Thursday, June 30, 2011

City Ethic

By Harvey Shapiro

In New York
at the end of the day
if you are pleased with yourself
and the human condition
and feel no survivor’s guilt
you have added to the darkness.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Other Fathers

would be coming back
from some war, sending
back stuffed birds or
handkerchiefs in navy
blue with Love painted
on it. Some sent telegrams
for birthdays, the pastel
letters like jewels. The
magazines were full of fathers who
were doing what had
to be done, were serving,
were brave. Someone
yelped there’d be confetti
in the streets, maybe
no school. That soon
we’d have bananas. My
father sat in the grey
chair, war after war,
hardly said a word. I
wished he had gone
away with the others
so maybe he would
be coming back to us.

By Lyn Lifshin

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bake Challah in Heels

By Rae Rose

Martha Stewart would run for her life.
I twist dough into snakes, slam them on countertop.
Teacups rattle. I scream. All over the world,
Jewish women are braiding bread –
how do they do it so damn holy?
It wasn’t God I thought of when I punched this dough,
but a man who tricked me, a man before that,
and the first man – maybe I did think of God.
I punched someone’s dough face.

Out my window – a woman without a home
sleeps under a bridge. I punched whoever built this city,
invented these laws. How do holy women do it?
Pretty heads bowed over ovens, aprons dusted with sugar,
a sweet smile on every rosy face.
My kitchen? Hiroshima made of flour.
Egg shells litter counters as if I am a red-tailed hawk
stealing from nests, cracking eggs with beak –
can you create something holy if you are angry?
When God (supposedly) made the world, was He furious?
Is that why He made everything in the dark,
was He too scared to look?

I separate Challah, ripping out a piece of dough
like I am ripping out an eye –
that eye that saw his last trick,
that eye that saw me pull at my veins like cats cradle
and scrub my flesh with Brillo pads,
I am pulling out that eye – that stain – that hurt – from this braided body that is now so – so –

curvy. So female.

I use my fingertips,
glaze Challah with egg whites.
It shimmers like moonlight hugging curves.
The heat will harden her, thicken her skin.
She will be able to take it. Take anything.
Pull down the moon– my moon –
– my light – my curves – my invention –
I am reinventing woman. My own recipe – no rib required.
I have created something holy in a world
in which everything was already invented for me. Poorly.
This time I will change.
I look at the woman under the bridge.
Maybe this time, we’ll change everything.

Previously published in Contemporary World Poetry Journal.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Status Post Surgery

By Aaron Poller

After surgery the world looks good,
even great if you discount the effect

of 1000 mg. of vicodin q. 6 hrs.,
don’t get caught up in the nursing shortage,

or the powerful self admonition
about work and productivity

essential to the body politic
as well as the body temporal.

Kick back, listen to mellow music, let
the body do its own work for a change.

Maybe some dear friend will drop in
with something vegan for dinner

or a thoughtful snack that will save me
from another jiggling trip to the Harris T.

where I feel too down to squeeze the fruit,
too up to buy junk or anything filled

with carbohydrates that will bring my body
back to earth, to heaven’s lamentation.

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, June 26, 2011

Summer Job

By Richard Hoffman

“The trouble with intellectuals,” Manny, my boss,
once told me, “is that they don’t know nothing
till they can explain it to themselves. A guy like that,”
he said, “he gets to middle age—and by the way,
he gets there late; he’s trying to be a boy until
he’s forty, forty-five, and then you give him five
more years until that craziness peters out, and now
he’s almost fifty—a guy like that at last explains
to himself that life is made of time, that time
is what it’s all about. Aha! he says. And then
he either blows his brains out, gets religion,
or settles down to some major-league depression.
Make yourself useful. Hand me that three-eights
torque wrench—no, you moron, the other one.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Q & A

By Terence Winch

Q. How important is theory in this poem? It seems as though
it just starts, goes nowhere, tells us nothing we need to know.

A. The concern here is with necessity, not fact. The poem could tell
you everything you wanted to know, but doesn't.
Some poems begin in the rinse cycle. This one goes right to spin.

Q. We noticed how marvelous the upper strata of the poem is. It suggests
the appeal of authoritarian faith in the old-fashioned
middle class. Did you write it on a train?

A. One day I heard laughter coming from some mysterious source. First I thought
it came from several people who were stuck at the bottom of a well.
Then I speculated it could be a group of teenagers on the level right above me.
After a while, however, I wondered if it might actually be weeping.
I got out my address book and started calling around. In fact, people
were crying when I managed to get in touch with them. Where are
your social contracts now, I snarled, your precious theses on the absolute?
I averted my gaze as their beliefs unraveled.

Q. We can't help but notice how you seem to be suppressing what you
really mean. Are you naked in this poem?

A. I have these pastes and mud packs that I smear all over me, so I'm
never really naked, even when I have no clothes on.
The same thing goes for this poem.
It's beautiful, stark, totally blank, yet colorful, like a sin
you're considering but haven't yet committed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


By Shel Silverstein

I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can't do a handstand--
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--
I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

if you like my poems let them

By e. e. cummings

if you like my poems let them
walk in the evening,a little behind you

then people will say
Along this road i saw a princess pass
on her way to meet her lover (it was
toward nightfall) with tall and ignorant servants.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


By Eve Lyons

I have this little plant in my office
that will not grow. Will, laughing,
suggests that maybe it's traumatized
by all the negative energy clients hurl around it
day after day. Does it find this one
too loud and overwhelming, or perhaps
this one too depressed?
What do you need, little plant, in order
to grow? Your sister in Mildred's office is
growing so fast, taking over all four walls. I hope
this is indicative of the light in this office
and not the quality of the therapy.
But it can't be that.
You're not dying, you have one new leaf
in the last three months. You're just
growing very slowly,
and I am impatient.

Previously published in Yale Journal of Humanities and Medicine, June 14, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Age and Youth

By Anne Whitehouse

After dinner, in his dotage,
Horace plays with the candle flame,
watching it wave and flicker,
poking it with the snuffer,
nudging it
to see how faint
it will glow
without going out.

Old age was the terror
most dreaded by the Romantics,
who preferred death
to its indignities, infirmities,

They thought it better
to blaze out like Acer:
aged 27,
handsome and tattooed
with waist-length blond hair,
he OD’ed one July night
in a hotel room made over
to one of his “hamster nests”
lined with shredded phone books
where he liked to party.

Anne Whitehouse is the author of three collections of poetry: The Surveyor's Hand, Blessings and Curses, and Bear in Mind, and a novel, Fall Love. Her poetry, short stories, essays, reviews, and articles have been widely published. She is a graduate of Harvard and Columbia. Please visit her website,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Life is But A Dream

By Lewis Carroll

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July--

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear--

Long has paled that sunny sky;
Echoes fade and memories die;
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die;

Ever drifting down the stream--
Lingering in the golden gleam--
Life, what is it but a dream?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Dream of Trees

By Mary Oliver

There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.

There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world's artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.

I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Better Than a Blow Job

By Taylor Mali

Diane couldn't keep my cock
out of her mouth.
When I was soft, she took it
as an insult, or a challenge.
Otherwise it was an order,
or an act of devotion
like lighting a candle.

running late, I actually said
I don't have time for you
to give me a blowjob right now!

Before you start thinking
she was the perfect woman--
do you? would anyone? I did--
know that there was something
tragic about the way she held me
in her mouth, as if she had been
taught years ago—or if not taught,
had somehow come to learn--
that's all her mouth was for.

Previously published in Muzzle magazine, Spring of 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

To A Sad Daughter

By Michael Ondaatje

All night long the hockey pictures
gaze down at you
sleeping in your tracksuit.
Belligerent goalies are your ideal.
Threats of being traded
cuts and wounds
--all this pleases you.
O my god! you say at breakfast
reading the sports page over the Alpen
as another player breaks his ankle
or assaults the coach.

When I thought of daughters
I wasn't expecting this
but I like this more.
I like all your faults
even your purple moods
when you retreat from everyone
to sit in bed under a quilt.
And when I say 'like'
I mean of course 'love'
but that embarrasses you.
You who feel superior to black and white movies
(coaxed for hours to see Casablanca)
though you were moved
by Creature from the Black Lagoon.

One day I'll come swimming
beside your ship or someone will
and if you hear the siren
listen to it. For if you close your ears
only nothing happens. You will never change.

I don't care if you risk
your life to angry goalies
creatures with webbed feet.
You can enter their caves and castles
their glass laboratories. Just
don't be fooled by anyone but yourself.

This is the first lecture I've given you.
You're 'sweet sixteen' you said.
I'd rather be your closest friend
than your father. I'm not good at advice
you know that, but ride
the ceremonies
until they grow dark.

Sometimes you are so busy
discovering your friends
I ache with loss
--but that is greed.
And sometimes I've gone
into my purple world
and lost you.

One afternoon I stepped
into your room. You were sitting
at the desk where I now write this.
Forsythia outside the window
and sun spilled over you
like a thick yellow miracle
as if another planet
was coaxing you out of the house
--all those possible worlds!--
and you, meanwhile, busy with mathematics.

I cannot look at forsythia now
without loss, or joy for you.
You step delicately
into the wild world
and your real prize will be
the frantic search.
Want everything. If you break
break going out not in.
How you live your life I don't care
but I'll sell my arms for you,
hold your secrets forever.

If I speak of death
which you fear now, greatly,
it is without answers.
except that each
one we know is
in our blood.
Don't recall graves.
Memory is permanent.
Remember the afternoon's
yellow suburban annunciation.
Your goalie
in his frightening mask
dreams perhaps
of gentleness.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

There's a Hole in My Sidewalk

By Portia Nelson

I walk down the street.
     There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
      I fall in.
      I am lost...I am helpless.
      It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
      There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
      I pretend I don't see it.
      I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
                But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
      There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
      I see it is there.
      I still fall in...It's a habit...but,
               My eyes are open.
               I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
     There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
     I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Walking Through a Wall

By Louis Jenkins

Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is a totally earth-related craft, but a lot more interesting than pot making or driftwood lamps. I got started at a picnic up in Bowstring in the northern part of the state. A fellow walked through a brick wall right there in the park. I said, "Say, I want to try that." Stone walls are best, then brick and wood. Wooden walls with fiberglass insulation and steel doors aren't so good. They won't hurt you. If your wall walking is done properly, both you and the wall are left intact. It is just that they aren't pleasant somehow. The worst things are wire fences, maybe it's the molecular structure of the alloy or just the amount of give in a fence, I don't know, but I've torn my jacket and lost my hat in a lot of fences. The best approach to a wall is, first, two hands placed flat against the surface; it's a matter of concentration and just the right pressure. You will feel the dry, cool inner wall with your fingers, then there is a moment of total darkness before you step through on the other side.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kristallnacht, 9-10 November 1938

By Juliette M. van de Mheen (stardustraven)

From behind the curtains
Silent spectators


The victims' piercing screams
Their persecutors' raucous roars

Sledgehammers smashing
Stones and glass

Broken windows
Burning buildings

Desecrated - Destroyed
Homes, shops, synagogues....

Those frightened witnesses
Sat immobile

Crying, wrestling
With their conscience

Inside their houses
While outside

The hellhounds
The hordes of hooligans

Obeyed and followed
The Monster Anti-Semitism

Hatred and hysteria
At fever pitch

The Beast rolled on
Its orgy of destruction

Most brutal
These November pogroms

The turning point

Juliette M. van de Mheen lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She has worked at the University Library of Amsterdam, where she worked partially for the Rare and Early Printings Project), and she now works at the Municipal Archive. Recently, a poem was published under the name "stardustraven" at Readers can find her blog here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


By Anna Akhmatova

I pray to the sunbeam from the window -
It is pale, thin, straight.
Since morning I have been silent,
And my heart - is split.
The copper on my washstand
Has turned green,
But the sunbeam plays on it
So charmingly.
How innocent it is, and simple,
In the evening calm,
But to me in this deserted temple
It's like a golden celebration,
And a consolation.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Dance

By Humberto Ak'Abal
Translated by Ilan Stavans

All of us dance
on a cent's edge.

The poor—because they are poor—
lose their step,
and fall

and everyone else
falls on top.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An Invitation

By Laura Gail Grohe

Come sister,
let us remove heart’s armoring,
and sit for a moment.

No more sideways cutting glares of,
“Back off bitch, the man is mine”
careful calculations of one another’s
weight and wages.

You are not the blade hungry to cut me
from my man, my job or home.
And my unlined skin and slender thighs
make you neither ugly nor worthless.

Let us cease the mindless chant of
fat stupid ugly
which we try to silence
by shining it outward
like a lighthouse beam
onto women around us.

Let us smash the noisy lens.
Pick up the pieces and hold them to the sun,
letting light split apart in jagged edges.

Shatter what kills you.
Know that in women
our cure lies within the poison.

Healers and witches hid in church convents,
covering wild wisdom under nun's wimples.
This is how we have survived
through burning and binding.

So come sister,
sit with me a while in this tent of red.
Let us place that which we slice ourselves upon,
here on the table
that we may find a cure.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

In Switzerland

By Raymond Carver

First thing to do in Zurich
is take the No. 5 "Zoo" trolley
to the end of the track,
and get off. Been warned about
the lions. How their roars
carry over from the zoo compound
to the Fluntern Cemetery.
Where I walk along
the very beautiful path
to James Joyce's grave.
Always the family man, he's here
with his wife Nora, of course.
And his son, Giorgio,
who died a few years ago.
Lucia, his sorrow,
still alive, still confined
in an institution for the insane.
When she was brought the news
of her father's death, she said:
What is he doing under the ground, that idiot?
When will he decide to come out?
He's watching us all the time.
I lingered awhile. I think
I said something aloud to Mr. Joyce.
I must have. I know I must have.
But I don't recall what,
now, and I'll leave it at that.

A week later to the day, we depart
Zurich by train for Lucerne.
But early that morning I take
the No. 5 trolley once more
to the end of the line.
The roar of the lions falls over
the cemetery, as before.
The grass has been cut.
I sit on it for a while and smoke.
Just feels good to be there,
close to the grave. I didn't
have anything to say this time.

That night we gambled at the tables
at the Grand Hotel-Casino
on the very shore of Lake Lucerne.
Took in a strip show later.
But what to do with the memory
of that grave that came to me
in the midst of the show,
under the muted, pink stage light?
Nothing to do about it.
Or about the desire that came later,
crowding everything else out,
like a wave.
Still later, we sat on a bench
under some linden trees, under stars.
Made love with each other.
Reaching into each other's clothes for it.
The lake a few steps away.
Afterwards, dipped our hands
into the cold water.
THen walked back to our hotel,
happy and tired, ready to sleep
for eight hours.

All of us, all of us
trying to save
our immortal souls, some ways
seemingly more round-
about and mysterious
than others. We're having
a good time here. But hope
all will be revealed soon.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Short History of the Apple

By Dorianne Laux

The crunch is the thing, a certain joy in crashing through
living tissue, a memory of Neanderthal days.
—Edward Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert, 1929

Teeth at the skin. Anticipation.
Then flesh. Grain on the tongue.
Eve's knees ground in the dirt
of paradise. Newton watching
gravity happen. The history
of apples in each starry core,
every papery chamber's bright
bitter seed. Woody stem
an infant tree. William Tell
and his lucky arrow. Orchards
of the Fertile Crescent. Bushels.
Fire blight. Scab and powdery mildew.
Cedar apple rust. The apple endures.
Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors.
The first pip raised in Kazakhstan.
Snow White with poison on her lips.
The buried blades of Halloween.
Budding and grafting. John Chapman
in his tin pot hat. Oh Westward
Expansion. Apple pie. American
as. Hard cider. Winter banana.
Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet
by hives of Britain's honeybees:
white man's flies. O eat. O eat.

Friday, June 3, 2011


By Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

When all this is over, said the swineherd,
I mean to retire, where
Nobody will have heard about my special skills
And conversation is mainly about the weather.

I intend to lean how to make coffee, at least as well
As the Portuguese lay-sister in the kitchen
And polish the brass fenders every day.
I want to lie awake at night
Listening to the cream crawling to the top of the jug
And the water lying soft in the cistern.
I want to see an orchard where the trees grow in straight lines
And the yellow fox finds shelter between the navy-blue trunks,
Where it gets dark early in summer
And the apple-blossom is allowed to wither on the bough.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hard Core Love

By Lenore Kandel

To Whom It Does Concern

Do you believe me when I say / you’re beautiful
I stand here and look at you out of the vision of my eyes
and into the vision of your eyes and I see you and you’re an
and I see you and you’re divine and I see you and you’re a
       divine animal
and you’re beautiful
the divine is not separate from the beast; it is the total crea-
       ture that
transcends itself
the messiah that has been invoked is already here
you are that messiah waiting to be born again into awareness
you are beautiful; we are all beautiful
you are divine; we are all divine
divinity becomes apparent on its own recognition
accept the being that you are                  and illuminate yourself
by your own clear light