Monday, March 31, 2014

This Town

By John Grey

I won’t remember I was ever in this town.
The river that runs through it is nothing special,
the usual brown, the mandatory tire hooked on a rock.
There’s one main street with hardware store,
a restaurant whose waitresses wear blue and white aprons
and where flies stand sentry at the meringue.
And let’s not forget the closed-up cinema that
didn’t make it as a Saturday flea-market and
the mildewed poster for “Dirty Harry” still plastered to its wall.
I will forget the bars, both of them.
And the jukebox where no song is less than twenty years old.
Also, the motel that never will get its neon fixed.
And the cop who shoots the breeze with the farmer
in his pickup with the bags of seed up back.

This town has no place in my memory.
I’d be sorry for that if it weren’t just the latest
of a thousand towns just like it that I’ve passed through,
erased from my brain when I am barely out the other side
and speeding by one more corn-field.
Sorry, young man of twenty one or so in your faded overalls.
Likewise, kid running with your mangy dog.
And young girl, sure you’re pretty and pretty girls
do get recalled more than most
but my head is already cluttered with beautiful women.
Even if you are the best that this place has to offer,
there’s still no room for you.

I confess that, at my age, there’s much emptiness
all along the timeline.
If you asked me anything I did when I was thirty three, say,
I’d stare at you as blankly
as the effect that this town has on me.
I don’t remember being thirty three.
I won’t remember I was ever in this town,
sitting up late, TV on but sound off,
scribbling my reflections down on motel notepaper.
Years from now, I may even come across them in my files.
It’ll be evidence that this town really does exist.
But the author will undoubtedly elude me.

John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in International Poetry Review, Chrysalis and the science fiction anthology, “Futuredaze”with work upcoming in Potomac Review, Sanskrit and Fox Cry Review.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

harbor (the conversion)

By Nick Flynn

If this bowl is always empty
If it breathes if it’s lung
If a horse can rise from the ashes

Saul was a sailor on the boat to Damascus
He did not know what he was
Paul turned to a voice it rose up from the waves
It chained his boat to the darkness

A man finds ash & he makes it a man
A horse finds ash in a horse
It lifts us it holds us it breaks us again
Scatter him into the harbo

harbor (the conversion)

  by Nick Flynn
If this bowl is always empty

If it breathes if it’s lung

If a horse can rise from the ashes

Saul was a sailor on the boat to Damascus

He did not know what he was

Paul turned to a voice it rose up from the waves

It chained his boat to the darkness

A man finds ash & he makes it a man

A horse finds ash in a horse

It lifts us it holds us it breaks us again

Scatter him into the harbor - See more at:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

At The Smithville Methodist Church

By Stephen Dunn

It was supposed to be Arts & Crafts for a week,
but when she came home
with the "Jesus Saves" button, we knew what art
was up, what ancient craft.

She liked her little friends. She liked the songs
they sang when they weren't
twisting and folding paper into dolls.
What could be so bad?

Jesus had been a good man, and putting faith
in good men was what
we had to do to stay this side of cynicism,
that other sadness.

OK, we said, One week. But when she came home
singing "Jesus loves me,
the Bible tells me so," it was time to talk.
Could we say Jesus

doesn't love you? Could I tell her the Bible
is a great book certain people use
to make you feel bad? We sent her back
without a word.

It had been so long since we believed, so long
since we needed Jesus
as our nemesis and friend, that we thought he was
sufficiently dead,

that our children would think of him like Lincoln
or Thomas Jefferson.
Soon it became clear to us: you can't teach disbelief
to a child,

only wonderful stories, and we hadn't a story
nearly as good.
On parents' night there were the Arts & Crafts
all spread out

like appetizers. Then we took our seats
in the church
and the children sang a song about the Ark,
and Hallelujah

and one in which they had to jump up and down
for Jesus.
I can't remember ever feeling so uncertain
about what's comic, what's serious.

Evolution is magical but devoid of heroes.
You can't say to your child
"Evolution loves you." The story stinks
of extinction and nothing

exciting happens for centuries. I didn't have
a wonderful story for my child
and she was beaming. All the way home in the car
she sang the songs,

occasionally standing up for Jesus.
There was nothing to do
but drive, ride it out, sing along
in silence.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Goldfish Are Ordinary

By Stacie Cassarino

At the pet store on Court Street,
I search for the perfect fish.
The black moor, the blue damsel,
cichlids and neons. Something
to distract your sadness, something
you don't need to love you back.
Maybe a goldfish, the flaring tail,
orange, red-capped, pearled body,
the darting translucence? Goldfish
are ordinary
, the boy selling fish
says to me. I turn back to the tank,
all of this grace and brilliance,
such simplicity the self could fail
to see. In three months I'll leave
this city. Today, a chill in the air,
you're reading Beckett fifty blocks
away, I'm looking at the orphaned
bodies of fish, undulant and gold fervor.
Do you want to see aggression?
the boy asks, holding a purple beta fish
to the light while dropping handfuls
of minnows into the bowl. He says,
I know you're a girl and all
but sometimes it's good to see.

Outside, in the rain, we love
with our hands tied,
while things tear away at us.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"A Dissertation on the task of writing a poem on a candle and an account of some of the difficulties thereto pertaining"

By Douglas Adams, January 1970

I resisted temptation for this declamation
To reach out to literary height
For high aspiration in such an oration
Would seem quite remarkably trite:
So I thought something pithy and succinct and clever
Was exactly the right thing to write.

For nights I sat musing
And musing ... and musing
Whilst burning the midnight oil;
My scratchings seemed futile
My muse seemed quite mute, while
My work proved to be barren toil.

I puzzled and thought and wrestled and fought
'Till my midnight oil was exhausted,
So I furthered my writing by dim candle lighting,
And found, to my joy, this of course did
The trick, for I flowered,
My work - candle-powered –
Was inspired, both witty and slick.

Pithy and polished, my writing demolished
Much paper, as I beguiled
Myself with some punning,
(My word play was stunning,)
I wrote with the wit of a Wilde.

At length it was finished, the candle diminished,
I pondered and let my pride burn
At the great acclamation, the standing ovation
Its first public reading would earn.

But lost in the rapture of anticipation
And thinking how great was my brilliant creation
I quite failed to note as I gazed into space
That incendiary things were about to take place:
That which had ignited my literary passion,
Was about to ignite what my passion had fashion'd.

And - oh! - all was lost in a great conflagration
And I just sat there and said 'Hell and damnation',
For the rest of the night and the following day.
(My muse in the meantime had flitted away
Alarmed, no doubt, at the ornamentation
My language acquired with increased consternation.

So unhaply the fruits of my priceless endeavour
Are lost to the literary world forever.
For now I offer this poem instead,
Which explains in itself why the other's unsaid.

This poem was found and published by The Guardian after the author's death in 2001.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How to Be Happy: Another Memo to Myself

By Stephen Dunn

You start with your own body
then move outward, but not too far.
Never try to please a city, for example.
Nor will the easy intimacy
in small towns ever satisfy that need
you have only whispered in the dark.
A woman is a beginning.
She need not be pretty, but must know
how to make her own ceilings
out of all that is beautiful in her.
Together you must love to exchange
gifts in the night, and agree
on the superfluity of ribbons,
the fine violence of breaking out
of yourselves. No matter,
it's doubtful she will ever be enough for you,
or you for her. You must have friends
of both sexes. When you get together
you must feel everyone has brought
his fierce privacy with him
and is ready to share it. Prepare
yourself though to keep something back,
there's a center in you
you are simply a comedian
without. Beyond this, it's advisable
to have skill. Learn how to make something:
food, a shoe box, a good day.
Remember, finally, there are few pleasures
that aren't as local as your fingertips.
Never go to Europe for a cathedral.
In large groups, create a corner
in the middle of the room.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

With Breadcrumbs

By A.J. Huffman

I am planting child-like seeds, tiny
beliefs in escape. Rooted
misunderstanding, alluring
as a cotton candy cottage. I am drawn
foolishly to the proffered sweetness. Choking
on the danger signs and bile-
inducing aftermath.
The oven, my force-fed coffin, is full
and fueled by ash. I search for signs of
what has burned before. Discover
both my trail and hope, consumed.

A.J. Huffman has published six solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and the winner of the 2012 Promise of Light Haiku Contest. Her poetry, fiction, and haiku have appeared in hundreds of national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, Kritya, and Offerta Speciale, in which her work appeared in both English and Italian translation. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

By the way

By C. Dale Young 

You are right to point out that the agapanthus 
is not a lily, especially to one who so loves
precision, but the agapanthus is also called
"Lily of the Nile," which surely could be seen
as justification for calling it a lily
I am sure Cleopatra herself never called
this plant agapanthus. And, well, wouldn't one
want to be more like Cleopatra than like
Theophrastus? The Queen of the Nile
would have likely called it a lily, no?
Yes, yes, words have meaning and have power
and all of that stuff. Yes, yes, I of all people
understand the importance of naming.
But if Cleopatra would have called it a lily . . .
Okay, I will stop. You look great, by the way.
But I just want to point out that the agapanthus
is such an odd plant that even botanists
cannot agree on the number of species in the genus,
some saying six, others as many as ten.
Okay, I swear I'll stop. Seriously. Promise.
The windy night air is cold, and the wings
bound along my spine sweaty and bruised,
the long bandages chafing my armpits. Words
have power, my love. You call this winged thing
an angel, but that is not the word I would use for it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Purim Greetings

By Simon Jacobson

May you be turned inside out
upside down
and outside in

May your masks be masked
and your inside unmasked
May your countenance (panim) shine from within (panim)
as you meet yourself face to face

May your masquerade no longer be needed
as the shrouds fade away

May your child smile and dance
as the facade is lifted

May you just be

Friday, March 14, 2014


By Wislawa Szymborska

 The admirable number pi:
three point one four one.
All the following digits are also initial,
five nine two because it never ends.
It can't be comprehended six five three five at a glance.
eight nine by calculation,
seven nine or imagination,
not even three two three eight by wit, that is, by comparison
four six to anything else
two six four three in the world.
The longest snake on earth calls it quits at aboutforty feet.
Likewise, snakes of myth and legend, though they may hold out a bit longer.
The pageant of digits comprising the number pi
doesn't stop at the page's edge.
It goes on across the table, through the air,
over a wall, a leaf, a bird's nest, clouds, straight into the sky,
through all the bottomless, bloated heavens.
Oh how brief -- a mouse tail, a pigtail -- is the tail of a comet!
How feeble the star's ray, bent by bumping up against space!
While here we have two three fifteen three hundred nineteen
my phone number your shirt size the year
nineteen hundred and seventy-three the sixth floor
the number of inhabitants sixty-five cents
hip measurement two fingers
a charade, a code
in which we find hail to thee, blithe spirit, bird thou never wert
alongside ladies and gentlemen, no cause for alarm,
as well as heaven and earth shall pass away,

but not the number pi, oh no, nothing doing,
it keeps right on with its rather remarkable five,
its uncommonly fine eight,
its far from final seven,
nudging, as always, a sluggish eternity
to continue.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

If in America

By Ed Bok Lee

Hmong Hunter Charged with 6 Murders
Is Said to Be a Shaman —new york times

If a tree falls in a forest,
does it make a sound?

If a rifle fires a shot in the woods,
whose body first hits the ground?

If a group of angry hunters
surrounds, curses at, and accosts you
for wandering onto their land

If you apologize for being lost,
inform you saw no posted signs, swallow
their chinks this and gooks taking over that;
are walking away over mud and fallen leaves when a loud
crack far behind you kicks up black earth

If your father was conscripted to fight
on the side of the United States
for the cia during the war in Vietnam

If he, your mother, you—the oldest son—
and all your younger siblings were later abandoned
in the hills of Laos as targets for genocide by the Viet Cong

If after five years in a Thai refugee camp,
you come to this land as a teen, a casualty
of history and time, then receive three years
of training to become a sharpshooter
in the u.s. military

If you spent your adolescence watching blacks,
Asians, Latinos, and whites watching one
another watch each other for weakness and flaws

If, after this first blast, you wheel
around in a bright orange vest; glimpse
in that split second an angry, possibly
inebriated man lowering or resighting his rifle

If, in that icy moment, you recall
the Native friend you used to collect cans with;
once watched his three-hundred-pound father
unload himself from a Chevy Impala and chase
the boy down University with a ball-peen hammer

If, of your own children, your quietest
son lately lacks the wherewithal at school
to defend himself; and your oldest daughter
has always been for some inexplicable reason
ashamed of you

If hunting for you is not just a sport;
never a time to drink beers
with friends in a cabin, but rather
is a factor in considering your family's winter protein consumption

If you believe in God, but not the good in everyone

If you hate to think about this shit, because
why the fuck is it always on you
to preprove your loyalty and innocence?

If—frightened for your life and
the livelihood of your immediate and extended
family—in that split second, you reel
and train your own gun back at the far face
of that vapory barrel now aiming at your own

If, yes, you are sometimes angry and so look forward
to escaping your truck driver's life on certain
designated dates, on certain designated
lands, not always clearly demarcated, but always clearly stolen
from the ancestors of fat drunk red men
so confused they chase their own firey songs
in the form of their sons

Stolen from generations of skewed black backs,
hunched your whole life on street corners laughing
and picking their bones

Stolen from the paychecks of your brown coworker
social security ghosts

Stolen like your own people
from mountains in one land
only to be resettled and resented here
in projects and tenements

If you barely finished high school, but you know
from all you've ever seen of this system
Might Makes Right,
and excuses, treaties, and cover-ups
appear the only true code inscribed on most white men's souls

If, after such slurs, pushes, and threats in these woods
it is now also on you to assess
if that far rifle still locked on your face
just issued a mistake, a warning
shot, or murderous attempt—
                                    and the answer is:
your military muscle fibers

If you then spot three four five six seven? other
hunters now scattering for their atvs
and, of course—if a gook,
don't be a dumb one—
scattering now also for their weapons

If you are alone in this land,
on foot, in miles of coming snow, wind, and branches
and don't even know
in which direction you'd run

If from birth you've seen
what men with guns, knives,
and bombs are capable of doing
for reasons you never wanted to understand

If in this very same county's court of all-white
witnesses, counsel, judge, and jurors
it will forever be your word against theirs
because there was no forensic testimony
over who shot first

If, yes, sometimes you can hear voices,
not because you're insane, but
in your culture
you are a shaman, a spiritual healer,
though in this very different land
of goods and fears, your only true worth
seems to be as a delivery man and soldier

If, upon that first fateful exchange in these woods,
your instinct, pushing pin to
balloon, were to tell you it's now
either you and your fatherless family of fourteen,
or all of them

Would you set your rifle down;
hope the right, the decent,
the fair thing on this buried American soil
will happen?

Or would you stay low,
one knee cold, and do
precisely as your whole life
and history have trained?

And if you did,
would anyone even care
what really happened

that afternoon
eight bodies plummeted
to earth like deer?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Samurai Song

By Robert Pinsky

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

Friday, March 7, 2014


By Richard Dawkins 

Darling let us wean a type 
Of mixture of us 2. 
Offer up your genotype & shuffle our codes anew 
Let me extend my phenotype 
Deep inside of you

This poem originally appeared on the author's Twitter feed.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

"For Amiri Baraka"

By Diane di Prima

don' matter was it
yr left foot went bad
or yr right
don' matter yr lungs
or yr heart
don' matter if that
on yr liver was
or what's been wrong
so long
w/yr kidneys
don't matter
or herbs
or acupuncture
or why you didn't
to those appointments
don't matter how much you drank
or if you drank
don't matter you did or you didn't
take drugs
meaning meds
or take drugs
meaning drugs
what matters now
what matters &
what's gonna matter
a hundred
a thousand years
what matters when
what we wrote
what we thought
is lost
(& don't kid yourself,
it's all of it
gonna be lost)
what matters:
every place
you read
every line
you wrote
every dog-eared book
or pamphlet
on somebody's shelf
every skinny hopeful kid
you grinned that grin at
while they said
they thought they could write
they thought they could fight
they knew for sure
they could change the world
every human dream
you heard
or inspired
after the book-signing
after the reading
after one more
faculty dinner
after that god-awful flight
& the drive to the school
what matters:
the memory
of the poem
in thousands of minds
that quantum
of energy
passed over
all the way over
to the other
to thousands
of others
what matters
what matters
what matters
the poem
taking root in
of minds ...