Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Clay Pot with Stagnant Water

By Peter Magliocco

His work pants were clay-caked
(& stood up by themselves almost)
when he shed them each night
before my five-year-old eyes.
Where is that long gaze of fate,
invisibly watching, while
we amble slowly through life.
Molding clay for his pottery kiln
into the common sculpture
of ourselves parsed
by his hand to mine.
Wearing his blue yacht captain's hat
& the stained brown shirt,
with cigarette pack bulging pocket,
he's the Dad of my errant childhood
watching me from sepia photos
yet to be snapped in infinity;
the smiling father in his twenties,
not yet completely bald
but knowing time is corrupting
his lineage indefinitely
from the fountain of youth
I was baptized in.

Peter Magliocco writes from Las Vegas, Nevada, where he's edited the lit-zine ART:MAG for over 20 years. He has poetry in Heeltap, Scythe, Gold Dust, The Medulla Review, This, Deuce Coupe, Dead Snakes and elsewhere. His recent chapbooks are Nude Poetry Garage Sale (Virgogray Press) and Imparadised (Calliope Nerve Media). He was Pushcart Prize nominated for poetry in 2010.

Monday, May 30, 2011

For the Unknown Enemy

By William Stafford

This monument is for the unknown
good in our enemies. Like a picture
their life began to appear: they
gathered at home in the evening
and sang. Above their fields they saw
a new sky. A holiday came
and they carried the baby to the park
for a party. Sunlight surrounded them.

Here we glimpse what our minds long turned
away from. The great mutual
blindness darkened that sunlight in the park,
and the sky that was new, and the holidays.
This monument says that one afternoon
we stood here letting a part of our minds
escape. They came back, but different.
Enemy: one day we glimpsed your life.

This monument is for you.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Dog's Life

By Jose Emilio Pacheco

We despise dogs for letting themselves
be trained, for learning to obey.
We fill the noun dog with rancor
to insult each other.
And it's a miserable death
to die like a dog.

Yet dogs watch and listen
to hear what we can't see or hear.
Lacking language
(or so we believe),
they have talent we certainly lack.
And no doubt they think and know.

And so
they probably despise us
for our need to find masters,
for our pledge of allegiance to the strongest.

Perra Vida

Despreciamos al perro dejarse
domesticar y ser obediente.
Llenamos de rencor sustanivo perro
para insultarmnos.
Y una muerte indigna
es morir como un perro.

Sin embargo los perros miran y eschucan
lo que no vemos ni escucharmos.
A falta de lenguaje
(o eso creemos)
poseen un don que ciertamente nos falta .
Y sin duda piensan y saben.

Asi pues,
resulta muy probable que nos desprecien
por nuestra necesidad de buscar amos,
poe nuestro voto de obediencia al mas fuerte.

Translated by Cynthia Steele and David Lauer

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Impossible Dream

By Tony Hoagland

In Delaware a Congressman
accused of sexual misconduct
says clearly at the press conference,
right into the microphone
that he would like very much
to do it again.

It was on the radio
and Carla laughed
as she painted, Die, You Pig
in red nail polish
on the back of a turtle
she plans to turn loose tomorrow
in Jerry’s back yard.

We lived near the high school that year
and in the afternoons, in autumn,
we could hear the marching band rehearsals
from the stadium,
drums and off-key trumpets, brass
smeared weirdly by the wind;

a ragged Louie Louie
or sometimes, The Impossible Dream.

I was reading a book about pleasure,
how you have to glide through it
without clinging,
like an arrow
passing through a target,
coming out the other side and going on.

Sitting at the picnic table
carved with the initials of the previous tenants;
thin October sunlight
blessing the pale grass--
You would have thought we had it all-

But the turtle in Carla’s hand
churned its odd stiff legs like oars,
as if it wasn’t made for holding still

and the high school band played
worse than ever for a moment
as if getting the song right
were the impossible dream.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Buyer Beware

By Marge Piercy

If you subscribe to a magazine about dogs,
It comes full of canine advice and pictures. Woof.
If you buy a winter coat, you can reasonably
count on its being warmer than your bare skin.
If you buy a pig in a poke, it should oink at least.
What do you get when you buy a war?

Trillions of dollars in debt, for one thing.
Every grenade that explodes, ka ching ka ching.
Every ordinance, every vehicle, every plane:
see the smoke rising? That’s money on fire.
That’s your taxes at work. Does it help you?
Is it better than repairing the local bridge

you drive across every commuting morning?
Is it better than putting kids through college
so they aren’t motivated to steal your car?
Is sit better than having health insurance
that actually pays your hospital bills entire?
Is it nicer than cleaning up the air you breathe

or equipping miners so they don’t die
by the dozen down there in the smoky dark.
What do you get when you buy a war?
Security? No, the country you invade
Is chock full of people who now hate you.
They’re dying to invade you back.

Shopping is our favorite entertainment.
We go to the mall to wander and eyeball
stuff. More stuff. We’re stuffed with stuff.
But at least you can wear that orange
cashmere sweater. You can gobble that pizza.
What do you get when you buy a war?

Death. You get death retail and whole
sale. You get death by the planeload.
You get young death, old death, baby
death. You get part death – limbs blown
off, heads racked with shrapel, spines
torn apart and brains toasted. You are

delivered hatred by the decadeload. You
purchase rape and pillage, you purchase
torture and graft, bribery and looting.
Your great grandchildren will pay off the debt.
Are you happy with your purchase of this war?
I’m so sorry. This is not returnable.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


By May Williams Ward

Leaves stood still, and our hearts stood still,
But the sky was a-boil with clouds,
A coppery wrack, and the greenish black
Of shrouds.
We dove for shelter and none too soon.
The universe swayed and swirled,
And the monstrous horn of a unicorn
Gored the world.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Expat Offers Some Packing Advice

By Jennifer Saunders

You will never be finished.
You will never be finished
because you don’t even know what you’ll need.
You can’t guess what you will miss
until you are missing it like a limb.
So don’t stand there in your living room
surrounded by love letters and text books,
agonizing over what to pack.
You will always pack too much
and too little.

(Look up.
It is the view from that window you will miss,
the ragged pine tree
and the squirrel you lured to your sill
with peanut butter crackers—
but you can’t possibly know that now
so I am telling you:
that view is what you will miss.)

You will pack all the wrong things
and some of the right ones.
You could fill a shipping container,
and you will,
and still you will discard
the thing you should have held
and hold the thing that weighs you down.

And you could stand on the threshold
of your empty apartment all afternoon
watching a square of light
travel across the hardwood floor,
unable to shut the door behind you
because you know you are forgetting
but you can’t think what it is
and still it will never come to you.
It will never come to you
because you can’t know what you will miss
until you are missing it.
So learn this now:
you will miss all of it.

It is time to close the door.

Previously published in Blast Furnace, Volume 1, Issue 2

Monday, May 23, 2011


By Brittney Corrigan

On an afternoon in Annisquam, Massachusetts,
when I was young and she was younger,
a child showed me how to scoop a handful
of wet sand, close a fist around its soft weight,
and let it fall in a slim stream to form castles
whose towers rose in lumps and swirls, an impossible
balancing. She called this dribbling, a technique
with no pail-shaped mounds, no smoothed sides,
no moats. Every sandcastle I’d ever made was suddenly
flattened, taken back to sea. At the tip
of this stretch of beach was a lighthouse, and behind
it the path to Squam Rock—a boulder so large and round
you could climb it only from one angle, with a running start,
and watch the ocean appear where a moment ago
there was only beach grass and sky. Later, visiting
Annisquam’s town hall, I would stand on a twist of stairs
to read the names of sailors lost at sea—their fine, New England
names stacked on the wall in a layering of paint and brick
as if their memories alone kept the building rigid and whole.
And I would visit cemeteries, stones chipped and worn almost
too smooth to decipher, entire plots hidden in the woods
of someone’s backyard. I would take pictures, balancing
the lens in an air rich with cricket noise and salt.
And before leaving, the ribbon for a new bridge would
be cut by a woman 107 years old, her wheelchair guided
by a seven year-old girl—the ribbon falling on either side
so that we all might travel and return.

Brittney Corrigan’s poems have appeared in The Texas Observer, Hayden's Ferry Review, Borderlands, The Blue Mesa Review, Oregon Review, Manzanita Quarterly, Hip Mama, Stringtown, and Many Mountains Moving, among others. She is the poetry editor for the online literary journal Hyperlexia (http://hyperlexiajournal.com/) and lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two children. To read more of Brittney’s work, visit her website at http://brittneycorrigan.wordpress.com/.

Friday, May 20, 2011

On Not Using the Word "Cunt" in a Poem

By Lisa Williams

Certainly there's pressure to perform
in such a way what doesn't sound so stately
and isn't safe: Let it be shorn,

the poem's lush holiness. Let locks be trimmed.
Cut to the chase. How unchaste can you be?
Can I proffer a different kind of tongue,

one that licks nether regions? Can I start
offering words that aren't courtly or cute
and don't contain such blanket recanting,

of words I use when I am in a wreck
or mad at somebody or being fucked
– those anti-canticles I chant when hurt,

the kind of words I punt when breaking glass
or bumping ceilings? Can I be curt,
not hunt for language so gosh-darned appealing

but pick what's more intransigent
and less ornate? Or is that just a judgment
ignorance can make – that stealing

the spotlight, showing one can "rough it up"
is really more mere decorativeness,
like the performance of a burlesque romp

by someone who would rather keep her dress?
Is that all poems can do to snatch attention,
use such dim tents of tricks? Let's nick

this baby in the bud: am I too mendicant
to fluid cadence? Do I serve lip
by thinking a poem is holy, not a hole

to thrust things in, for the very sake of thrusting?
Or do I suit myself for an audience
by shirking my naked voice, or the cliche

of what a woman's naked utterance
would be, as if just honest women cussed?
Should I be someone who docks elegance

because it's penal territory,
someone who takes the name of poetry
in vain – who kicks the ass of beauty?

I know we're all voyeurs, but can't
you come for me a different way this time
and listen, for one minute, to a poem

that's not revealing crotch and pay attention?
Is it impossible for me to strut
my stuff without the madonna/whore

dichotomy? Without the flash of tit-
illation, would you give my poem a date?
Or must I count my kind of cunning out?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mad Girl's Love Song

By Sylvia Plath

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How I Got the Lead on Jeopardy

By Dave Chappelle

The score is 200
We’re all tied neck and neck
And it’s my turn to address Alex Trebek
I close my eyes and I thank the Lord
Finally, my category is on the board
“I’ll take fucked up things white people do for a thousand, Alex.”

A bell went off, this could mean trouble
“Today’s answer my friends is a Daily Double.”
I took a deep breath, I held myself steady
And Alex Trebek was like, “Dave are you ready?”
Hit the buzzer, “What is yes.”
And Alex said, “I didn’t ask you the question yet,”
“Now how much money you willing to bet?”

Smiled with confidence, my hand on my balls
I said, “Alex, I’m willing to bet it all.”
And Alex said, “Okay, here’s your question.”
“They stole these people’s land as they gave them syphilis.”
[Dave hits the mic like it’s a buzzer]
“Who is everybody that’s not white.”
Alex looks at the card disappointed
"Oh, my God, he's right."

Go here to hear Dave Chappelle reading this poem. Note: It's the second of two poems. The first one is good too...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Waking

By Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Confessions of a teenage bulimic

By Tammy Ann Burley

She lies in bed at night
Thinking that it's not right.
She is fighting an endless fight.
A fight she knows she cannot win.
Her desire too strong to be thin.
Her friends had thought she had recovered.
Oh how they will be shocked at what they discover.
The lies she has told.
Her true feelings she withholds.
A need for love is what she craves.
She wants to be noticed, she wants to be praised.
She’s tired of hiding in these fake days.
She wishes she could change her ways.
Too many pressures, too many things to blame.
Ever time she’s done, she cries in shame.
Every night it’s the same.
Run to the bathroom, lock the door.
And drop to the floor.
Grabs her toothbrush and jabs her throat.
All you can hear is the sounds she makes, croak, croak croak.
Flushes her sorrows down the drain.
Gets up and walks away.
She sees no other choice.
She wants to ask for help, but can’t seem to find her voice.
She tells herself, if no one notices, if no one can tell
Then what’s the point in asking for help? What’s the point to yell?
No one can hear.
No one sees her fear.
Her confession she wishes should could spill
Her deadly secret is making her ill.
A secret she hopes to one day overcome.
But until then all she can do is run, run, run.

Tammy Ann Burley is an undergraduate student studying English. She was published in The Anthology of Poetry when she was 15, and a few other poetry sites online since then. She loves writing and hopes to continue to write throughout her life. She hopes people enjoy her work.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

it was a dream

By Lucille Clifton

in which my greater self
rose up before me
accusing me of my life
with her extra finger
whirling in a gyre of rage
at what my days had come to.
i pleaded with her, could i do,
oh what could i have done?
and she twisted her wild hair
and sparked her wild eyes
and screamed as long as
i could hear her
This. This. This.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Facebook Sonnet

By Sherman Alexie

Welcome to the endless high-school
Reunion. Welcome to past friends
And lovers, however kind and cruel.
Let's undervalue and unmend

The present. Why can't we pretend
Every stage of life is the same?
Let's exhume, resume, and extend
Childhood. Let's all play the games

That occupy the young. Let fame
And shame intertwine. Let one's search
For God become public domain.
Let church.com become our church.

Let's sign up, sign in, and confess
Here at the altar of loneliness.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

An Unlived Ideology

By Stan Williams

What diversity and equality mean to me
Is that we have differences but you're still equal to me
Different race, different culture, yet we should have equal opportunities
But open up your eyes and that is not what you'll see

You have a classic family and I'm from a broken home
You grew up in the burbs while I was raised in the section aid zone
You surf the web and view hundreds of channels when you're bored
While the internet and cable TV are luxuries I can't afford

In spite of these differences we're the same as can be
Same skills, same dreams, and created equally
But to be equal and diverse is an unlived ideology
Because the world sees our "diversity" and thinks you are better than me.

Previously published here. In 2007, Stan Williams was in the 10th grade at Muriel S. Snowden International High School when this poem won a statewide poetry contest.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

God is freedom

By Common

I feel rugged
I am rugged
damn rugged
I walk on the carpet of the universe
keep on

And speak on shit
most are scared or unprepared
but I fled for my people so
keep on

Beyond space
I look for a place to put
I gotta work
keep on

Dreams of Black roads, of Black souls that act holistic
its realistic
keep on

Pharoah of the sun
lookin down the barrel of a gun
y’all know where I’m from
keep on

Niggas at the crib sayin Rash look weird
from myself I never hid
keep on

Niggas at the crib say for them I never did
30 year old kids, shit boy
keep on

Any means necessarian
I be missin chicken
keep on

Request for another resurrection
the way I rhyme before
this ain’t ’94
keep on

Chat room geeks
critique my B-Boy physique
who the fuck made you Hip Hop police
keep on

Journalist who never had their turn at this
if its fresh, who are you to determine this
keep on

You here to show truth
or expose your cooch
you know I know reek from the roots
girl, keep on

Disease man made
to reproduce we afraid
a cure
Magic got AIDS
keep on

Supportin two homes
payin back school loans
like the NBA I’m in a new zone
keep on

Got married
can you carry the weight it take
to not get your freak on
keep on

Fuck shrooms and ecstasy
I’m consumed with a recipe
to get my blood to the highest destiny
keep on

The blackest of rappers
I ain’t doin no namin
go to Europe and start O’Jayin
keep on

whether choppin the raw
or studyin for the bar
we all children of Allah
keep on

Flyer say Free Mumia on my freezer
I’m holdin still mixin Echinacea and Golden Seal
keep on

Is it just an illusion
it’s many levels to it
it’s rebel music
so keep on.

Click here to hear Common reading this poem.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day

By Daisy Zamora

I do not doubt you would have liked
one of those pretty mothers in the ads:
complete with adoring husband and happy children.
She's always smiling, and if she cries at all
it is absent of lights and camera,
makeup washed from her face.

But since you were born of my womb, I should tell you:
ever since I was small like you
I wanted to be myself -- and for a woman that's hard --
(even my Guardian Angel refused to watch over me
when she heard).

I cannot tell you that I know the road.
Often I lose my way
and my life has been a painful crossing
navigating reefs, in and out of storms,
refusing to listen to the ghostly sirens
who invite me into the past,
neither compass nor binnacle to show me the way.

But I advance,
go forward holding to the hope
of some distant port
where you, my children -- I'm sure --
will pull in one day
after I've been lost at sea.

Monday, May 9, 2011

For the Students of Mental Health Nursing 3511

By Aaron Poller

Seems like we’ve been through hard times you and me.
Does that make a difference? I suppose it does.

This morning my dog Nick peed a perfect
map of Cambodia on the kitchen floor.

And in two hours from now I will ride
the shuttle bus across campus to give you

one last gift, the final exam.
And you will be there with your shining face

and your faith that the world can be better.
Seems like we’ve been through hard times you and me.

And if nursing the world is how we choose,
these hard times will be more grist for our mills.

Aaron Poller was born in the Bronx, New York. He received a BA in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied writing and poetry with Robert Mezey, Jean Garrigue and Daniel Hoffman. He studied mental health nursing at Montgomery County Community College, LaSalle University, and University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a Board Certified Psychiatric/Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist. He has worked for over 35 years in mental health nursing and since 2005 maintains a practice as a psychotherapist in Winston-Salem, N.C. He also teaches mental health nursing at Winston-Salem State University. He has two grown daughters and lives with his wife, four dogs and two cats.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mama, Come Back

By Nellie Wong

Mama, come back.
Why did you leave
now that I am learning you?
The landlady next door
how she apologizes
for my rough brown skin
to her tenant from Hong Kong
as if I were her daughter,
as if she were you.

How do I say I miss you
your scolding
your presence
your roast loin of pork
more succulent, more tender
than any hotel chef's?

The fur coat you wanted
making you look like a polar bear
and the mink-trimmed coat
I once surprised you
on Christmas morning.

Mama, how you said "importment"
for important,
your gold tooth flashing
an insecurity you dared not bare,
wanting recognition
simply as eating noodles
and riding in a motor car
to the supermarket
the movie theater
adorned in your gold and jade
as if all your jewelry
confirmed your identity
a Chinese woman in America.

How you said "you better"
always your last words
glazed through your dark eyes
following me fast as you could
one November evening in New York City
how I thought "Hello, Dolly!"
showed you an America
you never saw.

How your fear of being alone
kept me dutiful in body
resentful in mind.
How my fear of being single
kept me
from moving out.

How I begged your forgiveness
after that one big fight
how I wasn't wrong
but needed you to love me
as warmly as you hugged strangers.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Epitaph on a Tyrant

By W. H. Auden

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What the Orphan Inherits

By Sherman Alexie


I dreamed I was digging your grave
with my bare heands. I touched your face
and skin fell in thin strips to the ground

until only your tongue remained whole.
I hung it to smoke with the deer
for seven days. It tasted thick and greasy

sinew gripped my tongue tight. I rose
to walk naked through the fire. I spoke
English. I was not consumed.


I do not have an Indian name.
The wind never spoke to my mother
when I was born. My heart was hidden

beneath the shells of walnuts switched
back and forth. I have to cheat to feel
the beating of drums in my chest.


"For bringing us the horse
we could almost forgive you
for bringing us whisky."


We measure time leaning
out car windows shattering
beer bottles off road signs.


Indian boys
sinewy and doe-eyed
frozen in headlights.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

First Day of the Year

By Pietro Grieco

To begin with the tabula rasa:
We start on the year sweeping
Our living room as if all the residues
And fireworks’ ashes of the of the globe
Had fallen throughout our TV into it;
We clean the bedroom and change
The sheets as if all the dreams
Of the world had died there
We brush the toilet
As if the fate of the planet
Had been digested and went away
We change the little rugs
Wash up the patio
Hang new painting
Polish here and there
Buy new flowers to start
Truly the year from zero.
Suddenly my hands stop writing
How sad: to start really anew
I should first clean all human history.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Libraries Didn't Burn

By Elaine Equi

despite books kindled in electronic flames.

The locket of bookish love
still opens and shuts.

But its words have migrated
to a luminous elsewhere.

Neither completely oral nor written —
a somewhere in between.

Then will oak, willow,
birch, and olive poets return
to their digital tribes —

trees wander back to the forest?

Monday, May 2, 2011


By Rochelle Cashdan

Our lady

of the hard shell,
soft butter,
firm flesh,

trailer lady
with salty legs,
eyes on the prowl.

Arthropod lady.
Scarlet lady
in the soup.

Better blue,
and scuttling,


Rochelle Cashdan, who started as a poet, taught in inner city Washington, DC schools and became an anthropologist before returning to poetry. She now lives and writes in Guanajuato, Mexico. Poems and short fiction by Rochelle can be found online by googling her name.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


By Eve Lyons

It is spring
everyone is breeding:
Two co-workers,
the hawks in a building
on Fresh Pond Highway,
the geese in the Chestnut Hill reservoir,
and Phoebe, the hummingbird in California
everyone’s watching on the internet.
It seems everyone is breeding
except me.
When I was twelve
I played M.A.S.H.
tried to predict
the essential things in life:
Who I’d marry,
what kind of car I’d own,
what kind of house I’d live in,
where I’d live,
how many children I’d have.
I remember being so sure
I’d have kids
by the time I was twenty-eight,
I remember thinking twenty-eight
seemed so far away
so very old.
I’m nine years past
my expiration date
and counting.

First published in Contemporary World Poetry Journal, April 2011