Tuesday, November 29, 2011


By Edna St. Vincent Millay

These wet rocks where the tide has been,
Barnacled white and weeded brown
And slimed beneath to a beautiful green,
These wet rocks where the tide went down
Will show again when the tide is high
Faint and perilous, far from shore,
No place to dream, but a place to die,—
The bottom of the sea once more.
There was a child that wandered through
A giant's empty house all day,—
House full of wonderful things and new,
But no fit place for a child to play.

Monday, November 28, 2011


By Douglas Polk

Stars uncountable in their multitudes,
decorate the sky above the Platte,
a river once sacred to Sioux and Pawnee,
vivid proof of the unknown,
and the unexplored,
seemingly eternal,
and so, so far beyond man’s understanding,
Space and time existing beyond the imagination,
Yet we humans rule the planet like gods,
A fool’s paradise
just ask the stars above the Platte.

Douglas Polk is a writer of poetry from central Nebraska. Feeling persecuted most of his life he has published three books of poetry; In My Defense, The Defense Rests, and On Appeal. He lives with his wife and two boys and two dogs on the plains of Nebraska.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

it's the way you play the game

By Charles Bukowski

call it love
stand it up in the failing
put it in a dress
pray sing beg cry laugh
turn off hte lights
turn on the radio
add trimmings:
butter raw eggs, yesterday's
one new shoelace, then add
paprika, sugar, salt, pepper,
phone your drunken aunt in
call it love, you
skewer it good, add
cabbage and applesauce,
then heat it from the right
put it in a box
give it away
leave it on a doorstep
vomiting as you go
into the

Friday, November 25, 2011


By William Blake

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Letter from Harry

By Carl Dennis

I guess I have to begin by admitting
I'm thankful today I don't reside in a country
My country has chosen to liberate,
That Bridgeport's my home, not Baghdad.
Thankful my chances are good, when I leave
For the Super Duper, that I'll be returning.
And I'm thankful my TV set is still broken.
No point in wasting energy feeling shame
For the havoc inflicted on others in my name
When I need all the strength I can muster
To teach my eighth-grade class in the low-rent district.
There, at least, I don't feel powerless.
There my choices can make some difference.

This month I'd like to believe I've widened
My students' choice of vocation, though the odds
My history lessons on working the land
Will inspire any of them to farm
Are almost as small as the odds
One will become a monk or nun
Trained in the Buddhist practice
We studied last month in the unit on India.
The point is to get them suspecting the world
They know first hand isn't the only world.

As for the calling of soldier, if it comes up in class,
It's not because I feel obliged to include it,
As you, as a writer, may feel obliged.
A student may happen to introduce it,
As a girl did yesterday when she read her essay
About her older brother, Ramon,
Listed as "missing in action" three years ago,
And about her dad, who won't agree with her mom
And the social worker on how small the odds are
That Ramon's alive, a prisoner in the mountains.

I didn't allow the discussion that followed
More time than I allowed for the other essays.
And I wouldn't take sides: not with the group
That thought the father, having grieved enough,
Ought to move on to the life still left him;
Not with the group that was glad he hadn't made do
With the next-to-nothing the world's provided,
That instead he's invested his trust in a story
That saves the world from shameful failure.

Let me know of any recent attempts on your part
To save our fellow-citizens from themselves.
In the meantime, if you want to borrow Ramon
For a narrative of your own, remember that any scene
Where he appears under guard in a mountain village
Should be confined to the realm of longing. There
His captors may leave him when they move on.
There his wounds may be healed,
His health restored. A total recovery
Except for a lingering fog of forgetfulness
A father dreams he can burn away.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not Any Ist

By Velcrow Ripper

Got a ride with a logger’s boss on my way to a Sufi gathering

My chameleon self emerged
Took over

The veil dropped down
The armour went up

I accept his offering of a bottle of beer
“Where are you going?”

I cop out.
“To a drumming workshop…”

He puts on some reggae
“You’ll probably like this…”

His voice a trifle anxious
Trying to meet me halfway

Stopped off at his clearcut on the way down
Bumped through the rutted road gouged through the used to be forest
Lying on a pile of used to be trees were the loggers, sound asleep

The boss laughs: “those guys are always playing tricks on me…”

They jump to their feet as we pull up
Playing caught napping on the job

We get out of the truck
Laughter is exchanged

The fallers name is Roy
A little plump with rosy cheeks

An easy manner
A welcoming smile
A gentle soul

His father was a logger before him
The daredevil of the camp: a high rigger

The one who climbed three hundred feet up the spar tree
To chain on the skyline

Behead the giant
With his cross cut saw

Cling to the mad sway
As it creaked and groaned in helpless despair
And finally surrendered to a gentle wafting

The triumphant Lilliputan
Would chain the skyline to the naked tree
And return to earth.

“I’ve got a B.A. in pyschology,” says Roy
“But I like to work outside. I love the woods.”

Do the woods love him?

Just doing his job.
He knows what his job is doing to the land
He’d log better if he had the chance

If the company would let him

Just a foot soldier
But the questions arisen before:
Would there be wars
If there were no soldiers?

“What’s it like up in Canada?
I want to go up there to work.
You still got trees up there.”

“Only ten or fifteen more years of trees,
I’d say, and that’s it.”

“They’ll probably find one of them
spotted owls up there anyways.”

“Them environmentalists are probably up there right now,
painting spots on all the owls that don’t got any.”

They laugh and offer me a smoke.

I don’t mention that I’ve been called
One of them environmentalists

Though I insist
I’m not any ist at all

Just a human

A human
With epiphytes in my armpits
Moss and fern and lichen

The dust and heat and sadness and power of the blockades coursing and crackling
Through my nervous system.
Microreyzal fungi curling through my intestines.

Right now I’m one of the guys.
Shape shifter.

“Excuse me a minute,” says Roy, firing up his chainsaw.
He cuts down a tree.
It falls screaming to the ground.

I think of those native tribes that used to pierce their flesh
And hang
In days of ritual atonement
Before falling a great cedar

I imagine Roy
Pierced and hanging

He’d probably log a little more carefully.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Continue to Dream

By Langston Hughes

I take my dreams and make of them a bronze vase
and a round fountain with a beautiful statue in its center.
And a song with a broken heart and I ask you:
Do you understand my dreams?
Sometimes you say you do,
And sometimes you say you don't.
Either way it doesn't matter.
I continue to dream.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Refusing at Fifty-Two to Write Sonnets

By Thomas Lynch

It came to him that he could nearly count
How many Octobers he had left to him
In increments of ten or, say, eleven
Thus: sixty-three, seventy-four, eighty-five.
He couldn't see himself at ninety-six—
Humanity's advances notwithstanding
In health-care, self-help, or new-age regimens—
What with his habits and family history,
The end he thought is nearer than you think.

The future, thus confined to its contingencies,
The present moment opens like a gift:
The balding month, the grey week, the blue morning,
The hour's routine, the minute's passing glance—
All seem like godsends now. And what to make of this?
At the end the word that comes to him is Thanks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chayei Sarah

By Laurie Patton

I was thirteen,
and I remember the music
and my mother whispering,
"Why such a party, when
it is only a weaing?"
And the smell of lamb
and the hand drums;
and the involuntary sound
coming from my own throat -
half laughter, half-sob -
after I saw my mother's face
in the firelight;
and I knew
my little brother
was now my rival.
But God was still good to us -

- and I was three,
and I remember
starinh out in the dark
of the morning
and seeing two shadows
and then the clear outline
of your mother
clutching a water bottle,
and watching her wave
in the air,
as if she were talking
to Someone.
But God was still good to us -

- and now we stare together
into the cave
that holds our father -

- our father's bones
and his memory,
in the place before Mamre -

- and yet I fear
for the future -

- since perhaps
the only thing
we can do together

Isaac and Ishmael:
is to bury
and to mourn
our dead.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Times They Are A-Changin'

By Bob Dylan

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

To hear Bob sing this song, go here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Killing the plants

By Jane Kenyon

That year I discovered the virtues
of plants as companions: they don't
argue, they don't ask for much,
they don't stay out until 3:00 A.M., then
lie to you about where they've been....

I can't summon the ambition
to repot this grape ivy, of this sad
old cactus, or even to move them out
onto the porch for the summer,
where their lives would certainly
improve. I give them
a grudging dash of water – that's all
they get. I wonder if they suspect
that like Hamlet I rehearse murder
all hours of the day and night,
considering the town dump
and compost pile as possible graves....

The truth is that if I permit them
to live, they will go on giving
alms to the poor: sweet air, miraculous
flowers, the example of persistence.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


By Adrienne Rich

The world’s
not wanton
only wild and wavering

I wanted to choose words that even you
would have to be changed by

Take the word
of my pulse, loving and ordinary
Send out your signals, hoist
your dark scribbled flags
but take
my hand

All wars are useless to the dead

My hands are knotted in the rope<
and I cannot sound the bell

My hands are frozen to the switch
and I cannot throw it

The foot is in the wheel

When it’s finished and we’re lying
in a stubble of blistered flowers<
eyes gaping, mouths staring
dusted with crushed arterial blues
I’ll have done nothing
even for you?

Monday, November 14, 2011


By John Middlebrook

When we moved from our old home,
     we thought our memories moved with us.

Still curious, one day, we stop for a look.

We see the new owners
have made it all different,
and we shake our heads in disbelief.

Through the windows, in the willow,
we see their kids playing—
unaware, no doubt, of the very best limbs.

Outside, we whisper
and sidestep their prunings.
We are amazed at how small
            it all has become.

Their son, a toy cowboy,
grabs his lasso
      and plastic play gun.
He claims we never lived there;
      we agree and move on.

Like a somber procession of grainy photos
we carry away our remains within us.
We are migrating spirits
tethered together by a story as shared
      as the air that we breathe.

Up the road, we look back,
and through a keyhole we see
that the place we once lived
      is no longer there.

It slips like a dream
into the maze of memory.
There, it keeps our common past.

Its dormant scent lingers
with artifacts left in trunks
      and envelopes of lace -
the traces of what we were,
      and what we hoped to be.

John Middlebrook lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he manages a consulting firm focused on non-profit organizations. He has been writing poetry since he was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, where he also served on the poetry staff of Chicago Review. His work has appeared in Writers' Bloc, Foundling Review, and Yes, Poetry, and he can be found on the web here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hymn of Not Much Praise for New York City

By Thomas James Merton 
When the windows of the West Side clash like cymbals in the setting sunlight,
And when wind wails amid the East Side’s aerials,
And when, both north and south of thirty-fourth street,   
In all the dizzy buildings,
The elevators clack their teeth and rattle the bars of their cages,   
Then the children of the city,
Leaving the monkey-houses
   of their office-buildings and apartments,
With the greatest difficulty open their mouths, and sing:
“Queen among the cities of the Earth: New York!   
Rich as a cake, common as a doughnut,
Expensive as a fur and crazy as cocaine,
We love to hear you shake
Your big face like a shining bank
Letting the mad world know you’re full of dimes!

”This is your night to make maraccas out of all that metal money
Paris is in the prison-house, and London dies of cancer.   
This is the time for you to whirl,
Queen of our hopped-up peace,
And let the excitement of your somewhat crippled congas   
Supersede the waltzes of more shining
Capitals that have been bombed.

“Meanwhile we, your children,
Weeping in our seasick zoo of windows while you dance,   
Will gobble aspirins,
And try to keep our cage from caving in.
All the while our minds will fill with these petitions,   
Flowering quietly in between our gongs of pulse.   
These will have to serve as prayers:

“ ‘O lock us in the safe jails of thy movies!
Confine us to the semiprivate wards and white asylums   
Of the unbearable cocktail parties, O New York!   
Sentence us for life to the penitentiaries of thy bars and nightclubs,
And leave us stupefied forever by the blue, objective lights   
That fill the pale infirmaries of thy restaurants,
And the clinics of thy schools and offices,
And the operating-rooms of thy dance-halls.

“ ‘But never give us any explanations, even when we ask,   
Why all our food tastes of iodoform,
And even the freshest flowers smell of funerals.
No, never let us look about us long enough to wonder   
Which of the rich men, shivering in the overheated office,   
And which of the poor men, sleeping face-down on the Daily Mirror,
Are still alive, and which are dead.’ ”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lower East Side

By Harvey Shapiro

On Houston street, walking west,
the moon coming up over Katz's Delicatessen,
we pass a synagogue ancient as Tiberias.
You don't have to be touched
by the hand of God
to pick up on these New York cliches.
We get finished walking the dog
and climb to your Catholic-kitsch apartment
where your Mother of God helps me out of my clothes
and history and the ruined smell of these lives.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dr. Burnout

By Millie Niss

Is not in he’s taking the afternoon off
To vacuum his office barcalounger
And test the springiness of the upholstery
With the new Jamaican receptionist
He’s been eyeing for the last two weeks
Dr. doesn’t want to hear about your feelings
After all, they’re immaterial the fall
Of psychodynamic psychiatry is well-past
So please stick to symptoms, side-effects and such
And leave the feelings for your twelve-step group
On overcoming therapy addiction.  Diagnosis
Is a mere formality useful for insurance purposes
We wouldn’t want you to read in any more
Meaning than can be coded in ICD-9 instead
We’d rather characterize your condition
By the characteristic response you have to
Certain pharmacologic agents so rather than to say
That you’re depressed which has so many extra-clinical connotations 
better to say you have
Prozac-responsive syndrome.  Don’t bother to detail
The depths of your despair how you want to throw yourself
In front of the number 104 bus and end it all, enough
To say you have suicidal ideation and not waste
The doctor’s time he is busy preparing his suntan
For the Psychiatric Association conference in Acapulco
Where it wouldn’t do to have pasty skin so please be brief
And to the point and pay your bill promptly the dr.
Is running a business not a charity so have your
Visa or mastercard ready (sorry no American express) as
You leave and please do not forget your next appointment
Careful follow-up is essential to correct treatment.

Previously published in Yale Journal of Health and Medicine

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


By Alfonso Quijada Urías

I content myself that some day
the owner of this poor grocery store
will make paper funnels
out of my writings
to wrap up his sugar and his coffee
for people of the future
who now for obvious reasons
cannot savor his sugar or his coffee.

Translated by Darwin J. Flakoll

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Thoughtful Son

By Hal Sirowitz

I can't kill myself, Mother said,
because it's prohibited by Jewish law,
so I'm relying on you to do it for me,
& you've been doing a good job. You
already took a few days off my life
when you got mud on your shoes,
& left a trail of mud all over the house. I had
to get on my knees to scrub the floor,
& I thought to myself, My son is
only trying to be kind, he's shortening
my life so I won't have to worry
about old age, but if he really cared
about me, he'd put an end to me right now.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meditation on the Adjournment of Congress

By Robert Laughlin

A rolling stone
gathers no moss
a vacant Capitol
codifies no idiocy.

Robert Laughlin lives in Chico, California. His poems have appeared in Bryant Literary Review, Camroc Press Review, elimae, The Orange Room Review, and Pearl. His website can be found here

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"And these are Hagar's poems to this very day"

By Anda Pinkerfeld-Amir

There in your tent, carpets are spread out,
caressed by the palms of your feet.
Every cord and thread, I wove myself,
every blossom raised from the mass of
      threads -
my song of fingers for you.
Every flower, made magic by my love
to gladden your soul.

And how can these carpets soften for you,
how can your eyes drink the bounty of their
How is it that the petals don't burst
into blazing flame,
consuming your legs?
How can you walk complacently
on the blessing of my hands,
sent to you in my carpet,
your tranquility unconsumed by the wailing
      of leaves,
weeping over my disgrace?

Translated by Wendy Zierler

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Because You Asked about the Line between Prose and Poetry

By Howard Nemerov

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned into pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.
There came a moment that you couldn't tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Careful with that axe, Eugene

By Bob Kemp

Careful with that axe, Eugene,
Don't let it split your shin.
You are mad and very sick;
Don't let it fall again.

Don't take it near the dog.
Don't you bash your brain.
You know you killed the pesky cat;
you diced it in the rain.

You've been to Salem once,
Don't want to go again.
They shock you with electricity;
and make you, oh, so sane.

So be careful with that axe.
You never want to fall.
Or bleed great pools of crimson blood;
and die right in the hall.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


By Paul Guest

So that this will seem like words between
old friends, I'll say it was painless
And quick. I'll say it was mercy
and behind my face where I put
things like The Truth and dreams about
supernovae, I'll try to mean it
But it was his time, we should all admit
Shouldn't we, who loved him
the way we love traffic
and cell phones during spectacular sex
and the degradations of puberty
shouldn't we all feel
as though light were swelling within us,
inflaming us? Tell me where
you were when you heard
but tell me later, much later,
the kind of later mathematicians get excited about
By then memory will have torn
away from my body like a scab
I'll no longer have to pick at
and I'll listen to you like a stethoscope.
It will be good for my heart.
It will be good for your heart.
In the air of that deferred spring
we'll be healthy, speaking
of an ancient wound neither of us
really remember, except
that by starlight we promised
to honor this question mark
in the periodic sentence of our lives.
Whatever you say, remember
that we cried. The dead love that we weep.
that we stain ourselves with
salt, that we become for a moment
indistinguishable from the sea,
that our shining faces rock with grief.