Richard Peabody • Hillbilly Music

A skinny man is reading poems.
Rush hour radio serenading the alley.
A little Hank Williams in the night.

My father appears in the doorway.
His angry heart no longer able
To cry, cheat, or eat gumbo.

I don’t believe in ghosts.
So maybe he’s really stopping by
Having developed a taste for poetry

In the afterlife.
Not that I can hear many words
Seated in the back of the gallery.

The skinny poet reads slower than
Most children do when learning how.
So what to make of my charismatic father

As he mouths silent words at me.
The fractured English of the poet
At the podium, Hank Williams’ yodel,

Fusing together on the first warm spring night,
Thirteen years after my father’s heart attack.
Here I am now in Arlington just a few blocks

From the first apartment he lived in
With my mother and their brand new baby boy
Born 50 years and a couple weeks ago.

What to make of silence and coincidence.
As Hank honkytonks into the night sky
And the spaces between the skinny poet’s words

Get more and more lonesome and blue.

Jeanne Renaud • He Loved Me So Much

There's a man in the other room
He's not a lover
He's not a husband
He's not a brother, father or son
Not even a friend

Sour tongue
from all that migraine medicine
I'll take some Nyquil
brush my teeth
see how I feel in the morning

I'll live somewhere
where I know whose food is in the refrigerator

There's nobody here talking back at me
My phone doesn't ring
My boyfriend doesn't call
I don't have a boyfriend
My cat's hot in her fur

I missed the boat. Had the boat
but gave up the boat
cause I wanted a better boat

Crawl crawl
Eyes look of into stare
Flick of the ear
Reality shows in the ears
She licks her paw

Noise noise
Cars gates rollers
Shopping cart car alarm
Freeway engine engine

And the name of that restaurant, Habachi
like his name, Kalani
that promised so much more
than it delivered

He never called me back
She climbed up here with her hot self
I kiss her forehead

And the Zig
And the Zag

I'll make him
I'll make him fall in love with me

And a home
and me in the house
looking back at him

My teeth hurt
And my jaw
I have to open wide
My pen doesn't write so good

My head bleeds
Outside breathes
I look into my closet of clothes
There are footsteps
outside my door
I'm an artist
I'm a star

I'm a never-ending stream of cars
Never-ending impulse to eat
(I eat men like air)

Do you want to move in together
And I can get a job around here
And we can fuck everynight
And I can make dinner

Why don't you want me?
Why don't you love me?
Are you my boyfriend?
Do you want to have a family?

I wonder how it would have been
if he hadn't had to leave

I wonder if my eyes will ever close again
Instead of all the pain around the nose
the snap of the jaw

A tongue not meant to be shut up
in a mouth for so long

My stomach no longer a part of me
I'm all alone in this house tonight
adjusting adjusting adjusting

He loved me so much
He called me his little actress

I wonder if he gets further away
with every man I spend

Penny Freeland • Latent Lunatic

I met the man in the moon one night,
a bit round for me, I admit,
but his brightness made up for it.

We discussed incandescent vs. fluorescent,
multiple personalities,
the color blue, heifers,
Jackie Gleason, the Reverend Sun Myung,
Neil Armstrong’s shoe size, Mount Everest,
and the competition on Jupiter.

He was real smart,
even though he was younger.
He wasn’t the cold disk you’d expect,
he made me warm.
We danced by his light and howled and went into a frenzy,
sprouting hairs and fangs and those damned long nails.
But we recovered.
In the morning we parted,
he with a shifty grin
and me with my not-so-easy hair color.
Bring, bring me the glass,
shine the light,
light up my life,
be the light of my life,
moon me.

In the morning, things always look different.
There’s no spotlight, everything’s exposed.
All equals under the sun.
The sun knows me.
Sees me in my underwear through the window;
sees me when I sleep late, ignore my responsibilities;
sees through my answer to where I was last night.

Still, Mr. Moonlight Man,
was a giant step in the right direction.

But I lose:
my keys
sunglasses, headphones,
steam, my stomach, face,
the Man in the Moon.
After only two short weeks
he didn’t show.

I expected it though;
each time I saw him he looked thinner and paler
even geriatric.
What had been in my mind?

But that first night was empty: a mirror in a blind man’s

The rules are: don’t expect anything, then you’ll never be sorry;
brush your teeth three times a day,
and especially after Hershey’s;
don’t sit with your legs open when you’re wearing a skirt;
don’t bank in a piggy;
don’t bite off more than you can spit out.
It’s simple.

He fooled me with all that talk about midnight,
high on the Milky Way and Mallow Mars.
It’s OK though.
Fun while it lasted.

Soon to be soon.
It was only a minute, moment, midnight, mister.
It must have been moonglow.

Bruce Curley • Roy Orbison Lament

His voice soars
over heartsickness
over knots in the throat
over love possibilities
over love delight
lover love despair
to a ballad
sung in an American voice
interwoven and spliced
to French romantic poetry.

Even behind the dark glasses,
a melody to dreams
of love given and taken
makes the prayer of song
as St. Dominic reminded us
prayed twice, half straight
to the ear of God,
half straight return
to our own damaged souls.

Amy Pence • Subdivision

My mind's aflame
like the wet open buds
in the azalea-the reds
a seared lipstick across clipped lawns,
the oranged mouths livid, tiered

to such crass abstraction.
The neighbors gather
at the front entrance, the fat pastor

lets boards fly – the garage door
closes on the wail of his invectives, the wife's
face puffing, just gasping. My mind's aflame –

it's those names, flash of the Airstream
just past, clash of pans falling, just

now – three houses down. A boy
wheels past on his bicycle, the toy dog follows
with the face of a mule. My child

watches undistracted
while her father's face
fills with words. Mushrooms sprout
spurious and greedy,
march toward us across the lawn. Termites

shatter the fallen log. It's that flaw
in the face, in that instance. His lips
smeared and insufficient.

My soul's a knobbed landscape-boxed,
hedged, affixed, enclosed-
a domestic outcropping, suborned
doomed, quite unsentimental

James Brock • Florida, at the End of Time

I have to remind myself
humanity is a recent thing
that dares not understand
its impossible erasure, dares

not land upon this Florida,
its beach and universe where
everything has an end. Nor
do I. Love , do you regard

the water and its quiet
pliabilities? I do. Or do
you think of a land unmoored
in grass, or of an oceanic

desert with Hollywood sand,
or of a mount crested
upon tectonic plates? Earth?
Water? Air? Fire? Florida?

Such places our bodies become
sub-mineral. There, our bodies
beckon to some elemental
signature, an encrypted

memory of origin where
every wind has its vapory
consciousness, where every
wind moves us to sex, love,

animation, retirement. In
such places, such in-between
lands and waters and their
arrested evolutions, such

places with and without Eden,
with and without beginning,
the keener one between us
stops during our walk along

this South Florida beach,
stops upon a place stilled
upon the common maps,
and kneels to trace clouds

and cormorants in the sand.
In such places--above us
in the twilight, gulls
call to their mates, and

due north of us, the lights
of Miami Beach multiply,
a soft cartoon foregrounded
on dredged sand--and in such

places, the wind tarries
across our skin. After
I am lost remembering what
shutter speed will suffuse

this kind of light, deciphering
the camera’s trick of capture,
I look upon you, my beloved,
and release the snapshot:

lust itself is rescue against time.
Your skin, unto which I
surrender, tells me I am not
a being but a place, tells me

how mostly happy is any one
so near this edge of waiting

Barbra Nightingale • Spring Fever

Miranda looks in the mirror,
hears voices from the other side.
There are new lines, bumps, blotches
she thought she'd left behind.
There is much she wants to say,
but they are too loud; she can't
be heard above the din.

It is raining a hard rain.
The drops beat on the window
like bullets; a sound of breaking glass.
The world is full of shards,
she thinks, sharp slivers
that find their way home:
a glass eye, transparent heart.

She begins to argue with shadows,
takes umbrage with incivilities,
wonders if she's lost her mind.
I still want to know why, she insists,
we don't just fall off the planet?
Though even she will admit
there's much to weigh us down.

She is beginning to forget to remember;
the flecks in her eyes harder to see,
the music slower and all without words.
There's so much to do, she says,
if she only knew what.
She opens the door and steam pours out;
voices fall like clean, March rain.

Chet Hicks • The Nashville Salute

At the depot in Isola I told the folks I’d be back soon,
draft or no, but I never saw that place again, or Vietnam.
Near-sighted as to be legally blind, said the M.D.
With red ink and shaky he hand he filled in my future.
The Army can’t use you, and tell your folks you need glasses.
The sidewalk was bright and I walked into a pole, it broke
my lip like the old man’s fist, but the pain was light.
I asked for hair cream at a drugstore, plus a Coke, extra ice.
The Opry was sold out that night, so I listened from an alley.
A stage door popped open in the heat, a perfection of cries
escaped, and the long hand of fate slapped my hillbilly face.
Blew the rest of my stake on a girl from Meshack, Kentucky.
I bought her a Zenith radio and squinted hard at those breasts.
She was waiting, she said, for money from home, how
she was much obliged and, deep inside, a Primitive Baptist.
We drank beer until Bible verses jumped off our tongues.
I bussed tables and beat rugs, my mind set on a guitar

Forty years, like the shadow of a hawk, and the parts
I can remember all look like the Fresno Holiday Inn.
My third wife, Nell, says it’s no shame to play in Japan.
Her friend, the one who wears a white bikini and wants
me to sell trucks on TV, the tall one, she’s in town.
hell, I should charge people to watch me walk around.
The Tokyo flight is booked and I’ve got no band.
I’ve had my skinny as parked on a raft in the pool
while Miles Davis throws down – now that is some shit,
you fiberglass cowboys, there’s proof of flying saucers.
Next time I’m born I’ll reach for a horn and get it right.
I’ll leave this legendary Nashville life to the suckers.
The women send me out in tornado winds for gin and tonic
with a large crisp bill and severe warnings about my ticker.
In the parking lat at World of Wines & Liquor I watch
an empty buggy sail up the hill, crash itself into my car,
fall over dead, and God knows I get it, already,
the was never in my hands to begin with.

Janet Buck • Long Division

One side: “Have.”
The other: “Not.”
The constitution of the cold
in terms of wealth
that isn’t shared.
The big and almost glib divide
was tar without a human touch.
This road became the dental floss
that ran between the city’s teeth.

One side swallowed.
One side spit.
The homeless lived
in break-down lanes that
should have been a temple’s igloo
sculptured in the blowing snow.
Forest hills went up in flames
as if to say: “Hey, you guys –
your mortal portals have no holes.”

When fire spread up mountainsides
and came too close to mansions held
by wormy palms and gloves of money,
poverty was on the truck to douse
the flames with human warmth.
When fire spread down oil drum alleys,
rich was busy chasing lights
on runways of a fashion show.
Need was just a filthy orphan
hands of “have” would brush away.

Marie Kazalia • Too Eager

he happened to be sitting right
next to me
when I began looking for love
in spite of myself I had a need
my talk betrayed me
my tone of voice
he saw the light in my eyes
charged right in aggressive opportunist
“I’m a lonely guy,” he told me, staring longingly at my lips
his voice already completely familiar
sounding natural, the intimacy
when he begged, asking, “talk to me,”
I laughed, got up, went to the phone to make a call
staring at the bust of Napoleon
I knew I’d fallen in love with the idea
being in love
Napoleon looked sharper, more three dimensional
in intense waves, calm and more even
a little spark of excitement arose
along with the questions
what is love?
if I can fall into it with someone new
what about the man I’m supposed to marry?
do I love him? which do I choose?
it happens, there’s no thought really
tacky and talentless little melodramas
played out badly
as a way of communicating
Shock him
lay the flight ticket on the table
just as he’s coming out of the bedroom
first thing in the morning
go over to the phone
alert to his reaction
call and make the flight reservation
shock value
emotions make the acts seem real.

Jeffrey Alfier • Metonymy

Since history's Plagues and Famines
prove so damned incompetent,
the Nazis and the Serbs boldly
outstrip the Reaper's paucity.

Now – Americans efficient,
stabbing and shooting each other,
find ways to rid themselves of Earth,
and make our dear Fourth Horseman weep.

An Inquiry Into the Mystery of

Before gods cast images in the heavens -
set to reign throughout the simmering silence -
they pondered over the cistern of this flesh
from the mystical granary of the stars.
The superinduction of the centuries
has woven its promises of secret heat,
born to veins of scalding, limbic lightening.
So why hold me to the fire for the depth
of these hauntings in our relentless ascent?

Deborah Greenhut • Landing

Tonight planes elbow
the Newark sky. Clouds part to
slot noses so pearled.

Elizabeth strings
Woodbridge to Amboy. The neck
of New York glitters.

Up here, at twenty
thousand feet, wings thread stress with
torn clouds. Circling.

Rapid rush. The plane
and I form one long leg. Or
is this a man’s part?

Test ground for feeling,
strangers hunt for belongings,
which may have shifted.

Once I called New York
home. I seek out confirming
empire images

To find New Jersey’s
gut. Careful now: Liberty
senses a bold tug.

The skyline has been
my lover for a decade,
tentative, to earth.

Jonathan David Levine • After The Restaurant

I came home from a dinner inside a restaurant
so now I'm not as thin as I had been before.
The doorbell rang twice. I answered, but nobody was there.
A rat ran down the hallway. I shut the door in fear.

I looked at my apartment. It was such a mess.
I went out towards the window and put my whole face out.
I shouted like a madman and then went back inside.
No guests or scheduled visits were happening tonight.

The refrigerator opened with a very forceful pull.
I wasn't even hungry but I wanted some wine to drink.
The kitchen sink had dishes, too many to wash.
I put on the television looking for something good to watch.

I soon became quite bored and changed to another channel.
I started getting worried about the rent that was soon due.
The batteries went dead inside the remote control.
I put on older music from the classical age.

I listened to Tchaikovsky. Symphony No. 1.
I still could hear the sirens and all the cars outside.
The scene was very peaceful inside of this disorder.
The first side of the record was now done. I flipped it over.

My eyes had started tearing from some thoughts inside my head.
For some it's entertaining to watch another cry.
I sighed and then felt better and grabbed the telephone.
The person that I called was either dead or not at home.

I soon became quite tired and quickly went to sleep.
I dreamt that I was fired from my current low-pay job.
They robbed me of my hours, so many and so precious.
When I woke from the dream it was time to then eat breakfast.

I ate some scrambled eggs along with buttered toast.
I couldn't feel my legs. I still was half-asleep.
I remembered shortly weeping just the night before.
It wasn't such a loss to lose a tear. It was much more.

Laurie Kuntz • The Checkout Girls at Key Food (Brooklyn Branch)

With their flat tattooed bellies,
seventeen-year-old skins and finger
and toe nails the color of radiated skies,
huddle over discrepancies in the price of plums,
when coupons promise me 38 cents off.

On computerized registers, pushing pound signs,
numbers beep like the heartbeats in which they leave
day after day shift, whisked to boyfriends in souped up red cars.

Brown bags in hand, I also think of a beating heart,
her rhythmic wrath – my mother's days
spoil like plums bought at discount prices.

The checkout girls shrug at the price I finally pay,
still living with their mothers,
they go to arcades
dance under corrupt moons.

By next summer,
when I come home to all that is aging,
they'll be gone, marrying those fast cars,
growing bellies round and full

as the stringy sweetness of plums,
grown from seeds of desire,
which discount all of our lives.

A.C. Koch • Three Whores in a Volkswagen

Three whores in a Volkswagen.
Doing a hundred down Mexican blacktop.
Kilometers, not miles.
Did I say three?

I meant two.
Unless you consider me the third.
Some people would vouch for that.
Anyway, who wants to stop for taquitos?

Nobody’s hungry.
Everybody’s hungover.
Even the sun’s hungover.
Dead and burning in the sky.

My tan is a straight line across the
crook of my elbow hanging out the
driver’s side window in the
windstream of desert air and bugs.

And that’s as far as my tan goes.
The rest of me is driven-snow white.
Not paying for the whores.
Just doing them a favor.

Giving them a ride.
Not that kind of ride.
They’re going to a wedding.
Another whore is getting wed.

What color will the dress be?
Can I crash the reception?
I don’t have anywhere in particular to be.
Doing a hundred down Mexican blacktop.

And how do you even know what
kind of person you are until all the
possibilities are thrown right in your
face, when the apple dangles down?

Rearview mirror.
These whores are just ladies.
You can’t even really call them whores.
They’re talking politics.

Everyone is corrupt.
No one does a goddamn thing for anyone else.
Not unless there’s something to be gained.
Like a washing machine.

Can you imagine that?
Hitchhiking whores talking politics?
Fanning themselves with crushed Pepsi cups?
Ask yourself this:

Out of all the words you’ve ever heard,
which one would these whores call you
easily as you call them whores –
stranger? fool? satyr? samaritan?

Shauna Rogan • Young Picasso

I saw a young photo of
struggling Pablo.

I wouldnt’ve kicked him out of bed.

If he’d painted the street
performer in rose, would it still emphasize
the lines of his tendons? His canvas
guitar and sackpaper legs?

Since we're both of the Twentieth
century and feel no
loyalty to images appearance,
reducing bodies, words to triangles
and shattered space; I see no reason
why we need reasons
to create. Lying stacked supine


The beautiful nudes are all dead
And we are spent.

Jennifer Lagier • Lunar Eclipse

It's midnight and I'm high on
chardonnay and adrenaline.
We watch night's slow-crawling shadow
above Half Moon Bay,
feel any sense of responsibility
being quickly erased.

You steer one-armed, tires clunking
against highway reflectors,
fingers inside each other's clothes,
both of us igniting at sixty miles an hour
like teenage lunatics.

Tonight I want nothing more
than to slide beneath your hands
in this clockless universe,
while the ghostly hills pass.

Priscilla Atkins • Dancing Queen

I made tapes from the oldies station:
60’s stuff – the Mama’s and the Papa’s,
the Stones, Diana Ross and the Supremes,
early 70’s – Janis Joplin,
Fleetwood Mac, Bonnie Raitt,
theme music to television shows,
movies –
Hawaii Five-O, Shaft,
songs I could shake my hips to,
snap and twirl, dip and slide.
I didn’t have much furniture
and those evenings I left the shades up,
turned the lights low, I glided across
the square of white carpet onto the wood
floor making way for something large
and luminous, maybe Gladys Knight
and her midnight train.

I always danced barefoot. It was summer
and you can grip better that way.
The better to shimmy with,
my dear.
That year I was my own wild doe
slipping through a timeless dusk
after a decade of salt-blue waves
hula-ing around my days,
the familiar rhythm of a man
handling my mornings, shinnying up
my evenings, until I woke
alone on this shadowy shore,
each footfall, flutter of fingers,
spot-lit and significant;
above me, the violet-studded night
pounding the beat to Bobby McGee –
busted flat, and free.

David McNaron • Driving

The starlings’ black brightness –

A wave’s crest and trough
Over green treetops away from sunset


Scoring power lines like eighth notes
In a wind song

Everywhere starlings, the air alive

Trees meant only for starlings
In threes and fours

Restless as clouds
And stars

Dreaming only
Of starling darkness

Joan Payne Kincaid • Lights in the Sky

You were sitting in the room
the night of a full moon again
looking thru the diningroom window
you could see it shine
where the jet flew over the house
you were glad to be down there
in a somewhat shabby place
but safe and as glad for the dark
as a rat
wanting to start over with our lives
leaving the email far away
clicking off and fading
when everything you know should be
where it was has now been moved
like a torn up shopping list
with its lost hope on page 2
crumpled as a life's numbered pages;
try to find a title and a page count of it
check the files and make the necessary
adjustments...the way he jumps aboard
anything to escape definition.

We want to create oligarchies in other
countries and across the street heated
swimming pools for the obsequious;
we will be a cybernetically enhanced species
shadow unfulfilled like walks in the night
you promised that were never taken.

Blonde • Frances Lemoine

She whispers rented rumors,
and hisses hints as if
she’s paid for them herself.

Charmed by this chalk stain,
you’re a grateful whelp
relishing stale commands.

Your sing-song eyes
court her eggplant mouth.

Whatever she says,
whatever she wants.

One more of whatever
you were baptized in
and it’s all so plain.

You’re another white flag.

She’s blonde.


Frances' poetry has been published throughout North America 
as well as in Australia and Japan. Two of her poems have 
won national awards. She currently lives in New Hampshire.

Charles Fishman • Dark Roads

Our fear of the dark never leaves us
and the leaf cover of darkness
wakens the dark in us, the shadow
that stalked our childhoods and hovers patiently
in our blood. Such a tremor rises in us then:
the knowledge that we have not outgrown our roots.

In the early-morning fog – in the white sift of warm air
lifting from the broken and never-to-be-healed past –
we see what has been hidden we hear
the whispered stanzas of ghosts.

Stroke the night with your fingers breathe in
her sweetness and her chill. She will open you again
to the realm of memory your body will be blessed
by her dark silky tongue.

Brandon Landis • Leaving

I live in a house
that never wanted me.

The house
and the woman
have been breathing together over this
for quite some time.

Chairs move as I begin to sit,
windows refuse to let the light in.

And the woman,
as little girl,
carefully strings yarn across the rooms.
Webbing this place over.
So that now,
I cannot walk upright
through a room.

My options become
to crawl
or to fly.

Philip Vassallo • Null Set

I have it easy
if you add it up
instead of subtract it.

The rows and columns
of my life
are greater than their parts

because the constants
not the variables
are innumerable.

You say this or that
to change the equation
but incalculable questions

fall like numbers
from an answer
without a formula.

Lucille Gang Shulklapper • The Substance of Sunlight

The silver jet perches on the runway. Oh, Icarus,
I remember you. For he has sipped sweet liqueur
and drunk the elixir of the Gods. The Captain
stands in the cockpit. I ascend the steps.
Nothing hurts as much as wanting to
be oneself. To fly. To test sunlight.

I stumble down the aisle. One attendant offers the
window seat to me. Another proffers a magazine.
I refuse them both. It is too painful to look
through windows. It is too costly to receive.

I sit on the faded sweat-smelling seat. This being
wants to ripen and yet to cling to vines; wants to age
and yet be child forgetting of its fate.

I fasten the seatbelt. My teacher said, and I quote,
"Hard work rewards itself." I tried
to be loved.

The Captain's voice comes over the loudspeaker,
"Fasten your seatbelts." The engines roar.
The plane rises, hurtling us into the sky.
Oh, Icarus, I remember you. Your father
warned you.

I keep my seatbelt fastened for the turbulence ahead.
For I did not know that love does not always labor,
that it slumbers in the laps of dreamers.

The plane falls. Passengers scream.
Dishes crash. Voices pray. The turbulence ends.
For a power, the power to heal
the edges of scorched earth. The freedom to
test sunlight.

The plane levels off. The captain expects a smooth
trip. Children expect to be loved. It is not possible
to cling to that which is dead.

The Captain's voice comes over the loudspeaker,
"Prepare to land."
I cried into the soil and my tears
disappeared, separating me from you.
Oh, Icarus, I remember you.

The silver plane drops. The wheels clunk;
yet, the plane flies down the runway. It stops.
My mind screamed and my heart listened.

Gliding down the steps, I fly.
The baggage carousel spins. Leather and fabric
suitcases spill. Yellow ribbons flutter.
People embrace. The carousel is empty. Is
there never an end to loss and grief? The need to test?

Oh, Icarus, I remember you, flying toward the
sun. Your wings melted. You dropped into
the sea. There is an island named after you.
It is the substance of sunlight.

Kirby Wright • Kahala Beach, 2001

I am alone
on a thin beach
at Christmas.

The mood is summer,
the shallows
the temperature of blood.

Bodies glisten at distances,
me on a strip of sand
watching flesh tan

on alternate strips.
Tourists struggle
over the rocky coast –

they dip and jerk
like marionettes
in a school play.

The sea smells
of weeds and salt.
Coconut trees

bend for the sun.
The sand moves as I move,
shifts to accommodate.

I feel beached,
marooned in mid-life
with Coppertone bottle,

wet trunks and cotton towel.
Breakers pound
the wall at Black Point.

Mansions are jaded
by repeat performances.
The lava glitters with rooms.

Marc Swan • Millennium All-Star Review

Standing behind a seawall, a place
where breakers beat a four-four
against the shore, alone, getting
used to the solitary life
when he comes jogging down
the strand in one of those Izod outfits,
Michael Jordan "puff and run" shoes,
slicked back salt and pepper hair,
thick-lensed rimless glasses perched
on that familiar snozola.

Smiling, hopeful it seems,
the old licorice stick swinging
in a North Face pack off his rounded
shoulders. He doesn't look a day
over sixty. Later, in the Café du Chien
drinking iced coffee with three sugars,
lots of milk, he talks of the comeback -
the one he's had in his celestial dreams
for God knows how long. This time
the blues draw him, peppered
with hip hop and a little rock and roll
to open up the market. He can see it,
hear it in his head - Will Smith,
Jay-Z rapping, then a long blues riff
from the Queen - Latifah
that is, coming in high, breaking low
behind him; his right foot tap tap
tappin'. Tom Waits' harp blows
cool, lights glow dim, Krupa hits
his chops behind Jay-Z rappin' down
"De-evils," then solo in a bright blue
spot, Benny G bringing it all home.

Cinderella Strung Out • Mimmo Iasiello

I saw her today in the diner--
mascara smeared, eyes
like two dark rings on a coffee table;
one sleeve torn and dangling,
a useless tongue.
No one was with her. She
stumbled for the counter,
one sandal snapping,
the other foot bare
and limping over the linoleum.
An overdose of electricity
jolted through each exhausted limb.
She sipped coffee
with both hands wrapped
tightly around the dirty mug,
nose in close,
steam rising, rouging her cheeks.

She closed her eyes
as its medicinal heat took hold.
When she opened them
she stroked her arms
where the needle tracks mapped out
a dark constellation--
each separate prick
a moment of weakness
where promises fell
like water droplets
through trembling hands.


Mimmo is from Arlington, Virginia.

A. Quinn • Nine Out of Ten Odes Start with the Word "Oh"

Oh Jack, Jack did I learn a thing?
Was the only question I asked –
Would you, please, turn down
the air conditioner? I sat posed
on the edge of your office chairs
for two years:
a sculpture of a girl
in therapy. Stop-time animation showed
how this puppet grew heavier balanced
on leather seats –
did I learn anything?
The scholars all saw the gouged out eyes
(several weeks in a mental ward's work),
no one would blame her blind wandering

and Jack I am a million miles
away from you and that girl by now
but I can feel the pull in the recesses
of my marrow
as the planes of my body
stiffen into the hard surfaces
of my past life.

Deborah Byrne • A Strong Desire for Something Filling

I spend time in grocery stores. Eye food,
touch the lightness of bread, savor
the dirt smell of tomatoes. I'm a hungry person.

Our mother brought home a puppy
we couldn't afford to feed. She locked it
in the shed that held ghosts
of dried, flattened horned toads,
spiritless parakeets, colorless
chameleons bought from the five and dime.
The puppy whined from hunger, shook
like a scaredy-dog when its master dies.
Neighbors stared when they passed our house.

We shopped once a month, loading our carts
with faux Oreos, Lebanon bologna, canned raviolis –
stole Snickers bars from Rexalls.
When the groceries were gone
we begged food from our grandparents.
To punish our mother for running around,
they let us go hungry. One Sunday as they prayed
at church, we shattered
their window with a rock, ate anything
we could find. That night, after the beating,
when our screams died down,
the neighbors talked so we could hear.
What they said hit
our dirty screens like June-bugs.

Maryann Hazen-Stearns • Advantages

I relax so intensely, my skin snaps.
This badgering rationality is enough
to steam my eyelids. I practice
knuckle-cracking, chain smoking,
coffee drinking, pill-popping ways
to take it easy. I idle so high, I can’t come
to a full stop. I could never stay
between the lines. I’m the root of all evil,
yet I pump the gas.

I never intended
to evolve into this jaw-clenching, nail biting,
heart breaking, ulcer-burning son-of-a-bitch.
I’m totally percolated.
I’m a back stabbing, nit-picking,
road-raging bully boy and I dare you,
I double-dog-dare you, to love me.

Nancy Lewis • Equation

There's just so much
but people don't realize. It's finite.
I mean, once you use it all
then what? Up? It's like
this: you can't hold it--
the heat tempers ingots
and there's no way
to put it by.
It glances like sunlight
off waves with impunity--and we,
always turning
the other cheek,
a cold eye,
to the offer--the promise--
some would say the tease.
But why the blase reaction? Why
the nonchalant glance
over the shoulder, when
its universality, its efficacy,
are well-documented. Historically,
I mean, you can cite a long list
of beneficiaries. You can't
expect it to come
at your beck and call,
yet, so many do, passing it by
on a park bench, averting the eye
as if it were a matter of, say,
money or something equally delicate. You
could pray but miracles
are so rare these days. The less
used, the more frail
or hidden. The more its lack
is remarked upon in official circles
the less likely are the afficionados
to hold rallies, pep talks, crying out
over its seeming absence
from our brief lives. Many walk
the world's beaches hoping the purposeful
rhythm will inculcate or the foam--
like the hem
of a bride's dress shushing
down the aisle--will rush them to celebration.
But, no. There is no osmotic process for this.
One is born with an allotment--
a dowry--which must be spent,
and it does not matter whether budgeted
or in one fell swoop. Like a wave
frozen in time, poised
interminably, ready to utter
the global lullaby. Deep probes have yielded
no more than this. It comes down to math,
in the end: How much sunlight
equals my feet walking
the three steps that separate us
from eternity?

Priscilla Atkins • Reflections on a Childhood Idol

She was the self-appointed
neighborhood drama queen,
director and star
of every backyard show;
early summer mornings,
we were a coterie of ladies-in-waiting
holding vigil
outside her parents’ backdoor.

For her, I eagerly practiced
my one line in Heidi –
“Miss Rottenmeier, she’s here!” –
over and over
in front of the bathroom mirror.
Messenger angels
in the Christmas tableau,
dwarves to her Snow White –
we played all the bit parts.

Until her season closed
and clothesline curtains
and Kleenex carnations
gave way to bras and boyfriends.
Now when we knocked,
her less glamorous younger
sister ran interference:
“She’s busy,” “She’s on the
phone,” “She has plans.”

For several years,
we had to settle for the ersatz
glamour of art classes
and music lessons,
punctuated by rare sightings
of a pubescent Cleopatra
reveling in the power
of her thick black hair.

At seventeen, she flew off
to France
as an exchange student
and never came back.
News floated down the street:
an illegitimate child,
a job in a metro station,
a small apartment
on the Left Bank.
(stanza break)

I thought it all sounded so romantic
and dangerous –
her best role to date.
Till years later I learned
how cold a Paris winter can be,
how people sometimes huddle
in the shops all day long
trying to stay warm.

David McNaron • Grace

She’s twenty-two,
Twenty two years younger than me
And looks sixteen
She haunts me
Taunts me too
She nimbly opens plastic containers
That could hold in the plague
The computer adroitness
Of a gang leader with a switchblade
Says chain stores and processed food aren’t bad
Big screen TVs aren’t vulgar
Or clothing with writing on it (to a degree)
Doesn’t like vegetables,
Thai food seafood sushi Indian Middle Eastern . . .
Doesn’t drink
Drinks soft drinks
None of it’s registered on her
She looks great
Nearly always in black,
Jeans and combat boots
She hasn’t been anywhere
But knows lots of stuff

She hates the sun
That ages skin
Hates the light that floods a room
Likes my body dressed in moonlight
Stays up late and sleeps
Until noon
Or goes in sleepy to work or school

Grace, new life in alabaster Spanish skin
Her hair, a waterfall of night
Tumbling down
Brown eyes like autumn
Her breasts would fill teacups but I won’t go there
With you
She’s magic and sometimes reverts
To the way she looked
Before we dated
My before and after Grace
We were going steady before our first date

That tantalizing face
That nothing bad sullies
She glides through the world like a cool water snake

I tell you she’s true and giving like rain
On lily pads, but sometimes hides in shadows
She creates by cocking her head
Forever young her mind races
To the spot where she knows we should be
It’s there in her eyes,
A glade in the woods where shade swallows sunlight

David Keith • Resembles Other Light

City of Dallas trash cans rumble
over side, the wind
of tonight's cold front comes down
from somewhere.

Interesting garbage spilled under
the wheels of the ice cream truck
tweedling a sad, dreary rendition
of some song old people
might have cherished.

Mean, fat kids eat ice cream every
single day, morning, noon and night,
getting meaner, fatter.

A friend once told me light
had changed and was not the same
light of our youth.
Light of Our Youth!
Wonderful to have had such a thing!

Yellow 3 o'clock sun
shadows Dallas today, this light
resembles other light,
other days, other cities.

A big fat face in the sky
cheeks puffed eyes
puffed blows a breath of weather
upon us on the ground.
Same big fat face
Big Fat Face of Our Youth.

I hope some day the mean fat kids
recall the Turkey in the Straw
tune whatever it is
as something precious lost
some song they thought they knew.

John Grey • Desert Drive

The mind plays tricks, my father says.
What you see is not always
what you get.
He indicates the desert
but means the west coast.

He rambles out of
the other side of his mouth,
talks more to dust and cactus
than to me.

I'm telling him what
I plan to do with my life,
short pungent vocal jabs
with no space between
for him to interject
his sour punctuation.

He's hearing the death
of civilization
as we know it,
his boy like a stain
on a too bright window,
shucking down a hooker's
tattooed invitation
with San Francisco,
bawdy San Francisco,
as garish madam.

He's pointing out
the mirage,
bleating like a lamb of light
on the horizon's phony meadows.

I'm listening in to the ritual.
He's the stretch of barren ground
where this year's dream fulfillers
pour their empty buckets.

klipschutz • War of the Minimalist

there is only one book
consisting of only one page
one word
one sound
one letter

there is only one reader
a distant relation
to the author

who is formulating
a defense


Peter Douglas • Poems in Our Pockets (for Corinne)

We wore baked pumpkins,
spitted on our heads.
We felt the seeds
and lapped up their stickiness
with our nails.

The moon was slippery
and climbed like fireflies
out from between our
scummy fingers.

We drank decent, novice cocktails,
and you touched my wrist,
like a child who remembers
her mother at the last second
and runs inside to hug her before
leaving for school.

I had not known you had milk
chocolate in your chest,
but you breathed and I felt your pulse
and looked like a boy at your breasts.

No one knows this about you,
or me.

Roy Schwartzman • Winter Coherences Along Myrtle Beach

Clouds snake lazy S curves,
aerial reflections
of washboard sand beds
rippling backwash streams
after high tide.
Underfoot, you feel the little ridges
through the soles of your shoes,
watch tidal tendrils worm seaward.

Dyspeptic Baudelaire went wrong somewhere,
never quite digesting separate essences
that should have mingled
unshaken, unstirred
between ideal and spleen.

Old men, hip boots and headphones
who know enough grammar
and have the pedigree to spell South
with a capital S,
sweep the beaches with metal detectors
as if the shore were one giant minefield.
Fully insulated
they exhume relics,
scoop up piles of sand-caked fictions
their children can plunder.

We lunge across the puddles
we used to jump into,
don jackboots so we never
have to walk beaches barefoot.