issue 3 · spring 2017
what one meant to do · Mark Young
send a picture &
location. I think
I’ve just strained
my left arm but
would like to
About · Roberta Gould
and losing, climbing and falling,
dusking and dawning Yet it was more
The air invisible to us
was replete with creatures
the flies could see
The hands of the clock were no longer there
a flashing and beeping surpassed the centuries
every once in a while
As the river flowed on we didn’t step in
watched from a millennial hill
unwilling to keep wheeling along
Sudden air · Francesca Castano
vagueness comes over me
unfathomable evolving into shudders.
At night abysms are deeper
too intricate to put down in simple
words rumpling and sliding building barricades.
Other times there are particularly disturbing dreams
associating fear with red orchids or glimmering strings
making tragic rounds like a steam engine going far and far.
I shall try to link the two with civility
because meanings are not obvious crossing bridges
and words nomads unable to settle in a quiet plot.
high jinx · Bud Backen
the entire st. lawrence seaway
but you couldn’t tell by looking
seems to be more like a pretty
lake w/a little island in the middle
one day a kid thought it would
be fun to ride his bike down the
hill that leads to the landing
& off the dock into the water
they found the bike but
never saw the boy again
this is thirteen years since
there’s a current there down deep
can take things a thousand miles
dump ‘em into the atlantic ocean
w/out surfacing once
it’s a force just put there
by something I’d hate to
rattle too much
last summer I sat on that dock
dangled my feet in the water
thought about things passing by
deep down in the current
whole trees rocks the size of me
entire cliff-sides deer dogs cats
ermine little boys
I live on a Finger Lake now · Megan Bell
I unintentionally fall out of
attraction with a guy into ‘watersports’.
He had emetophobia, anxiety
about vomiting, of other people
vomiting, of what comes out
of the body
during the whole excruciating process. The implications
of what is happening. He thinks
it has something to do with something
he can’t clearly remember from childhood.
No, I never
got pissed on.
cannot get out of bed, & Mom’s at work. I ask
if he minds if I empty
his drainage bag, & he says, you’re not gonna puke
are ya he sounds
so tired & I say,
no, Dad. I force a laugh
sort of like a cough.
I vomit blood into the lake
and feel better. I bike thirty-three miles
in the pitch black, only
closing my eyes twice. The stars wind
up underneath my feet. Narrative fails
each of us again. Timelines fray,
coming apart. Dissolution framed in softness. Do you ever
just dissolve? Infidelity accusations
before the thought, ever —
then I do it. I go
bowling every Sunday night in a pool of orange light.
In a memory, I did not suck. In fact, I helped.
I live on a Finger Lake now.
August · S. E. Clark
of every day in this city.
I hear them most often in Spring and Fall,
and on rare days in August when the sea
grants us a reprieve.
A breeze that tastes vaguely of salt.
They ring in tune with cicadas,
shedding their old skins.
In August, we fry.
By the noontime bell, it’s too hot to sit outside,
and the flies will dive at your eyes looking for
a drop of water.
not even an atom bomb could kill them.
My father told me once, as we ate ice cream
on our porch,
that on blue days in August he looks out at the city
past steeples and skyscrapers;
wonders if he’ll be unlucky enough to see the first flash of
We would only be unlucky for a second, he says.
We would never see the mushroom cloud.
The files would probably survive.
And maybe the cicadas, too,
singing their canticles under
a detonated sun.
Earhart's Blackbox · Sam Landry
In Indiana our birds can block out the sun
if you’re standing right below one
as it takes a step up from the dirt –
little specks of earth and worm, bolts
wiggled off, bits of scrap from who-knows-what
pelt your scrunched up face,
leaving welts and the occasional gash.
I took one of these hawks for a spin
out past the waterfront.
I stopped at a few nice places,
and passed by a couple more:
Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, New Delhi,
Lae, the Nukumanu Islands.
They toss chum
for famous foreigners.
The Islands are long gone.
I took a conch shell with me,
grabbed it on the way by.
It is sitting in my bag,
but I can hear it in my headphones,
the only reception I get
is a small breeze
that blows my hair over my eyes
as I lay under an umbrella,
sipping on a glass of water
as I discuss aviation with a colleague.
The glass dissipates.
A giant ’E’ sits in the dash.
Darling, enough with engineering,
the blueprints are for shit.
Behind us sits an incline
and out there?
Sydney for the lost.
The Man Who Danced Everywhere · Tim Suermondt
and never bumping into anyone —
even Astaire, Nureyev and Michael Jackson
would have been unable to pull that feat off.
I knew his name was Mel and that his hellos
and goodbyes were always sincere, but that’s
where my knowledge of him ended — this
scarcity I shared with the other apartment dwellers.
One Monday he literally danced and disappeared,
never to be seen here again — and I was surprised
how much I missed his soft music playing at night
and the soft dancing he must have done, alone,
on his living room floor — and when on occasion
I considered doing some dance steps to honor him,
my army of left feet forced me into surrender.
But I can walk the crowded sidewalks and never
bump into anyone either — a slighter talent, Mel,
I remain all too happy to thrust into oblivion’s face.
Beauty Sits at the Table · Tim Suermondt
like beauty often does. We,
who are far less beautiful,
buzz around like bees in front of It,
vying for Its affection.
It knows we won’t get anywhere, we
know we won’t get anywhere, but we
keep trying until Beauty stands up
and walks away, so beautifully of course.
In the opposite direction we
begin filing out, experienced, battered
refugees of love whom you can count
on to keep coming back.
Manchester Show, Valentine’s Day · Roberta Gould
his fingers hooked behind him, leaning back,
Not a surgeon, or course, but with the same
rapt attention, worthy of a dog
This master will now caress the flanks
and the prefect hair of a Basingee
asking for another run around the court
What a god like judgement he has made!
Mortals like me cannot understand it
Yet I trust it is correct
Can I prove it? Not in this life!
An Old Man’s Love Poem Sung on the Royal Canal · Mick Corrigan
conjure my bones from out of the dark,
hug them tightly to your breast,
whisper hoarsely one more time
of love and desire and the joy we made,
when night gave out both light and heat,
when we thought we’d die from pleasure,
when we thought we’d die from pain.
Wrap me in your wedding dress
the one you made from silk and moss,
walk the canal chanting those words
of all the things that might have been
and everything that was,
whitethorn on the hedgerows,
our ancient knuckled hands
tangled in each other’s roots
and who knows dearheart
perhaps next time we’ll fly.
SILENCIO & the Southern Devil · Heriberto Yépez
Concrete poetry as such began in a global meeting of counter-histories.
In a SILENCIO which is not only mystical and monastic reclusion but also a transatlantic prison.
An order spelled by the colonizer to the colonized in his own colonial tongue:
SILENCIO SILENCIO SILENCIO
SILENCIO SILENCIO SILENCIO
SILENCIO SILENCIO SILENCIO
SILENCIO SILENCIO SILENCIO
At the center of these three metal bars, there is a split, a crack, an empty mouth.
Through that missing center, through that hole, you are invited to utter the word.
This poem by Eugen Gomringer is a colonial command.
It is asking you to keep silent.
This poem by Eugen Gomringer orders you to give yourself the order.
This is what Open Works of Art really are.
Once you say, or just think, this word-order the prison cell closes with you inside.
At the same time, the Southern Devil escapes this micro-concrete jail.
This Southern Devil did not want to obey the German command to remain _.
To keep quiet the story of who is being thrown away by the powerful woman from Vienna and the U.S.
The critic that controls the memories of the emerging forms solidifying into canon.
There’s an order you should follow.
There’s a hierarchy no one should dismiss.
History will be written so that the people from the South are erased.
Or put in second place.
You must obey.
Who’s the Father.
Who’s the First.
And now repeat after me:
“If you are
“Or I am
“A Brazilian black
“Any kind of black whatsoever
“A Native American
“A Messed Up Mestizo
“A Stateless non-citizen
“A poor woman
“A poor man
“A poor queer
“A non-English speaker
SILENCIO SILENCIO SILENCIO
SILENCIO SILENCIO SILENCIO
SILENCIO SILENCIO SILENCIO
SILENCIO SILENCIO SILENCIO
But guess what, Lit Lady?
The Southern Devil refuses to comply.
No fucking Silencio, Señora.
No fucking Silencio, oh Man.
NO NO NO
NO NO NO
NO NO NO
NO NO NO
NO NO NO
thicket · Bud Backen
grew there by itself
long as I left it alone
quit mowing over it
one day I said to myself
I wonder what that is
don’t look like grass
got curious enough
to just leave it alone
let it be what it is
now it sprouts berries
for the birds & squirrels
to eat before the claw
of winter scrapes every
last scrap of nourishment
leaving the thicket looking
like a briar stick bush of
the witch that eats children
The Dollhouse · Tímea Gulisio
The roads were covered in thick ice that day. I kept grasping for window sills and lampposts as I made my way towards the equastrian shop. I was in dire need of some proper shoes and gaiters. Back then, I didn’t know it would be several weeks before I could go riding. And that I would be ridden before that.
I asked a red-haired woman in her seventies wearing an expensive coat for directions. It wasn’t a coincidence that I chose her. She answered helpfully, a false smile in the corner of her mouth. And then she kept on walking. They all keep walking. But what was I supposed to say? “Wait for me, love me please, take me in, I will bring you pleasure, just take care of me?!”
I was hoping we would meet again, but I didn’t realise how soon it would happen. Two days later she was right ahead of me at the self-serve scales. She smelled of candy floss. She was buying banana and pineapples – I bought potatoes. I bumped into her with my basket and apologised. The clever ploy to catch her attention proved successful:
− Ah, you again! – she exclaimed. Her fearful black eyes gleamed at me. The eyes of a kestrel, ready to dive. Her nose like the sharp beak of a falcon. I wouldn’t struggle to escape her talons.
− Pleasure to see you again! – I courted, and I wasn’t lying.
− The pleasure is mine! Hanna Grünfeld – She extended a hand covered in deerskin gloves and decorated with moles.
− Tímea Gulisio.
− What fancy names we have! – she laughed, her hand touching her breasts.
− Are you in a hurry? – I asked.
− I’m retired, so I don’t have much to do. Just the groceries. A cup of tea with some friends, sometimes. The landlady does everything else. Well, the parts that are her business – There was a hint of teasing in her voice.
− Would you have a cup with me, too?
− I would. But I need to put the sour cream in the fridge before it goes truly sour. If you’d like…
I knew what she was about to say. We both bought a few more things. Her: whipped cream, hot sauce and tuna. Me: bread and discounted liver pate. She glanced into my basket and saw I wasn’t too well off. That’s what her kind always looks for.
She took her time, as if she wasn’t in a hurry. As if her tongue wasn’t already itching. She paid by cash, her snakeskin wallet fat with banknotes.
− Do you live nearby, too? – she asked.
− Yes, by the bridge.
− Renting, I suppose.
She meant that I couldn’t afford my own apartment in these parts.
− Alone? With your family? Or a boyfriend?
− With a girlfriend.
− I see – She winked at me.
Friendly and condescending at the same time. Just my type. I was already imagining my teeth on her wrinkled neck. And the banknotes in my pockets. I would buy equastrian pants, a nice brand. I could go to Transylvania.
− Watch where you step! – She hit my back lightly.
− Yes, sorry. I’m paying attention!
− Oh, I noticed.
We held onto each other on the slippery roads, maybe a little more than necessary. It would have been nice to fall on her, but I didn’t dare risk it. Then, we took the tram.
− I have a car, but I don’t drive. Having a driver is always safer.
She reminded me of my ex-girlfriend Sára, and the black driver who served in more ways than just one.
An old, wooden door lead to her apartment. Inside, the soggy smell of saltpetre. A familiar atmosphere. To me, it’s all part of the pleasure cave of a wealthy witch. I didn’t believe Hanna was innocent for a second. I was longing for the laces of her bed, and the feeling of her sharp nails.
The door opened with a horse creak. The anteroom painted an almost stereotypical picture of the upper middle class. The kitchen was simple enough. I saw faded, fluffy carpets everywhere, even on the walls. We drank our coffee black, with biscuits hard as pebbles.
After a short reminiscence of the good old days, she lead me to a small, warm, dusty room behind a locked door.
− This is my dollhouse!
I was facing a hundred or two dolls, their empty eyes all staring at me.
− Well… they are… beautiful!
What else was I supposed to say?
− These are my friends. Ever since my husband died and my children left me, my only company. They are all I have. There used to be a cat, but she jumped out the window and run into the road. – She points at the black cat in the armchair. Stuffed.
Any sane woman would have come up with an excuse and left right there and then. But I was intrigued, even aroused by her insanity.
− I’ll be your kitten! – I said, rubbing against her.
− No, you’ll be my doll – she said.
She put me to bed and covered me carefully. Her hands gently caressed my hair, my face, my neck. She uncovered me gradually, little by little. She undid my belt and peppered my stomach with dry kisses.
− You graceful China doll, you! – she whispered in awe. Her hands grasped at her own, wrinkled breasts.
− Won’t you undress all the way? – I asked.
− No talking! You’re breaking the illusion! – she scolded.
Hanna took off my sweater. I helped with my T-shirt. I felt her cold, wet nose on my skin. I was reminded of my dog, and it took all my self-control not to laugh.
It’s been a long time since I was last an active participant. I would let them do anything to me. I liked it. Even if I don’t, I would still let them.
She never took off her clothes – that made it all the more exciting, all the more memorable. Her tongue wasn’t very talented, but her fingers made up for it. I came in her mouth.
Finally, I was made to say goodbye to her dolls and promise them I would visit again soon. I promised. Hanna slipped a wristwatch in my purse. Antique, gold, wind-up type.
− I give one of these to all my dolls, so they know when I expect them back.
− For example, if it stops next week in the afternoon, then call me. I’ll be waiting. – She scribbled her number on a piece of paper.
The watch stopped that very evening. I felt cheated. What a piece of trash! Maybe it’s not even gold. Or maybe even Hanna, the old witch can make it work again.
Helen · S. E. Clark
how they put their hands
in your hair
They are always
more beautiful than I am;
all your choices rest between
All I have to give you is
And my love is not
your golden apple
to barter away
to women who will
never hunger as I do.
The First Time We Had Sex, We Got Sweaty & · Megan Bell
with wet heat. A hot tongue.
Tonguing the inside of our heads. Am I correct
about the date? Every day
with you unfolds into the outlines of
origami animals taken apart. Yes, even
a few dogs. I need at least one around. Eyes
floating on the lake. Eyes filled with birds.
We are standing dripping
on the interstices of winter & spring. Comfortable
already, with silences. It took so long to arrive.
Our whole lives, even. Our whole bodies.
Climbing down a scaffolding of trauma.
Meeting up, with ideas. The same thing happening
on different planets.
There aren’t yet words. I’ve heard of this
happening before. A systemic synesthesia.
The way your presence
releases into my blood.
The only porn I watch anymore
is amateur stuff. Imagining our bodies
where their bodies are: wings
spread, visceral architecture
to write down
how the smell of latex transforms
into coffee in the morning you made us — your hands
on my ass,
into the lilac bushes that grew
next to each of our childhood homes.
Why I Live with My Parents · David Rodriguez
Be immersed in details, anxious and
sleep-deprived. And to be a good
husband? Know the names of things.
Mars is made of breathable salt called
perchlorate that halts your hormones
so you don’t have to apologize. I could
live that life. I could live it well.
But when I see opportunity, memories
like xanthan thicken my old mistakes,
make them muscular and dense, sculptural
and damning. The next day comes.
Show me the word explaining the last
six years. Is there a name for validating
arbitrary change, filtered through fear,
destined for ruin, but made in hope?
Is there a place for the chemists of
Mars salt, the bird’s nest envious,
the men and women who can’t carry
each other over the threshold?
My four year-old has bruised his foot · Jared Pearce
The mouse of his foot
On the threshold and all
Night has nibbled on pain,
The soft tissue swollen like a crumb.
Jammed in that trap,
Unable to scamper or squeeze out,
He moans, his eye darts,
He dashes himself in his nest.
Confronting the burrow
Of his bones, the scurry
His mortality makes,
Makes a long night —
A dark, lonesome night.
Kaddish for Chantal · Elissa Rashkin
as sorrow begets sorrow
If there had been no Godard
If we had never sat in darkness
by luminous oceans
and the thin air
If Karina and Belmondo
had never set foot
on that imagined island
if Jean-Paul’s thumb had never
to brush away the dust of cinema
to build anew
If there had been no Auschwitz
no six million flames extinguished;
what other memories would our blood carry
like hidden poison
if the mother’s tasks had been undertaken
in utter silence
without the camera’s caress
would we understand love
without its absence
if each object
reproduced itself in miniature to enter the eye
if there were no camera obscura
if a woman had never dared
to gaze upon another
retaining the imprint on the retina
to look away
if we had never received this gift
of light and shadow
Sorrow begets sorrow
the kitchen, the bed, the screen
the tenderness of orphans
the making and unmaking of graven images
then the last unmaking
turns out to be sacrosanct
Anniversary · Alan Britt
You can tighten green drawstrings,
cuttlefish cauliflower, plus
various shades of artichoke & mango,
but sooner than later you’ll need
indigo, magenta, solar flares
to combat those pesky mosquitos
symbolizing what you expected
but feared, disappointing life
cemented beneath safety deposits
yellowed by neglect, by familial
& non-familial crises, poverties
impossible to imagine.
Still, time sends its vermilion howl
through cactus, platinum coyote
signaling shift of shades that resemble
an empathetic fate, after all, & not this
vile, distasteful creature attempting
to disguise itself as Riding Hood,
Hansel, Cinderella, Alice, or that
mournful sleight-of-hand rocker
warning us ages ago that life is
what happens to us while we’re busy
making other plans; yes, you & I
knew, that’s why we cradled guitars
& gel pens ergonomically between
index, middle & rings honoring dignity
for the universe, pretty much.
Change · Jared Pearce
Something like the woman who, unpacking
Her trunk for the church dinner, stopped, looked
At the blank Wisconsin sky, then calmly,
Would you look at that bright light?
When her friends turned around to see the light,
She was crumpled into some new being
At which they could only guess, from their hymns,
From their dreams. Looking at her was looking down
A tunnel: does the darkness rumble?
When Dad and I would drive electric trains, he’d say,
Take it slow down hill, and I was always
Surprised when that solid metal engine flopped
Off its rails: no skidding, no premonition,
Just the dead weight of its clunk and gears
When it hit the table. Its tender wheels half-stroked the air,
Then the silence it made, an inch
From all the life it ever had, some of its cars
Cracked with it, others still in line, with made-up
People wondering, Will we ever get where we want?
blindness in the sun · Kurt Nimmo
my wife likes to take photos.
she takes photos of stone angels.
I walk alone through the tombstones.
this is depressing.
I read the names and dates.
in this cemetery just about everybody died
when they were forty-five.
others range from zero to ninety-nine years.
inscriptions say this person
is finally at eternal rest
has been called home.
I keep walking.
I like the sun.
I notice my wife.
she is taking a photo of an angel.
I cross the lawn to where
she stands with the camera.
I look at the angel.
the face is cracked down the middle
and birds have plucked out
and eaten the eyes.
in the sun
Death trip · Kurt Nimmo
southern end of Jornada del Muerto
the car radio tells me
China is threatening to start a war.
I wear sunglasses
and drive the speed limit.
East of the Doña Ana Mountains
and up over the San Augustin Pass
they have a missile testing range
and an air force base.
I live inside
a huge yet invisible bull’s eye.
If the crazy people
in Beijing and Washington
decide to start a war
over who owns a body of water
on the other side of the planet
there is a good chance
my wife and I will
be reduced to vapor
along with everybody else.
She sits next to me
poking on her phone.
She has no idea the world is about to end.
I reach down and push a radio button.
Yummy Yummy Yummy
by the Ohio Express.
My wife makes a face.
Funeral Service · Danny P. Barbare
the little chapel
with Amazing Grace,
deep as the grooves —
in the wooden pews
and for the Old Rugged Cross.
The Chosen People · Elissa Rashkin
used to spit on the ground
each day when he passed
of the rabbinical tree.
Hatred makes no fine distinctions.
A Jew is a Jew and the devil will have his due:
G-d closed his eyes
the army came
and tossed the bodies
into a common grave.
One brother crawled out, broke
in pieces, to tell the story.
The family fled to Romania. The black waters
failed to recede. I wake up
in my broken brother’s body
to claw our way out
Burning Leaves · Daniel Fitzpatrick
bent northward, uphill,
its ochreous pallor eliding the moonlight
as sun swelled and burst in the thinning oaks.
Then you walked through our Elysium,
your horned feet softened on the quartz,
and as you passed into a shadeless place,
the juncoes (snowbirds, you said)
scattered your ashes.
We’ll spend the winter burning leaves,
raking black cautery across the packed hill.
Otherwise the grass will drown
and the deer will ghost to livelier woods.
In A Deserted Farmhouse · Richard D. Houff
surrounded by tall prairie grass that reclaimed
the clapboard home, and ventured inside to explore.
We found a Victorian winged-back couch
and nothing more as we moved from room to room.
On a dare to descend into a dark root cellar,
there were no takers from our group.
Although heavily armed with squirrel rifles
and shotguns from a day of hunting rabbits;
we all had our hidden fears, and ghost trouble
was at the top for each and every one.
Deserted farm homes were scattered
throughout the county, and in our limited travels;
we had rummaged through several on previous outings.
Everyone that we knew had heard of government controlled
farming, but very few within our domain understood
the outcome of losing one’s sense of place.
It all hit home one day
at a farm auction our family attended.
Watching the personal belongings of those affected
on the auction block; I felt a growing sense of despair.
Stripped and abandoned, I couldn’t help wonder
what would become of them.
A neighbor within earshot said, that they would probably
head west on Hwy. 16 looking for work; maybe end up
in some California factory doing assembly.
Nobody knew for sure what became of folks
out on the road, but over a three year period,
I watched a steady migration of friends and neighbors
take part in this growing ritual.
No one ever returned, and few kept in contact.
And then one day it was my turn to join
the procession among the lost.
All the Hungry Years · Mark Jackley
“I was obssessed with Dickinson. A professor gave me her
collected poems, three volumes in a boxed set. A lovely thing.
It fared very badly in Florida, all those years, eaten by insects.”
— Joy Williams
I like to think
a ladybug a little
beetle in whose tummy
the leaves of beans and turnips
composted with a liquor
never brewed and feathers,
a certain slant of light
on winter afternoons
Dream of Death · Mark Jackley
a gentle, lapping sound that wasn’t me but stones glittered
in the sand, cold and strewn, dumb as jewels and that
was me, the very stillness, and the heft of silence
Winter Days · Mark Jackley
thin as calendar pages real
as a flint axe
The Janitor Says We Have to Serve · Danny P. Barbare
with a bottle of spray
and a rag
clean the desk as if
and create our happiness
become a golden apple.