Monday, January 31, 2011

Eurydice Finds Her Voice

By Nicole Brickman

"One final, faint “Farewell”- so weak it scarcely reached his ears- was all she said.
--Ovid's Metamorphases, Book X

We sit in silence over greasy eggs
and solitude, you hold me tight
with one finger underneath the table.
Distance grows before union begins.

A waitress bustles by, More coffee, sir?
splashing hot liquid on the white saucer
I examine the finite pattern,
folding into myself, fetal.

A mere thread of connection before
the fall—brief flash of sweet
upturned face, tumbling back into
the void of unknowing (who am I to you?)

Now we do not need an oracle.
The coffee is cold—an ending before we begin.

I am snow and clean paper,
a girl on the verge-
created, always created, never becoming.
Who am I to you, poet?

A gentle conceit, leitmotif of the ages
(but I am just a girl) veiled-
readied by ritual, ceremonial bath,
symbolic captive of these wedding rites,

a loose echo of what I might be
one day, could still be
frozen at the barrier’s edge,
this dark mouth—then flung

down, falling further than light years
one solemn kiss still lingers on your lips

In some small diner, you may find me
scratching words on paper—writing
myself into history, the way you never could
(Oh sing your tender lullaby of death)

I prefer my private hell to thin
threads of intimacy, held fast
by false honor and custom,
the wisp of smoke from your cigarette.

I am under your skin, under
your tree, lying under and underlining
your every word. Still you don’t grasp
with both hands (who am I to you?)

the wind and the roots, the tether
holding you, tearing you apart.

Nicole Brickman lives in Columbus, Ohio, where she teaches her middle school students to love reading and writing. She has a BA in Education/English from Hunter College in New York City and an MA in Literature from the University of Connecticut. She has been published in the Long River Review. In her spare time (which is limited), she enjoys spending time with her husband Jeff, her dog Kira and her cat Jim. She is expecting her first child in May.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Trying to Pray

By James Wright

This time, I have left my body behind me, crying
In its dark thorns.
There are good things in this world.
It is dusk.
It is the good darkness
Of women's hands that touch loaves.
The spirit of a tree begins to move.
I touch leaves.
I close my eyes and think of water.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Po' Boy Blues

By Langston Hughes

When I was home de
Sunshine seemed like gold.
When I was home de
Sunshine seemed like gold.
Since I come up North de
Whole damn world's turned cold.

I was a good boy,
Never done no wrong.
Yes, I was a good boy,
Never done no wrong,
But this world is weary
An' de road is hard an' long.

I fell in love with
A gal I thought was kind.
Fell in love with
A gal I thought was kind.
She made me lose ma money
An' almost lose ma mind.

Weary, weary,
Weary early in de morn.
Weary, weary,
Early, early in de morn.
I's so weary
I wish I'd never been born.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Hurricane

By William Carlos Williams

The tree lay down
on the garage roof
and stretched, You
have your heaven,
it said, go to it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


By Emily Dickinson

I counted till they danced so
Their slippers leaped the town,
And then I took a pencil
To note the rebels down.
And then they grew so jolly
I did resign the prig,
And ten of my once stately toes
Are marshalled for a jig!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This Christmas I went home again

By Mary Bowen

This Christmas I went home again.

House ramshackle, so cold, so much sadder
than my memory. Eyes seized, unwillingly,
seeking out the dents hollows dings dings
patched up places my father built with care
not, with kicked furnishings, fists and screams.

I saw how much the ceilings sunk and
failed to reach the thin walls more often
than not. They only glanced like fingertips,
human hearts or lips: time to time by
accident before retreating with sag and shrug.

And I thought I heard the mallet pound
pummel pound the tough flesh--Mommy’s
cheap cube steak we’d saw and gnaw and
gulp down between meatloaf and macaroni.
That gristle webbing and greying, tin limp beans.

Squinting, I saw the coldest sun bounce off
the copper wire Daddy stripped from engines—
only when he was sober, mind, only when
he could rise out of the couch and Pabst
Blue Ribbon. To tide us til the gov. man check.

I loved the look and smell--reddish, some gold
and pinky-scented rust and sweaty palms, all
holding the potential of pennies. And dumpster
lamps rewired new, chifforobes freed of paint
three coats high. I’d watch the flat knife work.

I always tip pizza men too much in case kids
and wife wait for the dough to stretch. Another
sometimes job--always under the counter where
the gov. man couldn’t see. But how many bills
sauntered down to the Checkered Flag instead?

Doorway to my room’s the same. In the wood
I saw the shove ‘gainst the grain and teenage grit.
Dad needs green for the Checkered Flag and
my stocking’s full. I block and weave and hug
the way and call for Mom til the stop, stomp and huff.

This Christmas I went home again.

Dad ramshackle, so cold, so much sadder
than his memory. Eyes innocent, blank, a child.
All is gone and no anger can I summon or seek
in the dents hollows dings dings patched up places
life built with care not in my father’s face.

And I hear the patter slide pat on the cracked
linoleum—I’m learning to dance! And the root beer
float floats high in my glass. 3WS crackles and
stills and beams out the song called in, a request just
for me, only me, my precious honey pooh.

Hey there Lil Red Ridin’ Hood, You sure are lookin’
good. You’re everythang a Big Bad Wolf could want.
When Sam the Sham begins to howl, how I love it when
he howls! And when he keeps his sheep suit on, he’s
everything. Everything a Little Lost Girl could want.

Mary Bowen is a Boston-based writer with a background in theater and film studies. Her film reviews have appeared in the journal Cineaste and her poetry in Seton Hill University's art and literary magazine Eye Contact.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


By James Wright

The moon drops one or two feathers into the fiels.
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
There they are, the moon's young, trying
Their wings.
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly, into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
Or move.
I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Poem for My Love

By June Jordan

How do we come to be here next to each other
in the night
Where are the stars that show us to our love
Outside the leaves flame usual in darkness
and the rain
falls cool and blessed on the holy flesh
the black men waiting on the corner for
a womanly mirage
I am amazed by peace
It is this possibility of you
and breathing in the quiet air

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

As it is written

By Anne Sexton

Earth, earth,
riding your merry-go-round
toward extinction,
right to the roots,
thickening the oceans like gravy,
festering in your caves,
you are becoming a latrine.
Your trees are twisted chairs.
Your flowers moan at their mirrors,
and cry for a sun that doesn't wear a mask.

Your clouds wear white,
trying to become nuns
and say novenas to the sky.
The sky is yellow with its jaundice,
and its veins spill into the rivers
where the fish kneel down
to swallow hair and goat's eyes.

All in all, I'd say,
the world is strangling.
And I, in my bed each night,
listen to my twenty shoes
converse about it.
And the moon,
under its dark hood,
falls out of the sky each night,
with its hungry red mouth
to suck at my scars.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Advice from a Caterpillar

By Amy Gerstler

Chew your way into a new world.
Munch leaves. Molt. Rest. Molt
again. Self-reinvention is everything.
Spin many nests. Cultivate stinging
bristles. Don’t get sentimental
about your discarded skins. Grow
quickly. Develop a yen for nettles.
Alternate crumpling and climbing. Rely
on your antennae. Sequester poisons
in your body for use at a later date.
When threatened, emit foul odors
in self-defense. Behave cryptically
to confuse predators: change colors, spit,
or feign death. If all else fails, taste terrible.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Street Corner

By Laura Gail Grohe

The boys on the corner
used to eat me with their eyes.
“Yo baby, what’s your name?”
“Hey mamma, wanna go for a ride?”

Then the war came to town
and swept the dirty boys away
in a wave of words:
“Buy a house with your war benefits,”
“Be a man, be a Marine.”

Today I walk by the corner
glad for bird songs
rather than cat calls.

And there’s a guilty part of me
because I know
the men of war
will show those boys
what it can feel like
to be a girl.

Published in Contemporary World Literature in January 2010

Friday, January 14, 2011

Opening of the 112th Congress

By Tony Brown

We all know where this is going

Right down to the contentious opening volley
and the tensing of sword hands
Right down to the bloodied noses
and the swing and miss journalism
What do they want to sell us
between the stage shows
and the sham of battle

We know they've sold us out
but we won't even mind all that much

as long as we get ours
Oh we're watching the news
and shaking our heads at them
Deep down we know marketing when we see it

and though it's nothing we care for that much
it's a hell of a lot better than no country at all
Speaker gavels the chamber to order
This is gonna be good

They're going to read sacred texts
and unicorns are gonna appear

And they love to sell unicorns
and jabberwocks a-burbling near nonsense

Anything mythic, really
and boy do we love to shop.

Originally published January 14, 2010 by New Verse News

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Truck Stop: Minnesota

By Stephen Dunn

The waitress looks at my face
as if it were a small tip.
I'm tempted to come back at her
with java,
but I say coffee, politely,
and tell her how I want it.
Her body has the alert sleepiness
of a cat's. Her face
the indecency of a billboard.
She is the America I would like to love.
Sweetheart, the truckers call her.
Honey. Doll.
For each of them, she smiles.
I envy them,
I'm full of lust and good usage,
lost here.
I imagine every man she's left with
has smelled of familiar food,
has peppered her with wild slang
until she was damp and loose.
I do nothing but ask for the check
and drift out into the night air -
let my dreams lift
her tired feet off the ground
into the sweet, inarticulate
democracy beyond my ears -
and keep moving until I'm home
in the middle of my country.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Making Peace

By Denise Levertov

A voice from the dark called out,
“The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.”

But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.

A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.

A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses. . . .

A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Son the Man

By Sharon Olds

Suddenly his shoulders get a lot wider,
the way Houdini would expand his body
while people were putting him in chains. It seems
no time since I would help him to put on his sleeper,
guide his calves into the gold interior,
zip him up and toss him up and
catch his weight. I cannot imagine him
no longer a child, and I know I must get ready,
get over my fear of men now my son
is going to be one. This was not
what I had in mind when he pressed up through me like a
sealed trunk through the ice of the Hudson,
snapped the padlock, unsnaked the chains,
and appeared in my arms. Now he looks at me
the way Houdini studied a box
to learn the way out, then smiled and let himself be manacled.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

God Full of Mercy

By Yehuda Amichai

God-Full-of-Mercy, the prayer for the dead.
If God was not full of mercy,
Mercy would have been in the world,
Not just in Him.
I, who plucked flowers in the hills
And looked down into all the valleys,
I, who brought corpses down from the hills,
Can tell you that the world is empty of mercy.
I, who was King of Salt at the seashore,
Who stood without a decision at my window,
Who counted the steps of angels,
Whose heart lifted weights of anguish
In the horrible contests.

I, who use only a small part
Of the words in the dictionary.

I, who must decipher riddles
I don't want to decipher,
Know that if not for the God-full-of-mercy
There would be mercy in the world,
Not just in Him.

Translated from the Hebrew by Barbara and Benjamin Harshav

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Can Afford Neither the Rain

Nor the strip of light between the slats, the window itself blind with grief. Nor the bench where the last mourner lingers, the others on to the next thing, leaning into the bar, toasting the sweethearts, gone and gone, their passion and ire softening now into the earth. Nor the bluff above the Mississippi where centuries of war dead rest, where the stone stands bearing their names, the wind of romance hard against it.

By Holly Iglesias

Sunday, January 2, 2011

little tree

by e.e. cummings

little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"