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Issue 25 Poetry: Select a Poem from the Menu

Our 26th issue includes 37 poems—the most we've ever published in a single issue—selected and solicited by our poetry editor, Steve Kowit.

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The Seed Jar by Corrie Williamson
A camellia, you tell me,
when I ask what it is,
the white blaze

that you've put in my hand,
bright faced in the dark.
A confused camellia, I say,

because October is sliding
into November, because the cold
comes up from the stones under my feet

and the wind tosses
the bushes in your yard,
because already

the blossom in my hand shakes.
But no, you're saying, this is their season,
appearing right on time, and you show me

how it is double-flowered,
a healthy froth. Brave creature,
to bloom under these cold constellations,

into this unforgiving weather,
where the night slips through the chinks
in your cabin walls, bound in wood braid,

where our skin becomes
translucent against the wind,
a mica sheen upon the body,

where you offer a name
to everything that grows and declines:
the fallen cherry you used

to whittle a spoon, the black locust,
which you covet for firewood,
because it burns so hot

and slow, is practically
good as coal. But what
of the unnamable inside us,

brittle and burning in the body's jar,
neither anthracite nor isinglass,
beneath that tiny mouth, ready

to be cracked, to be broken and
spilled out, where it must seek the soil,
be buried and take root, or die.
 
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Biographical information: Corrie Williamson hails from beautiful Botetourt County, Virginia. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia, where she studied English/Poetry Writing and Anthropology, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry at the University of Arkansas.

Sweet Molasses by Ginny Lowe Connors
In a basement room the music teacher's hands
lift and fall, white birds on the keyboard.

Smelling of cinnamon, Danny Morgan leans toward me,
humming his two flat notes. Lorraine Rothman

opens her large pink mouth to sing like a bell,
her tongue a clapper refusing to rest. Every song

a river and we, the fifth graders, living stones
the music burbles over and past. I watch

the teacher's hands turn into white canoes.
My brother with the patience of a rock

untangles my fishing line. We sway together
in the wooden boat as mist lifts slowly from the lake.

Well Sweet Molasses, you are a peck of trouble
to take along,
he tells me, like a grandfather.

Because it was Papa who taught us how to fish.
My brother loosens another knot, hands me

the last piece of melon and a knife to cut it with.
New moon dipped into well-water, it tastes that cool,

that smooth. And so I fall into the green grass
of my brother's kindness. November, though, is nothing

but a cage of dead leaves and drafty school rooms.
I take off my shoe and watch it sail toward the window.

Kiddo is sent home with a note for Mother to read.
For the rest of her life that girl hates saddle shoes

and basements. Lorraine draws boxes of words, steps neatly
across them into a judge's robes, ticking all the while

like a clock. Danny Morgan disappears, so that every
year or two, in a crowd, I spy the back of his curly head.
 
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Biographical information: Ginny Lowe Connors is the author of Barbarians in the Kitchen (Antrim House Books, 2005) and editor of three poetry collections, including Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge (Grayson Books, 2003). She has won numerous awards for her poetry, including the grand prize in Atlanta Review's International Poetry Competition. One of her poems has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An English teacher in West Hartford, Connecticut, Connors was named "Poet of the Year" by the New England Association of Teachers of English a few years back. Her poetry appears in many literary magazines and anthologies.

Yosemite by Peter Bolland
Over the lip of the falls of my life I pour down into the valley
     and cannot turn back. It takes me in and girths me round
     with summer warm stone and meadows the color of mountain lions.

The soft wedge of a barn owl spiraling through cedar boughs,
The scent of dogwood blooms lifted on the mist of the river,
The sun on granite towers and shining waters and cumulous clouds,
The sun on endless leaves of grass and every grain of sand so that you don't know
     where the sun ends and everything else begins.

A white tipped buck crashes through the manzanita at the edge of the meadow
     and plunges into the river and stops, standing in the deep current, the water
     swelling around his steaming haunches.
A black bear cub with a radio collar ambles between the cars.
A brown trout swims in place, his skin the color of mercury and stone.

After hiking all day to the top of Yosemite Falls and back, I'm empty and tired
     and deeply alive. The more I gave, the more was given to me. The mountain has
     shown me how to live my life. We set out before dawn and now it's late
     afternoon and the sun has fallen below the ridge leaving the valley washed
     in diffuse light the color of champagne and whale bone.

I have breathed so much mountain air today I am changed over, cell by cell, into a vestige
     of this valley, of these mountains, of these waters. This river is my blood. These
     clouds are my lungs. These stones are my flesh. These trees are my bones. The
     flights of birds my sinew. These winds are my thoughts, blowing down warm
     from the high country, smelling of sugar pine and larkspur. Not much is left
     of the man that drove up here three days ago.

We are soaking our aching feet in the Merced, feeling the light at the center of things
     drawn slowly to the surface, the way the river draws the pain
     from our bones, until the whole world is healed and alight with love.

I love these granite walls, I love this grass, I love the people who come here and wander,
     letting Yosemite show this face, then that face, and glimpsing the truth that behind
     these faces is the radiance of the one face, the nameless presence.

The fire dies down into its own ancient music. The stars spin slowly around the pole star.
The bats dart in and out of the ember glow on paths untraced by cartographers.
Mountains rise from the earth like black curtains and above them the endless silence
     and the spidery light of stars.

Tears taste like this, like glacial night and pine and thick cold water in a pail
     reflecting the moon.

I stand in the midnight meadow alone.
I hear the river, but don't see it.
It flows on without my intention or consent.
I am disappearing like a river into the sea.
 
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Biographical information: Peter Bolland is a professor at Southwestern College where he teaches eastern and western philosophy, ethics, world religions, and mythology. After work he is a poet, singer-songwriter, and author. He has a band called the Coyote Problem. He also leads an occasional satsang at the Unity Center and knows his way around a kitchen.

The Last Battle of the Civil War by Peter Bolland
Six hundred dead a day,
every day, for four long years.
Half a million school boys
broke open by musket balls,
bones crushed and scattered
in fields by cannon fire, or dying
in hospital tents with blood pooling
on the floor and flies in the wounds.

I came to him in a meadow
of green grass, his face wet from rain,
his eyes cloudy glass, arms thrown wide
by the surprise of death, his
brand new wedding ring
leaving no mark on his finger
as I slipped it off.

Bentonville, North Carolina
April 16, 1865
 
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Biographical information: Peter Bolland is a professor at Southwestern College where he teaches eastern and western philosophy, ethics, world religions, and mythology. After work he is a poet, singer-songwriter, and author. He has a band called the Coyote Problem. He also leads an occasional satsang at the Unity Center and knows his way around a kitchen.

Crossroads by Cameron Keller Scott
     Con que estrellas siguen hablando
     los rios que no desembocan?

     With which stars do they go on speaking,
     the rivers that never reach the sea?
          -Pablo Neruda


I found my soul, caged at the crossroads of spring
by an old and mythical beast smelling of pirated dreams.

It was at the center of roads that lead back and roads
that lead onward, where a wind blows from all directions.

Each night, washing away salt and sunscreen,
I wait to break from my husk, but the loneliness of the past

lies scattered across the sky. Off in the distance
I can hear a town just waking, a town just falling asleep.

And when the rain falls the rivers become un-navigable.
Distant bodies of mountains reflected in tempests of hail.

Resting in shadow, finger's stiffening, a mess of matted hair
and burs, I would like to be up on the ridge that catches first sun.

But here I am, slipping my arm into the river, turning rocks.
In your absence by fish and fish alone what light.
 
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Biographical information: Cameron Scott graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA in 2000, his MFA from the University of Arizona in 2004, and currently lives and works in Carbondale, CO. A variety of his published work is presented at www.cameronkellerscott.com.

Fourteen by Deborah Harding-Allbritain
I wake to find you here—
your face turned to mine
wreathed in blonde— If I squint
I can still see the infant mouth
memorized by neurons deep
in my hippocampus nearly
14 years ago ... the little heart
shaped pout, crushed berry, practically edible
and then the slow full ripening like
thick wedges of exotic fruit—
My daughter's lips, exquisitely pink, blowzy
with sleep, on the brink of real kissing.
What scared you last night?
That dream of your closet bulging
with witches, or was it drowning this time,
before you dove into my bed catching your breath?
How much time do we have sweet girl before what
comforts your startled heart is a boy's
liquid voice in your ear, his beautiful head
leaning over you, sexy swish of wet curls
pulled in your two hands?
Until you have to let me go, sleep here
stretched out in my bed,
your drop dead gorgeous limbs
sprawled over my knees, your palm opened
against my cheek, curled petals of a prom rose—
where I can watch the dimpled
pulse at your throat, your tongue licking
these untainted lips, the slow yawn of your body barely
awake and for now, lonely for no one
 
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Biographical information: Deborah Harding-Allbritain's poems have appeared in: Stand Up Poetry: The Anthology, The Unmade Bed, In the Palm of Your Hand, The Antioch Review, the Taos Review, Cimarron Review, Autism Digest, and other journals and quarterly publications. Her chapbook The Blazing Shapes of this World was published in 2003 by LATERTHANEVER PRESS, San Diego, California. She is a Speech Pathologist for the Poway Unified School District in San Diego.

Molluska: Gastropoda by Deborah Harding-Allbritain
This morning so unexpectedly happy, through the open window
that Italian tenor singing A te, o cara, Rachael's
pinwheels spinning in the March wind as she bursts
through the screen door shouting:
Look, Minney and Mickey just hit Quicks, shoving
a shoe box of slugs under my chin, savory black ribbons of slime and excrement—
I gag ... Mom stop being such a dumb head, she yells,
rubbing Mickey's glistening underbelly arcing
over the lip of his water cup, teetering on a pink camellia-
I lower my palm, I'm no chicken, let Quicks ooze onto my finger, his body
cool as lime, a baby toe— and I remember myself at six
salting snails, that rapture of froth fizzing on hot cement like
a root beer float, my sticky fingers hugging the Morton's Salt I'd tucked
in my shirt as I stormed the back steps barefoot, my heart sizzling
with torture. If she knew me then I'd be dust— her blue eyes
bullying, chilled as ice pops, grabbing my Mortons
hurling poopy obscenities— From the kitchen
I'd watch her lifting the dead on their stiff leaf to the shade
cover them with grass, a twig cross then
God speed them to slug heaven
 
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Biographical information: Deborah Harding-Allbritain's poems have appeared in: Stand Up Poetry: The Anthology, The Unmade Bed, In the Palm of Your Hand, The Antioch Review, the Taos Review, Cimarron Review, Autism Digest, Michigan Review and other journals and quarterly publications. Her chapbook The Blazing Shapes of this World was published in 2003 by LATERTHANEVER PRESS, San Diego, California. She is a Speech Pathologist for the Poway Unified School District in San Diego.

Lure and Tryst by Deborah Harding-Allbritain
Does it matter now
the berries we picked at sunrise?

Amazing,
how the pastels once rhymed your name.

Your hair
laced with fern, fingers
that the rain
bestowed on us one more time-

Imagine kisses
lapping each
eternal monologue, stars

cracking through
those witty
little lies.

I can't take my eyes off you-
ridiculous,
such cavernous
glances
intoned in flight-

You were never
so handsome
blushing
back sleep, decadent

in excess, bejeweled
and oiled in my hands.

Your garden
lit
in the afterglow, you
rolling up your sleeves to greet me.
 
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Biographical information: Deborah Harding-Allbritain's poems have appeared in: Stand Up Poetry: The Anthology, The Unmade Bed, In the Palm of Your Hand, The Antioch Review, the Taos Review, Cimarron Review, Autism Digest, Michigan Review and other journals and quarterly publications. Her chapbook The Blazing Shapes of this World was published in 2003 by LATERTHANEVER PRESS, San Diego, California. She is a Speech Pathologist for the Poway Unified School District in San Diego.

Lost Dog by Brandon Cesmat
When the boy's dog didn't come home from hunting squirrels or rabbits,
he rode on a brown mare in the hills above the ranch,
singing the name, "Ti-ger! Here boy!" as he looked.
His parents already knew that the ranch foreman had dumped the body
in a baranca just below the crest. So many shadows rose beneath the sycamores,
the boy never saw his dog lying in the leaves. He called
until the name became a lament. Those two weeks in the hills
belong to Tiger. Finally, his mother told him not to call any more,
but a ghost of that boy is still up there, riding the ghost of that mare
every place that he left his voice. No one can touch them.
 
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Biographical information: Brandon Cesmat's writing appears in journals such as ONETHEBUS, Weber: the Contemporary West and Other Voices International. His most recent books are Light in All Directions (Poetic Matrix Press) and When Pigs Fall in Love & Other Stories (Caernarvon Press). He lives and cuts brush in Valley Center, California. www.csusm.edu/profe/

Repo by T. Nicole Cirone

 

The towtruck rumbles in the night,
the flood of headlights in our living room,
the neighbor's phone call—
Dude, someone's towin' your truck away ...

The repo man is kind;
he buzzes our apartment:
baby seat, shoes, coffee cup—
we grab only necessities.
He says, I'm sorry.

In the silence that is left,
we laugh at the empty parking space.
The spotlight on our shame.
 
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Biographical information: T. Nicole Cirone is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the MA program in English at Rosemont College. Her publication credits include poetry published in Red River Review, Philadelphia Stories, the Philadelphia Stories "Best of" Anthology, and Bucks County Writer. She lives in Upper Darby, PA with her daughter and cat.

This and Cirone's other poem which appears here are Editor's Choice selections made by Thomas Kennedy.

Closing Up the Bungalow by T. Nicole Cirone
The 1.6 mil appraisal
of the beach-block corner double lot
concerns the land only; the house
itself is a "tear-down" of no value.

On the island, progress is being made.
It is perfectly clear
this fishing village shanty,
this eyesore with only an outside shower
and fuses The Trading Post no longer stocks
simply has to go.

At the end of the season,
we close up the house, as usual:
sweep sand from
Great-Great Uncle Edward's
carefully laid floors,
strip our beds, take down
my grandmother's yellow curtains,
and shut the windows tightly
against the approaching storms.
 
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Biographical information: T. Nicole Cirone is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the MA program in English at Rosemont College. Her publication credits include poetry published in Red River Review, Philadelphia Stories, the Philadelphia Stories "Best of" Anthology, and Bucks County Writer. She lives in Upper Darby, PA with her daughter and cat.

This and Cirone's other poem which appears here are Editor's Choice selections made by Thomas Kennedy.

Soldier of Fortune, 1969 by Steve Davenport
O.G. got a vodka dream of egg-shaped
pills that birth a person back before skin
becomes nothing more than wrapping around
the body as host, system set to fail
the mind, time-stamped. Necessary as air.

The Wilfong boy's addressed to Vietnam.
Miles Davis, son of a dental surgeon,
black, came back to the Bottom to survive
a habit others don't. Overpass Girl

wants the habit of life.
 
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Biographical information: The three poems by Steve Davenport published here are "Editor's Choice" selections by R.A. Rycraft.

Steve Davenport is the author of Uncontainable Noise (poetry) and two chapbooks, Murder on Gasoline Lake (an essay) and Nine Poems and Three Fictions (available free on-line and in The Literary Review's Summer 2008 chapbook issue). In addition to "No Apology for Happiness," which appeared earlier this year in Northwest Review, his recent publications include a story in The Southern Review and a scholarly essay about Richard Hugo's poetry in All Our Stories Are Here: Critical Perspectives on Montana Literature (University of Nebraska Press, 2009).

American Girl by Steve Davenport
I love the Bottom like I love a song
about trouble and people staying put
despite the spills that pool under their feet.
Love ground that digs in, huffing its own fumes,
waiting like bad teeth for more. I mean dirt's
the first foundation for an overpass.

I mean dirt's dirt and I love the river's
meander. Love the way it carries time.
One day a body will fall from above.
We will curse the sky and the preachers too

if they use words
 
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Biographical information: The three poems by Steve Davenport published here are "Editor's Choice" selections by R.A. Rycraft.

Steve Davenport is the author of Uncontainable Noise (poetry) and two chapbooks, Murder on Gasoline Lake (an essay) and Nine Poems and Three Fictions (available free on-line and in The Literary Review's Summer 2008 chapbook issue). In addition to "No Apology for Happiness," which appeared earlier this year in Northwest Review, his recent publications include a story in The Southern Review and a scholarly essay about Richard Hugo's poetry in All Our Stories Are Here: Critical Perspectives on Montana Literature (University of Nebraska Press, 2009).

Shape by Steve Davenport
Blue murder in the street's what she copies
from a thin blue book to show her doctor,
who is more the sound of fluttering hands
making bird wings on water than the sight
of monkeys clattering cans clack clack clack
on jail bars. Blue murder's the smell of clocks

burning end time end time in her tissue
and street's the taste of a chisel chipping
her initials, O and G, on a stone
when what she wants is the feel of a voice

shaping the right word.
 
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Biographical information: The three poems by Steve Davenport published here are "Editor's Choice" selections by R.A. Rycraft.

Steve Davenport is the author of Uncontainable Noise (poetry) and two chapbooks, Murder on Gasoline Lake (an essay) and Nine Poems and Three Fictions (available free on-line and in The Literary Review's Summer 2008 chapbook issue). In addition to "No Apology for Happiness," which appeared earlier this year in Northwest Review, his recent publications include a story in The Southern Review and a scholarly essay about Richard Hugo's poetry in All Our Stories Are Here: Critical Perspectives on Montana Literature (University of Nebraska Press, 2009).

Torch Song by Allison Elliott
Not comfort; it offered none.
We had heard other songs,
better ones, more romantic.
Not fear; we weren't afraid.
Her voice had little range, we thought,
but we were not immune.
Her voice was a dying cigarette
stubbed on our skin; it marked us.
And the more we listened, the more it burned,
until it troubled a small flame
that remained long after the song ended
and the silence came.
Not that we liked it; but we believed it.
 
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Biographical information: Allison Elliott lives and works in New York City. She reviews poetry for The Adirondack Review.

Loosestrife by Kathleen M. Kelley
She came into my life one August,
hungry, intemperate, hot,
the way the first lone purple loosestrife
enters the local countryside,
transplanted by the wind
or somebody's boat or boot or gauzy wing.
Such a flower, the lythrum salicaria!
It slips across the border
unannounced and flushed and lush,
dazzling the local flora with its bold, aspiring blossoms,
a shudder passing among them
at the sheer profusion of basal shoots
that pierces the soft, hot earth,
lies with the waiting grasses, and multiplies.
But soon, in the wetlands, the once abundant
tender greens begin to disappear,
followed by the purging of the sedges, bulrushes, cattails,
and finally, the ducks and turtles
in the bog they sheltered,
until the landscape is overrun.
By the time I knew what had happened, she was
everywhere, my whole field taken.
 
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Biographical information: Kathleen Kelley resides in western Massachusetts where she lives in a co-housing community, works as a hospice social worker, spends as much time as possible in nature, and writes poetry, memoir, and essays. Her work has appeared in Peregrine, The Equinox, The Sun, Many Hands, The Green Fuse, Evergreen Chronicles, Mediphores, and Earth’s Daughters. She was the recipient of the 2008 Anderbo Poetry Prize.

What Did She Read in the Grand Canyon by Ken Kibler
Sandwiches and assorted soft drinks
scattered in a thousand directions
as the picnicking Midwestern family
catapulted themselves out of her path.

My Mother drifted through,
then briefly touched the ground
to push right off the cliff with her
pulsing net of madly-fluttering

Pearl Crescents and Spring Azures.
She floated slowly and gracefully
outward and downward, holding
her skirts with one hand and the net

of surging butterflies with the other.
She paused mid-air at certain strata
to read old messages written for
the lepidopterist she had become.
 
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Biographical information: Ken Kibler is a retired physicist who lives in Benbrook, TX, and is glad for each day. He fumbles with photography and writing; treasures family, friends, and church; enjoys travel; and has published one volume of poems, Three Days in the Life of the Earth.

Summer Turning by Jen Kindbom
This is the year you turned in the summer
and tomorrow they'll cut you down—

Tonight, enjoy the bulbous mushroom
that you hold in the curve of your arm like a drum.

Wake the cardinals and squirrels—
drum, mild oak, in the red moon
of your too-early leaves.

Forget you are dead—v forget you are logs and rusty chips
before noon—

wake us all instead,
move us to our windows—

call to us until all the bulbs burn
and no eye is dry,

until the soil hums and rocks on its muddy heels,

call until the sun comes up
and the trucks arrive.

 
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Biographical information: Perigee does not have any biographical information for this poet.

Confessions of an Ensenada Cruise by Clifton King
I was here a year ago,
walked these dirty streets
with their trinket stands
and hucksters chanting
practiced English spiels
thick with the voice
of their heritage.

And the children are still here:
those street corner beggars,
faces smudged with poverty;
hands extended for the coins
of Gringo pity, or embarrassment.

I give a woman a dollar,
ask if I may take a picture
of her 3 year old daughter
selling bracelets on the sidewalk.

Later, I drop two quarters
into the palm of a brown angel
hawking Chiclets along the highway.

Returning to the ship for dinner,
where people will leave more
on their plates than those children
will have to eat for the next week,
I cannot escape my decisions of today:

ten dollars
for a tee-shirt for my granddaughter,
who has everything;
a dollar and a half
for two children who have nothing.
 
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Biographical information: Clifton King is a widely published California poet, a grandfather, and pursuer of the perfect wave.

A Woman with a Chameleon on her Hat by Suzanne Lummis
          "Never write a poem about a woman
          with a chameleon on her hat."
               - David St. John

Why does she wear a chameleon
and why there? Why here?
Everyone is talking
but her.
The women put their heads together
and speculate: Is that her true color?
Her hands are gloved, so we can't see them.
Carefully she unfolds a small
square of paper and reads it.
She nurses her drink.
She guards her secrets.
She is keeping her options open.

Everyone is drunk at this party.
It has been a hard year.
The chameleon is sleeping it off.
From across the room
a stranger has fallen in love.
He keeps thinking gray-eyed Athena,
for some reason, and can't stop.
If he told her of his love
the chameleon would wake, round
the brim of her hat, alert,
half dangerous, a new color.

Everyone has come to this party.
The world came, even the poor
dressed up. But who invited that woman?
She's from the outside, now
there's a strangness among us.
And that thing is a lizard.
Sometimes it stands up pointing
its face, such a tense, immediate
presence, a contrast to everything.
Sometimes it lies low. Sometimes
it may not be there at all.

What does she observe that we don't?
The nearest fire exit—on planes,
the escape hatch to get out.
Does she know the whereabouts
of the unchartered fault lines.
No, no one knows.
She lights a cigarette and smokes
as if this were the 40s.
She dresses against fashion.
She never wears furs, she prefers
something living.

Her hat brim shadows her eyes.
When she tips back her head
they come out from under.
Her eyes are clear but you can't read them.
Why wear a chameleon?
Because everything is more than one color.
Because our lives keep changing
and we can't stop.
 
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Biographical information: Suzanne Lummis is founder and director of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, and editor of Speechless the Magazine. Her poems appear in the anthologies California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present (Heyday Books), Poems of the American West (Knopf), Poetry Daily (Sourcebooks), Place as Purpose: Poetry of the Western States (Autry/Sun & Moon), Stand Up Poetry and in major literary publications in the US and UK. She has recent or forthcoming poems in Poetry International, The Antioch Review, The Hudson Review, Ploughshares, and Pool. Her last collection, In Danger, was part of The California Poetry Series (Heyday Books/Roundhouse Press). She teaches several levels of poetry through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program including a course she developed "Poetry and the Movies: The Poem Noir." In 2006 she taught "L.A. Stories," fiction and film, at Emerson College in Burbank.

Suzanne served as guest judge for Perigee's 2009 Poetry Contest.

You Will Visit a Far-Away Country that has Been in Your Thoughts by Suzanne Lummis
By what steel capped rail—monorail—
passing through what mountain,
what tunnel, rock blasted to what
smithereens—day light on this side,
starlight on the other—may I ride
backwards into my thoughts, into
that far-away country?


          (from "The Fortune Cookie Series")  
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Biographical information: Suzanne Lummis is founder and director of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, and editor of Speechless the Magazine. Her poems appear in the anthologies California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present (Heyday Books), Poems of the American West (Knopf), Poetry Daily (Sourcebooks), Place as Purpose: Poetry of the Western States (Autry/Sun & Moon), Stand Up Poetry and in major literary publications in the US and UK. She has recent or forthcoming poems in Poetry International, The Antioch Review, The Hudson Review, Ploughshares, and Pool. Her last collection, In Danger, was part of The California Poetry Series (Heyday Books/Roundhouse Press). She teaches several levels of poetry through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program including a course she developed "Poetry and the Movies: The Poem Noir." In 2006 she taught "L.A. Stories," fiction and film, at Emerson College in Burbank.

Suzanne served as guest judge for Perigee's 2009 Poetry Contest.

Setting Out by Jack Marshall
I give my hand back to its place
     in the country of hands
I give my legs back to the road
My flowing sex I give to the Mother of Water
My hair to the mountain peak
I give my eye back to the head of the chestnut pony
the low spark at the tip of my spine
     I give to the backbone of stars
My sweat I give to the cloud
     moving toward the warm gulfstream
The letters of my name back to the Father of Alphabets
The dark cave under the outcrop of my forehead
     is making way for the prowlers of the sea
My lungs and ears and ambergris I give back to the wind
My sputtering desire to the more steadily burning sun
Not because it is all over
But that it might begin
 
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Biographical information: Jack Marshall is the recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim fellowship in poetry. His brilliant memoir From Baghdad to Brooklyn appeared from Coffee House Press. "Setting Out" appeared in his collection The Darkest Continent (For Now Press, 1967) and "Dimming" appeared in his most recent collection The Steel Veil (Coffee House Press, 2005). Both poems are reprinted by permission of the author. A review of The Steel Veil by Perigee editor Duff Brenna is available in this issue's non-fiction section.

Dimming by Jack Marshall
There is a glacier, grown slowly as hair,
dissolving faster than our thoughts
run past. There is one's self, close

to being absent at any moment, and all
of us under a sign in an unknown season
we know for certain we'll be dying,

when loved ones will vanish, and we
unable to hold or kiss or ever miss them again.

Besides warming, there's the double whammy
of global dimming: obstructed solar rays
the red rim on the blackening tin twilight is riding,

like the slowed down sweeping of a grain
of glucose firing through the brain, the way
memory comes from, goes into, and through

what we feel, and becomes the real;
like the past, inventing itself in the last second
I keep coming back to the places that keep

coming from the sunset I am a student of
at my desk, where every seat is a front-row seat;
the vast red vapor trail erasing the horizon

against which time narrows and place deepens
in the clarity of outline, in the last light.

I am a student of sinking that lasts
seconds, and of which I am a part, and
do not follow. The longer I fail, the longer

I live. To live, I fail; I fail, and live
in the furrows of feelings that live
in the places we lived in, empty now

of us and what we did there,
with failing faith, failed friends, in moments
that were loved, in hours that weren't.
 
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Biographical information: Jack Marshall is the recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim fellowship in poetry. His brilliant memoir From Baghdad to Brooklyn appeared from Coffee House Press. "Setting Out" appeared in his collection The Darkest Continent (For Now Press, 1967) and "Dimming" appeared in his most recent collection The Steel Veil (Coffee House Press, 2005). Both poems are reprinted by permission of the author. A review of The Steel Veil by Perigee editor Duff Brenna is available in this issue's non-fiction section.

Matter by Carolyn Miller
No matter how early I get up, the world
is already whirling; no matter
how silent the kitchen, the stove is warm,
like a great heart, the coffee beans
are sending out their dark signal,
the cat is half awake, his second eyelids
partly glued to the two suns
of his eyes. The oranges contain themselves
like glorious planets on the cheese tray,
the milk waits, luminous in its carton,
the round table abides, the day
grows wide. Slowly I step into
its bright stream.
 
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Biographical information: Carolyn Miller is a writer, editor and painter living in San Francisco. Her poetry has received the James Boatwright Award for Poetry from Shenandoah, and the Rainmaker Award from Zone 3. She leads writing workshops in France and San Francisco. The three poems of hers in this issue are from her recent collection Light, Moving (Sixteen Rivers Press; $15). Perigee thanks both Carolyn Miller and Sixteen Rivers Press for permission to reprint these poems.

Happiness by Carolyn Miller
For many years of my life I was foolish, wasting
my time, loving the wrong people,
not loving the others enough. I wanted so much,
so many things—there was no end to my wanting,
to the hunger that filled me up. For most of my life
I was happy only for moments,
like the time in high school we drove to the lake
in someone's old rattly car, and on the way back
stopped to rent horses and rode them
in the rain. So long ago, I don't remember
who I was with or where we were, but
I remember my wet hair, my wet clothes,
and the wide, smooth haunches of the horses,
as round and taut as apples, shining
with water, stinking of horse, brushing against
the coarse, tangled undergrowth,
releasing the smell of leaves and green
on the muddy path.
 
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Biographical information: Carolyn Miller is a writer, editor and painter living in San Francisco. Her poetry has received the James Boatwright Award for Poetry from Shenandoah, and the Rainmaker Award from Zone 3. She leads writing workshops in France and San Francisco. The three poems of hers in this issue are from her recent collection Light, Moving (Sixteen Rivers Press; $15). Perigee thanks both Carolyn Miller and Sixteen Rivers Press for permission to reprint these poems.

After Swimming in the Public Pool by Carolyn Miller
Riding the bus home at twilight: The sky retains blue light like a sponge, and the lights of the city glow in the half day, half night like strings of Christmas lights, or lights seen from underwater, and I can't help thinking that all this has been created just to please me. Up the hill step wooden buildings ornamented with moldings and brackets, topped with cornices and swagged with garlands, each one as elaborate as a birthday cake.
     Sunlight comes through the glass wall of North Beach Pool in the afternoon, and the clear aqua water is ribboned through with sun. When I took a shower after swimming today, a woman with dark hair to her waist stood next to me. Her tan line was high up on her buttocks, and she had large, full breasts with spreading nipples the color of red raspberries.
     At home, I lie down on my bed, dazzled by the world. Early evening, swimming in my own happiness, my muscles tired, my hair still damp, the faint odor of chlorine rising from my skin.
 
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Biographical information: Carolyn Miller is a writer, editor and painter living in San Francisco. Her poetry has received the James Boatwright Award for Poetry from Shenandoah, and the Rainmaker Award from Zone 3. She leads writing workshops in France and San Francisco. The three poems of hers in this issue are from her recent collection Light, Moving (Sixteen Rivers Press; $15). Perigee thanks both Carolyn Miller and Sixteen Rivers Press for permission to reprint these poems.

The Kingdom of Six A.M. by Michael Nieman
In the kingdom of six a.m.
there is never enough room
because everyone

(their movements thick with sleep)
is stumbling toward the same light.

Daughters are screaming at mothers,
"Give me more room in the mirror,
more childhood, more sleep."

In the kingdom of six a.m.
I take a walk, watch
the cleaning women arrive
putting on their white scarves.

I inspect everyone's trash
in case someone has found
that envelope of pure quiet

that I misplaced, and
not realizing its importance,
tossed it out front
for the garbage truck.
 
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Biographical information: When he was in his twenties, Michael Nieman studied with John Stehman in the Seattle Poetry Workshop. A long time student of Cuban drumming, Nieman took up the banjo as a direct result of a cancer diagnosis in 2006 and although he no longer has cancer, because some things are harder to cure than others, he still has the banjo. For the past twenty-two years he has made his living selling cars.

Michael Nieman Road by Michael Nieman
How resful
to have one's only work
be the name of a road.

It would mean I had been important,
a man of action, a leader
of men in their terrible struggles

and now I'm at rest,
no longer pushing and pulling,
heaving and carrying,
trying to wheedle and convince

just lying peacefully
under a warm asphalt blanket,
providing a way on, perhaps the way home,
every day thousands repeating my name.
 
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Biographical information: When he was in his twenties, Michael Nieman studied with John Stehman in the Seattle Poetry Workshop. A long time student of Cuban drumming, Nieman took up the banjo as a direct result of a cancer diagnosis in 2006 and although he no longer has cancer, because some things are harder to cure than others, he still has the banjo. For the past twenty-two years he has made his living selling cars.

Before and After Tampico by Doren Robbins
          to Raphael Escamilla

I always thought if it came down to it I would take off again,
go to the seaport of Tampico and continue that life
of drifting around, working my way as a cook

on a freighter to the Far East. I thought I could just
turn away from the straw through which everything bland
and everything functional swallowed

my forgettable name. I would stand in Tampico ready to leave
the Gulf of Mexico, the surf dark as burnt fat—and the whores,
absurd in their clothes that don't fit them, coming on to me

at the dock. And I would drink and eat with them while feeding
the skinny dogs prowling around the tables for scraps. And I would
admire those dogs because of their persistence, their sharp teeth, their

dexterous paws with unclipped nails. And maybe I would see
Raphael Escamilla in Tampico, that Indian face of his
more feminine than Vallejo's which was itself neither

male nor female—that face uncomplainingly driven along some
high wire without a net. I would like to have seen again
Raphael Escamilla with that Indian face the clerk looked at impatiently

while he counted from a roll of singles and fives
that would get his last two sisters smuggled into Mexico.

Out there in Tampico, where my life would
change, I would like to see Raphael who first put the idea of
cooking on a ship in my mind, who therefore put Tampico in my mind.

Escamilla, whom I was always paired with, working weekends, overtime,
hustling the waitresses, pointing, hinting, and leering at what hung
to the middle of his leg. He said he would've worked his way to Indonesia

if he had to, cooking on a ship, to escape what was happening
in Morazán, to escape los diablos, to escape the university of
the Green Beret, and Immigration. I would like to have seen Raphael

Escamilla again in that moment when he was sending the money back
and he was confident—how could a man not be confident
who hid in a pile of corpses when the National Guard came busting

and poking with rifle butts cracking two of his ribs, and he lay still
not making a sound? I would like to be there watching him count
the money for his two sisters. I would kiss his face, awkwardly

the way males in my family kiss their brothers or fathers, I would kiss
him having thought I would never see him again, glad neither of us
had to end in L.A. for good—as long as it wasn't Morazán or at

the Río Sumpul, but in the seaport of Tampico with our cook's knives
each wrapped deep in a towel—standing at the dock with the whores
in their tight audacious clothes, and the skinny dogs I admire for

their mindless tenacity, and with Escamilla as I always see him, confident
with that roll of singles and fives, confident as though what he sensed
was coming might not come—even though, I remind him again,

what's coming isn't going to take the least hesitant step
off its course.
 
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Biographical information: Doren Robbins's work has appeared in over 100 periodicals. He has published one fiction collection, Parking Lot Mood Swing: Autobiographical Monologues and Prose Poetry (Cedar Hill Press 2004). Recent poetry: Driving Face Down (winner of the Blue Lynx Poetry Award 2001) and My Piece of the Puzzle (2008) are published by Eastern Washington UP. "Before and After Tampico" is reprinted by permission from My Piece of the Puzzle ($14.95). He teaches at Foothill College.

Alone Together by Doren Robbins
I need to know the name of that bird
and find out who it is making
such music I never heard before.
I'd have a start if I could see
a wing or a tail or something
but it stays hidden away
in the crowded oak leaves,
a stone with a pit wrapped inside
of it, a lifted voice inside the pit,
a made-up world. I come back
from the window, partly awake,
the bird still going, my wife's heel
resting against my shin, the bird's
voice out there singing to me about
the birth canal she let me feed from,
the breathing gill she held me inside of.
 
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Biographical information: Doren Robbins's work has appeared in over 100 periodicals. He has published one fiction collection, Parking Lot Mood Swing: Autobiographical Monologues and Prose Poetry (Cedar Hill Press 2004). Recent poetry: Driving Face Down (winner of the Blue Lynx Poetry Award 2001) and My Piece of the Puzzle (2008) are published by Eastern Washington UP. "Before and After Tampico" is reprinted by permission from My Piece of the Puzzle ($14.95). He teaches at Foothill College.

Reaching for a Star by Madeline Sharples
It used to be comforting to see her
at her computer as I passed by her office door.
Sometimes we'd nod or say a quick hello.
Other times I sat in her guest chair
against the wall and we would chat.
I don't remember about what—
our work maybe, her art projects, my poems,
or an exhibit one of us had seen
at the Getty, LACMA, a gallery at Bergamot Station.
Now her door is closed,
her name and title still on it,
but, she doesn't work in there anymore.

Now we sometimes chat in her nice
third floor room in a tall building
on Prospect Avenue in Redondo Beach
with her favorite books around her
along with photos, writing papers, art supplies –
even a big screen TV –
all the comforts of home.

Not at a computer anymore,
she sits propped up
in bed in an aqua gown,
an oxygen tube in her nose
and a permanent IV shunt in her arm
to receive the doses of morphine
that increase day by day.
We look at the ocean as she tells me
her plans for her death.
Her ashes will fertilize several gardens
and her spirit,
happy to miss the daily catastrophes
of the living world,
will soar to her own personal star.


If all goes according to schedule,
she'll be there in time for her 52nd birthday
in August.
 
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Biographical information: Madeline Sharples has worked most of her professional life as a technical writer and editor, grant writer, and currently as a proposal manager, managing the proposal development process and turning engineering "writing" into readable prose. She co-authored a book about women in nontraditional professions called Blue Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994) and co-edited the poetry anthology The Great American Poetry Show, volumes 1 (Muse Media, 2004) and II (due for publication in early 2010). Most recently she wrote the poetry for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy, and had poems published in Memoir (and), (Volume 2, Number 2), a print and online magazine and The Muddy River Poetry Review. "Lunch," an excerpt from her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, appeared in Issue 22 of Perigee. She also has a blog, "Choices," where she posts poems, photos, and musings about life choices at madeline40.blogspot.com.

Demolition by Madeline Sharples
Bathroom
We've demolished the scene of the crime.
We don't have to look into that room anymore
and wonder if little spots of blood still remain
on the floors and walls.
We will no longer step into that tub and see Paul
in his white long sleeved work shirt
and khaki pants sitting against the shower door
in a bloody puddle.
They've taken it all away.
The old aqua blue tub is gone.
The toilet, and sinks are gone.
The faux marble counter with burn stains
from the tiny firecrackers
he set off as a teenager is gone.
And the god-awful blue and yellow vinyl flooring is gone.
Sterile white tiles and fixtures will take their place
in a room where no memories
either of life or death exist at all.

Bedroom
Six years later
instead of the dark room
that he walked out of for the last time
leaving the door slightly ajar
his bed never slept in
his dirty laundry slung over his over-stuffed chair,
his checks from work left on the side table un-cashed for weeks,
his pictures and posters meticulously thumb tacked
in perfect rows on the walls
his books and records all lined up in alphabetical order in his closet
along with his shoes and plaid shirts from second-hand stores,
his keyboard, electronic drums, amplifier,
and his music, each tape labeled and packed in a canvas bag,
so we could easily choose a piece to play at his funeral.
Instead, the room is totally bare
except for a new bay window that looks out to the garden
and new shiny hardwood floors.

A writing table and a comfortable sofa
will go in there
with space in the closet
for shelves of poetry books,
and files of poems hoping to be published.

Garage
The garage houses his things.
Boxes labeled Paul's fiction A-Z
Paul's jazz records K-O
Paul's rock and roll A-F
are stacked just where I can see them
as I open the door
and park my car every evening
after a long day at work.
On top of the boxes are
a pile of dungeons and dragon games
one tarnished brass duck bookend
that he got for his Bar Mitzvah,
his purple treasure chest where he kept his pot,
a cigar box filled with metals and belt buckles
his uncle brought him from Russia.

Leaning against the wall
is a roll of his drawings
that he made while in the psyche ward at Bellevue
each declaring his love for Janet
now married with two children.
And rolled tightly within his drawings is a photo of her
with high pointing breasts,
slim waist, flat stomach, and round, firm buttocks
proud, and so ready.

But Paul was not.
He let her go
He let it all go
with one sweep of the knife.
 
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Biographical information: Madeline Sharples has worked most of her professional life as a technical writer and editor, grant writer, and currently as a proposal manager, managing the proposal development process and turning engineering "writing" into readable prose. She co-authored a book about women in nontraditional professions called Blue Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994) and co-edited the poetry anthology The Great American Poetry Show, volumes 1 (Muse Media, 2004) and II (due for publication in early 2010). Most recently she wrote the poetry for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy, and had poems published in Memoir (and), (Volume 2, Number 2), a print and online magazine and The Muddy River Poetry Review. "Lunch," an excerpt from her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, appeared in Issue 22 of Perigee. She also has a blog, "Choices," where she posts poems, photos, and musings about life choices at madeline40.blogspot.com.

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Biographical information: Perigee does not have any biographical information for this poet.

What You Don't Know by Bill Sullivan
take one

How could I know when the sky was a spotless blue
and the January air and light danced in jubilation:
that the storm- swollen river would sweep my retriever
into a sheet of ice; that he would vainly attempt to climb
front paws first, to safety; that the current would be
too strong for him; that I would run onto the ice
that would shatter; that the sun, trees, and sounds
of this world would disappear; that he and I would ride
under a ceiling of opaque glass and captured bubbles
while the knife-like waters carried us downstream?


take two

I did not know the sky's blue would be deeper
than any painter's hue or that the January light
and air would intertwine like two ardent lovers
on the day my golden leapt into the riled river.
Nor did I know that the current was so insistent
and so indifferent; or that it would carry him
to a jagged sheet of ice that he vainly tried
to mount. Watching his hind quarters start
to slip under the ledge's lip, I did not know
that I would run onto the frozen flow- whether
it would hold or fold. Did not know that I
would reach him in time; grab him by the nape
of the neck and haul him out of the frigid water
as if he were a sack of goose feathers— never
knew that the line separating all and nothing
is as thin and fragile as winter's first freeze.
 
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Biographical information: Bill Sullivan taught American literature and American studies at Keene State College, has co-authored two books on twentieth century poetry, co-produced two documentary films, and has recently published poems on babelfruit and protestpoetry.

Sculpting by Rebecca Tolin
          for Lawrence

My fingertips move
like I'm smoothing a face
I've sculpted. We are lost
in each other like the lovers
in Rodin's "The Kiss."
Locked in bronze embrace,
their lips do not actually touch.
Unlike the sculpture, my lover and I
are less entwined with our bodies
than our eyes. I trace fingers
around his pear-shaped cheeks,
bone made wet with rain. Persuaded
by my craving, he's able to linger
on my eyes. Implicit is my want of him
to wait. To feel what could be
before unleashing—
Before the art of stillness
shifts into the messy
irrepressible movement of life.
Bull's-eye. He blinks, and I move in.
 
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Biographical information: Rebecca Tolin is a freelance journalist, writer and broadcaster living in San Diego. She has reported for NBC, ABC, and PBS affiliates. Currently, Rebecca writes stories about science and the environment for web and print media. This is her poetry debut!

The Adjective Cellar by Archie Wilson
Nestling smugly twixt pepper and salt
The adjective cellar begins its assault
When carelessly picked by some epicure
Who sadly considers himself connoisseur

Once the poor dinner guest flips up the top
The words tumble out, they're awkward to stop
They bounce on the table and under the chairs
And yelling and screaming they bound up the stairs

Normally nouns are wrapped up in chains
Tortured and bound and horribly maimed
Now they're ecstatic about to be pleasured
As picturesque words stand up to be measured!

The Vicar remarks on these halcyon days
Whilst Major Winstanley has Draconian ways
And poor Mrs Kingsley's exordium chatter
Falls willy nilly on euphoric batter

The twins are excited in ectopic manner
The cats caught its tail in a Hashemite planner
The Doctor is dissident, red in the face
Flapping his hands with acrimonious grace

Sadly the dinner has come to a close
The adjective cellar is back in repose
The nouns are re-bound the adverbs placated
The Vicar, the Major, the Doctor berated

But wasn't it fun to see how our language
Can blossom and bloom and happily languish
In even the narrowest pinch penny mind
When the fruits of the Adjective cellar are vined
 
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Biographical information: Perigee does not have any biographical information for this poet.

The Zen of Housework by Al Zolynas
I look over my own shoulder
down my arms
to where they disappear under water
into hands inside pink rubber gloves
moiling among dinner dishes.

My hands lift a wine glass,
holding it by the stem and under the bowl.
It breaks the surface
like a chalice
rising from a medieval lake.

Full of the gray wine
of domesticity, the glass floats
to the level of my eyes.
Behind it, through the window
above the sink, the sun, among
a ceremony of sparrows and bare branches,
is setting in Western America.

I can see thousands of droplets
of steam—each a tiny spectrum—rising
from my goblet of gray wine.
They sway, changing directions
constantly—like a school of playful fish,
or like the sheer curtain
on the window to another world.

Ah, gray sacrament of the mundane!
 
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Biographical information: Both of Al Zolynas's poems appearing in this issue are from his brilliant collection The New Physics, published by Wesleyan University Press. The entire collection can be found online at capa.conncoll.edu. A senior Zen student at Zen Center San Diego, he teaches at Alliant University.

A Nightmare Concerning Priests by Al Zolynas
They whirl down the aisles;
the congregation applauds.
Frankly, I'm frightened.
From the pulpit the bishop
shows us his armpits.
They are hairless
like a female trapeze artist's.
When he speaks, his teeth
click like dice and white hosts
tumble from his mouth.
The people don't mind;
they count it a blessing.
From up on the cross,
high above the altar, Christ
calls to the multitude
for someone to please,
please scratch his nose.
Twelve nuns in the front row
gaze at him sweetly.
One polishes
a wedding band against her habit.
 
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Biographical information: Both of Al Zolynas's poems appearing in this issue are from his brilliant collection The New Physics, published by Wesleyan University Press. The entire collection can be found online at capa.conncoll.edu. A senior Zen student at Zen Center San Diego, he teaches at Alliant University.

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Biographical information: Perigee does not have any biographical information for this poet.