Thursday, March 31, 2011


By August Kleinzahler

How much meat moves
Into the city each night
The decks of its bridges tremble
In the liquefaction of sodium light
And the moon a chemical orange

Semitrailers strain their axles
Shivering as they take the long curve
Over warehouses and lofts
The wilderness of streets below
The mesh of it
With Joe on the front stoop smoking
And Louise on the phone with her mother

Out of the haze of industrial meadows
They arrive, numberless
Hauling tons of dead lamb
Bone and flesh and offal
Miles to the ports and channels
Of the city's shimmering membrane
A giant breathing cell
Exhaling its waste
From the stacks by the river
And feeding through the night

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Previous Theories on the Body

By Matthew Olzmann

First, you thought the body was shackles you needed
to break. Each night, you smashed
it in a smoky room with Dean on the jukebox
and a tumbler of anger in your hand.

Next, you thought it was a motel.
You were only passing through, able to step out
whenever bored. By the time you returned,
you figured, the cleaning crew would have straightened up—
new plastic cups sitting by the sink.

You wanted it to be a piece of art, something
a careful hand had shaped from the mud
and fired in a kiln—these eyes and lips,
this glaze made perfect with a thin, thin brush.

If the body was art, society was a gallery.
If society was a gallery, you were the thief,
for you walked away
with the sculpture everyone said was you.

All of this was before
you held the hand of the one you loved
as she lay in a hospital bed. Tubes shuddered
in all directions. Wires connected skin
to screen, as if the body
was a circuit fighting to stay lit.

You heard a voice that might’ve
been yours.What’s wrong? What’s wrong?
The doctors, a chorus of: We don’t know.
We’re not sure. We think it might be the—

Now, you believe the body is a theater
of small machines. The heart plays the lead,
but the gears are famous for improv—

Where’s the director when you want the truth?
A curtain could fall. A sandbag could burst.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Visitor

By Mary Oliver

My father, for example,
who was young once
and blue-eyed,
on the darkest of nights
to the porch and knocks
wildly at the door,
and if I answer
I must be prepared
for his waxy face,
for his lower lip
swollen with bitterness.
And so, for a long time,
I did not answer,
but slept fitfully
between his hours of rapping.
But finally there came the night
when I rose out of my sheets
and stumbled down the hall.
The door fell open

and I knew I was saved
and could bear him,
pathetic and hollow,
with even the least of his dreams
frozen inside him,
and the meanness gone.
And I greeted him and asked him
into the house,
and lit the lamp,
and looked into his blank eyes
in which at last
I saw what a child must love,
I saw what love might have done
had we loved in time.

Monday, March 28, 2011


By J. L. Woodward

I wanna get in my car and drive.
I-5-straight-open-get-the-fuck-outta-town drive.
Set the cruise control,
passenger seat full of cassette tapes,
window open blowing my hair
and the stereo cranked louder than the wind drive.
Secure in my private, contained, car-space,
all by myself,
free of everyone and all the shit drive.
I wanna drive.

I wanna drive like it’s 1995.
Like I’ve just completed five years
stranded/incarcerated in BFE
and have just been given my first car.
Drive like I’m high on the freedom
and can’t refrain myself.
Just gotta go.
The prison door flung open
and I’m going.
Don’t care where.
Going just for the joy of going.

I wanna drive like I'm running to a lover.
So hot with desire
that I'll burn to ashes
if I don't get to her.
A desperate race against my need.

I wanna drive like I don’t care.
I don’t care that she’s stood me up
and there’s a note to another woman
on her front door.
I don’t care that the next woman
tells me I’d be perfect
if I were a man.
She wants my attention
more than she wants me.
I don’t care if I don’t sober up.

I wanna drive to escape all the crap.
The bad day at work.  The routine of work.
On the road, nothing matters.
Driving so fast, the crap can’t chase me.

So I push the gas pedal harder
and turn the volume knob up.
I’m just hurling myself through the world.

All the freeways are endless possibilities.
Ribbons connecting everywhere,
Connecting nowhere.
They go, and so can I.
Throwing myself after asphalt in an endless pursuit of motion.
My heart races sitting still in my car
like my body’s running this race to freedom.
Arms, legs, eyes, shoulders, back all engaged.
And I run leaping strides
running for hours without getting winded,
without getting tired.
I wanna drive like running the marathon.

I wanna drive like I’m racing the clouds,
making earth and sky one.
No boundaries.
Gravity can’t hold me.
Wind, sky, clouds rip trough open windows,
through hair, ears, eyes, self.  All one.

Dust kicking up bringing earth to sky.
And I’m in the dirt,
I’m in the sky.
Driving like I’m the clouds racing the wind.

I wanna drive.
Fuck alarm clocks, work schedules, rent and bills.
Throw myself to the world and fly.

J. L. Woodward only dabbles occasionally in poetry, but must always be making something. She lives with her spouse, their two cats, and her yarn stash in a cozy Boston home.

Friday, March 25, 2011


By May Swenson

Women                                          Or they
    should be                                       should be
        pedestals                                       little horses
            moving                                         those wooden
              pedestals                                        sweet
                  moving                                         oldfashioned
                     to the                                             painted
                        motions                                         rocking
                           of men                                           horses

                           the gladdest things in the toyroom

                       The                                                    feelingly
                     pegs                                                   and then
                   of their                                              unfeelingly
                ears                                                   To be
              so familiar                                       joyfully
           and dear                                           ridden
        to the trusting                                   rockingly
     fists                                                  ridden until
  To be chafed                                  the restored

egos dismount and the legs stride away

Immobile willing
    sweetlipped                        to be set
       sturdy                                into motion
           and smiling                        Women
                women                              should be
                    should always                   pedestals
                         be waiting                          to men

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shame on!

By Chrystos

fake shamen give me some money
I’ll make you a catholic priest in a week
couple thousand I’ll name you pope
of our crystal breakfast cereal circle of healers
Give me some money you’ll be free
Give me some money you’ll be whole
Give me some money you’ll be right
with past lives zooming by your door
Steal from anybody to make a paste-up tacked-on
holy cat box of nothing
I tell you I’m sincere & that excuses everything
I’m a sincere thief a sincere rapist a sincere killer
My heart is pure my head is fuzzy give me some money
& you’ll be clear
Your pockets will be anyhow
Give me a dime I’ll erase your crime
Give me a dollar give me a ten give me a thousand
Fastest growing business in America
is shame men shame women
You could have a sweat same as you took manhattan
you could initiate people same as into the elks
with a bit of light around your head
& some “Indian” jewelry from hong kong why you’re all set
Come on now take something more that doesn’t belong to you
Come on & take that’s what you know best
Whites takes Reds turns away
Listen I’ve got a whole bunch of holey underpants
you could use in a ceremony you can make up yourself
Be a born again Indian it’s easy
You want to buy spiritual enlightenment we got plenty
& if you act today we’ll throw in four free 100-watt lightbulbs
so you can have your own private halo
What did you say? You met lynn andrews in person?
That woman ought to be in a bitter herb stew
I’ll send you lies half-price better than hers
america is starvng to death for spiritual meaning
It’s the price you pay for taking everything
It’s the price you pay for buying everything
It’s the price you pay for loving your stuff more than life
Everything goes on without you
You can’t hear the grass breath
Because you’re too busy talking
About being an Indian holy woman two hundred years ago
You sure must stink if you didn’t let go
The wind doesn’t want to talk to you
because you’re always right
even when you don’t know what you’re talking about
We’ve been polite for five hundred years
& you still don’t get it
Take nothing you cannot return
Give to others give more
Walk quietly Do what needs to be done
Give thanks for your life
Respect all beings
Simple & it doesn’t cost a penny

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

To the Film Industry in Crisis

By Frank O'Hara

Not you, lean quarterlies and swarthy periodicals
with your studious incursions toward the pomposity of ants,
nor you, experimental theatre in which Emotive Fruition
is wedding Poetic Insight perpetually, nor you,
promenading Grand Opera, obvious as an ear (though you
are close to my heart), but you, Motion Picture Industry,
it's you I love!

In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love.
And give credit where it's due: not to my starched nurse, who taught me
how to be bad and not bad rather than good (and has lately availed
herself of this information), not to the Catholic Church
which is at best an oversolemn introduction to cosmic entertainment,
not to the American Legion, which hates everybody, but to you,
glorious Silver Screen, tragic Technicolor, amorous Cinemascope,
stretching Vistavision and startling Stereophonic Sound, with all
your heavenly dimensions and reverberations and iconoclasms! To
Richard Barthelmess as the "tol'able" boy barefoot and in pants,
Jeanette MacDonald of the flaming hair and lips and long, long neck,
Sue Carroll as she sits for eternity on the damaged fender of a car
and smiles, Ginger Rogers with her pageboy bob like a sausage
on her shuffling shoulders, peach-melba-voiced Fred Astaire of the feet,
Eric von Stroheim, the seducer of mountain-climbers' gasping spouses,
the Tarzans, each and every one of you (I cannot bring myself to prefer
Johnny Weissmuller to Lex Barker, I cannot!), Mae West in a furry sled,
her bordello radiance and bland remarks, Rudolph Valentino of the moon,
its crushing passions, and moonlike, too, the gentle Norma Shearer,
Miriam Hopkins dropping her champagne glass off Joel McCrea's yacht,
and crying into the dappled sea, Clark Gable rescuing Gene Tierney
from Russia and Allan Jones rescuing Kitty Carlisle from Harpo Marx,
Cornel Wilde coughing blood on the piano keys while Merle Oberon berates,
Marilyn Monroe in her little spike heels reeling through Niagara Falls,
Joseph Cotten puzzling and Orson Welles puzzled and Dolores del Rio
eating orchids for lunch and breaking mirrors, Gloria Swanson reclining,
and Jean Harlow reclining and wiggling, and Alice Faye reclining
and wiggling and singing, Myrna Loy being calm and wise, William Powell
in his stunning urbanity, Elizabeth Taylor blossoming, yes, to you
and to all you others, the great, the near-great, the featured, the extras
who pass quickly and return in dreams saying your one or two lines,
my love!

Long may you illumine space with your marvelous appearances, delays
and enunciations, and may the money of the world glitteringly cover you
as you rest after a long day under the kleig lights with your faces
in packs for our edification, the way the clouds come often at night
but the heavens operate on the star system. It is a divine precedent
you perpetuate! Roll on, reels of celluloid, as the great earth rolls on!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How To Eat a Poem

By Eve Merriam

Don't be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are. You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.
For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Earlier Poets in Minnesota

By Rodney Nelson

McGrath in Moorhead looked out for an eye
of knowing glee to match his own and did
not find a one among the listeners
             not a poetry reading
but an old union singalong

Bly in Mankato wore a Dacron shirt
under his serape and the piping
of a pheasant cock took over the room
            not a poetry reading
but a self-motivation workshop

Wright in Saint Paul got everybody
to lower their heads with him in regret
while he intoned the rites so weightily
           not a poetry reading
but a prayer meeting after class.

Rodney Nelson's work appeared in mainstream journals long ago; but he turned to fiction and did not write a poem for twenty-two years, restarting in the 2000s. See his page in the Poets & Writers directory. He has worked as a copy editor and lives in the plains states.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Don’t Let That Horse ...

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Don’t let that horse
                        eat that violin

    cried Chagall’s mother

                               But he
                 kept right on

And became famous

And kept on painting
                       The Horse With Violin In Mouth

And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
                               and rode away
       waving the violin

And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across

And there were no strings

Friday, March 18, 2011

as the poems go

By Charles Bukowski

as the poems go into the thousands you
realize that you've created very
it comes down to the rain, the sunlight,
the traffic, the nights and the days of the
years, the faces.
leaving this will be easier than living
it, typing one more line now as
a man plays a piano through the radio,
the best writers have said very
and the worst,
far too much.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chaos is the New Calm

By Wyn Cooper

Chaos is the new calm
violence the new balm
to be spread on lips
unused to a kiss.

Left is the new right
as I brace for a fight
with a man who stands
on his remaining hand.

Fetid harbor harbor me
until someone is free
to drive me away
from what happened today.

Don't strand me standing here.
If you leave, leave beer.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dust Settles Upon the Telephone

By Kenneth Gurney

I lift the soap
from the sting of my bloody arm
and watch the water
turn pink in the pan
as my sharp breath dulls
as the pain’s echo recedes.

I picture fifteen monarch butterflies
instead of the white tape ones
binding the red seam
where the skin could be pealed back
to reveal layers of muscles
and the whitish connective tissue
and exactly where that bone
resides inside my flesh.

I hear the electric bill sing out against
a trip to the ER. The home owner’s
insurance chimes in.
The phone bill, next year’s pre-paid taxes,
the gas bill, and my grandson’s
college tuition form a greek chorus
because they know the Insurance Card
is one year invalid with my unemployment
and unattainable with my health record.

There is the sound of my peaceful breath
as some opiate painkiller
Stewart had left over
from his knee replacement surgery
enters my blood and fuzzies
my brain a little too fast
for me to spread the antibiotic gel
evenly, before we tape
the white gauze in place
and use up all the ice
from the plastic freezer trays.

Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM, USA. He edits the NM poetry anthology Adobe Walls. To view his full biography, publishing credits and available books visit

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Imagined

By Stephen Dunn

If the imagined woman makes the real woman
seem bare-boned, hardly existent, lacking in
gracefullness and intellect and pulchritude,
and if you come to realize the imagined woman
can only satisfy your imagination, whereas
the real woman with all her limitations
can often make you feel good, how, in spite
of knowing this, does the imagined woman
keep getting into your bedroom, and joining you
at dinner, why is it that you always bring her along
on vacations when the real woman is shopping,
or figuring the best way to the museum?
                                  And if the real woman

has an imagined man, as she must, someone
probably with her at this very moment, in fact
doing and saying everything she's ever wanted,
would you want to know that she slips in
to her life every day from a secret doorway
she's made for him, that she's present even when
you're eating your omelette at breakfast,
or do you prefer how she goes about the house
as she does, as if there were just the two of you?
Isn't her silence, finally, loving? And yours
not entirely self-serving? Hasn't the time come,
                                 once again, not to talk about it?

Friday, March 11, 2011

I am the People, the Mob

By Carl Sandburg

I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world's food and
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me
      and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons
      and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
      Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out
      and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes
      me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history
      to remember. Then—I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the
      lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year,
      who played me for a fool—then there will be no speaker in all the
      world say the name: "The People," with any fleck of a sneer in his
      voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob—the crowd—the mass—will arrive then.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Apolitical Intellectuals

By Otto René Castillo

One day
the apolitical
of my country
will be interrogated
by the simplest
of our people.

They will be asked
what they did
when their nation died out
like a sweet fire,
small and alone.

No one will ask them
about their dress,
their long siestas
after lunch,
no one will want to know
about their sterile combats
with "the idea
of the nothing"
no one will care about
their higher financial learning.
They won't be questioned
on Greek mythology,
or regarding their self-disgust
when someone within them
begins to die
the coward's death.

They'll be asked nothing
about their absurd justifications,
born in the shadow
of the total lie.

On that day
the simple men will come
Those who had no place
in the books and poems
of the apolitical intellectuals,
but daily delivered
their bread and milk,
their tortillas and eggs,
those who mended their clothes,
those who drove their cars,
who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them,
and they'll ask:
"What did you do when the poor
suffered, when tenderness
and life
burned out in them?"

Apolitical intellectuals
of my sweet country,
you will not be able to answer.

A vulture of silence
will eat your gut,
Your own misery
will pick at your soul.
And you will be mute
in your shame.

Translated by Margaret Randall

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It ain’t heavy, it’s my purse

By Marge Piercy

We have marsupial instincts, women
who lug purses as big as garbage igloos,
women who hang leather hippos from their shoulders:

we are hiding the helpless greedy naked worms
of our intentions shivering in chaos.
In bags the size of Manhattan studio apartments,

We carry not merely the apparatus of neatness
and legality, cards, licenses, combs,
mirrors, spare glasses, lens fluid

but hex signs against disaster and loss.
Antihistamines – if we should sneeze.
Painkillers – supposed the back goes out.

Snake bite medicine – a copperhead
may lurk in the next subway car.
Extra shoes – I may have to ford a stream.

On my keyring, flats I used to stay in.
a Volvo I traded in 1985, two unknown doors
opening on what I might sometime direly need.

Ten pens, because the ink may run out.
Band-Aids, safety pins, rubber bands, glue,
maps, a notebook in case, addresses of friends

estranged. So we go hopping lopsided, women
like kangaroos with huge purses bearing hidden
our own helplessness and its fancied cures.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Machu Picchu

By Neil Ellman

We have ascended so many times
These rocky paths above the clouds
Where condors capture the wind
And the sun swallows its own breath

We have carried so many stones
To build this fortress for posterity
A refuge from the bearded beasts
Who would consume us all in fire.

Between two worlds
The Urubamba beneath
The kingdom of the gods above
We kneel at the feet of the sun and moon.

Here where the valleys stretch
Like veins upon an ancient skin
Where the mountains are sentinels
We hold our stubborn ground.

Neil Ellman is a retired educator living and writing in New Jersey. He has published more than 200 poems in numerous national and international print and online journals, as well as in five chapbooks, the most recent of which is Mirrors of Miró: Ekphrastic Reflections of the Art of Joan Miró.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ophelia's Technicolor G-String: An Urban Mythology

By Susan B. Anthony Somers-Willett

The air tonight is thick as curry;
like every night this summer I could cut it
with my wine glass, spray it with mace.
Over and over it would heal together
like a wound, follow my click and pace of heels
down Conti Street, St. Ann, Bourbon.

Oh Hamlet, if you could see me now
as I pump and swagger across that stage, cape dripping to the floor,
me in three-inch heels and a technicolor G-string—
you would not wish me in a convent.
They've made me a queen here, married me off
to a quarter bag and a pint of gin.

The old men tend bark and splatter, rabid
at each table. I think they stay up all night
just to spite the moon. They bring their diseased
mouths to the French Market in the morning,
sell Creole tomatoes to tourists who don't know
what they are. Each bald head shines plump and red.

It seems like so long ago that I modeled
for those legs outside of Big Daddy's
the ones over the door that swing in, out, in, out
the sculptor made me painted as Mardi Gras.
I thought you might recognize them if you ever passed
with the boys, parading from Abbey to Tavern,
or think them royal feet in need of slippers.

Someday I expect to find you here,
sitting at the table between the first and second rows,
fingering bones or something worse.
And in the end you will throw me a columbine,
light me a Marlboro and take me to a 24-7 where
jukebox light quivers, makes us as thin as ghosts.

But for now, I will dance for the fat man
who sits in your place and sweats his love for me at 3 a.m.,
because only he knows I am Horatio in drag.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Afternoons

By Eve Lyons

I look forward
to the sun setting
on Friday afternoons
A chance to put the week behind me
whether it's been
a week of success
a week of failure
or somewhere in between.
I look forward
to spending quality time
with my beloved,
and sometimes
with our other beloveds,
this community
I have tried to create.
I look forward,
while trying not to look backward.
Second-guessing myself
is what I do best.
I look forward
trying to find
trying to create
Sabbath peace.

Previously published in New Vilna Review, February 22, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ode to Your Earrings

By Martín Espada                                           For Katherine

There are parrots of the Amazon peeking from your hair.

On your earlobes twin Taino goddesses of the river
squat , their eyes slits, and dream
the cloud of underwater birth.
Here two Zuni dancer bend and breathe
into their flutes;
here float the smallest leaves and pine cones
from Thoreau's sanctuary,
woven on the loom of trees.

Your ears must be the shoreline
of an ocean after the hurricane:
the sea horses of Thailand curl their tails,
brushing your neck;
purple wooden fish flit past,
hiding in the shade of your hand
when you stroke your hair;
the fish of clay hide, too shunned by the others
because their skin is fired earth;
and the silver dolphins somersault
in an arc forged like sickle.

Gold coins pressed from fingers to ears
in the mirror bring a flash
of fingers shoveling the mines.
You keep the plastic pearl earrings
of my grandmother so your hands will know
the Bronx, coffee in a sock on the stove,
the sewing machine's stinger.

One earring lost: dried violets widowed,
turquoise stone in a shield left to tarnish,
peacock feathers painted blue with yellow ears
still searching for a mate,
solitary amethyst,
diminutive lion of wood hunting alone.

But in your ears
you hear the Zuni flute, the branches
shuttling their loom, the dolphin chatter,
a prayer at the wake of the gold miner.
You nod at my grandmother's tranquilidad
de Puerto Rico, serene as the sewing machine at rest.
The goddesses and birds chant in your hair
the recipe for the creation of planets.

Then you stir me from my sleep,
and at night you tell me what you hear.