanford there were a group of people–partly around Ivor Winters–and each of them was going around writing poetry, saying, “I’m a poet.” Robert Pinsky was one of them. James McMichael was another. John Mathias and Kent Fields, who was Winter’s replacement. I I thought they were conservative in their practice. Then I met Mitch Goodman, who was the husband of Denise Levertov and an anti-war activist. He was a lecturer for a couple of years. He saw that I moved around Wallace Stegner, and he thought, “Here’s someone who isn’t a Winters person.” He would say to me, “What poets would you like to hear? We’re trying to invite some that Ivor”—”Arthur,” they called him—”would disapprove of.” I said I’d love to hear Denise Levertov and Frank O’Hara.

The last couple of years at Stanford I started to write more poems. When I thought of a line, I couldn’t wait to get home and write it down. I had little kids, so I would go home and take care of the kids and take out my notebook. And I saw once that a copy of The Hudson Review had the last fragments of Ezra Pound’s Cantos, and they said there would be more in another issue. And I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to be published in the same magazine as Ezra Pound, so I sent poems to The Hudson Review, and they took two of them. To me that was an incredibly big deal, and I had absolutely no one to tell it to except my then-wife, and she said, “That’s nice.”

Then I got my first job at SUNY-Buffalo. I went there because it was teeming with poets, though I didn’t quite understand how much. The summer I arrived, I saw this whole rich—I wouldn’t say community. “Network” is certainly a useful word for this purpose. That is, many different groups interacting, and playing out their rivalries. I thought I was going to Partisan Review heaven. Leslie Fiedler had taught there. Joe Barber. Michelle Foucault was on the faculty. Susan Sontag was there for the summer. My second year there, Merce Cunningham and John Cage had a joint appointment. Robert Creeley was on the faculty. Charles Olson was on the faculty, and he’d hired a lot of Black Mountaineers to teach in the night school. There was a very intense group around Creely and Olson. There was an intense group around John Logan, and around Irving Feldman. The younger generation of poets from the New York School, Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett, and Tom Clark, were very active. That was when I came to see that it was a scene. By then I was trying to focus on writing poetry. I had done my academic work in a completely other area, and I didn’t even tell them I wrote poetry when I was hired at Buffalo.

GG: Your degree is in?

RH: A Ph.D. in comp lit and the novel. I’d done a dissertation on Dickens and Doestoevsky and Freud and capitalism and blah, blah, blah, blah. And I was still thinking that stuff through, because I had finished the dissertation when I was there, but I had lost interest in it. I was really interested in writing poems.

GG: And you entered into this world of poetry silos at Buffalo. These were not overlapping circles of poets. Were they camps?

RH: It’s difficult to describe.Here’s an idea: I had mixed feelings about the social position of Elizabeth Bishop. That was a period when Howard Moss was Poetry Editor of The New Yorker. Bishop’s poems appeared there regularly, and they seemed, at that wild and wooly moment, very well-behaved—but subtle and musically kind of amazing. Creeley would ask me, “What poets are you reading?” and I happened to say Bishop, and he said, “Oh, dear.” I thought, you may not like her, you may think she’s conservative, but how could anybody who writes poetry not think she has an amazing ear. Hearing Creeley read, you understood his poetics. Logan read in this rich, orotund way these off-rhymed Lowell-ish poems. Irving Feldman was outside of poetry scenes and contemptuous of them. He was writing out of the Jewish Eastern European experience.

GG: When and where would you hear these people read?

RH: Almost every night. In coffee houses, on campus, all over the place. I had gone from Stanford, where you just didn’t hear much poetry at all, and then suddenly there were readings everywhere. The summer I arrived, there was a reading from summer visitors: the Irish poet Austin Clarke and William Empson. Empson was there for 2 summers, and I was put in charge of taking care of him. He was a serious drunk. Paul Carroll, who was the editor of Big Table Books. Michael Rumaker, who was a fiction writer and poet from Black Mountain. There were tons of poets reading, and there were overlapping communities of interests. The Olson people were either, “You’re cool or you’re not one of us.” Logan’s circle of friends included A. R. Ammons and James Wright, Robert Bly, Galway Kinnell, Isabelle Gardner, Adrienne Rich and W. S. Merwyn. They were a group of poets who were expressive, while the avant garde poets were more interested in analytic technique issues. The bars were full of poets.

When Creeley was going on leave, he said, “Why don’t you try teaching my contemporary poetry class while I’m gone?” I was teaching these courses on the novel. I said, “What I’d really like to do is take the difference between your salary and my salary and bring in a bunch of poets. I can teach the poet’s work on Tuesday, have them read on Wednesday, and they could teach the class on Thursday.”

GG: That sounds like a perfect world.

RH: Sure. So I invited Alan Ginsberg, who said he would only come if I invited Gregory Corso. Years later I stood on Corso’s grave in Paris and said, “Gregory, you owe me 400 dollars.” Anyway, Denise Levertov, Adrienne Rich, Robert Bly, William Merwyn, Ed Dorn, Ginsberg and Corso taught the course. Corso gave a talk on the origins of cave drawings of people getting stoned on morning glory seeds. I was suddenly submerged in this world. And there were many other things going on that were interesting. Ray Federman was part of a group of people, along with John Hawks and Jon Barth, the new fictioneers.

GG: It may warm your heart to know that Buffalo still has a vibrant literary community on many levels, including the local community level, but the scene you’re describing is remarkable.

RH: There were readings at bars with local poets. I remember one guy with a Greek surname, from Buffalo, who read a long poem that went on and on about the Marriage of Jacqueline Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis. He didn’t quite get booed off stage, but after a while people said they’d really heard enough. He came to the bar, and I said, “That was a long poem,” and he said, “Onassis is going to be so pissed off.” Delusions of grandeur.

GG: The distinctions between academic poets and community poets have, axiomatically, eroded over the last twenty or so years. What was your experience negotiating those two milieux?

RH: I was aware of the distinction early on, and my impulse was not to buy into it. The way the allegiance thing worked was that if you were in the Creeley camp you had to think Joel Oppenheimer was a great poet and Galway Kinnell was a terrible poet. I would think, “Joel is a charming guy and he’s kind of writing like Creeley. He’s very funny, but his poetry isn’t very deep.” At the time Galway Kinnell was writing The Book of Nightmares, trying to write Rilkean poetry in America. The place asked you to choose camps, and I didn’t want to choose. I also saw that, in ways that seemed to me not completely healthy, they formed affiliation gangs. Each one drew on the energy of the star poet in the center of that group. It’s perfectly natural it would happen. It’s the way aesthetic and spiritual transmissions get made.

GG: How do you mean?

RH: Around that time, I was in New York visiting a friend. She was taking acting class. We went by to pick her up and we were standing outside the classroom where Uta Hagen–who had been in Lee Strasburg’s class and had done the first blind reading of Streetcar Named Desire with Marlon Brando–was teaching this group of students And it raised the hair on the back of my neck, thinking about the way artistic transmissions happened. It’s very much like the way transmission happens in Buddhist communities: You find a master, you learn from the master, you eventually become a master yourself. It’s through that semi-erotic attachment, complicated by power relations. I loved the work of several of those poets, but I didn’t want to sign up particularly.

GG: So at some point you left this community in Buffalo?

RH: I would come back here in the summertime, and I would see the silos in San Francisco.

GG: Do you agree with that assessment, that it’s a siloed city?

RH: Yes and no. There’s leakage all over the place. I came back in 1971. I published my first book in 1973. At that point what I was interested in was poetry. I also saw here versions of what I’d seen in Buffalo: this group, that group. There were the San Francisco State poets. Berkeley was pretty dead, actually, in terms of a poetry scene, but here were terrific poets. Thom Gunn was here, but he was interested in the Castro and that world and not interested in a poetry scene. Ishmael Reed was here. Pinsky was teaching in the English Department. Josephine Miles was at the edge of retirement. So Berkeley had a rich tradition of growing poets–Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer—so there was a lot here, but the graduate program was not a creative writing program. After I got a book published, I got invited to read in Berkeley, and someone said—maybe it was Jack Foley—”Good luck. It’s like beating a very ancient carpet.” It didn’t feel welcoming and alive.

GG: San Francisco did?

RH: San Francisco did. 

GG: When you say San Francisco, are you talking about City Lights or other venues?

RH: I’m trying to remember. I was raising small children, so I didn’t have much of a social life. But I would get out every once and a while to poetry readings at the San Francisco Poetry Center. But from here that’s a long schlep over to San Francisco State. Intersection was the place that tried to make an art community in the city at that time, and that’s where a lot of the cool readings were. It’s gone now, but I think for 20 years it was a venue. I forget what year New College began. The language poets as a group in the 1980s gave a series of talks at 80 Langston St, which is a little alley between Market and Mission. And that became a kind of downtown place for all non-academic-centered ideas, particularly linguistics and critical theory and language poetry. That was the cool scene, and they were interested in their different kinds of community. Folks like Ron Silliman. They would read for a couple of hours outside BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] stations. At the time Silliman was helping to edit The Tenderloin Times, which was a newspaper for street people to sell, in order to have something to do.

GG: Now the reading that happens at BART station is an impromptu spoken word event where they draw a chalk circle at the 16th and Mission Station, and there’s no order. It’s just jump into the circle, jump out of their circle.

RH: The language poets’ writing was extremely heady, but Silliman would tap his feet to the rhythm as he read. So it was poetry that denied having a body, even though it was totally bodily in the way that it was performed. There were a lot of people working in different ways. There was still a kind of Beat scene, though Gary Snyder was gone and Ginsberg was long gone. Jack Hirschman and Neeli Cherkovski were there, among others. There was a group of poets around Robert Duncan at San Francisco State. Stan Rice, the husband of Anne Rice, was a hot young poet in San Francisco, before they moved to New Orleans. Jack Gilbert and his partner Linda Gregg formed a kind of group.

GG: I want to go back to your idea of community in a more platonic sense, regarding poetry and being laureate. What’s your perception of the situation now in San Francisco? Of the community’s poets? Of poetry here generally? The power of it, relative, cultural?

RH: I don’t feel at all on top of what’s happening here, but one of the things that’s definitely happened is this: When I started reading poetry in 1963, ’64, ’65, I could read every book of poems published in America in a given year, including the mimeographed stuff. There were maybe 17 books of poems published a year. Last year there were 1400 books of poems published.

GG: Those are just books by the presses acknowledged as national presses.

RH: There was no thought that you could make a career writing poetry. When I was graduating college there were two creative writing graduate programs: Iowa and Stanford. I was in Stanford, and I wasn’t in the creative writing program.

GG: But you were aware that the MFA existed.

RH: I wasn’t actually, I don’t remember being aware of it as a choice. I thought at that point, “I want to be a writer.” I’d already gotten married, I’d worked 2 summers doing research at a bank, and it made it perfectly clear to me that I didn’t want to put on a suit and go to an office from 8 to 5. And it seems that’s what you do when you graduate from law school. I went to graduate school for a PhD in the same spirit in which I might have decided on law school. There weren’t models of poets teaching in the university, particularly, yet. What changed things was by the time I was back here in 1971, there were creative writing teachers at every college, so there came to be MFA programs, which exponentially increased the number of people writing poetry, and the number of people publishing poetry, and the number of communities usually organized around the aesthetic of the charismatic teachers in each program. That was also true of New York at the time.

GG: Those developments have had enormous implications in a couple of ways. The first of which is for the state of poetry. Do you have strong opinions about those implications? 

RH: The writers of the older generations were extremely suspicious of the academy. There’s a poem of Theodore Roethke’s era about Roethke raging in the cage of the university. Kenneth Koch wrote in “Fresh Air,” that poets were “trembling in the universities and publishing houses,” “bathing the library steps with their spit.” They feared the university as a trap. 

The greatest period in the history of lyric poetry was the Tang Dynasty in China, which produced, over 100 years, five or six of the greatest poets who have ever written in any language, and they all had to take exams in poetry in order to get the jobs as secretaries, in the waterworks, and in the other administrative jobs for Confucians. The evidence is that the more a culture encourages poetry, the better the poetry it produces.

GG: You would say generally that there’s more good poetry being written now than at any point in American history?

RH: We don’t know. Great poetry is mysterious. Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson are. On one hand the history of American poetry is the original work came from people who were on some level profoundly loners. I mention the Tang example as a counter argument to the idea that there’s a kind of static uniformity.

GG: Not a static uniformity, but let’s say we have a large number of programs producing poets who then become solitary poets, and they’re all over the place, and you can’t throw a rock without hitting a poet in the United States.

Robert: I think that’s a really important thing. Look at early 20th-century American literature. In 1915, roughly when Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost and Pound were getting started, only 16 percent of Americans graduated from high school.

GG: It makes me think of poetry scrapbooking in the early 20th Century. It was a time when many people had scrapbooks of poems, but not everyone was writing poems. Now not too many are keeping scrapbooks, but everybody’s writing poetry.

RH: It was middle-class people who were keeping scrapbooks. In Sherwood Anderson’s stories of small-town life, people were going crazy and running through the streets naked in the middle of the night, in these oppressive environments. Now every disturbed and upset person in the country can find their way to some community college where somebody who loves poetry or painting or musical composition is teaching them. What’s not good about that?

GG: There is no downside to that.

RH: But this was the point I was coming around to, what’s been interesting about the Bay Area in the last 20 years. The creative writing program at Dominican University at San Rafael, the old hallowed one in San Francisco State, the College of Arts and Crafts, St. Mary’s, Mills College, they’ve each spilled into their surrounding communities. The graduates from my wife’s program from Saint Mary’s now have two or three different weekend poetry reading programs. There’s an audience of 75 to 100 people every couple of Friday nights. There are salons. And the groups intermingle and overlap–some, and some they don’t. The young poets want to take their art out into the community.

GG: That’s the experience that I’ve had, that just as you can’t throw a rock without hitting a poet, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a poetry reading, Everywhere, every night of the week almost.

RH: You’ve got people saying that Americans don’t like poetry.

GG: That’s hard to believe.

RH: There were maybe 5 poets working in every University in America in 1948. Now every single college, university and community college in the country has two poets and two fiction writers teaching creative writing.

GG: It’s an amazing industry.

RH: And somebody’s paying for it, tax money mostly. We have on this campus our monthly poetry reading series and a biweekly one. Meanwhile there’s the Starry Plough and Studio One, off-campus venues

GG: So this is progress? Socially?

RH: Absolutely.

GG: The effect on society is positive, because…?

RH: It’s hard to say exactly. Everyone loves to quote William Carlos Williams: “men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found [in poems].” Jeremy Nobel, a doctor at Harvard, started a non-profit called The Unlonely Project. He started working with veterans, writing and reading poetry. There are things like that going on. Lyn Hejinian has said that poetry coteries, her word, are necessary, because young poets need support and nurturing to find their little groups.

GG: I’ve discovered that poets leave coteries.

RH: People have talked about that in different ways. Somebody asked Robert Pinsky about being a Jewish poet and he said, “It’s the neighborhood I come from.” Some people stay there forever, or at least they become professionally associated as a spokesperson for that neighborhood of poetry.

Jane Jacobs, who is great on the subject of community, said, “New ideas come from old buildings.” Most new social initiatives of all kinds have to do with creating community. Another background of all of this is the distinction between community and network, and the networks that capitalism, a market economy, creates; and the kind of community good that has become the rhetoric of poetry and of the people who try to raise money to promote the arts as a way of promoting community.

GG: There’s a network of practicing poets in the academy. I have poet friends who know your wife professionally. I didn’t know that until two days ago when one of my friends mentioned it. There’s a reason they meet at the AWP conference every year. Then there are many communities that I’ve encountered in which people have absolutely no interest in networking, less than zero. They don’t care to get out beyond their specific communities. And I would say that’s the majority of people who write poetry. Were you aware of this when you were Poet Laureate?  Did it feel like part of the task to encourage any particular sort of community?

RH: I had been traveling around the country, giving readings, for maybe twenty years by that time. I knew that in Yakima, Washington, you might think you’re going to get four people at a reading and the place is full, because somebody happened to have taught your poetry in their class, and you go to another place and nobody shows up. From that perspective, a poetry community feels like a pond where the temperature keeps changing.

As Poet Laureate I was interested in creating readers for poetry, figuring out how to do that, and using the position to confront fundamental issues of literacy. Because I  was also the first person from the West of the Mississippi to have this job, I thought I should do something related to the environment. And they said, “We have $30,000 for you, to have some kind of conference.” Newt Gingrich’s Republican Congress had just been elected. For the first time in fifty years, a Republican was in charge of financing for the Library of Congress. So I said, “I’d like to get the environmental writers together, because I hear that the lobbyists are sitting in the offices of  these new freshmen Congressmen, rewriting the environmental legislation.” I went back the next week and they said, “We thought we had money available for a conference, but turns out we’re not going to this year. Sorry”.

GG: The Contract with America.

RH: So I said to them, “If raise the money, could I go ahead and do it ?” And they said, “Sure, if you raise the money.” I had never tried to raise money for anything. I called around to some people. Very quickly somebody called me, a guy named Charlie Hopper, who was the director of a foundation that used the Sara Lee Cheesecake family money. He said, “I hear you’re thinking of doing an environmental program at the Library of Congress, and I think that’s wonderful, and maybe we can give you some help”. I said, “I could use about $30,000.” He said, “How about 100,000?” I went to the Center for the Book, at the Library of Congress. It’s a place that produces those maps of writers that you see in schoolrooms. I thought “Bingo! If you just add environmental responsibility and the natural history writing tradition to these maps, you’ve got exactly the community poetry is interested in.”.

GG: But this could apply to other issues as well? It’s just a sort of paying attention that poetry demands.

RH: When Rita Dove had the job, she organized the first literary conference on the great diaspora, on what took black people out of the Jim Crow South and into the cities of the North, and created the art scenes that happened in places like New York and Chicago. It was about literature creating communities for people.

GG: As a white male Poet Laureate, were you very conscious of the imperative to diversify perspectives in and on poetry? We’re to the point now where many of the most celebrated books are by poets of color, gay poets of color, immigrant poets.

RH: I was certainly aware, because I grew up with the civil rights movement, so I understood very well the need for it, especially sitting in the Library of Congress where almost all of the employees were black and all the appointed staff were white. One day I went to work, there were an older guy and a younger guy, like they were in an August Wilson one-act, sitting on a bench outside the entry. The young kid said to the old guy, with tears in his eyes, “I don’t have to take this shit anymore.” And the old guy said, “Son, you do.” 

I’d also started this environmental poetry program for children, and the first place we did it was in the Anacostia district in D. C.. I met a guy, who was a descendant of Daniel Boone, who created the Friends of the Anacostia River Society. Washington has a dual-store sewage system, like most American cities. Every time there’s a heavy rainfall in D. C. the sewers from the Federal Triangle overflow into the Anacostia River, and all the Congressional shit flows through the poorest neighborhood in the city. How’s that for a definition of community? So I was discovering a lot of stuff from doing that and feeling like bringing poetry into these communities that were concerned with the environment and with social justice was part of the work to be done.

GG: Is this something inherent in poetry which lends it to alliance with social justice movements? Or is that something that’s just happened?

RH: Well, that’s an interesting question. What do you think?

GG: The thing that occurs to me when I think of this possibility is that I have a friend who’s a a good poet, a professor, and a very conservative Christian. He rages about having to be a poet in an academic environment defined by the constant imperative for social justice. He thinks it’s all a bunch of…

RH: Bullshit.

GG: Right. To my mind poetry usually attracts people who are concerned with social justice, because it’s the people who reflect the most who are most concerned with social justice. I don’t know if that’s right, but that’s what it feels like.

RH: You can date the imperative for social justice of the kind that we have now, poetry arts in general, from Romanticism and the French Revolution. Was Shakespeare concerned with social justice when he was writing the Sonnets? I don’t think so. Were the great 17th-century religious poets concerned with social justice?

GG: I would think about Blake, but I would say poets of those times were concerned more with the awareness of social injustice, not so much with campaigning for social justice.

RH: So Blake is the turning point.

GG: The Industrial Revolution.

RH: Somebody said that The Vicar of Wakefield is the first novel in which someone mistreats a child. And it’s the same period when poets started writing poems about wounded animals, like Robert Burns’s “To a Mouse.” The moment of the birth of modern liberalism comes from romanticism and poetry of that period. Resistance to power has been an element of the arts since the end of the eighteenth century.

GG: At the risk of sounding ill-informed, when I think about the Modernists, I don’t think particularly that that’s a group of poets concerned with social justice. Eliot, Pound, even Stevens.

RH: In the Depression they turned themselves to that question, each of their own way.

GG: So you look at the poet of The Four Quartets as a different poet from the poet of The Wasteland.

RH: At the same time, Langston Hughes was writing, Carl Sandburg was writing. In his way Stevens, in “The Man on the Dump,” tried, from his lofty heights, to address the Depression.

I have a friend who was reading applications in the graduate program he’s in, with a couple of younger poets on the faculty. One of the applicants said that she particularly wanted to come to this program, because she really wanted to work on issues of gender injustice and inequality, and this older poet said, “This is not a program in gender and social inequality. It’s a program in poetry.” A younger poet on faculty went to the chair of the department and made a formal complaint against this poet for making a racist remark. Somebody else, somebody teaching at Harvard, told me that he was teaching Donne’s “Batter my heart, three-person’d God.” After class a woman came to him and said that, as a survivor of sexual abuse, she was very disturbed by how casually he had used the term “ravished.”

GG: I’ve heard people put this more vulgarly: that having the correct pronoun is not the same as having someone grab you.

RH: So right now that’s the moment. On the other question, of the spread of graduate programs, which has caused people who want work and who love this art to want it in more communities, I remember when Dana Gioia published the book Can Poetry Matter? Czeslaw Milosz was enraged by that title. He said, “This assumes John Carson matters.” He meant Johnny Carson and late night t. v. It was evident to him, who had seen whole generations carted off to the gas chamber, that the conversation that went on in poetry was a matter of life and death. That way of thinking also belonged to a time when it was only an educated aristocracy who read and wrote poetry.

GG:  I did take issue with Gioia’s argument. It seemed to me that he was talking particularly about a subject of his next book, about San Francisco and the way the publishing industry here had disappeared.

RH: There’s another aspect to that discussion. First of all it’s only from the middle of the 19th Century that most people could read. And right around the time of Whitman’s debut there began to be cheap enough printing to make books.

GG: Compulsory education began in 1840.

RH: 1840. Unless you were black, and then you could still get killed for trying to read. During that period from about 1840 to 1920, the main source of information was newspapers and magazines, so people who work in the print media created celebrity. And what happened, beginning with radio and then with t. v., is that celebrities became people admired by the producers of news and entertainment. So the Modernists, who disliked popular poetry, which people had been working very hard to use in the spirit we’re talking about, for creating a community, were basically biting the hand that fed them just as it was being withdrawn. And they remained stars, so they–you know, Eliot and Pound, would show up in Bob Dylan’s songs. That was the end of that particular kind of celebrity for writers.

GG: I often look back on the 1980s, when I was in undergraduate, as the last gasp of the New York literary old line. I interned at The Hudson Review and The Paris Review then, and that was the last gasp of seeing literary types go to Elaine’s or seeing John Updike get into an elevator at a swank party. That sort of literary celebrity doesn’t appear to exist much anymore. And that’s not all bad. I can come here and interview you. You were Poet Laureate. And I was able to ask another Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, to visit with my class. And I’m just some guy at the City University of New York. It’s not the same sort of exclusivity.

RH: I have no clear picture of the way things are now. It’s clear that the Internet is changing the whole discussion about community and how you make it. Virtual poetry communities are everywhere and nowhere. I think the rise of identity politics is a subject for poetry, is connected to everywhere and nowhere. You have to talk about this carefully, because it has a blood and soil element. It was complicated for me, figuring out how to do environmental poetry without talking about how important attachment to community is, at the same time that cosmopolitanism is the solution to small-town prejudice. You encourage Nebraskans to be Nebraskans by taking care of their environment and stop polluting their rivers.

GG: I talked to two people this week who have said outright or implied that when push comes to shove people retreat to their tribes. Last night someone very close to my age who was running a poetry slam said basically as much. Berkeley is for Caucasians. Oakland is for brown people, as she put it. And last night at the Oakland Slam, there was as diverse a mix of people as I’ve seen, and I come from a place that was diverse and have taught for 30 years at a university that is.

RH: Fifty-five percent of undergraduates from Berkeley are not European-American in one way or another, and twenty percent of them don’t speak English as their first language at all.

GG: The definitions of diversity are interesting too, because back at my college in Brooklyn, the students speak one hundred and fifteen different languages. If there’s a dominant group, maybe it’s Latino students, but even they are from various places. I’m staying by Lake Merced in San Francisco, in an area that is predominantly Chinese American, almost entirely. Is that diversity?

RH: In my growing up, San Francisco was very much the patchwork model.

GG: Yes, and that’s New York as well, in terms of ethnic neighborhoods. I perceive that this generation of students is different. They really are blending together in a way that previous generations have only lip paid service to. But there still seem to be lingering doubts, especially among people who are part of communities of color, that there is a kind of final blending of communities, which includes poets. Do you believe that poetry is an effective vehicle for social change? Not necessarily for social justice, but for change.

RH: Here’s my formula for understanding poetry this way. For reasons that nobody quite understands, in the middle of the 18th Century, theologians were really puzzled by the existence of mountains, because they were such a waste of space. By the 1790s Friedrich Holderlin was writing these amazing poems about climbing up mountains. Coleridge and Wordsworth read Holderlin, and Thoreau read Wordsworth and Coleridge. John Muir read Thoreau. And Teddy Roosevelt read Muir. And we got national parks. Poetry isn’t responsible for what happens, but it’s the archive of everything human beings have thought and felt, more powerfully expressed than any place else. The idea is that the seeds of new things find their first shape in music, images, lines of poetry.

GG: What distinguishes poetry from other sorts of writing that could effect social change is that it’s got those elements that are part of the subconscious, that consciously work on a subconscious level.

RH: In the way that metaphor does. The oldest associations of poetry in every language from which written language emerges are with memory. It’s the power of poetry to invoke memory, making the way you say things memorable by making it rhythmic. If there is a world community, it’s that community. You were talking about poets belonging to networks on one hand and communities on the other and kind of moving between them. But I want to talk about this other thing, about spiritual traditions of transmission that happen inside and across communities. That is to say that people who love and practice an art are companions to everyone who loves and practices the art. When a painter dies it means something to the community of painters. That’s why the elegy of a poet for a poet is such an important form. I respect the work of almost anybody who gets work done.

GG: Did you continue to teach when you were Poet Laureate?

RH: I taught  on Mondays and Tuesdays, and I caught planes on Wednesday mornings. What I did first, before I got involved with the environmental stuff or with writing the column, was to talk about literacy. I got invited to a downtown Oakland business club, and I called somebody in the school of education, and I asked, “What’s the graduation rate from Oakland high schools?” and they told me. Then I went to the Oakland Rotary’s breakfast and said, “How many of you can name all of the linebacker corps of the Oakland Raiders?” And everybody could. Then I said, “How many of you know the graduation rate from Oakland high schools?” And nobody could. And I said, “I couldn’t either, until I asked.” Then I said, “They’re you kids. If they can’t read, it’s your fault.” That was my attack on community at the outset. I ran around saying that imagination makes communities. Self-interest makes networks. Imagination makes communities. I just said it as a mantra. Poetry, by feeding the imagination and describing for us our shared world, makes a community of value. That’s partly true and partly a wish.  



BIO

George Guida is author of nine books, most recently the novel Posts from Suburbia (Encircle Publications, 2022) and the collection of poems Zen of Pop (Long Sky Media, 2020). He is at work on Virtue at the Coffee House: Poetry and Community in America.

George Guida

Professor
English Department
New York City College of Technology

Author 
Posts from Suburbia (2022)
Zen of Pop: Poems (2020)
New York and Other Lovers: Poems (2020)
Pugilistic: Poems (2015)
The Sleeping Gulf: Poems (2015)
Spectacles of Themselves: Essays in Italian American Popular Culture and Literature (2015)
The Pope Stories (2012)
The Pope Play (2009)
Low Italian (2007)
The Peasant and the Pen: Men, Enterprise and the Recovery of Culture in Italian American Narrative (2003)

Georgeguida.wordpress.com

Grace Street

By Frederick Pollack



The most significant photo
of my childhood isn’t of me
but a man three stories down,
alone, galoshed, earflapped,
woolen (long before parkas
even for soldiers), bent against the wind
(there was always wind), responding
tactically to ice ahead. It could
be noon but is almost as dark
as the brick apartment buildings
in their long lifetime
of soot. An age and neighborhood
of small deals, nominal
top tax rate 94%, the B-36s
of the Strategic Air Command
protecting us. (I could sell you
reasonably the damp grey
dry-rotted windowsill above
the radiator, over which
I could almost see.) All I know
for sure about the walker
is that he’s dead. So I can
hope that his small deal
that day went through – that
the girl, lawyer, shop steward
accepted the line
he was rehearsing. And
coopt him for other purposes, as
he was already.



The Loom


What if art had been different? During the
rappel à l’ordre
of the 1920s, everyone shifts
to tapestries. (What manifests ordre
more than a tapestry?) Not just a few
luxury experiments – the norm:
more weavers, brought in from the provinces,
in Paris than lithographers
(someone always profits). Leger’s robots,
Braque’s tremulous (head-wound) yellow-greens,
fuzzy. A creeping if not creepy
nostalgia for pre-artillery
stone walls sets in; Maurras and his cane-
wielding monarchists approve;
Dada withers, Surrealism
never takes off. Everywhere
texture, pastels in the light
of calla-lily lamps, covert vertical
frottage. Bonnard’s twelve-meter offering
at the Hôtel de Ville. Even
the poor nail up their linsey-woolsey
reproductions of “Verdun.” Soon, portraits
of various Leaders assume
this presence all over Europe,
wall-posters vaguely déclassé. In an
Italian film (the “White Telephone” school
absorbs neorealism), a girl
of the people, being kept by
an aristocrat, pulls
a tapestry from his wall and
wraps herself in it,
lying on a patch of parquet; her dark
eyes flash as she cries,
“My whole family could sleep under this!” …
You can see her, can’t you.



One of the Names


I came voluntarily.
It was nicer than I’d hoped.
They were pleased I’d given up
without a fuss my tent beneath the overpass,
brought nothing but a clipping,
didn’t fight (like some I knew)
for every plastic bag. Accepted
delousing, tests, shots,
without screaming. And the jumpsuit.
Answered their questions, said I had no skills
(which gratified them after days and weeks
of shamans, lathe operators,
superannuated sex workers, agents
of or against the secret masters, ex-
executives, Jesus).
Didn’t ask for a drink.
There but for the grace of God,
I’d like to think they thought.
On the benches in the big room,
the shadows of four windowless towers
(more going up) crossed
my comrades, who, if they talked at all,
said one way or another
It won’t hurt. One yelled we’d be killed
immediately, or our spoiled bodies
flushed in a year or two
down some hole; he was dragged away. Few
speculated when we’d be awakened.
I thought of nothing else.
Didn’t imagine a fresh start,
cures, kindness. Only
the power keeping on and on,
concrete remaining whole, letting us out
finally on a former
sea floor. What I’d really like
is just eight minutes as the sun goes nova …
the sun will need me.



Thousand Aves Told


                  With the demise of monasticism, there is now no place where one can
                  professionally execrate the world.


After the Revolution, we take seriously
Cioran’s lament. With the joyous, self-congratulatory
élan that comes with the demise
of money, we build in forests and waste places
negative structures: not pseudo-ancient
or aggressively austere.
The chapels at their heart
lack altars, but the chairs are hard
and widely spaced, the quiet quieter.
With our usual warmth, we ensure
that those who wish to enter
have not attempted suicide too often,
or killed, and probably won’t. Offer
counseling, leave a number
they can call if they want. (In all this
we show a consideration
not extended to religion.)
Left alone, they tend to adopt
a partial code of silence, banning
the loudest and most defensive. Make their beds,
grow their food. Through
the windows in the common room
or, often, from narrow hallways
they stare at cherished birds and trees and
sometimes, on the horizon,
us building. Nights they see a face
they wounded, or their own. They consider
the dark beneath the earth. Whisper
curses shaped over years and carefully
inscrutable. Gods and things like gods
exude like sweat or winter breath; despite
the care they have for each other,
to some the place feels always hot or cold.
And they fight and break up fights, and eat in dimness.
Co-ed. Flirtation frowned upon.
But sometimes two wind up in the same cot.
With the understanding that, tomorrow,
they will leave without goodbyes,
fasten each other’s pack, descend
to the trailhead and the nearest town
with its windmills, brass band,
and equivocating, indispensable banners.



Personal Items


Eventually they return
my passport, jacket, tie,
phone, and hat. One declaims
haltingly their sorrow
for any inconvenience; I sign
a form saying I have no complaints.
Become almost tearful,
seeing again my stickered, scuffed,
beductaped leather suitcase.
It will look as suspect and as quaint as I
(I know – I’ve followed the world
on television) among

those twirling, weightless things
that people pull along
like aphids dragging pupae. These
unfurl, I’ve heard, into well-appointed
shelters for those homeless who can afford them.
Prepare hot meals on the run.
Equipped with stirrups, can be ridden
or (for all I know) flown.
Are in touch with the great mainframe
and commiserate with their owners
on the horrors of travel. My smartphone,
likewise, will seem no longer

smart. No more will I – must reinvent
my look as “aged but resolute.”
Nor, I must say, do the officials,
whose uniforms were redesigned
(and not to their advantage) during my stay.
They hesitate, handing back
my suitcase. Will they subject it
to yet more dogs, decryption, x-rays, profiling?
“Would you like to check … ” asks one
with unauthorized compassion.
I smile as if I scarcely care.
After so long, I know what’s in there.



BIO

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems: THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both from Story Line Press; the former to be reissued by Red Hen Press. Also two collections of shorter poems: A POVERTY OF WORDS, (Prolific Press, 2015) and LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Pollack has appeared in Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, Chiron Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Rat’s Ass Review, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, etc.






the wounds of anne sexton

by Jonah Meyer


anne sexton, at what point were you surprised to see the waters still
rippling in the long island sound?

anne sexton, 2 o’clock on a tuesday, august 1960, has everything
happened, or has nothing happened at all?

anne sexton, did your sun-drenched yellow dress add light upon light
under intrusion of the pock-filled hospital room ceiling, nurses and
doctors with scissors in hand, making origami of your tender pale skin?

how much for the poem, anne sexton? how much for the sea? how much
your pack of cigarettes, dangling from a sunburnt hand relaxed on the
pane of the ship, and where, by the way, is your wallet? where, your keys?

anne sexton in the age of luminous eyes!

anne sexton, composing ‘keep off!’ against the
lovely surface of the sea.

anne sexton, the good fat plump happy babies have sunk snug into their
carriages heavy like stones, and so why are you saddened, why
almost undressed?

anne sexton says nothing at all.

is as fragile as sponge.
light as a cup of milk.



THE POETS WILL NEVER BE PUT OUT OF BUSINESS.


they have their words to keep wheeling, whispering.
have their stories always spinning.

the poets will yes inherit the world come
end-of-day.

have their rhyme, their meter, their
pleasant confusion.

the poets are now forming a corporation.
conducting business overseas.
holding late-night clandestine
get-togethers, serving white wine & chocolate biscotti & discussing
the meaning of it all.

ten dollars an hour the poets are paid.
twenty on particularly productive sessions.
bonuses each time a new poem
breathes on its own.

the poets walk the streets, shuffling like madmen,
joy burning in the eyes.
it’s funny how one might say to another:
the day is young, the season
marvelous, without
spilling word.

sometimes the poets rest in tall homemade hammocks,
their gnarly raw language setting the sun.

each new break-of-day, the poets can be seen dropping
bread-crumbs to geese,

such happy animation dancing through breeze.
they hiss & they howl & they
generally carry on.

the poets speak of things which
they – indeed all hoomankind – shall
never understand:

love, they moan outloud,
love is a chinese riddle!

the poets create poems on napkins,
tabletops, restaurant barstools.

         (the poets have convinced themselves
         graffiti is no crime)

once a new poem is borne, the poets
circumcise it, speaking a little hebrew,
careful not to cut too much.

at age 13 the poem is thrown a huge party in
which the poets get drunk &
dance into the skies.

yes the poets are really getting ahead in life.
really grasping a handle on
how much mess there is to be made.

weaving freshly-woven limericks into flower petals,
thrown to the wind, the poets take
long afternoon naps,
dreaming of eternity

             – and –

             the day when    all
     humankind  will  take  to
    writing  love  sonnets


sixty-one


sixty-one times i lost my soul to the small asian lady wearing pink cotton
jumpsuit and large copper earrings behind the counter at my favourite
place to grab lunch in san francisco chinatown

sixty-one times the colour of my true love’s hair

sixty-one the number of tics i glance at the young couple as they sink into
snuggling state of union, the movie theatre down in the dark front-corner
row, matinee showing of the life of freddie mercury

sixty-one times playing with soft language until we approximate
literary ejaculation

sixty-one calls to arm a busy nation policing the planet
a budweiser country high on box-office porn, buttered beer and
blustering pontification

woke up this morning with poetry crusted in the eyes, tried to rinse it out
while it spilled into these dog-eared pages

sixty-one stages in pure confused delight

sixty-one flags lowered at half-mast
some small god’s wind attempting to schmear it back up
the length of the pole

sixty-one, says the city bus driver
6161 pennsylvania avenue, dripping with blood,
fangs in the eye-sockets

and kerouac’s railroad earth is drenched in sunset
and all of general georgie washington’s d.c. is drenched in heavy flooded
moonshine machinery

observe the great heavenly satellite sky hovering over every man woman
child—she is a drunken sailor, smacking chewing gum grit & grin

and the humble buddha here on earth, schvitzing heady mindful practice
at the guidance of a video rental on the subject he got for a buck-sixty-
one down at video review on lawndale boulevard

and the sea, she is whispering sixty-one

and the old-growth forests are burning alive on tee-vee sets

and sixty-one hills and valleys busy shedding their stubborn
botanical growth as the great gab-smacked goddess returns with baggies
of dust, of deceit

how does one begin to spell out mother earth? 
the way we are all fashion’d from star?

glorious hydrogen oxygen calcium carbon organic,

sent spiraling spending the lonely centuries speeding thru milk the
way a baby, rocked gingerly, might burp into
some semblance of
slumber




HOW TO READ A POEM.   /   WHAT TO REALIZE.


1. as if your precious fucking life depends on it

2. as though, through the magic & craze & pure joyous glee
         involved therein, at once nothing matters save
         that freeing dance with words — broken, insane
         dreamy, divine
         she is a gatekeeper — the poem — and
         when you come a-knocking she’ll rise & rise &
                  cast a heart into hot jazz graffiti
         — sum
         this & that informatics, baby — charged, symphonic,
         this beating sweating flirting flickering
         storm that is
         itself the poem

3. hungrily

         knowing well every hearty morsel
         heals

4. with a newfound peace

5. for the sole purpose

         of

         being caught inside the words



BIO

Jonah Meyer is a poet, writer, and editor based in North Carolina. His creative work has been published in O.Henry Magazine, Ampersand Literary Journal, Carolina Peacemaker, Bohemian Review, American Crises, JAB Fiction and Poetry, Found Spaces, The Mountaineer, Cold Lake AnthologyRaise the Voices, and The US Review of Books, among other places. Jonah serves as associate poetry editor with Mud Season Review and associate editor with Thrush Poetry Journal.


Beaufort 4

by Bruce Parker


Like the sea my body pulses
choppy in wind against its current,
an open sea concealing squid eyes,
phosphorescence and fish that briefly fly.
It is the pulse of sex along my spine
still seeking surcease, sometimes
finding it and love, the sea otter, floats
on its surface, cuddles its young until
they are gone and my sea is empty again,
open sea with choppy waves.



Belle Hélène


The room was small and dingy
in a small and dingy hotel,
nothing to remember about it,
perhaps an unremarkable print hung on
a probably brown wall, I don’t remember.
Down at the end of the narrow hall
on each of the two floors was a decrepit
shared bathroom.  The hotel would have been
forgettable anywhere but there in Greece,
standing alone in bright sunshine
a little down the road from Mycenae,
where Schliemann believed he had found
the mask of Agamemnon, where he stayed
during his excavations, had signed
the guest register that I, too, signed, signed
also by Heinrich Himmler, Charlton Heston,
and others* who must have each enjoyed
the same shared bathroom at the end of the dingy hall.

*The others include:
  Claude Debussy
  Jean-Paul Sartre
  Hermann Goering Joseph Goebbels
  Pedro II of Brazil
  JK Rowling
  Gustav Adolf VI of Sweden
  Albert II of Belgium
  Agatha Christie
  Allen Ginsberg
  The Duke of Windsor and the Duchess of Kent
  Henry Miller
  Virginia and Leonard Woolf
  William Faulkner
  Irving Stone
  Jack Kerouac
  Andre Malraux
  Lawrence Durrell



Theology


The question of god begins with definition
name an attribute and there remains an exception
yes for every one of the ninety-nine names
suffering persists
we are allowed to destroy our home like children in
the name of free what
can you expect I am the deity you know
he is said to have said and even he
is suspect gender need not apply
is everywhere not a person in the way
of peculiar substance and accident combined
my empty hands will be fulfilled does supernatural
mean anything any more
any more than anything
more than anything else
any god imaginary friend invisible
all outside time and space



BIO

Bruce Parker holds a BA in History from the University of Maryland Far East Division, Okinawa, Japan; and an MA in Secondary Education from the University of New Mexico.  He has worked as an ESL teacher, technical editor, and translator.  His work has appeared in The Inflectionist Review, Pif, Blue Unicorn, The Hamilton Stone Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and has a chapbook, Ramadan in Summer, forthcoming January 14, 2022, from Finishing Line Press. 



Under the Ice

by Holly Day


In the winter, I surround myself with pictures of frogs
statues of frogs, books about frogs, because you never see frogs
when it’s 10 below zero, and that’s the time I seem to really miss them.
When I go to the zoo, and I see the little poison frogs in their cages
it’s not the same, because it’s not like seeing a flat-footed toad
sliding down my office window in the middle of a rainstorm
scrabbling against the glass as if trying to get in
or when I go to my mother-in-law’s house
in the dead heat of summer, and find a tree frog
perched on top of her doorbell, or spying over the lip of a flower pot.

It’s not so much that I like frogs, but that I miss seeing them because it’s winter.
It’s not so much that I miss frogs, but I miss the weather associated with them:
the hot summer rains that cause tadpoles to sprout legs and spring free from the water
the way the lawn explodes with tiny brown toads when I start the mower up
the way my daughter used to dance with the frogs she found in the back yard,
around and around, like she was some sort of fairy tale princess
this is why I’m surrounded by motionless surrogates, these harbingers of spring,
always, and especially now.


Sunday


The wasp climbs out of the hole it’s chewed in the rotten apple
stumbles drunkenly across the grass as if stumbling towards me.
I, too, have been drinking, and I have no desire to fight
am only interested in enjoying the warm sunlight on my face and shoulders
the cool, tiny feet of the occasional butterfly treating my arm like a perch
the soft cushion of grass and purple wildflowers pressing into my back.

I turn my head and watch the passage of the drunk wasp, track it
as it tumbles into a depression in the mud, emerging moments later
shaking its head as though it’s angry or laughing. I prefer to think it’s laughing
and I laugh, too, startling the finches congregating in the branches overhead
a couple of rabbits hiding in the tall grass nearby, even myself, a little bit
so out of place my voice sounds
in this world of buzzing bees and crackling undergrowth.


Touch


Cockroaches are one of the only insects that actually like to be touched,
are some of the only non-domesticated creatures
that crave physical attention, aren’t comfortable unless they’re wrapped
in the bodies of their companions, in the palm of your hand
tucked deep in the bottom of a shoe or the folds of a pocket or a hat.

If I had known that when we put the new wallpaper up
I would have left the cockroaches where they crouched, low,
against the wall, covered them carefully with paper and paste
circled the area on the wallpaper so I knew where they were.
I could have made it a routine to carefully stroke those circled spots
every time I went up and down the stairs,

knowing there was a little cockroach under there
contentedly gnawing on dried paste varnish
perhaps slowly tunneling a passage to escape
through the underside of the paper.



BIO

Holly Day (hollylday.blogspot.com) has been an instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her writing has recently appeared in Hubbub, Grain, and Third Wednesday. Hernewest books are The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), Book of Beasts (Weasel Press), Bound in Ice (Shanti Arts), and Music Composition for Dummies (Wiley). 







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