Sunday, December 30, 2012

Love Song for Love Songs

By Rafael Campo

A golden age of love songs and we still
can't get it right. Does your kiss really taste
like butter cream? To me, the moon's bright face
was neither like a pizza pie nor full;
the Beguine began, but my eyelid twitched.
"No more I love you's," someone else assured
us, pouring out her heart, in love (of course)—
what bothers me the most is that high-pitched,
undone whine of "Why am I so alone?"
Such rueful misery is closer to
the truth, but once you turn the lamp down low,
you must admit that he is still the one,
and baby, baby he makes you so dumb
you sing in the shower at the top of your lungs.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Worship Service

By Kigen Dogen

In a snowfall
    that obscures the winter grasses
a white heron -
using his own form
    to hide himself away.

Translated by Steven Carter

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


By Luanne Castle

When I glance up at the malignant spider
against the bone white wall above the couch,
I ought not to startle
like a horse.  Look what happens to them.
But I do.
My right foot in its last painless moment
strikes the carpet, a conductor’s baton
slicing the first shrieking note of agony out of the air.

So fitting that this all starts in April—
the month of shoot-outs and bombings
and beginnings like spring.

The foot specialist, Dr. B, has student doctors
read my x-ray and examine
the foot of this unstable woman
exaggerating the discomfort
(I can just imagine them conferring about me,
their impressions formed by him)
of plantar fasciitis,
the most common cause of heel pain.
But it’s not my heel.
Exercise it five times a day, you lazy cow.
Dr. B never touches my foot.

The year my foot changes my life
is visited by three seasons
in fourteen months.
A year sounds tidier, kinder,
like it might be over and done with.

The first season is called Inferno; it’s known as
what the hell happened?

In three months
I receive another appointment with Dr. B. 
His PA meets me in my wheelchair.
I’m carrying a symphony in my body,
I tell her.  She looks away.
Woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings
all play their own melodies, each message
more terrifying than the others.
Marshal, a strong man, begs her to ask the doctor
to see my wife for just one minute.
She leaves and comes back to say he will not.

In the fifth month
by accident
I go to the emergency room
of a hospital used to unusual cases.
I learn that the foot is a fan
and must be unfurled for an x-ray.
The intern, so young, holds the small bones spread
with his unshielded hands
and there it is:  the tumor which has partaken of
the meat and lives now in the eggshell of the central bone.

We can find no report in any medical journal of a tumor in this particular bone.

The biopsy handled by a different young doctor
goes bad, the needle inserted in the wrong part of the foot, and the nurse
weeps when she tells my husband how I clung
to her, how we were suctioned by each other’s sweat,
with pain shattering glass planets.

We have a recommendation for a surgeon,
and he is far away from us.
How do they stay in business
if they don’t want customers?
They dismiss me into my wheelchair
and we drive from Minnesota to Santa Monica.
Out of seventeen restrooms, only one has handicap access.
My foot is booted in steel and leather for protection,
secured in the footrest of the wheelchair
and between cushions in the car.

The last mist of summer settles over Santa Monica
at the end of the continent.
Over the gray beach, the gray water,
the empty pier.

My surgeon, I like calling Dr. Eckhart that.
My surgeon sculpts in expensive materials,
ceramics, polymers, cadaver fibula,
but the one he prizes is my own iliac crest,
although the pain might be worse than the main surgery site.

Season two, Purgatorio,
is the long sleep
of the anesthesia, the pain meds, the foot resting in one
cast after another,
and me tethered to the hospital bed in my living room
like a scraggly debarked dog
who has given up and falls asleep at the end of the chain.

I wonder how many people have died
in this bed, I say,
and Marshal turns away.
Three—no, four--months of sleep
broken only by meds, light meals, bathroom statistics,
and daily physical therapy visits spent
sitting on the edge of the bed with turquoise light weights
until Anne-Marie the over-qualified PT
is the only person in the magic circle around me.

I don’t feel the site of the harvesting
through the cacophony of the foot.

Every month we drive to Santa Monica,
my legs out and propped amidst a flurry
of pillows where Dr. Eckhart examines
x-rays and CT scans of my foot and lungs,
hugs my arch with both his big hands.
He sends me to an orthotics builder, a pulmonologist,
a pain management clinic.
He jokes with me, but not too much.
I say, How long do I need to keep coming here?
For the rest of your life.

Paradiso is not the third season.
Or maybe I’m just ungrateful.
Maybe heaven is all relative, like the Yiddish folktale
where the rabbi has the man load up his house
with animals who sound like bad relatives
only to turn them outside so his cottage
feels spacious and comfortable.

I am out of the hospital bed and send it back
to the medical supply house for someone else.
Marshal takes the wheelchair
to storage
in case the tumor comes back.
I walk carefully in built-up New Balance shoes the way Anne-Marie
shows me, heels first, rolling through the foot.

I try to follow my feet: the left goes in front
and then the right. 
I am not allowed to run,
even to catch the bus or escape a ferocious dog,
or dance to “Doctor Beat” in a spandex unitard.
When can I run, I ask.
Dr. Eckhart says, Never.
I can’t blame him.
He’s an artist.
I am the museum of his masterpiece.

Now, mated to its New Balance,
my foot lets me walk as I need.
Only occasionally does the oboe inside
sound the concert A note,
prompt a tuning against my will.
I continue to visit Santa Monica every season.
Occasionally there is no mist,
and the beach glints under the sun rays.

Luanne Castle received an MFA from Western Michigan University and a PhD from the University of California, Riverside.  She taught at California State University, San Bernardino before moving to Arizona, where she now lives with a herd of javelina.  Her poems have been published in Redheaded Stepchild, Visions, Front Range, The Black Boot, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and others.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Word on Statistics

By Wislawa Szymborska

Out of every hundred people,
those who always know better:
Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.
Ready to help,
if it doesn't take long:
Always good,
because they cannot be otherwise:
four -- well, maybe five.
Able to admire without envy:
Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.
Those not to be messed with:
Living in constant fear
of someone or something:
Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.
Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.
when forced by circumstances:
it's better not to know,
not even approximately.
Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.
Getting nothing out of life except things:
(though I would like to be wrong).
Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.
Those who are just:
quite a few, thirty-five.
But if it takes effort to understand:
Worthy of empathy:
one hundred out of one hundred --
a figure that has never varied yet.

Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christ Came Down

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
in a Volkswagen sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
and German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody's imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary's womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody's anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest of
Second Comings

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I’ve Been Known

to spread it on thick to shoot off my mouth to get it off my chest
          to tell him where
          to get off
to stay put to face the music to cut a shine to go under to sell
          myself short to play
          myself down
to paint the town to fork over to shell out to shoot up to pull a
          fast one to go haywire
          to take a shine to
to be stuck on to glam it up to vamp it up to get her one better to
          eat a little higher
          on the hog
to win out to get away with to go to the spot to make a stake to
          make a stand to
          stand for something to stand up for
to snow under to slip up to go for it to take a stab at it to try out
          to go places to play
          up to get back at
to size up to stand off to slop over to be solid with to lose my
          shirt to get myself off
          to get myself off the hook.

By Denise Duhamel 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Keeping Quiet

By Lisa Steinman

I've never heard a snow-free
night so still. Are you there, ears?
There are not even crickets -- no frogs --

trafficking with darkness.
No one's going
anywhere, but
nothing stays put.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Light the Festive Candles

By Alicia Lucia Fisher

Light the first of eight tonight—
the farthest candle to the right.
Light the first and second, too,
when tomorrow's day is through.
Then light three, and then light four—
every dusk one candle more
Till all eight burn bright and high,
honoring a day gone by
When the Temple was restored,
rescued from the Syrian lord,
And an eight-day feast proclaimed—
The Festival of Lights—well named
To celebrate the joyous day
when we regained the right to pray
to our one God in our own way.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I Hate Telling People I Teach English

By Wendy Barker

Like last August, after they’d finished my bone scan,
          this combed-over mid-sixties guy starts chatting about the novel
he’s written in his head, he only needs someone like me
          to work it up, he never liked punctuation, parts of speech, all that junk
from junior high, and I couldn’t get my print-out fast enough
          to take to my GP, who likes to quote from his inspirational speeches
to local luncheon clubs. He’s determined to collect them
          in a book, though he’d need a good editor, do I know any, and meanwhile
I’ve been waiting fifty-seven minutes for help with recharging
          my sluggish thyroid, and I haven’t met any doctors who like giving
free advice about your daughter’s milk allergy or your friend’s
          migraines or the thumb you slammed in the stairwell door, splitting it
open so badly your students interrupted your lecture on
          pronoun agreement to note you were dripping blood from your hand
and wow, what happened? But it’s mostly at parties I hate
          admitting I teach English. I’ve never been quick enough to fudge,
the way a Methodist minister friend says he’s in “support
          services” so he doesn’t get called to lead grace. I guess I could dub myself
a “communications facilitator,” but since I’m in the business
          of trying to obviate obfuscation, I own up, though I dread what I know
is coming: Oh, they say, I hated English, all that grammar,
          you won’t like the way I talk, you’ll be correcting me, and suddenly
they need another Bud or merlot or they’ve got to check out
          the meatballs or guacamole over on the table and I’m left facing
blank space, no one who can even think about correcting
          my dangling participles. Once when the computer guy was at the house,
bent over my laptop trying to get us back online,
          he asked what it was I wrote, and when I told him “poetry,” said, “Ah—
fluffy stuff,” and I wasn’t sure whether he was kidding
          or not, but I figured at least it was better than his saying he hated poetry
or that he had a manuscript right outside in his Camry and
          could I take a look, no hurry, but he knew it would sell, could I tell him
how to get an agent for his novel about his uncle
          moving to Arizona and running a thriving ostrich farm until the day
hot-air balloons took off a half mile away
          and stampeded the birds, till all he was left with were feathers and bloody tangled
necks on fence posts, the dream of making two million
          from those birds a haunting sentence fragment—but then, I think:
I would never have wanted to miss the time a dentist,
          tapping my molars, asked if I’d like to hear him recite Chaucer’s Prologue
to The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, which he did
          while I lay back in his chair, open-mouthed, pierced to the root.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Laughing Heart

By Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Street Corner Savior

By John Grey

I'm impatient with this bedraggled savior.
Here's a quarter. No I don't want the book.
What are you doing in that alley-way.
And when did Jesus ever beg.
Died for sins yes but didn't smell like them.
Okay, I'll repent if that's what it takes
to move away from here.
By the time my foot touches the next
crack in the sidewalk, I'll be a changed man,
Saul on the way to Damascus,
if that's what it takes to have you
bathed, hair combed, chin shaven.
Maybe I should lecture you instead.
Put the book away, the grubby hand
back in your pocket.
If you're going to convert,
you have to look the part.
Smart suit, solemn tie, smarmy grin,
hair parted on the right,
and a telephone number scrolling
across your midriff.
Here's a buck, preacher man,
go get yourself a cable television show.
From that shiny alley-way,
you can save thousands at a time.
Dollars, sinners... you won't know.

John Grey is an Australian born poet, works as financial systems analyst. Recently published in Bryant Poetry Review, Tribeca Poetry Review and the horror anthology, “What Fears Become”with work upcoming in Potomac Review, Hurricane Review and Pinyon.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sharks' Teeth

By Kay Ryan

Everything contains some
silence. Noise gets
its zest from the
small shark's-tooth-
shaped fragments
of rest angled
in it. An hour
of city holds maybe
a minute of these
remnants of a time
when silence reigned,
compact and dangerous
as a shark. Sometimes
a bit of a tail
or fin can still
be sensed in parks.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ode to Bicycles

By Pablo Neruda

I was walking
a sizzling road:
the sun popped like
a field of blazing maize,
was hot,
an infinite circle
with an empty
blue sky overhead.

A few bicycles
me by,
the only
that dry
moment of summer,
barely stirred
the air.

Workers and girls
were riding to their
their eyes
to summer,
their heads to the sky,
sitting on the
beetle backs
of the whirling
that whirred
as they rode by
bridges, rosebushes, brambles
and midday.

I thought about evening when
the boys
wash up,
sing, eat, raise
a cup
of wine
in honor
of love
and life,
and waiting
at the door,
the bicycle,
only moving
does it have a soul,
and fallen there
it isn't
a translucent insect
through summer
a cold
that will return to
when it's needed,
when it's light,v that is,
of each day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fishing in Winter

By Ralph Burns

A man staring at a small lake sees
His father cast light line out over
The willows. He's forgotten his
Father has been dead for two years
And the lake is where a blue fog
Rolls, and the sky could be, if it
Were black or blue or white,
The backdrop of all attention.

He wades out to join the father,
Following where the good strikes
Seem to lead. It's cold. The shape
Breath takes on a cold day is like
Anything else--a rise on a small lake,
The Oklahoma hills, blue scrub--
A shape already inside a shape,
Two songs, two breaths on the water.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


By Ruth Stone

Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.

What does it mean if I say this years later?

Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.
He screams, "No pets! No pets!"
I become my Aunt Virginia,
proud but weak in the head.
I remember Anna Magnani.
I throw a few books. I shout.
He wipes his eyes and opens his hands.
OK OK keep the dirty animals
but no nails in the walls.
We cry together.
I am so nervous, he says.

I want to dig you up and say, look,
it's like the time, remember,
when I ran into our living room naked
to get rid of that fire inspector.

See what you miss by being dead?