Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Friday, August 31, 2012

Country, a Memoir: Chapter 15

by Shelby Stephenson

I heard Carl and Pearl Butler on WPTF,
singing songs Carl helped write, including

“Crying My Heart Out Over You,” and “Guilty
Conscience”: I learned “Guilty Conscience” from

Carl Smith: “When you’re with your new love,
are you light and gay or does a guilty conscience

bother you?” Carl Butler’s voice naturalized his
songs. Hank Williams leaned into that sound:  listen to

Hank’s “You Win Again” or Butler’s version of
“I know What It Means to Be Lonesome.”  When

Pearl comes on stage with Carl, boy, that’s pure duo:
“Don’t Let Me Cross Over Love’s Cheating Line.”

Pearl Butler was born Pearl Dee Jones, Nashville,
Tennessee; Carl’s from Knoxville: I feel like a

sockless toe sometimes, listing in the B’s song-titles like
“Second Fiddle to an Old Guitar,” songwriter,

Betty Amos, Jean Shepard’s version of the song
squarely in the honky-tonk tradition she shaped

throughout her career. A lyric by any other name
could be a uke out of tune in all keys:  D.G. Martin

asked me on Bookwatch what poetry and country
music have in common:  why, music’s the poetry of the

soul; a way back there the events in Beowulf
allowed us to follow our leader heroically in a

motive of grammars Grendel and Grendel’s
mom numbered across the landscape all the way to

Now, beyond slight imposition, the Ideal in
every Attribute and Humor of old, Gods and

Goddesses vying for portal, going and coming
within us − embodied. If there be sweethearts in

heaven, I want Nin for mine: her morning exercises,
some yoga:  her bends defy my run-outs running

on, hands down, for a bottle of beer: Busch’ll be
fine. Here come the C’s!  Buddy Cagle’s from

Concord, North Carolina.  I shout his name because he
recorded a Wynn Stewart song.  Will we ever get to the

S’s?  “Sing a Sad Song (and Make It As Blue as I Feel)”:
Archie Campbell heaped up helpings of Hee-Haw:

comic, narrator, singer, born, Bulls Gap, Tennessee,
as World War I started; he knew like an upper plate

East Tennessee in that gap in the Mouth of the
Great Smoky Mountains.  Smoking a stogie − hereeeee’s

Groucho! − he’d chant ballads and ditties he called
“spoonerisms”:  Archie Campbell:  may his cigar

flame and fram his corny “Rindercella” and “Pee Little
Thrigs.”  My alphabetical squeezings get wobbly and

pretentious if I ponder stars and starlets long.
Sweet Misery!  It’s harder to write about Delight,

Arkansas, Glen Campbell.  Courtship with Tanya Tucker’s
still on ice, his run-in, too, with David Allan Coe’s

claim to be the original “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
I sang the song with relish in the 70’s, some

mustard, too: stardom rushed GC and not me;
on the other hand, a golden band accounts for

Tanya’s and Glen’s feuds.  Glen’s poverty was
bleaker than mine, I think, his father giving him a

Sears-Roebuck guitar when he was a little boy:
no doubt he sang right along to “Delta Dawn,” as he and

Tanya fell head over heels in love. The
Campbell-Tucker prowl hopped waves after

Glen sailed on John Hartford’s boat, waving back,
singing to the top of his follicles, “Gentle On My Mind”:

consider “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” the Jimmy Webb
song Campbell sang.  “Jumping” Bill Carlisle was a

Firebird. He had a serious side, too:  wrote
“Gone Home”:  “our friends we loved yesterday,

gone home”:  I never saw his brother, Cliff, but I
did Bill:  “Too Old to Cut the Mustard,” “Is Zat You,

Myrtle?”  Speaking of mustard, I heard a woman
say one time, “I may be too old to cut the mustard, but I

shore God can waller hit down.”  Cliff was younger than
Bill, though Bill just about lived forever, singing

“No Help Wanted” until No One would accompany
him into his grave.  He reeked a kind of Everyman-and-woman

sense of humor.  I like “Knothole” a lot:  it points up the
art-life conundrum:  “You ought to see what I saw

through the old knothole.”  Bill wrote that song, too:
I think Ira and Charlie Louvin gave Bill a hand with

“Is Zat You, Myrtle?”  My mother Maytle’s sister’s
Vurtle?  When we boys were small, we’d shuck the corn and

snicker slip-ups:  “Since Myrtle put the girdle on the
turtle there’ll be no sag in the bag tonight.”  Raleigh

Memorial Auditorium in the early 1950’s:  Martha Carson
staged with Bill Carlisle and the Louvins:  she was

the most beautiful woman in the world to me:
in her ruffled dress, she looked like a peasant-goddess,

her eyelashes long and full; her guitar gave her body
an extra poise which reflected her eyes blinking

out of her birthplace, Neon, Kentucky.  She
could brighten any crowd − comedians, custodians,

customers at the check-in and check-out − waiting
for her to sing her lolloping gospel.  Martha Carson!

She started her first radio show in Bluefield,
West Virginia, in the 1940’s.  She also sang on

John Lair’s Renfro Valley Kentucky Barn Dance.
She’s known best for a song she wrote and sang − “Satisfied.”

“Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?” Carter Family,
Maces Springs, Virginia:  I think of June, probably,

first, since memory loves affairs:  her marriage to
Johnny Cash duos her comedy with John R like a

watermelon plugged for June and July, the whole
story, starting August 1, 1927, a day that goes

down in history, for at 410 State Street, Bristol,
on the Tennessee side (the street divides Tennessee

and Virginia) talent scout Ralph Peer set up studio,
presenting songs the Original Carter Family sang and

collected, songs lovers of country music relish and dish
out to fans and friends:  Peer got the blue-yodeler to come

out and sing, too:  I mean that Mississippi brakeman,
Jimmie Rogers:  the Clinch Mountains must have

moved over a little as the Carters came down
to Bristol to make a record after seeing an

ad in The Bristol Herald.  Original Carters:
A.P. (Alvin Pleasant), his wife Sara, and A.P.’s

sister-in-law, Maybelle Carter.  Maybelle played
her guitar and Sara played hers.  They “cut” the

standard Carter-fare, including “The Storms Are
on the Ocean” and “Bury Me Beneath the Willow.”

For many years the Carters had entertained:
school-parties, parlors, church-socials, local

entertainments, corn-shuckings, square-dances,
baptizings:  Maybelle played autoharp, too:  what

a pleasure to hear the music the whole family
popularized:  Mother Maybelle and her daughters −

Helen, Anita, June − could sing like doves
“Keep on the Sunny Side,” “Foggy Mountain Top,”

“The Titanic,” “On the Rock Where Moses Stood,”
“The Homestead on the Farm,” “Meeting in the Air,”

“Worried Man Blues,” “You Are My Flower,” “I Shall
Not Be Moved,” and “Angel Band.”  From 1927 to

1941, the last year they recorded, the “original”
Carters recorded around 250 songs, many of them

country music standards: “Wabash Cannonball,”
“I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes,” “Lonesome

Valley,” and “Jimmy Brown, the Newsboy.”  The year
I was born the Carters accepted a daily show at XERA,

Mexico, right near Del Rio, Texas, there in borderland:
A.P.’s and Sara’s children, Jeanette and Joe played

parts in their show.  With Robert Denham, the
Northrop Frye scholar, Nin and I travelled to Maces

Springs, to the Carter Fold, the house the Carter-Music
built.  Jeanette emceed, opening the show, “Please

take off your hats when we sing the hymns.”  Joe
told tall tales.  He could mock a hog, exactly.  By the

early 40’s the Carters went separate ways.  A.P. − alone −
returned to Maces Springs.  Maybelle immersed

herself in music, managing an act with June, Helen,
Anita, playing WRVA, Richmond, Virginia, and

WSM, joining the Grand Ole Opry.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Apparently, David

by Michael Lee Johnson

There are categories of hell here.
David died of
chronic liver disease
February 28, 2012.

Fact, I was a newspaper reporter.
I am a chronic drunk.

David’s drinking became his sin.
Sin is the crack of the Devil's butt.
It tossed a good man into hell.
Dandelions faded with him when
the burning began.

His widow was a chronic bitch.
Locals called her "Nightmare Boogie."

His wife of 14 years
celebrated his passing;
she pissed on his pictures.

She was simple a mindless fragment.

Her life was understated, full of fragments.

She got drunk on the night David died.
She thought it was butterscotch wine.
Confused, Cherry Lee, kept it simple;
she recognized the mix up,
it was butterscotch schnapps.

Either way, Cherry Lee helped
evaporate David's heart.

There were no memorial services.

David's ashes are still in a fruit box;
mounted on the top of her toilet bowl.

No urn, present or past tense.
No obituary, too late.

Only a label, a tag on the cinerary stating:
"this is David's discount Funeral Home."

There are no survivors here.

Spring Cleaning

by Shannon Curtin

Forgotten fivers,
rogue receipts,
a miscellaneous solicitation:

These are the kinds of scraps of life one expects
to unearth from the rumpled envelope
found while turning the coat closet
from winter to spring.

Not the treasure of lines of ink on paper
not the rush of words worth reading
not the shock of his most familiar name
written in an alien hand.

Unfolding the letter she felt the words slid off the page
she caught the most important ones, clumsily collecting in her lap
the intimate greeting, a few bold phrases,
 and the flourish of a foreign name at the signature
right below the lynch pin,
Love Always.

Her imagination packed a lunch and ran off with the circus,
leaving her with luxuriously slanted lines of lustful linguistics.
Elegantly transcribed, no doubt, by long slender fingers
attached to long slender limbs,
attached to ethereal beauty.

She was certain.
This woman was Angelina Jolie and Marilyn Monroe.
Betty Davis and Betty Page,
Only prettier.
And with more sex appeal.

This mystery woman most definitely struts effortlessly in stilettos
and she surely holds her liquor and the eye of every man in a ten mile radius.
Of course she can converse about art and politics
and would never forget to take her keys from the door
of her posh apartment on the twenty fourth floor
in the expensive part of town.
Because she must be brilliantly successful as well as gorgeous.

That’s how it works, isn’t it?
She must be immune to headaches and ingrown hairs.
She must make it to sunrise yoga every day
and run a charity for sick children—
sick children in third world countries, naturally.
Only that kind of woman could pull astray
a man so fastidious. A man so solid.
A man so married.

And darling, she is most certainly sleeping with your husband
though the perfume plumed paper only
Winks suggestively at the thought.
Though who came blame him?
Because she must be irresistible, mouthwatering, sex on legs
because no one would choose one flavor of ordinary
over another,
Except that they do.
It happens every day.

It’s the six o clock news. It’s please
pick up milk and bread. It’s cleaning
the closets on a Sunday afternoon.

Good Indian

by Richard Hartwell

I am from Oklahoma City,
At least my father was,
Off the reservation and into Christianity;
Raised a Bible-Belting Baptist with Spirit.
I am from a land of unbroken horizons,
Starry skies, heat with high humidity; now
with Grandfather’s hatchet, memories, and love.

I am in Vietnam,
At least my body is,
Burdened with weapons, boots, and rules,
Weighted down with the profanities of death.
I am in the jungle, humping through mud,
Humid horizons of mountains and swamps,
Water above and below, a baptism of shit.

I am going to heaven,
At least my soul will,
Native to this land and real American heritage;
On moccasin feet, I slip slyly in, to sit, and
Pray to go to a happier hunting group, back
To see the great eternal plains and to hold
Quiet dialogue with our great forefathers.

Ode To A Dead Chicken

by Catfish McDaris

I like it stewed
Love it fried
Fills me up
With Country Pride

On the grill
Gives me a thrill
Fricasseed with weed of dill

In tacos & enchiladas
Turns me into a gringo chingada

Neck broke, final cluck
Thrown in pot
Feathers all plucked

Breasts & thighs, dark meat
White meat, chewy feet
Already seasoned ready to eat

Nothing better than tender chicken
Fingers greasy, ready for licking

I howl for fowl, chicken delight
Full belly, say goodnight.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


by Travis Power

He once kissed her during a thunderstorm,
a segue to goodnight.
Then they slept, as lightning scrutinized
the knot of them.

Pixie Talk

by Rafi Miller

Lie with me
                        to me
Beneath a phoenix sun
lend me your magnifying glass
let’s burn ants and watch them struggle up
from their ashes
Blue smoke curls from our lips as
The ash from our shared cigarette falls
on their dead little heads
Dmitri, dahling, isn’t it just so wonderful
-ly pointless?

What should we do with our day?
There’s another bottle of wine left
there has to be
No?  Well let’s just run to the shore
To stare at the sharp steel of the horizon
let it laugh at us
remind us
we mean nothing, we are
Where the salty winds will
burn my cuts
Shift the seas
in my favor
                        my favor

Do me a favor? 
Rub your buttercup
On my chin
                        you dirty bastard
Imbue hues of crumbling pollen on bare skin
                        tell me you love me, liar, liar!
Let’s just lie
Let’s stick spoons in the lemon chiffon
Lick white-hot sugar from our lips 
make faces at the fat maid
behind her fat back
Come on
It will be fun
cum on

Rainbow Shaft

by Gulnar Tuli

The color is brown
no, gray and green
Your mouth: a yawning chasm
Swallow me whole,
I drown willingly

Flowers are corpses
and we steal the sky;
Let the scent soak
and color your temples

The shaft has been trampled in remembrance
Intrepid, your heart
penetrates the blues and whites
Daisies fading and blooming again


Tyler Bigney

My loneliness fell in love
with a Polish girl on a bus
from Stanstead, to Heathrow.
It was raining, but I’m not here
to talk about my heart,
or how the rain fell sideways
and battered the window. I want
to fill the world with hummingbirds,
blue ones, let them loose
like balloons, watching
as they move the sky,
the clouds, the sun.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


by Shannon Curtin

Slow pour of golden rye
flows to a glacier filled glass
to a  chatty brook
to a tide pool of suggestion
to an inlet of opportunity
to a rapid heartbeat
to creek of bedroom door
to a puddle of silk on floor
to a salt marsh of skin
to a wetland sin
to a fe/male strait
to a canal
a sea
a dam


a lake

a bayou

        a geyser
                  and a wave
           a wave
a wave

If Nobody is Guilty, Who Can be Innocent?

by Emma Ambos

a secret told to the stars
(Trustworthy little suns)
Tickle the heart
with a
          (It’s just a little kiss…)
I ripped your
right      off
a split up a pale curtain
you, god-perfect
           (So much more
paleflesh            underneath…)

but how you smiled

a sparrow
after the rain has cried
And, oh, how beautiful you are
I miss the sprawlofyourhair-listless
In the mess we
in the midnoon

Gosh, we got dirty, doll
down to the bourbon

            (I lau-gh-ed at your shy/eyes)

But now my room is just me
and your laugh
round like a spiders web

I wish I hadn’t
          (Not goodbye yet…)


by Chris Butler

I am the fake plastic man,
the stone statue standing in vogue poses,
staring down the envious,
standing around indifferent.
I am decorated in the highest fashion dressings,
and some days I’m left naked
with a figure of zero percent body fat and six pack abs
carved out of synthetic granite.
I watch the zombie shoppers
shamble through the aisles,
consuming the flesh of polyester fibers.  
They all want to look like me
because I am the fake plastic man.


by Jeffrey Park

Running low on all fours
you follow the scent
moss clogging your nostrils like
mealy cotton wool
over fallen trees
over big stones
splash through the stream, find
the place of exit

the scent heads up and up
onto a high cliff, into
a high lonely meadow
running ahead in the light
slowing now
slightly stronger but a breath of air
and it’ll be gone.

But now…
Tackle it, pin it
down on the pine needles
I have you now you naughty thing
I’ll take a deep sniff and hold
you tight
in the labyrinthine twists
of my nasal passages
odor – fragrance – stink
like a memory.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dos Sisters in Meh-hee-co

by Rafi Miller

We are together in Mexico but you alone are the epicenter of a testosterone storm cloud.

A thunderous burst of mariachi music:   
Men dance the cockroach (stompspin, stompspin) and we’re stuck, two white girls without rhythm.

You press your lips together and they swell with sex:
Eat me
I’m a pink-frosted cupcake
Take a lick

You dare them.  Don’t even need to say a word before they rain down:
howls and ow-ows that hurt as they pelt my skin.
I am in the way.
 I am twice your size, after all.

This flood of men falls upon us, on you.  You laugh, flipping your amber waves of perky blonde, an American flag flapping for the beautiful, dear sister, fucking bitch.

Their pick-up lines snap sharp, drag on.  Crunchy, cheesy: 
I want a Taco Bell crunch wrap. 
I’m sure you could order your usual:
burrito sans meat, cheese, beans, or tortilla.

Caught in the undertow, you stand tall but clutch my hand. 
Your bird-bone elbows flap flail as we swim away through spiced smoke. 
You doggie paddle, breaststroke(d). 
Their eyes stick to you.  Flies
doomed to jerk, t-t-twitch on rich skin.

I lose you in the crush of the crowd, unseen in your shadow. 
But I find a smile burns away the salt that rims my lips, as the sweat of one stranger
licks down
my spine.


by Gulnar Tuli

The velvet revolution is upon us
Lined in metal, though it parades around in gold
The velvet revolution is here

Soon, it will consume us
Soon, we will fade into its harsh lines
Human connection succumbed to convenience


by Tyler Bigney

It’s time to be honest with ourselves -
I’ve lived twenty eight years, and chances
are I’ll live twenty eight more, providing
I don’t get so sad I drive my car off a cliff,
or jump, arms spread, from my fourth storey window.
After that it’s a waiting game – watching
the clock, every little rhythm of the heart
has you reaching for the phone, crossing
your fingers they get there in time. I
wonder will my heart or my brain stop
first? I’ve wasted so much of my life
doing nothing – endless hours watching
Asian porn, bad television, driving aimlessly
down dirt roads at two in the morning
lost in thoughts and praying for the dark
to lift like a curtain, and for the sun
to wake up over the spruce. I want to do
good things. I want to fall in love, and
have it mean something. I want to be good.
I watched you sleep fifteen thousand
miles away, your chest rising, and falling
like snow, your hair tangled in sheets,
I stayed so quiet, so still, I thought I had died.


by Sherry Steiner

The freeze of the frame - high fashion one-reeler's.
Etienne's intellectual activity dissolves between
form and fiction. Bach's fugue the Beatle's and the
Ted Mack amateur hour light up the sky as the confessional booths caravan their way to 53rd and Broadway. Formal distribution of peppermint patties cause the crowd to swell - impatience flail as ludicrous amounts of perspiration fog the windshield of the bow-tied hipster driving the cab of the truck that is pulling the caravan of the confessionals blaring carnival music on a conflicting four track that are at odds with each other. One track is off track, the second is on the third track, the third track is trying to project sounds of the rainforest while the fourth track is holding out for more money.  Lingering adaptations of insinuating tempos - sequential events - unfortunate cause and effect. Heavily plotted they line up by two's, three's and fours to enter the confessionals. 100, no 400, 723 tops. 5 confessionals - 5 bedtime storytellers. Come on in folks, step right up, just fall to your knees and tell it all - tell it all to me and please don't knock over that porcelain collection tray on your way out. And out they go. One by one in chronological order referencing Elvis and muttering incessantly as Etienne makes like he is Bergman on location in a very nonchalant sort of way melting concrete implications that were once popular two weeks ago, no three, five tops.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Little Intrusion

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Little intrusion,
Few understand small noises.
Less, the thoughts of men.


by Jeffrey Park

Deadbolt locks, one, two, three, four, five
of them secure the steel-reinforced
door like bulletproof medals on the chest of
a combat-decorated war hero, purple heart,
silver star, three – yes, three! – medals
of honor, all attesting to devotion to country
and unwavering courage in the face of
imminent peril, such as that of keeping the
nameless enemy who poses as a pizza
delivery boy at bay.

And he plays right along, leaving a piping hot
mushroom pie on the stoop after pocketing
the bills that we slide out under the door.
Clever bastard, but to no avail. Our defenses
are impregnable: shoot the bolt, draw
the chain, no unauthorized entry permitted.
We take it in turns to keep watch, brown
shoe polish smeared boldly across our cheeks.
And no one comes in. And no one goes out.
And for obvious reasons, no one actually
eats the pizza.

Insert Her Name Here

by Chris Butler

brings us life
but is the
death of men.

causes young love
to get old.

is the savior
of knights
in shining armor.

is the damsel in
distress, damned to
the railroad tracks.

is the muse
not easily amused.

is the pretentious
Venus stiffening all
the world’s flaccid penises.

is the plastic doll
bursting out of an
easy bake birthday cake.

is the bella
ballerina, bulimic
at the bathroom ball.

is the apollonian
apple dangling from
the temptress’s branch.

is the devilish
diva born to adorn
ruby horns.

is the angel
not swathed in
virgin white.

is the goddess
who makes gods
feel inadequate.

is the soul-sucking
succubus causing
incubuses to succumb.

is the heroin
heroine injecting
venom into men’s veins.

is the siren
driving sailors to
suicide with her songs.

is the heartless
harlot tearing out
still beating hearts.

is who I love
to hate me.

My Historic Hometown

by Jim Ethridge

As I travel through the large and small cities of this country, I notice most of them have a sign saying "Visit Historic Downtown Section" or some other type of message to lead you to what is believed to be points of interest or beauty. Being a history buff of sorts, I often follow these signs, and quite honestly, I am often disappointed as their appeal is more local than universal.

My hometown, which I still live only about forty miles away, had in my school days a population of about 5,000; now some fifty years later its population is more than 75,000 and growing. I admire the foresight and energy shown by civic leaders that allowed the city to keep up with services, school, and all that go with such rapid growth.

They did, however, seem to have overlooked the obligation to erect a historic sign. Oh yes, they have a nice little museum that I suppose 10 percent of the population knows is there, and probably 1 percent has visited it. This is surprising due to the fact that Route 66, "The Mother Road," made up its Main Street. There was a little twenty-four-hour café that weary travelers and truckers stopped to nourish themselves, and a fancy restaurant frequented by high rollers from all over the U.S.A. as they traveled from Chicago to California and many cities in between. Both were just two blocks apart, and both gone, as my hometown was caught up in rapid growth concerns, not thinking of historical preservation.

There is one white frame building that was a camera shop when I was in school, that has been preserved as a historical sight, not because it was a camera shop in the 1950's but because it was an old one room school house much before that. I have not been inside the old school since it has become "Historical," and every time I drive by I think of Sanders Camera Shop, where in the late '50's I bought my first Ansco 35 mm camera. I recorded on beautiful color slides: high school sporting events, fishing trips, friends, and fun times with that camera. In the '60's, I photographed an exciting and crazy road trip by five young men to the wild and sinful city of New Orleans. I also captured a special girl who became my wife and a mother, and recorded our children as they grew up.

Yes, to me this is truly a historical building, but not because it was once a school that no one is left that remembers it, but because it was a camera shop that holds many memories.

I suspect, with sadness in my heart, that in not too many years the nostalgia of Route 66 will also be lost. When there are none of us left that traveled the old Road on our many adventures, pausing at roadside stands often operated by healthy, smiling, young, farm girls for apple or cherry cider, or the small filling stations for an RC Cola, then the Road may be gone and forgotten forever.

It doesn't bother me that my hometown seems not to have concentrated on its history but on its future. When I have time to kill, I sometimes drive around sections of my hometown. Many, of course, are new to my eyes, and many have changed much over the years, but you can still see, if you look hard and remember where they were, nestled between the new and remodeled homes some of the buildings that are very much the same as they were sixty years ago.

As I ease down Thatcher Street, I see the home where my grandmother lived in 1949. The same house was home to my best friend in high school ten years later. As I go down E. 7th Street, the house remains that was home to my first girlfriend. Found memories float back to a time when she and several of her girl friends would invite my friends and me over after school and try to teach us how to dance. "Love me Tender," "Young Love," and "A White Sports Coat," still ring in my ears as I pass the house if I listen carefully. At teaching me to dance their success was very limited, but at least it enabled me to get on the floor, hold someone close, and sway to the music at our school hops.

I like to drive by a small house on Walnut Street. It was my home for twenty years and was in the family for about forty years. If I pause long enough I can still smell the smoke from cap guns as my brother and I played cops and robbers or cowboys and indians.

If I look hard enough, I can see my sister, brother, and several neighborhood kids on each side of the house playing Annie Over. It always irked me when my sister out ran me.

Yes, there are historical buildings in my hometown, not of interest to a tourist, and in a few more years no longer of interest to me. But each generation has its own historical buildings, for I believe with all my heart, the people are the history and the places we lived, loved, grew up, and died in, make that history.

This look into the past could probably have been any of a thousand small towns. It just happens to be my historic hometown Edmond, Oklahoma.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


by Séamas Carraher

i accuse the dead
for living rent free
in the rooms of my bones
for longer than i can remember.
i accuse the walls and the furniture,
sister and brother to my thingness,
for being the ground of silence
from which i have detached
and fled
like a bird of prey
picking at its own corpse.
i accuse these lawyers and doctors and gravediggers
for their surgical incisions
which conceal my wounds and our wounds
and this wound called life!
We have all come at daybreak to the impossibility of light.
i have come, my bones unfurled like a graveyard
over this house of the dead,
this house called life!
From here i accuse all these eyes for
looking inwards,
abstracted, for their solidity
in paper and concept, their
confusion in food and profit, their pleading
with the mouth to unstitch its nerves
one more time: “not so!  not so!”.
This endless lament without body or grief.
i accuse the mouth for its slyness,
its cunning saliva, its grinning with the skull.
It is all emptiness and we are standing here
like a bird poised for flight.
i accuse the skull for its talking,
all this ruthless talking within which
i cannot hear myself.
And History, the loudmouth, its arrogance
in facts that are full of ghosts,
its removal of the flesh from the skin,
the skin from the bones,
and now look how it flees
down the long corridor of these empty mansions
crying: "not now! Not here! Not me!"
i accuse the shoe for pretending
it is the foot
the mask, the face.
Finally, i accuse you
from the skeleton of this small being i was
on that road from Hanoi or Phnom Penh,
i accuse your eyes
and your sweating hands
and the light you allowed go out
your belt whistling through the air,
O my secret fascist!
How our skin drops
like naphalm

Country Story

by Robert Nisbet

So me and Jonty, we’re driving halfway up
some heaving mountain (this is Wales now,
just coming into some village, Bryn-something)
and Splatt, it’s been raining, it’s greasy,
that’s our front wheel in the ditch and she,
our Amazon, is out in her yard,
shooshing chickens, so comes over, smiling,
asks, in English, if we need a hand,
and fair do’s, she must be sixty, but I bet she was
a cracker once, and she says she’ll fetch her old man,
he’s chopping wood, she says, and down he comes,
white-haired guy, kind as pie, you got to say,
and they look at the car, Hmmm, it’s only nudging in,
he says, sure, we’ll get her out, and hey, guess what,
they suddenly bring out three grandsons,
oldest might be fourteen, brown as bark,
thin as pins, and they’ve got a rope, there’s
a telegraph pole, Heave-ho, Zonk, that’s our car
back on the road. Better have a cup of tea,
says the old man, so we stuff on rashers
and spitting-hot eggs, those three boys gazing on,
and Grandma sends us on to the nearest garage.
Dai’s. And that’s me and Jonty sorted.


by Ed Werstein

All’s quiet on the eastern front
as a thin white cloud
an open parenthesis
curves up from the line
separating the gray-blue sky
from the blue-gray lake.

Gradually it begins to glow
like a lit fuse.

Slowly the sun
like a programmed cherry bomb
rising light by light
from the bottom of a Times Square billboard
climbs out of the lake.

As it crowns into view
the horizon explodes
flashes brilliant north to south, afire
like a distant war zone
only silent, and with hope.

this foolish belief

by J.J. Campbell

just another one of
these lazy sundays

in and out of sleep

thinking of old otis
redding songs

dreaming of the
woman i love

this stunning beauty
so many miles away
with someone other
than me on her mind

not exactly how i
thought i would be
living at this point
of my life

but a sick part of
me really enjoys
the struggle

probably due to this
foolish belief that
one day

against all odds

i will win

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Library: Defender of Freedom of Speech and Expression?

by G. Tod Slone

In almost all the 45 libraries studied here, and probably hundreds and hundreds more across the country, we have failed our professional duty to seek out diverse political views. [...] These books are not expensive. Their absence from our libraries makes a mockery of ALA’s vaunted ‘freedom to read.’ But we do not even notice that we are censoring our collections. Complacently, we watch our new automated systems stuff the shelves with Henry Kissinger’s memoirs. 
—Charles Willett, Founding Editor, Counterpoise, and retired librarian [remarks presented at the Fifth National Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries]

Over the years, I have tried mostly in vain to get libraries to subscribe to the 501 c3 nonprofit journal I’ve been publishing on literature, democracy, and dissidence since 1998.  To date, I’ve managed to obtain 15 institutional subscriptions.  Compare that to the well over 500 obtained by Agni and Poetry magazine.  As a result of one attempt, Watertown Free Public Library ended up issuing a three-month trespass order without warning or due process.  That was the only time I’ve ever been to that library.  One would suspect I must have had done something terrible like issue violent threats, swear belligerently, or make sexual jokes.  But none of that occurred.  Hard to believe?  Perhaps not.

More recently, on June 19th 2012, I was sitting in Sturgis Library (Barnstable, MA), described by former library trustee Kurt Vonnegut as a “clapboard tomb.”  There I was in a corner alone in a room quietly working on my laptop, something I’d been doing there about five times per week for a year and a half.  The director, Lucy Loomis, and no less than three police officers suddenly entered.  When I asked what I’d done, the director said:  “you’ve been critical of me, you don’t like it here, so now you can’t come here anymore.”  Actually, I did like the library, though did not like the director’s blatant hypocrisy.    

One of the officers made the trespass announcement.  I asked for how long.  He asked the director, who said “permanently”.  I asked for a written document.  The director said there was none.  It was verbal.  I asked why three officers were necessary and mentioned I didn’t carry a weapon.  At that point, one of the other officers [Officer Foley] grabbed my arm, twisted it around my back, then frisked me.  I was not resisting arrest. I was not put under arrest.  (Days later, I’d discover Foley was a training officer who was training one of the other officers present, using me as a live training dummy.)  And that was that.  For me, what happened was unbelievable.  No warning at all!  And no due process whatsoever.  So, what was my “crime”?  

Outside, one of the officers told me to go to Town Hall, when I asked where I could go to lodge a complaint.   A day later, that’s what I did. But Town Hall told me it had no jurisdiction over the library and that I should go to the police station or contact the president of the library committee, Ellie Claus.  Unsurprisingly, the president would not respond to my correspondence.  She was a good friend of the director.  At the police station, I was able to obtain a written record of the police action.  But on it, there was no mention of the duration of the trespass order.  The officer, who had taken the director’s phone call, told me the director had said I “made her feel uncomfortable,” had “said inappropriate things,” and that it had been an “ongoing concern.”  And that was all.  The director hadn’t mentioned I was critical.     

If politically-correct proponents one day have their way, making someone feel uncomfortable might indeed become a criminal offense. Fortunately, it is not yet thus.  Besides, shouldn’t a library director have a little spine?  Was her remark not a bit childish?  After all, I do not have a criminal record, have no tattoos or visible scars, and do not walk around naked.  In fact, over the year and a half I’d been going to Sturgis Library I rarely ever spoke to the director, though in the beginning of that period I’d asked her to consider subscribing.  She’d said, no, arguing the library was a “family friendly place” and that there was “too much negativity.”  So, is democracy now family unfriendly and negativity?  And what about all the sex and violence DVDs the director had been purchasing for the library?  Unfortunately, people in power positions are often impervious to logic and reason.

During that earlier period, I’d placed one flyer on a car windshield in the library lot because that car had a bumper sticker:   “Everything I Learned Was from Reading Banned Books.  Celebrate Banned Books Week.”  The car belonged to a staff member who complained to the director.   Is it not mind-boggling that a staff member with such a bumper sticker would complain about a flyer that mentioned sarcastically that perhaps libraries should also celebrate banned periodicals?  

The director then asked to speak with me in private.  She said that I was no longer permitted to leave flyers on library grounds, including the parking lot.  She also told me that I was not allowed to speak to staff about that.  So, I contacted one of the local papers, The Barnstable Patriot, which to my surprise interviewed me and published a story on my intellectual conflict with the director (click here for link)

Nevertheless, I did not contravene the director’s orders, fearing indeed she’d resort to banning me from the library if I did.  And I needed the library for the internet for my job as adjunct online instructor.  Over the year and a half that followed, I almost never spoke to the director.  Now and then, when she addressed me, it was brief small talk. 

So, what had I done to merit the sudden permanent trespass order? Quite simply the week before I’d sent two open letters to about 25 of the library directors of the Clams Library System of Cape Cod in a last ditch effort to get just one of them to subscribe and thus get the journal into the system.  The only director to respond was the director of Sturgis Library, and as mentioned not in writing, but with three police officers.  How can such a thing happen in the year 2012, some 40 years after the great push for freedom during the Sixties?  

The argument I’d put forth in those two open letters was, as far as I can tell, fool-proof and quite simple.  Perhaps that’s why not one director responded with a reasonable point-by-point counter argument.
A. The library’s own policy clearly stipulates in writing that “Libraries should challenge censorship […].”
B. Sturgis Library banned my flyers and even rejected a free subscription offer. 
C. The library’s own policy stipulates in writing that “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view […]”.
D. Sturgis Library banned the “point of view” expressed in the journal I publish with regards poetry, a point of view that stood at direct antipodes to the point of view expressed in the one literary journal it subscribed to, Poetry Magazine.  And now it permanently banned my point of view, regarding Sturgis Library, from Sturgis Library.
Was that so complicated?  One of my subscribers, Timothy Bearly, who does wear a lot of tattoos, understood it and noted perspicaciously:  

Unbeknownst to the library brass, this [the permanent trespass order] validates everything you have posted about them. They inadvertently proved your point by banning you from the library! As you said, how hypocritical for them to celebrate banned books week... then they ban you! Perhaps they became so enraged with the irrefutable logic [in the two open letters], they resorted to the only tactic they had at their disposal. 

Now, just how uncomfortable did the director make me feel by suddenly appearing with three police officers?  And just how uncomfortable does she make me feel now, knowing that in the town where I live I can no longer frequent the publicly-funded library and am forced to pay taxes that help fund it?  Arguing “uncomfortable” and “inappropriate things” clearly serves to divert attention away from the initial argument:  the library’s egregious hypocrisy regarding its own policy and actions.   
Finally, the American Library Association, which I contacted, responded that it had no jurisdiction over libraries.  Sadly, it was totally disinterested in what had happened.  Its Office of Intellectual Freedom, which evokes Orwell’s 1984, did not respond.  PEN New England (“defending free expression everywhere”) did not respond. Poet/professor Fred Marchant, former director of PEN New England, did not believe my assertion that PEN did not respond.  The explanation for the non-response, however, was evidently that current director Karen Wulf was friends with Joan Houlihan, whose Concord Poetry Center I’d criticized a number of times.  Moreover, Marchant is a friend of Houlihan’s too.  Cronyism is the oil that  makes the lit milieu in Massachusetts function.   The ACLUM did respond, requesting further information but could not stipulate whether or not it could help.  It has limited resources.  Eventually, I spoke with one of its intake lawyers at her request.  Later, she mentioned a group of lawyers met and decided one of them would call the library director. Thus, I await with a sparkle of hope.  Nevertheless, the director’s ploy will most certainly be the he-made-me-feel-uncomfortable and said-inappropriate-things card.  I await to discover what precise things I’d said were inappropriate and if that actually holds weight vis-a-vis freedom of expression.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cliches Get Stuck Under Your Fingernails

by Jennifer Recchio

I didn't believe you when you stood
on your toes, said, "Hell is other people
when I only want you," and I told you not
to quote things you don't understand.

I didn't save you when you held out
the smooth palms of your hands,
your tears in your mouth, med school
dreams dead at your tennis shoes.

I didn't come for you when you called
that morning from the side of 260,
everything you knew in the trunk
of your Honda, except the hairclip
you left with me.

You didn't believe me when I said,
"Hell is us together," and you didn't
understand that what Sartre really
meant is, hell's full of people like
me running from people like you.

In the Inn of My Dream

by Ali Znaidi

I was jubilantly wandering in the street for hours,
until my feet got sore and my body got weary.
So I returned to the inn of my dream.
I lay in bed while my eyes were so bleary.

Before that I opened the windows of the inn.
My eyes became more and more dim.
So I succumbed to such a soothing nap,
letting my dreams’ magma flow round my mind’s rim.

I saw a big legendary bird with wings, so huge.
On its back Liberty was jubilantly playing with her hair.
I saw Death menacing and roaring like thunder.
But Life immediately electrocuted him in his chair.

I saw a prisoner bathing with the water of a butterfly.
I saw a little bird stitching its broken wings to start afresh.
I saw a mesmerising Muse called Freedom—
I saw her as a beautiful woman with pure blood and flesh.


by Christine Tsen

Her little side cape sits empty
but for memories
dogs barking welcomes and warnings
the imprint of a woman humming cheerful songs
as she sits neighboring on a blue bench
chatting banter to chipmunk chitter
her morning glory in blue and pink
eyeing the world from her view
a little girl young mother grown wise.

I cringe remembering that pointless argument
with her
I was a teenager
and how I couldn’t wait to be on my own
to get out
away from that little house
that had grown smaller
and smaller
as I grew

She gestured at me yelling
I’ll break your heart
in the end,
I’ll be gone and oh you’ll wish me back again
even if only to fight with
And it’s true, I do
oh mother I do.

Give My Best to Boy George

by Brittany Fonte

Karma: a crawling lizard, if that’s the way you carried yourself, or churned on your belly, contradicted yourself in the bedroom, the boardroom.  Bored, Nirvana may still be near.

Maybe you cornered yourself in a life that lit the sky with warnings of more than explicit lyrics and riverboat videos, more than drugs or militant activism, more than a night that turned into days of handcuffing: judgment.  Now, you are mute, but Jesus still Loves You.

Karma creeps in: tomorrow?  “More than Likely.” Or after you have died, seen your lies, learned a little, yelled a lot, leaned into the pit of despair that remembers fingerless gloves and all-occasion dread inside a gay British native’s head and nodded: Yes.  I did that.  Nodded to the judge.  (Don’t disbelieve simply because you cannot see….)

Logic tells us, If you love, if you risk something significant like love with Moss, or rolling stones, you will win some of the time.  You will win, at least a lesson.  And sometimes, when you lose, you find out what you had hoped against becomes what you needed most.  This is karma, too.

So let your love for your loved ones exceed your need for them. And when someone asks, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” answer honestly.  The Dalai Lama: If your intention is kind, no matter the outcome, you are safe.  Secure.  Buddha will catch you before you tumble into that pithy pit of pirated lines.

Still Point

by Seth Jani

Morning. Nothing really.
The clock with its endless precision.
The movement of wind.
A barrage of leaves at the window.
I tap the cup until the coffee stirs,
Tense my nerves until the blood starts up.
The only gesture here is the one that beckons
To no one.
The only music, the kind
We cannot play.
Mitochondria dance, though we will not
See it.
The earth spins, though who would know?
The bird that is my body
Does not flutter or beat.
The stone that is my soul
Does not blossom or budge.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Good Luck

by Robert Nisbet

It was his great good luck
not to have had an expensive education
nor pull nor place nor privilege at all,
but that he, living alone, in ’98,
should be working for Murphy’s,
a small firm in a small country town,
buying and selling musical instruments,
which he could play, restore and love,
knowing the wise melancholy of the alto sax,
of soul and swing, and that he should, that year,
meet Rose. She,
living with two burly Labradors
and her garden’s swarm of tits and starlings,
in a stone-walled cottage, smudged with ivy,
would, when he played blues to her,
close her eyes, smile, tap her foot,
say, Yes,  yes.

Venus of Delta

by Ed Werstein

In the hubbub
of the airport screening area,
that kerfufflian confusion posing as security,
right in front of me
she bent
to remove her shoes.

It was the bending that did it,
the flesh inside stretching
tightening the denim even more.

Her pose
a picture destined for the dictionary
illustrating callipygian.
This woman's calli
was as pygian as they come.

The goddess Callipygia herself,
in the flesh..

I was flummoxed and flamboozled.
Flustered, I left liquids unbagged,
dropped change all over the floor,
frazzled the folks waiting behind me.

After stumbling twice
through the metal detector,
forgetting to remove my belt,
and now completely disassembled,
I was relieved at last
to see exactly what I needed:

Recombobulation Area.

Venice Biennale

by Bryan Murphy

Saturday at the Arsenal, art not soccer.
The new explodes on every visual front:
minimalist videos sputter under walls
coated with jokes against cyber-pretension.
Rain has drenched our poems into silence,
whereas sculpture is renewed in the perfect
mis-shapen toes of Ron Mueck’s “Boy”.

The evening’s train draws us homeward
from the palaces of the powerful
toward parking fines, headaches,
bulletins of war and terror
striking ever closer.

Holy drug

by Claudia Rey

There should be an oblivion pill
to make stubborn people like me
deaf and blind and numb.
One pill
and my heart wouldn't stop
when someone mentions your name.
Two pills
and a knife wouldn't cut me in two
if I remember you saying WE
meaning you and someone else.
Three pills
and love wouldn't be a four-letter word.

Summer in India, 1999

by Neha Parthasarathy

Despite your insistence that I eat
chick peas smothered in fenugreek and
green chili powder,
            all I craved
that summer were pickles.

American—Dill pickles, sour, thick
            and crunchy as I
imagined tree trunks to be. I relied
on them—a reminder of the
            easy life waiting for me—
                        only months away.

I’m sure you had no sympathy; you
            were raised to pity no one,
            the easy life, not
something you pined for, as I did.
            More a stone temple
than my cousin.

To you, I was too fresh,
too rosy-eyed,
                        too American.

            after you cleaned the dishes
reeking of turmeric and curry powder,
            you asked me questions—a
private game that I never quite

Are you Britney Spears? I shook my head
no, and you laughed.
            Sinister, and sad,
I can’t associate anything
            with that sound
except your face—only 19, but
                        etched with wrinkles.

Still, I have wondered when you laughed,
             why I giggled too, wiping
mosquito skeletons off my ankles,
            too annoyed
to whisper condolences, while you
            cleaned up
the bodies—mouthing prayers
            under your breath.

Lost Annulus

by John Prusch

Capsizing in guttural foam, phonemes blurt from mantra towers, calibrating the graying river. Formal juicers flip to chlorophyll lightning, strapping polls to ether crane pursuits, greeting hieratic swoons in aftershave cowls. Quiet nocturnes sift the gravel salient for broken mimes, hopping souls of ancient wood. Kneelers stare at autonomic birds, caped in traipsing torches, anchoring rodeos to potted daughters of androgynous quartets. Impinging on ottomans, pseudonymous age patrols urge expository cleavage to tackle a toroidal chimp. Climbers of dreary tactile smithereens mate in spurious trickles of carousel smiles, earning knapsack hunger. Scampering in dimes, surgical fires descend in ulterior tassels, sparking tomographic yodelers with noontime equestrian seizures. Filched pontoon whereabouts deter an aural metaphor, grafting corn missionaries to train whistle pleas. Adorable rabble kits, encouraged by populating waifs, parse neurotic embolisms, repealing a pretender’s cane. Intake mascots cry for rain disease, redacting trellis wheat in hemline trinket dunes. Smooth stochastic phalanges, immersed in stairwell girth, drench carotid knaves in maniacal torrents of trodden steam and generic minutiae. Downstream glovebox hives mince events in roving slipknot shoes, simplifying autocratic crease machines. Blasts of planned wind gargle transparent husks, borrowing a timing bell. A city of futility, fertility, febrility, flimsy logic, worn intestines, collapsed murals, simian brain states, lucid séance blues, steel cheeks, encapsulated rhythm, intoned druids, immersion salts, mashed raisins, inoculation walls, twirling hatcheries, daubs of sterile pickpocket truce…

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Drinking with El Greco

by Seth Jani

In Spring you slowly sip a porter,
One Sunday night
While the voices in the wind
Are grave and rocking.
You grow intently
Upwards from below,
The root-sop of the soul
Surging to your mouth.
You kiss a poster
Of some dark city in Spain,
Tracing the lineaments
Of steel light
Which seem to slip
Through chinks inside
The photo,
Reaching out
To touch you
In your room.
You look out
At your own
Most haunted city,
The old jazz-blare
of traffic
Dipping and diving
Through the night,
The same uneasy darkness
Nodding from above.

A waitress' tattoos

by Emily Ramser

our waitress has
death dates tattooed
across her teeny tiny
 pale wrists

bracelets encircling, encircling, encircling, encircling
with memories

I see them as she tosses menus, asking us our orders,
there is a name, a name I cannot see, hidden in the shadow of her hand
the shadow of the mountain upon the valley

but she has death dates, dates tattooed across her veins
hands I don’t want touching my food, poisoning it with thoughts of
cemeteries and lilies laid on bodies.

T. S. Eliot's Veins

by Jordan Jamison

The apartment festers like open sores on feet, memories of dope itches and milky spoons of diseased liver brown, Coca-Cola brown, everything is brown. I continue to think of you, T.S. Eliot; would you write a poem about the apartment, about working-class Mexican fiends who double as modern day Dantes? Probably not, but my arms hurt. My veins are an adorable apple bruise barely oxidized. I love my veins, always have. Sometimes when I can't sleep and my nose is running and I can hear the water in the wall and the delicious couples screaming at each other out on the sidewalk, I wonder if you love your veins as much as I love mine.

Days of Summer

by Douglas Polk

classic cars,
with bikinis,
and beer,
in a red state,
kinda way,
profits made,
evidenced by block after block,
of empty cases of beer,
now only litter,
along the main drag,
summer time condensed,
seventy two hours,
with hot cars,
women, and weather,
ending as the hot-rodders,
beach bums,
fade away,
dormant for another year.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Those Days

by Neha Parthasarathy

It was two decades ago Amma made like she might refuse your marrying hand
but didn’t. And would it have been any better?
For you, it was a kidnapping from
dusty evenings spent in the neighbor’s yard pinching papayas from trees.

Now more then ever you dream of those days, aged like wine,
playing cricket in overgrown grass, laced with molting cicadas.
Your teammates roaring don’t strike too soon,
run run run.

And you did. Are running still.


by John Pursch

Just when the anthem chortled, a pleasant gull came roaring into the dinette set, peering over a rail car's final bunion. Chimneys sucked in grammar by the millionth spine, hindering the cockatoos, sending dog knowledge to the poles, hoping for wheat. Halfway to cumquat, a cannibal eloped with neural phobia, flaunting eternal sunset’s collared shadow. Eels concurred with amethyst hills, trolling for lathered oglers, crawling the minister’s bowler for spruce breezes, tilting at a dragonfly’s mink inquest. Spanning enclosure chutes, angora hemp occurred to lakeside newbies, doffing Cuban offal, slurping equatorial tinder from the umbral axle’s lupine snarl. Seven clairvoyants threw pumper fits, approving pencil fright in bathing loons, freshly pinned to curbside flies. Wounded loafers, fueled to gliding keels, trebled the duffle bark’s career mosaic sneeze, fumbling into ateliers, cramping on enamel fruit. Platters lazed in scudding fiords, flecked with lorries, jiggling stateside droplets of plasma. Netting a full eighth, broken choirs remastered wry flotation crill, wriggling into superficial octagons of blue imprisoned haddock. Simmering junkers sped to tabular ice, lapsing into undertow, filching gravity from sworn detainees. Clandestine locusts wicked away rattan E. coli shakes, leering at tiered clavicles, crusty in their heady bylaw dunes. Glossing under lacquered omens, semiotic racers plied the bruiser’s lefty spigot with dappled tremors, sifting tufa shoals for scuffs of crystal oil. Submerged in white space, fun bled foci on the yearning curves of bent eternal questions, hammering home a silent plebe.

Before We Become Lovers

by Christine Nichols

Days go by and I think again -
I should turn.
But I pull against the lean.

What would happen if I cast
my eyes like fishing line and
the rest of me followed;

If I moved the steering wheel
down the curve of crusher run,
to what beyond?

Would hard tires drift off the highway,
transform to boggy balloons, and
bow around sharp gravel teeth?

What if this car crunched up the yards
a prehistoric dinosaur,
lizard like, arch and release.

I can almost taste the hot stone dust,
See it billow plaster, film on the hood,
grit the wiper.

But I drive by and know
I will likely die before I find out
what is down there.


by Ayeni Tolulope

sound the gong, call forth to meet,
the five and half men who rule our meat,

sound the gong, call forth corruption,
the marauding bastard milking our nation,

sound the gong, call forth poverty,
the eater flesh and taker of purity,

sound the gong, call forth theft,
the beast, high and lowly takes all that we've kept,

sound the gong, call forth murder,
the masqurades with guns who make widows our mothers,

sound the gong, call forth the sick preachers,
the maker of bombs with leeches as teachers,

sound the gong, call forth the half,
a hope for tomorrow? We five scoff and laugh.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


by Seth Jani

Like everyone it’s love I want,
Stepping out this cold December evening
Into the perishing light of winter
Finally revealing the jutting movements
Of my heart
Which all day have been hidden
Beneath countless layers
Of cotton and fleece.

I walk the gray canals of the city
Certain that every stranger
Is equally embarrassed
By his unruly longing,
And that any second
Great crowds will bubble forth
Fed-up with the facade
And that in sudden disregard
Of our historic purity
We will come together
Swept of every office
And breathe out
In one hot junction
The secret hunger of our lives.

Citizens Of Hell

by Kufre Udeme

Once, it was a structure of miracles
Full of scenes inexplicable by the laws of nature
Set like a hill in major lucky cities
With the assembly hall in the town of Jerusalem.

Now, like weeds it springs in every path
Go to the White House or Aso Rock
There are altars in the heart of the Government
Explode a trip to space, or be rooted beneath the earth
There's nowhere without pulpits, for men of belief.

In China, in United States of America
Temples grow with tiny sandful units
Like electric poles along the streets of Lagos
Creating danger for the shapes of our towns.

In those days Priests were divinely called
As stainless as the manna of Wilderness
So they were to be rods of the Highest Order
But today, even dogs at the market place
Throws a selfish aim to light a mass.

Money-motivated Priests erect stores in temples
Casting olive spell upon the congregation
Enchanting them all to brains of goats
Innocent fools, their ears can no longer spot
Which of the jerking ghosts is holy.

Scribes and Pharisees are now the Apostles
And the Egyptians have become the children of Israel
What more is there to know?
Or that the gospel is now in the hands of the Sadducees?
Or that the Publicans are now the majorities in the Kingdom?

Erudites of the good tidings, from the jungles of Africa
Quick as tropic lightning, bring the jar of truth
Empty it upon America, Asia, Australia, and Eroupe
You can overlook Antarctica, it might be the foundation of hell.

Make the Jews know, O sons of gods
That the ever burning wax is running short of wick
Soon, very soon, darkness will fall on the temple
Like a black paint upon an old glass.

There will be no mercy for hills and valleys
All those who have scattered what was organised
Will be issued a flaming yellow passport
Not by the Twinkling Golden Kingdom
Preserve for mortals of the Lamb's Morality
But by the Baseless Rift of Burning Brimstones.

The imagination of man does not exceed the degree
Of how much it will surpass the agony
In the burning furnance of Nebuchadnezzar
And there will not be a drop of water to tame the throat
Even death will no longer be the foe of life
For the passport will crown the spoilers permanent citizens of hell.


by Jordan Jamison

We became acquainted quickly,
Almost buddies. I don’t know why.

Saturday Evening Postscript
For Norman Rockwell

by M.N. O'Brien

We can play checkers
just to be good, and your mom
has collected enough thimbles
for the other board games. I saw
fifteen, and only went to the bathroom once.

Where is your mom
anyway? Buying threads and needles?
I should steal your old scarf, so she’ll have something
to do. I know what that noise is.
Home team banners and girls
running from boys clutching frogs.

What time does your mom come
home for the scolding?
If she sees me, nothing
good can come from it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Trollop Goes Fishing

by Christine Nichols

At nineteen, I made a fisherman.
Your nuclear perfection
needed to be mine.

Smooth skin unstretched
unlike your growing womb,
dangled a silver lure.

I picked up a red mini skirt,
played a game of peek a boo,
and one of hide and seek.

He fell for the glossed promise
of uncharted territory
for a while.

But in the end he was
less perfect for the journey
And I sent him back
to you.


by Ayeni Tolulope

i woke up last morning without my hose,
i woke up this morning without my nose,
i got up and groaned from a floor filled with ice,
and wondered what more i'd pay as a price.

I woke up last noon in search of a loaf of bread,
i woke up this noon in search of a bite,
perhaps, my salvation lies only with christ,
or perhaps in the next bottle of rum or of sprite.

I woke up last evening without my meds,
i woke up this evening without my legs,
i sat up and wished away in foolish plight,
of course, if wishes were horses fools would be knights!


by Linda M. Crate

promises aren't made to be broken
but you broke every one you ever
made to me; insisting upon your own
rightness is the very thing that helped
tear us apart - always you had all
the answers and I was simply the
fool that ought to have been glad
enough to be in your presence but
you are not martyr or any saint
by any means; no you are the very
stuff that nightmares are made of.

Sister Fire

by Carly Berg

Shark-shaped silhouette a sister bastard stares down the night bonfire
Black on orange like Halloween
Hansel and Gretel forest oven witch
Thought balloon wafts forms fills
Closer. Closer. Tiptoe creep. Dare you? Really? Oh yeah?  Lolol.
Aww. Poor skinny black volcano cloud sister alone and small.
A tasty tidbit then, toe torch touch just a toasty tad
Scissor mouth snaps You haven’t got the guts.
I. Don’t fear. You. Snout soars skyward
Cartoon bull snort, a one and a two and a three times hit the ground with the hoof and
Ba ba bump da dumpf Bap wah wah wah fireflop
Whoop whoop alley oop.
Flappy batwings, demon shriek
Scritch scratch woof poof flame flash
I only meant to…
Ding dong whoops.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Rut

by Stephen Jarrell Williams

At work
in the rut

making my widgets
assembly line

wishing I could
belt the boss


in the hall

Homeland Security
marching in

they must have read
one of my poems

they're rather touchy
in their Nazi suits

pushing me out back
to a vacant field

handing me a shovel
digging my grave

in the rut.


by Ali Znaidi

abundant moon sinks
beyond stars constellation
parasites blossom


by Jordan Jamison

live and die sober
narcotics anonymous
i want some morphine


by John Grochalski

seth is a good bartender
but seth always has problems

a man walks into a bar to forget his troubles
but seth likes to give you his on a silver platter

he stock line is, you know,
it’s usually the patrons telling the bartender their troubles
but today we’re going to try something different

and then he’ll tell you
about some uncle of his dying
or how he lost three friends to cancer

seth tells his sad stories as he cuts fruit for drinks
and takes beer orders

sometimes he makes you feel worse about your own shit
sometimes he makes you feel bad
for feeling so lowdown in the first place

especially since seth survived a gunshot shot wound
and you’ve never been pierced by a butter knife

i’ve witnessed seth cry more than
some old girlfriends of mine

he tells you how he wants to cry about it
and then he goes ahead and does the deed

of course, it’s a well-known fact
that he majored in drama in college

for some of us it’s the price we pay for the cheapest drink
on the block

others have found some way to ignore the drama

they put on stones songs
read books or the village voice
talk about their netflix queues to no one in particular

but i can’t seem to ignore the tears
or seth’s conversation
he seems like he really needs someone in this world
and since i walked into the bar
the fates must’ve deemed me the guy

so i sit there patiently and take sips on my draft
as seth tells me about the bartender who died
how his neighbor was almost raped
or his grandmother in a coma

i tell seth how goddamned cruel the world is
because it really is

that’s my stock line

a couple of times he’s held my hand
but it was only for comfort, i think

and when i get ready to leave the bar
i ask him how much for the beer

seth waves his hand
and says don’t worry about it, man

so i don’t

and when i walk out into the blinding sunlight
of the busy city
feeling a great weight lifted off of my karma

i’m happy to be alone
with all that patient noise and overwhelming heat.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


by Claudia Rey

Old stones take a pink hue in the sunset and a cool breeze  ruffles our  hair and clothes. Only institutional buildings in this square: the cathedral, the town hall, a cardinal's mansion, another stately palace belonging to an aristocratic family. Power at its best - so deadly serious, so dignified. And yet...

A couple of years ago a director chose Montepulciano, its steep narrow streets and medieval cobblestones, to shoot part of his film. Many other movies had already been made there, but this one was special. This was the story of two young beautiful ill-fated lovers, a vampire and a common girl. New Moon, part two of a really popular saga called Twilight.

The news quickly spread and millions of avid teenagers invaded the town  hoping to catch a glimpse, a smile, possibly an autograph from the actors.

A fake fountain was built in the square; hundreds of extras were hired, half of them more than willing to work for free just for the thrill of being there. The filming went on for a week, with the local Film Commission patiently solving major or small problems.  Locals were intrigued or annoyed, but shop owners were delighted by such a boost in the town economy. In the end, as always, Montepulciano survived.

Now some restaurants and bars offer a Twilight menu: pizza with the reddest tomatoes, spaghetti in a dark sepia-ink sauce, "caprese" with pale mozzarella, purple beetroot-and-orange juice. Young tourists seem to appreciate.

Stage blood was never shed for a better cause.

Plastic Surgery

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Sane people do not pay others
Money to slice open their faces,
Leaving slits for inserting foreign
Substances, but not straws, cigarettes,
Lovers’ fingers, or chocolate.

Such affinage is better left
To professionals extirpating
Moral conduct, personal responsibility,
Loyalty to ethics, apple pie, Mom.

Those entrepreneurs macerate beauty
Hard won through birth, sex,
PTA meetings, carpools, sag,
Unequal pay, intimate wanderings.

Rather, surgical amberjacks ought
To be caught, gutted, fried on a high
Flame, enjoyed while wrinkles,
Adipose tissue, also spots, set in.

I Can Only Imagine What’s Buried Beneath

by Meg Tuite

Stacks of dust-ridden blank greeting cards
that will be sent to no one.
A chipped Kuan-Yin statue with fingers
amputated from too much shit
confronting her rocky path
Stacks of bills
Saved for no one’s gullet but guilt.
A phone cradled, but never answered
Columns of books that move
in closer
sick to death
of holding their breath
and ready to crack if only...
A computer submerged in between life & housebroken swine
savors its own torture
refusing to reboot, reconnect, recommit
or a blinding scream illuminates
unrestrained radiance
Flashing pop-ups vibrate across the screen
Blow-out auctions
Quick assault weight loss and
wrinkle-freeze  home is where the money is
what year did you graduate?
long distended love
while you
waste time that was already pilfered
zoning out one world for another
mesmerized by a dancing screen
that promises a life
dilated by a drug
no pharmaceutical could possibly
side-effects include...

Tree Sap Lace

by M.N. O'Brien

There is a place, a tree sap lace
dripping down the bark.

Where the red and yellow
leaves of summer’s pyre
gather upon the ground in piles,

Where headlines of hurricanes are held
hostage in newsstands,

Where a protective shore of hedges on hills
lays between the curb and the Main Street store
guarding against the wild asphalt yonder,

Where the streetlight hangs a dying metal flower
casting a tent of orange light glow.
on the waving sheets of rain at night,

Where the mountains reach
over the steeple of the church,

Where clouds are forming
cotton cobblestone streets in the sky
leading up to the white lunar light,

The fleece clouds of winter
move to strike anyone gentle enough
to look off the earth.

Take me where curtains of watery heat
rise from the road.

But I am too obviously myself,
to be a stranger anywhere.

There is a place, a tree sap lace
dripping down the bark.
In the amber I remain.