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Issue 27 Poetry: Select a Poem from the Menu

Our 28th issue includes 34 poems selected and solicited by our poetry editor, Steve Kowit, including verse from Billie Dee, Trish Dugger, Kate Harding, Terry Hertzler, and Jon Wesick.

Please select a poem from the menu on the left.

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Formal Proof in 9 Steps That Right Now You're Standing in a Puddle, Thinking About Me, by Danielle Blau

1. Bill is eating roast beef in the dark. He likes the mixture of gravy and blindness.

2. Mr. Merkin from down the street watches his wife chew lasagna with strange teeth.

3. The Philbrick boy tries to remember how long he's been pulling up other people's vegetables. He can recognize a patch by the smell of its dirt, but, these days, he can hardly tell a woman from a gourd.

4. The seamstress is patching a shawl together from the dead skin she's found on her windowsills.

5. Pulling his sweater over his head, Teddy's mom gasps at the fierceness of his shoulders.

6. His reflection pooled by a pile of wet leaves, Dr. Falk is pausing. His high boots he pulls to his shins, unsure if he looks substantive, or oafish.

7. The owner of the fossil store is falling asleep to the sound of rain. "If I don't wake" he thinks, "at least they'll know me by my cuspids";  while

8. I am standing in a puddle, thinking about you.

 
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Biographical information: Danielle Blau's poems, short stories, and articles have appeared in The Atlantic Online, Black Clock, The L Magazine, and multiple issues of Unsaid, among other publications. Blau graduated from Brown in 2007 with a BA in philosophy, and is an MFA candidate in poetry at NYU's Creative Writing Program. She lives in Brooklyn.

Thomas: Appoggiatura, by Gabriella Brand

Even as a child,
he played around with excess,
his little heart too big for his body.
 
At school he brought Valentines for everyone,
convinced that no one should be without a friend.
He stuffed the cardboard mailbox in the back of the classroom
until it broke.  The teacher kept him in at recess.
 
Some thought he pushed the limits,
not believing
that a six year old can grasp
so much life with two hands and hold on.
 
On Halloween, he was the last one home,
his mask askew,
indifferent to the candy,
delighted to have walked so far and so long,
the only child in the neighborhood
to have seen the moon come up behind the Fire House.
 
At night, he gathered piles of toy animals
on the quilt.,
always making room for
one more tattered piglet with no tail
who needed the caring ark of
his bed.
 
He tried everything, but fell in love with song.
When he took up the piano,
he embraced it
not just with fingers
but with torso and tummy,
his ankles finding rhythm
where the dull and wizened music faculty
would have never thought to look.
 
"Hold yourself still, Thomas!" they'd bark.
But he couldn't and they knew it,
his inner toccata bursting from him.
He was like a child giggling
with a mouthful of milk.
 
Now, as an adult,
he never fails to seek bounty in the daily fugue.
Whether it be love or work,
his eye goes to the grace notes.
Visiting the stricken grandfather,
he loads the hospital tray with
chocolate éclairs and unabashedly sings
the old man's favorite hymns,
even while the fussy nurses plead for
more restraint.

 
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Biographical information: Gabriella Brand divides her time between Connecticut, Québec, and the West Indies, living off her wits and her words.  Her poetry has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Echoes Magazine, and various European publications.

My Father Was a Wandering Aramean, by Lawrence Cronin

-Deuteronomy 26:5

Behold, I was somebody back there!
Then this guy, who calls Himself
'I AM who I AM', let me tell you, He
looks more like three hooligans, and
comes talking about blowing up
Sodom and Gomorrah
if "He" can't find ten decent people.
Oy, they should be so lucky.
  
Back there they called me Sarai,
others called me Ishtar.
We had god-sex up in high places
on the pyramid of the moon.
None of this sordid swinging
what with slaves and pharaohs
and Abimelech!
Yech.
  
Behold, I was somebody back there!
High priestess of the moon
But now we have this I-AMbic god.
He, my husband insists we spell it He,
was over for dinner last night
with a couple of buddies.
I laughed them out of the tent.
 
I'm sure those three are thinking of
doing it again, but I've had enough
of this royal wife-swapping scene.
I'm getting too old for it anyway.
We'll never settle down.
My husband should stick to sheep.
  
For behold, I was somebody back there,
But my father was a wandering Aramean
So was my husband, my brother
And they took me from those whom I loved,
More importantly
From those who loved me.

 
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Biographical information: Although ostensibly a practicing psychiatrist, Lawrence Cronin's literary work is "that of a spiritual chiropractor attempting a better alignment of all our religious notions." Cronin has had a lifelong preoccupation with science and religion and is on the board of the Saint Albert the Great Symposium on Science and Theology at the University of Arizona.

What I Recall After Thirty Years, by Billie Dee

The thin crescent scar
under your lip that blanched
when you pursed to whistle.

That afternoon we stayed in bed
and sang each other cowboy songs
instead of making love.

The glint of your Zippo
in a moonlit parking lot
—that snapping-shut sound.

The smooth dark crown
of your cock, your stammer
when aroused,

my scent on your fingertips.
The shape of your hand, raised
red on the side of my face.

 
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Biographical information: Billie Dee is a writer and multi-media artist living in Southern California. Former Poet Laureate of the U.S. National Library Service (2000-2001), she publishes both online and off. http://www.billiedee.net.

I Had Tea with Mary Oliver, by Trish Dugger

last evening. She droned
on and on about spring
violets in soft forest moss.
She lost me in a bog on
the edge of a pinewood.
I smiled and nodded in
response to her tedious
musings about peonies,
wild life creatures, fawns
and bees, ants, while
I dreamed of dancing
in a peony pink gown,
sleek satin, a hand
sliding down my back,
like tea with honey
sliding down my throat.

 
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Biographical information: Trish Dugger, Poet Laureate of Encinitas, California has participated in poetry slams, read her poetry at schools and libraries and at Border Voices Poetry Fair in San Diego. Her poetry has been published in anthologies of Southern California. Her poem, Spare Parts was featured on Ted Kooser's (U.S. Poet Laureate 2004-2006) web site, americanlifeinpoetry.org in March of 2008.

Completely in My Own Mind, by Michael Estabrook

Looking at myself in the mirror at work,
I breathe a sigh of relief, literally,
say to myself, "It's been 8 weeks since he's
been to dance class, maybe he's not coming
any more." Then I smile to myself.
 
Finally, finally, maybe I can relax a little,
not be so concerned about competing
with him, dancing better than him. Maybe now
I can stop worrying about him
swooping in and sweeping my wife
off her feet. He has a wife of his own, but
she's nothing compared to my wife—
he likes watching her, likes dancing with her too
whenever he gets the chance. He thinks
she "moves smooth as a river."
 
My wife claims my jealousy is completely
in my own mind. She's not interested in him,
not attracted to his tall, debonair presence whatsoever.
 
As soon as we get to the dance studio
our instructor declares, "Guess who's coming
tonight?" And my heart sinks, it does,
drops like a stone to the bottom of the sea.
But I admit I am not surprised,
guys like him never really ever go away entirely.
 
But what does surprise me is that immediately
upon hearing the news, my wife,
by reflex really, turns, stares at herself in the mirror,
pats her hair and says, "Oh my hair is such a mess
and I didn't put much makeup on either."

 
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Biographical information: Over the years Michael Estabrook has published a few chapbooks and appeared in some terrific poetry magazines, but you are only as good as your next poem and like a surfer searching for that perfect wave, he's a poet prowling for that next perfect poem. Right now he is looking for that perfect poem in his wife, who just happens to be the most beautiful woman he has ever known. If he finds it anywhere he'll find it in her.

Answer the Phone, by Erica Goss

Before telephones the dead sent letters
sheets of tissue so thin
 
a hand passed through them like smoke.
They dried the tongue like warm red wine,
 
glittered our dreams into fragments.
 
Now the dead use the phone like everyone else;
they ring once and wait. We press the receiver
 
to our ears, hear the long static hum,
 
faint clicks and breaths,
explanations and descriptions. They want one
 
thing only, to tell us what they saw
when one light went out
 
and another turned on. We want to
show them the pictures we've taken
 
since they left us: that cathedral in central Europe;
the jellyfish at a California aquarium.
 
We forget what we needed to tell the dead
as we rush too quickly from sleep.
 
Their letters stopped coming years ago.
 
We wait by the phone.

 
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Biographical information: Erica Goss is a writer from Los Gatos, CA. Her poems, reviews and essays appear in many print and online journals. She has won a number of prizes for her writing, including a Pushcart nomination. She teaches poetry and art in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Autumnal, by Erica Goss

You came home
wearing smoke
and a bad haircut.
Dandruff starred
your dark jacket.
 
A child needs
two parents, you
said, one foot
on the threshold.
You should have
called, I said,
 
leaning into
the cold house. 
Upstairs our daughter
coughed and we both
reached for the
moon-faced dog.
 
How many times
have we done this,
I said, stepping back. 
Your hand in the
dog's fur trembled.
 
Next door, children
broke open
a piñata; candy
plinked the pavement
like fists on a toy piano.
 
The car horn
startled us both.
A woman stared
with pasted-on eyes
as fall put an end
to summer.

 
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Biographical information: Erica Goss is a writer from Los Gatos, CA. Her poems, reviews and essays appear in many print and online journals. She has won a number of prizes for her writing, including a Pushcart nomination. She teaches poetry and art in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bubble Cut, by Kate Harding

My hair in Peggy's fingers
looks like a bouquet of wild wheat.
She waves scissors. "You sure?"
I love my long hair.
Grandma says it's unruly.
Now she whispers:
"You have to look nice for the funeral.
You're a young lady, not a Banshee."
Peggy smells like the sweet liquid
she sprays on my hair. "I could cut
your hair like mine—a bubble."
Bubble. Light. Airy. Tame. Sandra Dee.
I let Peggy snip, watch my hair
meet itself on the shiny floor.
She winds my short strands
in copper colored rollers. "Big date?"
I shake my head. The rollers clink
like loose pocket change. Tomorrow,
Forest Lawn will swallow my mother.
Meek as a shorn Sampson, I follow
Peggy to the dryer. Hot air burns my scalp.
My grandmother, her face freshly powdered,
her lips tight, sits with a Mademoiselle
unopened on her lap,
My hair dry, Peggy pulls rollers free.
I tug the frothy curls. From the next booth,
a low, fog horn sob. "You've ruined me,"
a woman weeps. Her sobs become wild
Banshee wails. She kicks her chair,
streaks past us. The salon cape flaps
on her shoulders.
Through the open door she shouts,
"This is the worst day of my life."
In the mirror, my grandmother's
wet eyes meet mine.

 
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Biographical information: Kate Harding is a Pushcart nominee in both poetry and fiction. Her chapbook "What Women Do" was a finalist in the Earth's Daughter's competition. Her stories and poems have appeared in By Line, Phoebe, Redbook, California Quarterly, Poetry International, THEMA, Compass Rose, the San Diego Poetry Annual and many other journals.

Coyote Eating Apricots, by Kate Harding

for my cousin, Wendy

This morning, a coyote,
lean as bamboo, eats apricots
fallen from our tree.
Our cat, safe from him at last,
sleeps under the porch.
My fists uncurl. I place the broom
in its corner. Curses turn
to honey on my lips.
No longer a wild predator,
the coyote is a stray dog,
already too thin at summer's end.
I think of our feral childhood,
the way you, a little girl, vamped men,
the flesh-eating lies you told.
Our house rocked
with your tsunami tantrums.
You were a lion-sized chameleon
roaring the shutters down,
while I kept so quiet
even I forgot I was there.
Now, I pretend
Grandma sits you in a high chair,
calls you "child,"
wraps a lacy bib around your neck,
sings you lullabies,
and serves you the stewed apricots
you craved.

 
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Biographical information: Kate Harding is a Pushcart nominee in both poetry and fiction. Her chapbook "What Women Do" was a finalist in the Earth's Daughter's competition. Her stories and poems have appeared in By Line, Phoebe, Redbook, California Quarterly, Poetry International, THEMA, Compass Rose, the San Diego Poetry Annual and many other journals.

After the Rains, by Michael Hettich

So let's say one sweaty morning you wake
in another person's body, or you wake up without
any body at all, which means you start feeling things
as the air might do: the flight of birds
across your garden, even pigeons, makes you sing inside
your backbone; the delicate staccato of a lizard
climbing your kitchen window, the snakes
draped in your wild coffee, that come alive
like water when you step out. You feel that sometimes.
And so you walk slowly, feeling even what the beetles do
with their singular lives, and you feel what the spiders
intend by their webs, beyond hunger.
You study caterpillars, and you spend your evenings
imagining the lives of the creatures you rarely see,
hummingbirds and manatees, the foxes and opossums,
birds of lovely plumage, and you start to open up
to nothing you call it, but it's not really nothing:
Squirrels are breathing right outside the window.
Birds are breathing as they fly across your roof.
You are the only person in your body
for a moment. What's a moment? Where eternity resides
you think, and blush at your grandiose pretensions,
turning back, with relief, to the world.

 
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Biographical information: Michael Hettich's two most recent books, SWIMMER DREAMS & FLOCK AND SHADOW, were both published in 2005. A new book, LIKE HAPPINESS, is forthcoming this spring from Anhinga Press. His poems have appeared in such journals as Orion, The Sun, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, and Witness. He teaches at Miami Dade College and lives with his family in Miami. Website: michaelhettich.com.

First Day of Class, by Michael Hettich

I was thinking of starting a forest, he says,
when I ask what he plans to do with his life
after he graduates. If I did that,
he explains, I would have to learn self-reliance
and I'd understand the animals. The others listen silently
and some even nod, as if what he said
was something they'd considered too. But they've all told me
lawyer or physical therapist, nurse
or businessperson. There haven't been any dancers
or even English majors. This young man is serious,
sitting in tee-shirt and baseball cap, straight-backed,
and speaking with a deferential nod, as though
I could help him—as I've been explaining I'm here
to do, their professor. We'll form a small community
I've told them, or I hope we will, and we'll discuss the world—
whatever that means. And we'll write. It seems to be
raining this morning, though we can't really tell
since this classroom doesn't have windows. It was raining
when I drove in at first light, splashing through the streets:
Some of the students have slickers; they're carrying
brightly colored umbrellas. And now another young man
raises his hand and says that, on second thought,
he wants to be a farm, an organic farm with many bees
and maybe even cows and pigs no one will ever eat
that function more nearly as pets whose manure
will fertilize his crops. I love fresh milk.
Then someone else tells us she's always secretly
yearned to be a lake somewhere up north, in the woods—
let's say in Maine, she says, since I love seasons
and I wonder how it feels to freeze tight and not move
for months, and how it feels to open up again
in the spring; and I've always wondered how fish would feel
swimming through your body, how that might  make you shiver
like love. And she laughs. And thus the room grows wild.

 
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Biographical information: Michael Hettich's two most recent books, SWIMMER DREAMS & FLOCK AND SHADOW, were both published in 2005. A new book, LIKE HAPPINESS, is forthcoming this spring from Anhinga Press. His poems have appeared in such journals as Orion, The Sun, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, and Witness. He teaches at Miami Dade College and lives with his family in Miami. Website: michaelhettich.com.

Mouse, by Michael Hettich

In that photograph they say is a photograph of you
on the first day you walked, much earlier than most children
do they say proudly, though you're middle-aged now
and have no recollection of that time, in that photograph
you notice a cat in the shadows behind
what you assume is your mother's high-heeled shoe,
a cat you do remember—he had a mangled ear
and friendly disposition—and he'd bring almost-dead mice
to your bedroom, as though he thought you'd be impressed
and thank him. You'd be lying there still
half sleeping on a Saturday morning, and you'd lie there
a bit longer then and watch this broken mouse
try frantically to escape, which the cat would let him do,
almost. The room would be chilly with winter
and the floor would be smeared a little bit with mouse blood
and you wouldn't want to get up until the mouse lay dead.
Eventually your father would come in to wake you
and not notice the bloody mouse, and almost step on it,
pick up that cat, purring loudly, and come over
to sit on your bed, where he stroked your forehead
and between the cat's eyes, and sang to you softly
Wake up, my darling, the whole world's alive!
—and sometimes he'd lie down to hug you and seem to
fall asleep beside you. The cat would start purring
even more loudly, as you listened to your father breathe
beside you, still wearing his glasses. You could smell
the coffee on his breath. The rest of the house
was still silent. The mouse was still dead by the door.

 
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Biographical information: Michael Hettich's two most recent books, SWIMMER DREAMS & FLOCK AND SHADOW, were both published in 2005. A new book, LIKE HAPPINESS, is forthcoming this spring from Anhinga Press. His poems have appeared in such journals as Orion, The Sun, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, and Witness. He teaches at Miami Dade College and lives with his family in Miami. Website: michaelhettich.com.

An Indication I May Be an Optimist, by Terry Hertzler

Inside my condo, books and magazines
sit in unstable piles, dust bunnies swirl
under my kitchen table, letters from my
credit union demand immediate action
to prevent repossession or foreclosure,
and some kind of black crud is growing
in my toilet.
In Washington, politicians do nothing
as usual, except blame the opposition.
My TV mumbles of some celebrity
having another affair. Unemployment
remains in double digits. I wake
a half-dozen times each night to pee,
and almost nothing I eat tastes good.
Yet, this afternoon, I'm standing
in our courtyard, just standing here
breathing, air smelling of new leaves
and the promise of flowers, and I'm smiling,
eyes closed, sun on my eyelids like warm
loving fingers as I glide through the belly
of this ridiculous, gorgeous day.

 
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Biographical information: Terry Hertzler has worked as a writer, editor and teacher for more than 30 years. His poetry and short stories have appeared in a variety of publications, including The Writer, North American Review, Margie, Literal Latté, and Nimrod,as well as being produced on stage and for radio and television.

I Love My Body, by Terry Hertzler

I love my body, my fat
aging body, arthritic
shoulders and shaky knee,
gray chest hair and oily skin.
I love my body, eyes gritty
and gummed every morning,
ankles like 1950s steel-wheeled
roller skates, gums bleeding
when I brush my teeth.
I love my body, pear-shaped
and producing skin tags
like tiny stalactites hanging
from armpits and belly.
I love my body, its asthma
and weak eyes and hair growing
in clumps from my ears, its
strange intestinal groans and
gurgles portending God-knows-what.
I love my body, flat-footed
and creased with wrinkles,
'cause it's the only place I have
to store my brain.

 
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Biographical information: Terry Hertzler has worked as a writer, editor and teacher for more than 30 years. His poetry and short stories have appeared in a variety of publications, including The Writer, North American Review, Margie, Literal Latté, and Nimrod,as well as being produced on stage and for radio and television..

Looking Glass, by David Holper

My father had a glass eye.  He earned it
mixing chemicals in the bathroom sink
of his house in Shanghai when he was 15.
 
This experiment blew up,
or so the myth went.
Growing up, I knew he had this
 
glass cover over something that was left
over, and that he kept several spares,
older models, I imagine, in his
 
desk downstairs—and sometimes
when I thought it safe, I would sneak
down the stairs, open the cases, and hold one
 
up to the light—to look at the artifice
of the brown iris that never blinked nor looked
away. How then can I explain the night
 
I awoke and went off to pee,
and coming back, I met him naked in the hallway
—his eye, the whiteness rivered by red
 
capillaries, and him staring at me,
as if to say, how could you not know,
you whom I've told all along?
 
And me standing there frozen, staring at the
emptiness, at the eye that had been and was no more,
and wondering how to go on in the darkness of this knowledge.

 
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Biographical information: David Holper has done a little bit of everything: taxi driver, fisherman, dishwasher, bus driver, soldier, house painter, bike mechanic, bike courier, and teacher. In spite of all that useful experience on his resume and a couple of degrees in English to boot, he has managed to publish a number of stories and poems. His first book of poetry, 64 Questions, is available through March Street Press. He lives in Eureka, California, which is far enough from the madness of civilization that he can get some writing done. Another thing that helps in this process is that his three children continually ask him to tell them stories, and he is learning the art of doing that well for them.

62 Cadillac, by David Holper

As part of my parents' divorce settlement,
the judge made them agree to set aside monies for college
for my brother and me.
That my father didn't live up to this agreement
was not news to me
I took the $1500 my mother had set aside
enrolled in a junior college
and bought myself a '62 Cadillac.
 
It was black, with a red leather interior.
It had power windows
a power seat
and a V-8 that could easily
make it stand up and move at 100 mph
I used to get high in San Rafael
and cruise the Miracle Mile
Tucked behind the wheel,
it was like sitting in your living room.
I would crank the radio
and slip into the music
while the colored lights from the strip
swam across that huge hood.
Once I drove it to Santa Cruz,
and when I got there,
I raced the train just in front of the Boardwalk
Sure that I would live forever
 
That it didn't last was not news to me.
The trannie began to slip
And rather than shell out the $1000
it would've taken to fix it,
I abandoned it on a country road.
I didn't own another car for five years
But by then it was different
In fact, every car since then has been a disappointment
the years pulling away from me fastner now
in the wake of that long black beast.

 
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Biographical information: David Holper has done a little bit of everything: taxi driver, fisherman, dishwasher, bus driver, soldier, house painter, bike mechanic, bike courier, and teacher. In spite of all that useful experience on his resume and a couple of degrees in English to boot, he has managed to publish a number of stories and poems. His first book of poetry, 64 Questions, is available through March Street Press. He lives in Eureka, California, which is far enough from the madness of civilization that he can get some writing done. Another thing that helps in this process is that his three children continually ask him to tell them stories, and he is learning the art of doing that well for them.

Folding Baby Clothes with Emily Dickinson, by Una Hynum

Emily is upstairs, sitting
on the edge of her sleigh bed,
disappearing into the white coverlet.
 
"But I don't know how to fold diapers,"
she says, looking at the litter
of nappies and tiny socks.
 
"You match them up," I say,
dumping the whole pile on the bed.
She gasps as it overflows.
 
"Look," I say, handing her the socks.
"Find two alike." She does, all the while
looking wistfully toward her desk.
 
Then you fold them in half,
tuck the whole thing inside itself.
Just pretend they're poems."
 
Her pale fingers begin to grasp the idea. "Oh,"
she exclaims, clapping her hands,
"and then you tie them
 
into little packets with string ... "
And she pulls open
her dresser drawer to show me.

 
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Biographical information: Una Nichols Hynum was born in Providence RI. She is a graduate of SDSU, was a finalist for the James Hearst Poetry Prize, has published in Margie and Writers Digest, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has most recently published in A Year in Ink, Magee Park Anthology, Oasis Journal, and The San Diego Poetry Annual. "Matthew” was originally published in her chapbook "Cup at a Forlorn Angle," "Phlebotomist” was published in City Works, and "Folding Baby Clothes” was published in Limestone Circle.

Matthew, by Una Hynum

I have been angry more than half my life,
angry with the blue bicycle, silver-striped,
angry with the shed it leaned against,
 
angry with the rope, angry with the chair
you kicked away, angry with the canyon
where we looked for you
 
because we thought you'd gone for a walk,
angry with the time of day when all sound,
all light drained from the world,
 
angry with the tool that cut down
your stiffening body. I had to come
to this place myself in order to forgive you,
 
to understand it was the daily minutiae of failures,
inability to tie your shoes, open a jar of olives,
the awful patience of those who loved you.

 
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Biographical information: Una Nichols Hynum was born in Providence RI. She is a graduate of SDSU, was a finalist for the James Hearst Poetry Prize, has published in Margie and Writers Digest, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has most recently published in A Year in Ink, Magee Park Anthology, Oasis Journal, and The San Diego Poetry Annual. "Matthew” was originally published in her chapbook "Cup at a Forlorn Angle," "Phlebotomist” was published in City Works, and "Folding Baby Clothes” was published in Limestone Circle.

Phlebotomist, by Una Hynum

Hold this, he says
and hands me a replica
of the brain
size of a fist.
I squeeze it.
Tight, he says.
It's yellow, crenelated—
soft. What crease
holds memory
the mother of poetry—
what crevice
holds logic
and why is mine so small—
which one for math—
where is the fissure
that tells you
you love a person
beyond all reason
for no reason?
Is there a section
that tells you
when it's time
to die?
Let go, he says,
the vial full of
my bright blood.

 
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Biographical information: Una Nichols Hynum was born in Providence RI. She is a graduate of SDSU, was a finalist for the James Hearst Poetry Prize, has published in Margie and Writers Digest, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has most recently published in A Year in Ink, Magee Park Anthology, Oasis Journal, and The San Diego Poetry Annual. "Matthew” was originally published in her chapbook "Cup at a Forlorn Angle," "Phlebotomist” was published in City Works, and "Folding Baby Clothes” was published in Limestone Circle.

Good Deal, by Gail Levine

Ellie makes a deal with an angel
that will keep her from saying anything
but I love you
for at least a month.
When her son brings home his usual
report card,
she says, I love you.
When her daughter criticizes her,
she says, I love you.
When her daughter says,
Is that all you can say? she says,
I love you.
When her husband
spends $200 on losing lottery tickets
she tells him she loves him.
In bed, while he reads
with his back to her, she touches herself
here and there
and whispers, I love you.

 
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Biographical information: Gail Levine writes children's books (mostly novels) with sixteen books published (HarperCollins and Disney/Hyperion). Although unpublished as a poet for adults, a pantoum is in a children's book, and in 2012 HarperCollins Children's Books will publish his "mean and funny poems" based on William Carlos Williams's This Is Just to Say.

Elegy for Raymond, by Sarah B Marsh-Rebelo

I want to tell you about the kitchen table we turned upside down,
sailed away on across the seven seas, draped in a red silk shawl
bought from gypsies down the lane.
How wide the horses seemed when we were eight and ten.
We took them from the barn on early misty mornings,
rode them steaming across meadows that grew beyond our home.
I want to share with you a visit to our aunt's three hundred year old farm.
Sun beams shot through cracks and the knotted rope we swung high on
over fresh cut hay made the ancient wood beams creak.
Tell you about the morning we stumbled into a field full of bulls,
one pawed the ground, Ray said, don't run, look straight ahead,
and then he reached out for my hand.
I'll whisper about the secret of the bird that he shot, the day he turned fifteen,
the shallow grave under the Elm tree, and our vow not to kill again.
Tell you about a day he took me sailing on Grasmere Lake near Friars Crag,
how our roles reversed as I let him lead the way.
Share with you the last time I saw him, waving wildly from the front door
when our parents drove me to the airport—to the airport, to America.
Ray said he preferred my tweed suit, I chose slacks and a beige sweater.
'Not so smart, but you look pretty'.
The horror of that phone call and the long flight home,
his face in the coffin, the soft two day old beard.
Mum dressed him in his favorite sweater, the one knitted by her sister.
Tell you I couldn't swallow as his coffin move towards the flames.
Show you his cufflinks that lie in the bottom of a drawer
with the necklace he gave me when I turned seventeen.
I want to share with you the perfume from a Daphne bush
our parents planted by his grave.
Tell you how on each visit I dig up weeds that have grown,
then in a perfect silence kneel, and run my hand across his name.

 
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Biographical information: Sarah Brenda Marsh-Rebelo was born and educated in London and traveled the world as a stewardess having the time of her life. After a decade in Honolulu she moved with her son to California and obtained degrees in Gemology and Anthropology and is currently completing an MFA program in Writing. Having written all her life to stay sane, she remarks, "This Life has been a whirlwind. There is much to share. Gratitude is my mantra."

If God Hath a Beard, by Gary Metras

Imagine the artist's barrel-chested laugh
as he drew and painted
on the ceiling God's Ass.
This is not metaphor, but the real
Holy Behind exposed
when His tunic rode up His Back
as He leaned over the cloud
to separate light from darkness.
 
Can you hear that laughter echoing
the length of that tall and long chapel
and rolling down the halls?
Did not even the Pope,
Julius II, three
buildings away, hurry, in a dignified manner,
along the connected corridors to the echo's source?
 
Mighten the artist have replied
to His Eminence's inquiries, "If God
hath a Beard, hath He not, then, an Ass?"
Imagine the Pope nodding his head,
almost smiling as he told the artist:
"Continue, mio amico. Continue."
And Michelangelo did.
 
Sistine Chapel 10-13-03

 
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Biographical information: Gary Metras' poems and reviews have appeared in issues of The Alembic, Bloodroot, Boston Review of Books, Connecticut Poetry Review, English Journal, Hurricane Review, The Pedestal, Poetry, Poetry East, Poetry Salzburg Review, Rosebud, Small Press Review, Snake Nation Review, Tar Wolf Review, among others. His new chapbooks of poems are Francis d'Assisi 2008 (Finishing Line Press, 2008) and Greatest Hits 1980-2006 (Pudding House 2007). Additionally, Metras edits and prints I which specializes in hand crafted letterpress limited editions of poetry, and which was profiled in the September 2008 Poets & Writers Magazine. When not teaching writing at Springfield College, or printing or writing, he can most likely be found standing mid-stream in some small river fly fishing for trout.

As Much as I Want, by Michael Nieman

for Naomi Shihab Nye

I wanted to write a poem to thank you
for waking up the stones, so they won't miss
the sun on their faces.
 
A poem in honor of
your way of going slowly, turning over
river rocks, looking for new colors to name.
 
I wanted to tell you how coffee tastes
in a hotel room far from home
with my daughter asleep,
 
her face curving into the pillow;
the edge of the map
of my heart's wild lands,
 
or how it feels to cut string beans,
steam beets, peel away their skins, and feel them
pulse in my hands like hearts made of dirt.
 
I put one of your poems
on my wall. It became a clock
that gives me as much time as I want.

 
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Biographical information: Michael Nieman studied poetry writing with John Stehman in the Seattle Poetry Workshop in the 70's. He has worked as a car salesman since 1987. He took up the banjo in 1986 as a result of a cancer diagnosis. 3 1/2 years later he is cancer free but, because some things are harder to cure than others, still has the banjo.

It's Early Yet, by Michael Nieman

Not many have watched
the sun rise
on the track at John Burroughs High School
 
nor watched a brown leaf
sail down the gutter
in the runoff from someone's sprinklers.
 
O sweet beauty of the world,
what should I do with you?
 
I walk back, past
the sound of a shower, heard
through a half-opened window.
 
At the Coast Annabelle Hotel
the waiter makes me a Cappucino
that almost brings tears to my eyes.
 
"You are a man of many talents," I tell him.
"Thank you," he says,
"and it's early yet."

 
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Biographical information: Michael Nieman studied poetry writing with John Stehman in the Seattle Poetry Workshop in the 70's. He has worked as a car salesman since 1987. He took up the banjo in 1986 as a result of a cancer diagnosis. 3 1/2 years later he is cancer free but, because some things are harder to cure than others, still has the banjo.

Especially the Bridges, by Joyce Nower

Empress Wu (654–705 CE) used tax money raised
to develop a navy to build herself a summer
palace on a hill, surrounded by her own shops,
a lake, canals, and a symbolic stone "boat!"

See these canals, these sidewalks lined with shops 
of teak and painted wood, the covered gondola
moored at the water's edge, a floating flower,
but especially the bridges like arched eyebrows
inspecting jewelry or a face for usefulness,
designed with small steps so that the empress
and her ladies could glide over as they browsed
in this ode to arbitrary power
where she built her own mandala,
her sky–high palace–shrine, then a lake and steps
all perfectly placed to catch whatever air gusts.
Oh! to command the wind with the tax dollar,
with naval money, to force it to blow forever
on you in Beijing's torpid summers, roused
by an intrigue or two, and on the stone boat, picnics.

 
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Biographical information: During June of 1999, Joyce Nower gave lectures on contemporary American poetry at Sichuan Normal University, Shaanxi Normal University, and Yanan University in the People's Republic of China. I am the  author of three books of poetry. Recent poetry and prose has appeared in The American Poetry Journal, Terminus, Visions-International, The Avatar Review, and The National Poetry Review. "Moon Shining ... " and "Especially the Bridge" are from Nower's collection Qin Warriors and Other Poems, Avranches Press 2003.) "After the Squall ... " and "Proprieties" are to be published in a forthcoming collection, The Sister Chronicles and Other Poems also to be published by Avranches Press.

After the Squall, by Joyce Nower

After the squall,
in spite of carefully caulked
double windows,
in spite of inspection
by magnifying glass,
one tiny tear of water outfoxed
the sharpest eye,
dripped down inside the south
wall like a small
anger breaking through,
one miniature wrath at a time.
Absolute as sky.

 
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Biographical information: During June of 1999, Joyce Nower gave lectures on contemporary American poetry at Sichuan Normal University, Shaanxi Normal University, and Yanan University in the People's Republic of China. I am the  author of three books of poetry. Recent poetry and prose has appeared in The American Poetry Journal, Terminus, Visions-International, The Avatar Review, and The National Poetry Review. "Moon Shining ... " and "Especially the Bridge" are from Nower's collection Qin Warriors and Other Poems, Avranches Press 2003.) "After the Squall ... " and "Proprieties" are to be published in a forthcoming collection, The Sister Chronicles and Other Poems also to be published by Avranches Press.

Moon Shining on a Deserted Courtyard at the Foreign House at Beijing Normal, by Joyce Nower

In Memory of Lu Yu,
The Old Man Who Does As He Pleases

There you go! Off to the Hotspot
to disco the night away!
Ah! dance the international language!
Strobe lights, loud music nonstop!
Here you come! Back after curfew!
Desk clerk gone, courtyard empty.
May I ask how the moon looks
on a cement bench wet with dew?

 
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Biographical information: During June of 1999, Joyce Nower gave lectures on contemporary American poetry at Sichuan Normal University, Shaanxi Normal University, and Yanan University in the People's Republic of China. I am the  author of three books of poetry. Recent poetry and prose has appeared in The American Poetry Journal, Terminus, Visions-International, The Avatar Review, and The National Poetry Review. "Moon Shining ... " and "Especially the Bridge" are from Nower's collection Qin Warriors and Other Poems, Avranches Press 2003.) "After the Squall ... " and "Proprieties" are to be published in a forthcoming collection, The Sister Chronicles and Other Poems also to be published by Avranches Press.

Proprieties, by Joyce Nower

They pulled out rotted wood,
removed glass doors and windows
from the porch wall of the family room,
and left us living inside out.
All night the rain railed in gusts.
Wind pounded the spindly gingko,
its small green leaves shivering
in clusters on spur shoots,
and this morning jays scolded the blue
tarp nailed over the gaping hole,
as if a piece of sky had been ripped off,
and hung ninety degrees to dry.
We ate cereal in wool pants and coats,
grateful for the noisy company
that gave us an earful
about proprieties.

 
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Biographical information: During June of 1999, Joyce Nower gave lectures on contemporary American poetry at Sichuan Normal University, Shaanxi Normal University, and Yanan University in the People's Republic of China. I am the  author of three books of poetry. Recent poetry and prose has appeared in The American Poetry Journal, Terminus, Visions-International, The Avatar Review, and The National Poetry Review. "Moon Shining ... " and "Especially the Bridge" are from Nower's collection Qin Warriors and Other Poems, Avranches Press 2003.) "After the Squall ... " and "Proprieties" are to be published in a forthcoming collection, The Sister Chronicles and Other Poems also to be published by Avranches Press.

After the Deep Sleep, by Colby Cedar Smith

There will be dipped chocolates waiting in their pleated paper cups.
Blue eggs will be warm in their nests.
Everyone will be wearing crinolines and jazz shoes
and Louis Armstrong will be singing what a wonderful world.
 
The sky will contain a perpetual sunset that we will watch,
while loving mothers braid our hair.
We will have cravings for blue cheese.
There will be freshly drawn baths at any hour.
 
We will admire the plum fairies with their delicate bluebell shoes,
while sparrows take a turn around the rink on their shining skates.
Every night, even the lonely will find a dancing partner.
 
There will be an endless supply of paper and pens
stacked on golden pedestals.
We will sleep in windowed rooms above the ocean
and our beds will be surrounded by creamy gauze.
Birds will carry scrawled messages in their curled talons
from one window to another.
We will write only love letters.
 
Our god will be a nebulous cloud that never speaks, only listens.
All food will be picked directly off trees.
After this, we will think we know everything.

 

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Biographical information: Colby Cedar Smith holds a Master's Degree in Art in Education from Harvard University. She is the author of the chapbook Seven Seeds of the Pomegranate (The Penny Press, 2006). Her work has appeared in Harpur Palate, Memorious, Potomac Review, Redivider, and Runes. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and son.

A Walk on the Shore, by Liliana Ursu and translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Tess Gallagher

You stand sentry, a Roman soldier
weary of war, your melancholy face
singed by a foreign sun.
 
An Internet café
where I'm trying to sculpt your absence.
Separating us, the gray casino
on this shore Ovid once paced in exile,
where money now makes love to death.
 
And the house where my Uncle Livius
used to read me poems: Homer,
Blaga, Cavafy.

 

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Biographical information: Liliana Ursu's first book in English, The Sky Behind the Forest (Bloodaxe, 1997), translated by Ursu, Sorkin, and Tess Gallagher, became a British Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation and was shortlisted for Oxford's Weidenfeld Prize. A Path to the Sea, from the same translators, is forthcoming from Pleasure Boat Studio in 2011.

Tess Gallagher is the author of eight volumes of poetry, including Dear Ghosts, Moon Crossing Bridge, and My Black Horse. Her Midnight Lantern: New and Selected Poems will be published Fall 2011 from Graywolf Press.

Adam J. Sorkin recently published Mircea Ivănescu's lines poems poetry (University of Plymouth Press, UK, translated with Lidia Vianu), and Rock and Dew, poems by Carmen Firan (The Sheep Meadow Press, translated with Firan).

Strolling Between Millennia, by Liliana Ursu and translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Tess Gallagher

The young man proceeds serenely through the crowd
carrying a black violin case.
 
He strolls along the busy street,
a fair-haired young man in blue jeans and
leather jacket, as if he had appeared
out of the clear sky above a mountain
and not from the vertical abyss
of a ten-story apartment building.
 
The light sparkles shyly
on faces, on the brazen lindens,
on the miniature cross around the neck of a little boy
ripping crumbs from a heel of bread
to scatter for the birds.
 
From one window a Bach concerto,
from another the voice of the tv
reporting fresh bombardments
somewhere in the world.
 
The young man proceeds serenely through the crowd
carrying a black violin case.
This is how I imagine
an angel would pass among mortals.
 
He enters the apartment building, rises
to the sunny terrace on the roof above the tenth floor.
Among white linens drying on a red plastic clothesline,
he expertly clicks open the black case; how calmly
he assembles
the high-powered rifle.

 

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Biographical information: Liliana Ursu's first book in English, The Sky Behind the Forest (Bloodaxe, 1997), translated by Ursu, Sorkin, and Tess Gallagher, became a British Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation and was shortlisted for Oxford's Weidenfeld Prize. A Path to the Sea, from the same translators, is forthcoming from Pleasure Boat Studio in 2011.

Tess Gallagher is the author of eight volumes of poetry, including Dear Ghosts, Moon Crossing Bridge, and My Black Horse. Her Midnight Lantern: New and Selected Poems will be published Fall 2011 from Graywolf Press.

Adam J. Sorkin recently published Mircea Ivănescu's lines poems poetry (University of Plymouth Press, UK, translated with Lidia Vianu), and Rock and Dew, poems by Carmen Firan (The Sheep Meadow Press, translated with Firan).

Obituary, by Jon Wesick

"Obituary" appeared on the New Verse News website
on January 23, 2010.

Affordable Healthcare lost his battle with cancer this week. Friends say he passed peacefully after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disconnected his ventilator. Doctors had been optimistic about his recovery until the Massachusetts Insurance Company refused to pay for standard chemotherapy labeling it an "experimental treatment."
 
Best known for arranging free clinics that treated thousands of uninsured, Affordable Healthcare was a graduate of the Toronto School of Public Health. Inspired by a government that actually cared more for its citizens than its corporations, he tried unsuccessfully to adapt the Canadian insurance model to the United States. He is survived by his ailing wife, Hope. They have no children.
 
Republicans will mark Affordable Healthcare's passing with a seven-course dinner at L'Auberge Chez Marcel.
 
In lieu of flowers mourners are requested to help pay Affordable Healthcare's outstanding hospital bill.

 

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Biographical information: Jon Wesick has a Ph.D. in physics and has published over two hundred poems in small press journals such as the The New Orphic Review, Pearl, Pudding, and Slipstream. Two of his chapbooks have been honorable mentions in the San Diego Book Awards. His poem, "Bread and Circuses," won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists contest.

Outside the Vatican, by Jon Wesick

You bend
     to pick up an ice cream wrapper
 
Suddenly
the Pope is welcoming you into the Holy See.
     You look around.
     He can't be pointing at you! You're not even Catholic.
 
But his hand is there
     tugging your shoulder.
"Come! Come! Everyone is waiting."
 
Inside
     a klezmer band!     dancing!
     Ayatollahs beards flailing
     Grand Muftis pillbox hats bobbing
     Hindus mambo     Taoists salsa
     The Eastern Orthodox Patriarch mazurkas, his black robe twirling.
     The Dalai Lama does the Macarena, chuckling at his missteps.
     Who knew Methodists could shake their hips
     or that shamans in reindeer hide could tango?
 
You join the dance
     pause only for honeyed wine
 
Long after midnight
     your host escorts you to the gate.
"Door's always open.
     Come back any time.
 
So you do
but the audience hall is locked.
 
No matter
Outside cars' horns play clarinet.
There's a golden Buddha in a child's gelato.
Flowers dance ecstasy
           in the wind

 

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Biographical information: Jon Wesick has a Ph.D. in physics and has published over two hundred poems in small press journals such as the The New Orphic Review, Pearl, Pudding, and Slipstream. Two of his chapbooks have been honorable mentions in the San Diego Book Awards. His poem, "Bread and Circuses," won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists contest.