Burning Word is a quarterly literary
ISSN 2161-8992 (print)
publication focussing on emerging
ISSN 2157-7366 (online)
writers of poetry and short fiction.
ISSN 2161-8992 (print)
ISSN 2157-7366 (online)
In this Issue
Richard Hartwell Walter Safar Thomas McDade Bob Bradshaw Caitlin Thomson Steve Klepetar Jeffrey Park Danny Earl Simmons Mark Mitchell Peggy Aylsworth Lisa Kaitz Jessica Lieberman William Robison Burningword is published by Burrdowning Press Publishing Editor & Creative Director Erik Austin Deerly Editor In Chief Anita M. Garza
Dan Pizappi Michael Estabrook Gary Beck John McKernan Ann Dernier Douglas Sullivan Keith Moul Ross Moretti
Intern Alisha Referda www.burningword.com Submissions & guidelines: www.burningword.com/submissions PO Box 217 Carmel IN 46062 USA ÂŠ 2012 Burningword & the authors
Bradly Brandt David Kann James Fowler Lauren Shows Eugene Melino Mike Gallagher Toshiya Kamei Armel Dagorn
Summer Whispered to March
You need not fear the cold much longer;
The human voice,
the seasons of the world are changing,
a peculiar instrument
they are structures collapsing
badly played by most
and will be gone by midnight
can produce beauty,
as if by tidal wave.
making us wonder
You see, the walls keeping things apart,
why so many
they won’t hold much longer.
assault fragile ears.
Soon the sun will come to warm our bodies ceaselessly year-round,
—Gary Beck (email@example.com)
thus causing oceans of missed pleasure to announce their presence greeting us tasting of winter
and smelling of soap. They’ll begin by kissing our necks and nipples and lap and lap against the shore, returning ever steadily-and yet, between sun and burning sand there is space unlimited to grow. —Jessica Lieberman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
baited fishhook moon trolls the thin matter of twilight one eyelid of light one slit scale on the fin of dawn dangling like a silk chemise, across the back of the night’s chair little sawyer moon,
Jessica is currently studying poetry at Kenyon College. She has studied under Daniel Mark Epstein, Thomas Hawks, and Jennifer Clarvoe. She works as an intern for the Kenyon Review.
little snag-edge librating in river’s bed snares from the current’s umbra a kiss from those luminous lips a falcated honesty rising in the aureola of day like Eos unable to sleep with him on her mind —Ann Dernier (d e r n i e r @ m i n d s p r i n g . c o m )
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Shroud At dusk in the dirt near the mouth of the tomb lie the wrappings of Lazarus abandoned in ecstasy A slight figure scurries whisks them away scrubbing in the current till fingertips are sanguine spreads them on a rock to dry in the morning Later she laves her brother’s bowl
Troubadour The troubadour has got no horse so he rides to his gigs on a minstrel cycle to fortnightly ovations and all the roast meat he can carry on a dagger The acrobats hang upside down tumblers half fool, naked juggler vainglorious fat clowns send up tight wirewalkers the ragged trampoline springs a trapeze artist In the land Budapest controls at a mineral spa for well-hung Aryans Dan’s ignoble Lord of Gdansk shows his steps to ill cons on Lion Tamer Lane Full tilt a whirling dervish curves nervously, swerves, observes no perversions but ecdysiasts in Gaza strip and Persian rug rats scare Indian elephants Through the door comes the troubadour jester in the vesture besmirches the churches misrule measures its meter but the inverse poet is averse to reverses —William B. Robison (email@example.com)
rinses the cup Martha left on the table and sweeps up the crumbs spilled by her visitor —William B. Robison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ethicist the woman drinks milk in a Chinese restaurant says Derrida is becoming an ethicist barely touches her dish of spicy lobster sauce crawfish and onions deconstructed for nothing —William B. Robison (email@example.com)
Burn in g Word U 5
Divine Confection Once my mother made a big plate of divinity and I said to my brother, bet you can’t eat just one. Well, we fell out laughing, thinking about the time when we bought a bag of chips from the sexy checkout girl and kept making jokes coming home from the grocery cracking up and wondering how the Lays lady lays with a cautious nod to the copyright attorney and all due apologies to Mister Bob Dylan, though a man who makes his living from clever wordplay can hardly complain whenever it crops up elsewhere. That’s especially true because he dropped his real name for his birth certificate reads Robert Zimmerman and I wonder: what if his favorite poet were Robert Frost instead of the thirsty Dylan Thomas, unstoppering by a snowy wood when he got dry?
Would he now be Robert Robert, and wouldn’t people have confused him early on with Robbie Robertson?
William Robison teaches history at Southeastern Louisiana University; writes about early modern England, including The Tudors in Film and Television with Sue Parrill; is a musician and filmmaker; and has poems accepted by Amethyst Arsenic, amphibi.us, Anemone Sidecar, Apollo’s Lyre, Asinine Poetry, Carcinogenic Poetry, decomP magazinE, Forge, Mayday Magazine, On Spec, and Paddlefish.
Or perhaps to avoid that, he would have a nickname: not Boss or King or Slowhand, but something evoking a singer of poetry—maybe Oral Roberts But, oops, that would be even worse because there is that pompadoured Oklahoma preacher, once the healer of arthritic elbows and the occasional plague of boils afflicting the odd Old Testament martyr to whom Bildad appeared with a shopping cart laden with lizards, locusts, and stinging scorpions and said Take this, Job, and shove it, but the tiny wheels bogged down in sand, leaving him lamenting to leprous laymen I’ll bet you this never happened to Jeremiah! Meanwhile, in the eighties, Dylan found the messiah But it was floral moral Oral who said he saw a hundred foot Jesus saying: raise me more geetus. Now, I’m no dyspeptic skeptic, but I’ve never seen Jesus at all, though I feel his presence at Christmas Still, if his standing height in yards was the same as his
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Dry age when he hung on the cross, you could get him to hold
boney anorexic soul has no breath
up your TV antenna, and I’ll bet you would get
no intake at all, its exhalation
immaculate reception. Of course I’d be cautious,
is only the gasp of the punctured corpse
though I’m not sacrilegious, about standing too close for fear of the lightning . . . but really I’m not worried
stake in the breast of the vampire yielding a pitiful puff of fetid staleness
If God hurled thunderbolts like mythical Zeus, He might
even the putrefaction half-hearted
take a shot at preachers for profit, who fudge truth and fiddle the books like Nero selling fire insurance
too little essence for a full-fledged stink
But God lets us make our mistakes and have some fun, too
skin like the sun-dried membrane of bat’s wings
Ben Franklin, our frequently foundering father, said
stretched out thinly over bones so tightly
beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us
that a pinprick, unleashing fierce surface
to be happy, and I would hasten to agree, though
tension, might fling fleshless flaps skittering
Franklin’s faith was not my own, for he was mere Deist
o’er skeleton, ripped cello-wrap beating
not a Eucharistic fellow with chips for his brew and thus never tasted my Mother’s divinity
hasty retreat from desiccated meat balloon stuff fraying round a vacuum void
—William B. Robison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
vaporless vault of the leathery shrew
no sweat, no tears, no mucus, no moisture
Academic Retreat bland ennui podium drones chittering cadres splintering styrofoam blank figures tedium’s bones self-referential legume enumerators blunt stylus medium’s cones somnolent sputter dreary enervation —William B. Robison (email@example.com)
none of the warm wetness of womanhood blood congealed, condensed, evaporated even her venom a fine dry powder her slithering the sound of sandpaper scraping crass across a rough surfaced stone so little like women damp with desire or kissed with chastity’s milder juices lachrymal in laughter, languor, or lust dabbed, licked, lapped up, but never wiped away unafraid to lactate, expectorate perspire, no bleached sinews or oil-less hair breathing visible heat in the chill air tiny droplets of spirit escaping ectoplasm distilling its essence lovers soak up this liquor like sponges in the meantime, seedless, the arid husk parches in her non-porous poverty —William B. Robison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Burn in g Word U 7
While you are dealing the cards, your face is stoney and
I could write a new verse today
About two roses
You observe your victim like a sphynx.
That we laid down onto the black soil
I escape to the casino table,
When we parted,
Because I don’t have much left,
Perhaps even a poem
Just an old family heirloom ring
About the warm tears that were mutely sliding
And very little hope
Into the cradle of your wonderful soul.
That I shall avoid seeing you in the croupier’s uniform, Or the habit of a butler
I could call you loudly,
Who is serving death.
Without shame and boundaries, Like a bird calls another bird,
My place is at the casino table.
But my throat is trapped by silence
The emptier my pockets,
Born to powerful solitude.
The hungrier my passion. I’ve heard the restless voice of a gambler:
Yesterday, I loved you less than I do today,
“Perhaps I shall once manage
And the living memories are proof of that,
To deceive destiny... Perhaps...”
Memories that are warmly flowing
And the voice vanishes in the echo of many a gambler’s
Through the dreamy summer air,
Like blood is flowing through veins.
You once again decided to scourge me,
In the silence of this summer day I could write a poem
Your shiny hand throws the white ball.
About our last dance below the old walnut tree,
Who knows whose bones this white ball was made of,
From which the beautiful memories still emanate,
This ball that dances so seductively
But the sun is still so cold without you,
In front of the inebriated man’s eyes?
Shining like gold:
Will my bones end up
Cold and deadly blinding.
In its white interior tomorrow? When solitude tends to my heart with sadness, It didn’t take you long, destiny,
All I have left are memories
To throw me out into the street
To give birth to a verse
With an empty wallet and a vacant gaze.
Like a wonderful child of hope.
Now I stare into this empty night, And death awaits below the old oak tree
While the present haunts me into the past,
That has accusingly raised its bare branches
I haunt my spirit towards the sun’s golden cradle,
Into this empty night.
So it would become a blood brother to the newborn verse,
Do not wear the black butler’s suit, destiny,
Because I might see you tomorrow
Let death wait.
And read this poem to you.
I know you will comply, destiny,
—Walter William Safar (email@example.com)
You don’t like those who play it safe, Because there is me in you, And there is you in me. Throw another one, destiny! —Walter William Safar (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Old Oak In the shadow of solitude now I see Your eyes,
fearfully looking at it as it drags its dignified old face along
that so faithfully carry about the light
through my thoughts so dark,
its memories are as lively as mine.
and the pen trembles in the hand,
Once, yes, once the memories,
waiting for the prodigal son’s acknowledgement.
who live so inaudibly,
My one and only, acknowledgements arrive in solitude’s
shall become so weak,
so humanly weak,
just like tears, and where there is a tear, there is love,
that they shall find their dark home
always faithful and invisible but so real
next to our wooden crosses.
that you can touch it with thoughts and with the fiery breath in the infinity of solitude.
—Walter William Safar (email@example.com)
I admit to using my verses as ransom for my guilt, (and guilt is my silence), and I listen to the rumor that perpetually, like a bat, whirls across the lonely poet’s street. They say that me and You, my one and only, are fantasy, but a pen immersed in ink. But You know, don’t You, that me and You are perfectly real, full of wishes, dreams and memories.
Walter William Safar was born on August 6th 1958 in ShermanTexas . He is the author of a number of a significant number of prose works and novels, including “Leaden fog”, “Chastity on sale”, “In the flames of passion”, “The price of life”, “Above the clouds”, “The infernal circle”, “The scream”, “The Devil’s Architect”, “Queen Elizabeth II”, as well as a book of poems.
My one and only, I am listening to the whisper of the wind in this warm, dreamy summer night... It is silent, horribly silent without You, and the wind’s whisper is dying down, farther away, oh so far, as if called by death to its black hearse, and I have waited for so many days, months and years to appear, to bring Your voice to me, gentle, soft, warm and yearning, but it is so silent, oh so silent now, that I can hear the screams of solitude chase away memories into this warm summer night, my one and only, I am standing in the shadow of the dignified oak, and I am looking into his empty sleepiness, as if its playfulness left along with You, it is silent like the wind. Its dear, green, eternally waking young leaves, who used to whisper in Your vicinity, untrammeled and confidential, are completely silent now, completely dead. Now I am trembling in the shadow of our oak,
Burn in g Word U 9
The Beam Of Blue Light Will devour The yellow glow To create A zone of Green light Imitating The stars Which always Say Here I am Until they bounce Off the Earth With quark-size
John McKernan John McKernan – who grew up in Omaha Nebraska in the middle of the USA– is now a retired comma herder after teaching 41 years at Marshall University. He lives – mostly – in West Virginia where he edits ABZ Press. His most recent book is a selected poems Resurrection of the Dust. He has published poems in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Journal, Antioch Review, Guernica, Field and many other magazines.
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Images Of you and your shadow You did not know it But there you are In the universe Riding some beams Of light from Earth Next to a moth & some rust —John McKernan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Things Live Inside My House
Singing in the Shower
of lavender soap envelops me like the song’s lyrics.
And move at night With the silence
Wherever I travel I carry
Of a spider web
songs with me, lost for the moment in the Appalachian hills
I want to hear The mouse trap snap
as I walk through a gate
And not listen to the color yellow
at San Francisco International,
In a thimble full of cheese as I walk past the lobby’s guard The fish in the tank
and then up the elevator
Are swimming too quietly
to a cubicle on the third floor.
I want them to wake me up Crunching the skull
All day I walk in and out
Of a drowned fly or a cockroach
of woods carrying the songs of owls and bluegrass.
—John McKernan (email@example.com) They are as close to me as the scent of lavender in a shower. “Art is useless,” a co-worker says.
Under The Stone Moon
practical...” Defiant I stride away humming,
“Give me a bridge, something
In West Virginia
On the dark side Of this black walnut Leafless in March’s iced lilac midnight Miles beneath my feet
waving an air baton. A 100 piece orchestra brazenly joins in as I walk down to HR. —Bob Bradshaw (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sleek new Japanese half -track Cats Chew a new seam of old forest High-sulfur New jersey power-grid light The fossilized eyes Of extinct birds & flying fish Embedded in chunks of coal Roll their stone retinas
Bob is a huge admirer of the Rolling Stones. Mick may not be gathering moss, but Bob is. He hopes to retire soon to a hammock. Bob’s work has appeared in Stirring, Pedestal, Mississippi Review and many other publications.
Into the floodlights of Wolf Pen tipple —John McKernan (email@example.com)
Burn in g Word U 11
Café at Noon
A youth one might describe (if one noticed
him at all) as thin, delicate even, perhaps sensitive, like a poet, or ascetic, like a monk,
steps into the midst of the afternoon
tables, his backpack laden
as one would expect of a young scholar.
as she is, her-
The detonation, however, is a textbook
demonstration of pure physics. The shockwave
where she bends
a wall of air compressed to the density of steel.
and frets the sun.
The phenomenon lasts less than a millisecond, imperceptible to the mind.
Its effect on the body, profound.
you got it right.
The ones closest to the epicenter
A body’s weight
are compressed so far beyond their physical
tolerances they explode,
are literally torn asunder.
In the aftermath, lumps of flesh
it is all
might be found up to a hundred meters
From the Old German fleisch,
as in the Word made flesh
as in the flesh sacrificed for the atonement of sins
—David Kann (firstname.lastname@example.org)
as in sins of the flesh. —Eugene A. Melino (email@example.com)
Eugene Melino lives and writes in New York City. He is currently a master class student at the Writers Studio, an independent creative writing school founded by the poet Philip Schultz. Eugene earned his graduate and undergraduate degrees at New York University, where he majored in English education. He also studied journalism, filmmaking, and art history. For many years, he worked as a corporate writer. These days, he devotes his writing efforts entirely to poetry.
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Coffee Shop on West Fourth & Mercer Sitting in Swensen’s the lunch hour passed
our first college graduate poised and grinning
I look up from my book black clouds unfurling
because he had the world on a string
the plate glass window like a Gericault
had survived so much already
all storm and swirl sudden rain dousing the wet girls
I never realized how much I loved those old songs
I didn’t know how much I loved a storm
Sinatra on the stereo Saturday mornings
being dry and alone the place all to myself
me sitting cross-legged on the floor a little boy my father lounging long legged across
quiet like a chapel the food an offering
brand new Lionel trains deployed between us
the tepid coffee a libation
slow on the turn don’t jump the track the best toy
I never realized how much I loved chapels
ever with a headlight like a real diesel electric
hidden holy sanctuaries like the one in Antibes
I am the luckiest boy in the world
where I saw the Guernica how I loved the screaming
except the day President Kennedy is shot
horses the rage the sun the light the topless beaches
no school no Popeye no I Love Lucy
the girls bearing their breasts to the sun like desire didn’t
Walter Cronkite so sad John Boy saluting his father
he was younger than me
but desire was everything how I loved desire the ache and arc of it
I see myself in the clouded plate glass
forlorn and unrequited I lived to get my heart broken
still that same round face smiling at the lights
the countless years spent falling in
his grandfather leading him by the hand
and out of love I used to think how I wasted my life
flashing jostling circus fairway the clowns
but it was the best education
the crowd the boy half running half skipping tiny hand holding grandpa’s calloused finger
I like to count the women I made love to
hanging on for dear life the bounding strides
not to keep score but to never forget each one
I never realized how much I loved my grandfather
their bodies their love their charms
the black sheep his brothers called him
all I have left really so I count them every day
how he broke down our door that night
like a litany the first one that strange girl all arms
so drunk and angry at the world
and legs how she liked walking in the cemetery
grandma hiding with us when he found
my arm around her waist so quiet and calm
her my father had to knock him down
I didn’t know how much I loved the wedge of a woman’s hip in the cup of my palm
I never realized how much I loved these people all gone now common as salt strange as exotic birds
The rain sweeps across the emptied street
their hopes their sins their endless striving and falling
diminished Toyotas and Hondas wading along Mercer
now the rain washes away all things cleansing
their headlights like a funeral procession
the world making it new and ready
for some silent era movie star long reclusive but beloved in death
—Eugene A. Melino (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I never realized how much I missed American cars the Electras and Eldorados Thunderbirds and Fairlanes they lined the streets of my youth stood background in all those pictures my mother a beautiful young thing my father looking handsome and heroic my cousin Jim when he could still walk
Burn in g Word U 13
The Jobs I Want Are Never Out
A Place For Everything (And
Of Your Average Jobs Section
Everything In Its Place)
Strolling down Bridge Street my eyes wandered to a sign
Since it’s the time of day for tidying up
in a window reading, in big bright yellow letters, BOOKS
she takes pains to sort each of her words
WANTED. I walked in, greeted the man behind the
into the appropriate category:
counter with the highest grade of courtesy I could muster,
blue, red, yellow, sweet and sour, soft
and handed my CV to him with a casual assurance born
and prickly, clean, dirty or just slightly off color.
of weeks of beating the city’s pavement looking for odd
Softly evocative, thuddingly utilitarian.
jobs. A manager was produced; we conversed. For this kind
Love talk, hate speech, political diatribes,
of position, you see, credentials don’t matter that much
rants, raves, angry spittle-flying denunciations,
but eloquence, the gift of the gab do. And with these I am
blessed, and soon I was offered my own office space, on the
all put away now, well out of sight and mind.
shelf, where to box in my chatter. What will I be, the brave
And so we sit and stare at each other across
man inquired. “A Mikhail Bulgakov, sir.” Of the worst kind,
the dining room table, grimacing, shrugging –
of course. A wild and purring mad Master and Margarita.
blink hard once if you want the salt,
A slight frown shot through my new owner’s face, then
twice for pepper.
disappeared – he would have preferred a Brown or Meyer, a Rankin even, something he’d get rid of in no time. But
—Jeffrey Park (email@example.com)
as a man of taste, he soon muted his commercial concerns and congratulated me for the soundness of my choice.
So here I am, dear reader, sitting on this shelf as I
have been doing for weeks now, and if you are reading this
Your Reflection, Distorted
at this very instant, it is that I have started tearing up bits of myself, flyleaves, irrelevant front and back matter, to kill time and boredom and sending them for help. Nobody asks for a Bulgakov these days. I’ll grow old on this shelf. But hell, it’s still better than my last gig as a kitchen porter. —Armel Dagorn (firstname.lastname@example.org) Armel Dagorn was born in 1985 in France and has been living in Cork, Ireland for the past few years. He reads and writes in his adopted language, English, whenever he gets a chance. His stories appear in magazines such as Southword, trnsfr and Wordlegs. He just opened a little place at http:// armeldagorn.wordpress.com
I draw my dirty claws across the surface of the water, see your reflection in the broken glass, your hand extended toward me. No matter how frantically I scrape at your image, you continue to smile and oppress me with your terrifying generosity of spirit. —Jeffrey Park (email@example.com)
14 V Is sue 6 2
The Thrill Of The New
You just knew she’d
Why don’t you sit on down
throw it a long, long way.
and have a cup of coconut milk?
And she did.
Get comfy, roll yourself up
It sailed out over the infield
in my Persian rug.
further than all the others by
Try something new
a full two meters
for a change, like trimming the nail
and stuck quivering
on every second toe
in the hard-packed sand
just to see
while the spectators clapped
what it feels like. Have sex
and cheered and oohed
with a stranger
and tell him afterwards that you’re an elf
but you could tell
and you can prove it.
really they were disheartened
Buy a pack of chewing gum
by the sight of it
and don’t wait for your change. Drive
quivering like that in the
a slow car
like a lightning rod
Say something snide
glaring up at a darkening sky
about the person you love
and let your eyes show that this time
to an approaching storm
you really mean it.
unseen and quite inescapable.
—Jeffrey Park (firstname.lastname@example.org)
—Jeffrey Park (email@example.com)
Baltimore native Jeffrey Park currently lives in Munich, Germany, where he works at a private secondary school and teaches business English to adults. His latest poems have appeared in Requiem Magazine, Curio Poetry, Danse Macabre, scissors and spackle, Right Hand Pointing and elsewhere. Links to all of his work can be found at www.scribbles-and-dribbles. com.
Burn in g Word U 15
A Heart After Childhood
Goodbye sound of sliding screen door, and the look of your
Grainy snaps show her circled by smiles,
skin under those lights, dainty and dangling overhead,
sons and local spirits, with ample hoist
blues fading green and soon, or at least I thought, soon—
through the hot effulgence of summer light.
you’d come waltzing out to that song we always play, always sing, always saying remember this one, and take
Photos did no justice to her knotted neurons.
from me the last I have to give. She quit childhood too early with a heart Goodbye sweat-born ache, small apartment smelling of
like an empty sack. A girl, she abjured thought
iridescence, and goodbye hand on my chest, slap across
of her future, as short on time as expected.
my face, kiss on the lips when I ask for one on the cheek. A photo cache weighted forgotten albums. Goodbye, goodbye, like a hymn, something slipped from the side of my mouth as I’m pretending not to watch you
Marriage scarred her edges: her dissonance,
change. Nothing explicit, no nudity or pale revealing
her children entertained her. So often weather
under shaky lamps. No, I’m often with my fingers before
lilted curls, muted voice, or silenced evening wings.
my eyes, you’re half spread just beyond me, like we’re dancing two separate edges of the night.
History in song and pictures passed around her.
Go on now, pull closed the window, check the locks tight,
After barren years, she saw better how
until morning there’s only cool reflections across the
things should have gone, but she did not act:
pavement; go on now, good night, ease under your sheets,
new generations grew smiles amid the old.
keeping time like a train station, and soon there’s only secrets left floating, a journey out of sync, I hear you
All around her bore the pall of somber fate.
whispering one step ahead of me, She sulked. She raised intolerance in status. Soon you’ll be calling to ask where are you now? Soon
She bored her friends, off center of respect.
there’ll be nothing to explain, to mumble; nothing to slip
At last, she lined her walls with mollusk shells
beneath the cracked door. sent her to excite the hollow breath of song Goodbye back stairs, natural curve as we pressed our
and sat alone until her body in disuse ached.
mistakes together; goodbye look in your eye, sting of
She wanted much more, but pretended less.
poison, shaved ice and two fingers vodka in a rocks glass. Until she dies, this account is unauthorized. Goodbye, soft call into the empty night; —Keith Moul (firstname.lastname@example.org) Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye— —Douglas Sullivan (Douglassullivan81@gmail.com)
He has recent fiction publications in: Crime Factory Magazine, Sleet Magazine, and with Vagabondage Press.
16 V Is sue 6 2
Rebellion Takes Up Conspiracy With Mankind
Painted Face Like a planet in a cold orbit, rarely did he need the sun. Stay on course,
Howard Thomas had grown engagingly human.
rotate at an awful pace, shed your ice
He nurtured Harry S. Truman, his heretical cat. Howard, who had many, often invited
into the unlived silence of black space.
friends to visit him for bracing conversation
He fished catfish to see them dangle
about what it meant to be engagingly human.
helpless on a line. Waste their fish souls,
Howard provoked his friends to act feline;
eat them panfried, wash them down with beer.
occasionally, his friends engaged with claws.
At private moments, with his lover in his arms,
More than ten feline friends are hard to herd.
he dreamed punishments for enemies.
But Howard rationalized that his humanity could resist even the bloodshed of rebellion,
Pile them on a heap, take your spoils,
that as long as his friends stayed in his parlor
mark your face with battle blood you won.
and did not spread their cat insurrection outside
Passing within a whisper of home he did not hear.
the rest of Mankind would embrace their differences. Coming into old territory, he did not veer. Harry S. knew better. Harry S. would have preferred
Leaving his mark on bushes, he felt gods in stars.
that his instincts led the cat skirmish, from atop a cabinet,
Steal children in pairs, in ritual gag them, then watch.
a favorite place. Harry S.Truman got exact terms he wanted when human rebellion
—Keith Moul (email@example.com)
took up conspiracy with Mankind. Afterwards, Howard came to believe that humanity will not be engaged nor be well served by soothing purrs. As a hermit, Howard expanded the biography of notable cats. Harry S sought other comforts.
Keith’s poems have been published widely for almost 45 years. Recently two chaps have been released: The Grammar of Mind (2010) from Blue & Yellow Dog Press and Beautiful Agitation (2012) from Red Ochre Press. He also publishes photos widely. In fact, in 2010 a poem written to accompany one of his photographs was a Pushcart nominee.
—Keith Moul (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Burn in g Word U 17
Your mother attempts to clear the bushes
“Free canoe. Not seaworthy.” The ad suggested that it could be used for a sandbox, a planter, decorative piece
A first infant taste of lunacy
but no one, not those you hated most
that made me think I could jump the
should peer out to sea from its unworthy hull.
4-foot porch over the thick hedge into the yard, scratchless, blameless.
“I will help you load it.” We made the call, joking as we bobbed down SR 343
Kid, you’ll be jumping any day now.
then pulled in, gravel skipping, pack of dogs barking
You’ll get to know them folks,
and walked up in the dusk and no-see-ums hover.
them fellas, them naysayers. You’ll see what I mean:
We should have listened. The mosquitoes grieved over a still black pond. We bit back laughs
Always the wide- mouthed expressions,
as the red-faced man said, “Ain’t good for shit,”
always, “Are you serious, kid?”
and scratched his chin, days and days unshaved.
when you come up bleeding and mount the porch again.
What else can we do? As the sound of water enters our ears, our shoes, the pockets of clothes
But had you cleared the bushes,
we unmoor it from the porch, and the rain abides.
toes in grass, knees unscathed,
Step in. Hope the old man knew he was wrong.
family behind you on the porch, cheering, that’s when you’d have given up jumping. So anyway, what I mean is, though it pains me to say it: jump. I still do. With any kind of luck, eventually we’ll both make it over. —Lauren Shows (email@example.com)
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—Lauren Shows (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Missing Poet’s Lounge
A Literary Myth
In memoriam Weldon Kees and Lew Welch A dry pen
In the missing poets’ lounge, a sad man
rolls down the table.
Tickles the piano, key by cold key, Thinking, all the time, of his escape plan.
It teeters, momently, on the edge
He spreads his long fingers into a fan, Drops a chord, exhales smoke. He wants to see
What he’s missing. Poet’s lounge, young sad men
Looking too cool. One watched since he began
and lands point
Playing. He snapped his fingers far too quickly,
down in the carpet
Thinking in double time. He had his own plan exactly like For getting out, he knew. The second hand
a sword in a stone.
Ticks loud. He strikes a note. Could all these be Missing poets? The lounge seemed sad. Each man —Mark J. Mitchell (Rfk40a@aol.com) Speaking only to themselves as they scanned The room. Alone, each one was sure that he, Alone, was thinking up some escape plan. He trills a slow riff. He stops and stands. He bows. The faces tell him he is free Of the missing poet’s lounge. This sad man’s Thinking all the time. His escape is planned. —Mark J. Mitchell (Rfk40a@aol.com)
Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologies Good Poems, American Places,Hunger Enough, and Line Drives. His chapbook, Three Visitors will be published by Negative Capability Press later this year and his novels, The Magic War and Knight Prisoner will be published in the coming months. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster. Currently he’s seeking gainful employment since poets are born and not paid.
Burn in g Word U 19
Rift Time A crevice spilling seconds
Excelsior, or Lover Lost to an Overdose
into the endless cup, a whorl of glass so fine
Cellophane tensions swelling;
as the film of saliva over lips
spun in the gasp of a moment,
mixed in the dark:
tongue tucking back into its cave— we pumped the cool stop-flow exhale,
everything you never had
into that syringe,
the mass of time
sealed with a kiss over the needle.
evaporates from the flesh, swirling in the tangled ether,
I pierced you with the feather
sprouting from rooted breath;
and you took wing in the psychotropic aftermath:
the clock unfolds between lovers’ teeth,
fluorescent eclipse and
blooming into a flower, its face
the weeping mask of an instant, Mid-flight, you realized its hands two warm, slick leaves
my gold foil betrayal,
reaching through white picket fences
pretty in the sun, but
to conjoin in the space between.
insubstantial, the brass knuckle of my love,
—Ross Moretti (email@example.com) and you flew skyward
through frosted cloud and filament air to dash upon the knife-blade stars,
Gravity carries only one arrow in his quiver,
leaving me to crystallize
a bolt of blackened cypress salvaged from fire,
amongst the raining
tempered in the warm ashes of sorrow.
It is fletched with red feathers, plucked from a falling dove dyed in blood and cherries.
—Ross Moretti (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Platinum-tipped, it shines in the sun, and in the darkness drips a slick glimmer. This is all he needs to bring the world down, to bring the moon to her knees and make her sway with the ocean tides. One arrow, fed through with steel cable that he keeps in a coil on his hip. With this, he will seize you by the heel, Achilles, and drag you back from the far shores of Troy, sparing you the final grief of heroism. —Ross Moretti (email@example.com)
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Ross Moretti is a first-year graduate student at Stanford University. An aspiring poet who originally hails from New Jersey, he was published several times in his undergraduate literary magazine, Lafayette College’s The Marquis. He recently participated in a poetry reading with Matthew Dickman, in recognition of one of his poems in Lafayette College’s annual H. MacKnight Black poetry competition.
Seven Glimpses of Patti maniacal
although she nods, pats my shoulder, and says, “Don’t
under an empty moon, I walked the three miles from my
worry about it, Dear, I know you’ve been busy. I know you
house to her house, hid in her back yard, down low in the
have more important concerns on your mind,” I can tell
bushes, waiting, hoping, for a mere glimpse of her sweet,
that behind those soft brown, pseudo-sympathetic eyes
pure, white form moving up in her bedroom window
lurks a maniacal, mindless, slaveringly hideous female beast, already plotting her revenge for me not having
noticed her new hair-do. she’s incredulous as I tell her my terrible dream where she pricked
no longer loves me, her eyes staring empty, so empty, into space
in the twilight I see her across the grass and the folding chairs and faded blankets talking with some friends,
—Michael Estabrook (firstname.lastname@example.org)
gesticulating, pushing the hair back off her face, and I think how very pretty she is still, and listen intently, like a fox with its ears pricked, for the sounds of her precious voice to reach me in brief, simple, unorganized tones
serenade I did not know I always felt I should do something unusual or extreme to
the lighthouse was white;
win her over, to gain her attention, her look of approval,
it always seemed gray,
like serenade her or call out to her from beneath her
like the cold empty sea
window like in the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet,
to which it stood sentinel.
climb a ladder, snatch her away, her knight in armor
But, once, the sun danced
shining like the moon
through the clouds and the lighthouse beamed -
adagio of glow upon stone. Soon, the tide ebbed;
we’re up in the spotlight booth as the lights go dim in the
bitter clouds closed in;
high school auditorium, she seems so happy, yes, she does
things returned to gray.
seem happy, quietly waiting with her eyes closed tight
I am lonely, fearful of storms.
allowing me to steal my first kiss from her there alone in the night
—Danny Earl Simmons (email@example.com)
beauty on the steps outside the old gym, early winds of autumn blowing in from across the playing fields, I have to try and
His work has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals such as Naugatuck River Review, Avatar Review, Summerset Review, Burningword, and Pirene’s Fountain.
tell her, I must tell her, about her unspeakable softness, her shattering beauty, her shining brown eyes, her sweet, feminine scent, but all I can proclaim is, “I love you,” and clasp her precious hands desperately in mine
Burn in g Word U 21
Omelet The man who did twelve
Many attempts to top that
years says he has two
account fail but a couple
Honorables covering eight
of guys are too busy to compete
and a Medical Discharge
fashioning joints and tobacco
for the rest that does not
smokes using nifty rolling devices.
state a reason but he’ll tattle
The Mongrel is named Jesse
after a minute or so gabbing
and she barks her two-cents worth
that booze graced most
and more as if all these sea and terra
of his sailor days—
firma tales pale against what
take that, jump ship,
she could gush concerning
use some imagination.
her existence before
A mongrel in the corner stares
adoption discharged her
at him head tilted quizzically.
honorably from a shelter.
Civilian-wise, he’s been
A hunk of omelet overboard
DUI convicted five times
passes for gourmet
and he’ll proudly name
among this howling dog
states, cities, fines
pound of a crew.
All that aside, he’s been doing
—Thomas Michael McDade (firstname.lastname@example.org)
pretty well, dry a couple of months but a reunion revealed that tipsy on memories is likely to diminish per shipmate arrival. No Taps or Reveille, morning delivered him animated and unwinding amid strong urging to enjoy the three-egg cheese omelet dwarfing his plate. Managing a bite, he halts and cuts to his first liberty in the Philippines. Holding up three fingers he says Count them! All mine for a week! My harem fought over rights to little ole me, butterfly knives settled each day’s first possession! Dangerous shit, he adds, glancing at a pistol hanging off a the host’s rifle rack like a stepchild and no one disagrees.
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McDade is a former computer programmer living in Monroe, CT with his wife, no kids, no pets. He did two hitches in the U.S. Navy. He’s been most recently pulished in New Maps.
Only in Silence
When Chet’s going cold
Even now, as my fingers
turkey, can’t work
Turn incised in time,
long solos, his trio must
As my eyes fall upon
rescue the slack
The dusting of artificial
as Chet stalls and paces
Sweetener some careless
and instead of resting
Hand forgot, I wonder
places his horn
On the involute silence
on the barstool.
Of empty space.
Spinning the seat he watches soft light
ricochets off the brass
Silent silence. Bespotted
and a dim glow
Always with the stigmata
of accusation play
Of an omnipresent hum.
roulette on his face, Arm twitching
This hum is not unlike
for the trumpet, he drags
The hum of industry
long on a cigarette
But for its source— its source
before hoisting his horn
Lies hidden deep in the earth,
He closes his eyes,
Or perhaps it originates
brailles the brass,
In my very skull.
as wandering lyrics perch restlessly
This hum, this ceaseless
on his tongue.
Murmuring, I think at times
“Every time we say goodbye,
To be existence itself
I die a little…”
Sighing without end.
Pistons like syringe plungers shake him. Death jerking
From here I can almost see
horn to mouth, he blows and blows,
The opening doors and feet
blows clear of wives, lovers
And hands descending like
and children: clear of himself.
Locusts. Foreknowledge needs
Lost in applause Chet wonders
Not prophesy. And I hear,
how long art based on Taps
Now as then, the lingering hum
can last; he traces his lucky
Deafening always and louder
vein, dwells on the spitty air
Only in silence.
streams tricked into music, tastes the words:
—Dan Pizappi (email@example.com)
“Every time we say goodbye, I wonder why a little.” —Thomas Michael McDade (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Burn in g Word U 23
The Straw Girl
The Unbearable Heat
No one comes. House lights burn
It’s the usual scene – family, close friends, and distant
in the empty street, white oaks
relatives are packed into a tiny salon. Their black
shudder in all these silent yards.
mourning clothes make them indistinguishable from each
She stands in October moonlight,
other. It’s hot.
leaves swirling at her feet, opens her eyes to another gravity’s
The tension is extreme. It breaks when the body is carried
magic pull. How strange to feel
in. Now comes the theatrics, the crying, the weeping,
that pale yellow bath on her cheeks
even fainting. Breath, sighs, sweat, and tears add to the
and painted smile. She drinks
humidity. It’s unbearable. Seated on the sofa, kneading
the darkness as an owl floats
a soaked, wrinkled handkerchief, I can hardly hide my
by, its alien face round as another
loathing. I want them to go. I wish they would sweat blood
moon dotted with black
rather than salt water.
stars, rush of wings and from somewhere breath and a beating heart.
Gradually the dark figures leave, taking their moans with them. Only a few of his closest friends remain. Attempting
Maybe you’ll meet her some night
to comfort me, they offer me coffee. I shake my head. With
on the moonbeam road, when
disturbed and quizzical looks, they, too, finally depart,
careless dreams push you toward
leaving me alone, fulfilling my wish which would have
the margins of a tired life. Feel
shocked them...had they known.
your own swimming arms pull a body through surging sky.
I have long imagined him like this – transparent, bluish.
Don’t fail to greet her with your
I see the grimace of rictus on his face. It chills me to my
eyes at least, or if your tongue
bones. His eyes fly open in a bloodshot flash. I feel hot. In a
unfreezes, speak to her in the unlocked
moment, he’ll be inside me, taking my breath away, leaving
language of your weightless blood.
me to pant.
She might take your hand then, lead you home to secret pools where wolves lap at secrets with their scarlet tongues.
—Steve Klepetar (email@example.com)
Steve Klepetar teaches literature and writing at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. His work has received several Pushcart nominations and his chapbook, Thirty-six Crows, was recently published by erbacce press.
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—Carmen Simón (translated by Toshiya Kamei, firstname.lastname@example.org)
I’d seen him an hour or so earlier,
Four - or is it five? - lonely leaves
outside of Medford, before the
left dangling from the apricot tree;
rain set in, and I’d hunkered down
wrinkled, yellowed ancients of the
at a truck stop to ease the dizziness
ravages of late fall, early winter.
in my mind and the queasiness of an empty stomach, too many cigarettes.
Seems sort of forlorn to be the last ones left hanging around
Must have gotten a ride soon, then
when all the others have left
passed me when I was off the road.
hurriedly, in the wind, weaving
Here he was once again; suede coat
away to the far side of the yard.
now soaked to a seal-skin sheen. His dog was soaked too; black lab,
Leaves and fruit bunch together,
no leash, sitting next to the bedroll.
huddled communally, windrows
That was about all I took in before
against the base of the wall as if
eased the gas and onto the shoulder.
in group therapy they organize to rout the wind and restrain the
I don’t know what possessed me.
ravages of snow, rain, and ice.
Normally I don’t pick up anyone. Something about his reappearance
—Richard Hartwell (email@example.com)
perplexed me and needed an answer. It was kind of a closed-in, dreary day, a day when you look for company, good or bad, just to share the rain and the half-full bottle on the seat. He didn’t run to the truck when I stopped a bit ahead of him, as a young man might do, but merely bent full from the waist, retrieved his pack, tipped down the brim of his hat a lower, and
Rick Hartwell is a retired middle school (remember, the hormonially-challenged?) English teacher living in Moreno Valley, California, with his wife of thirty-six years (poor soul, her, not him), their disabled daughter, one of their sons and his ex-wife and their two children, and twelve cats. Yes, twelve! He believes in the succinct, that the small becomes large; and, like the Transcendentalists and William Blake, that the instant contains eternity. Given his “druthers,” if he’s not writing poetry, Rick would rather still be tailing plywood in a mill in Oregon.
started forward with a purpose. The dog came too, of course, perhaps adding to my belief in this man’s native goodness; I can usually rely on dog sense. Whatever the reason, I decided to pick up this soaked hitchhiker; he and the dog grew larger in the right hand mirror, as did the knife. —Richard Hartwell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Burn in g Word U 25
Owned and Operated
But did he find the tribe
her wail so fiery
spat out of rock
and tender all
below the cousin clouds
a sugary bird
with sounding conch shells
between their ears?
sliced by guitars
They feed on everything:
surrounded by drums
metals, birdsong, saffron,
until what’s out and in
resurrecting memories of
seem twin and one
nails cut and painted plum
like the dance of lesser
head cocked just so
and greater dreamtime.
aimed at who else
Social as termites,
glossy raven bangs
they raise tower upon
seething indigo eyes
a blind, spiral god;
rolling over themselves
vicious as hornets,
as they do now
they cultivate venoms and
while this precious song is
enemies to die of them.
stolen from a gorge
There’s less blood
two decades deep
painting and head polo
when such things
than their fathers knew.
fused my soft skull together
Customs evolve as
despite ditching and driving
killing grows easier.
They’d almost rather
at residential fifty
track evil spirits
with this song
to their inmost cells,
this song whose sounds
corner them in forests.
unfurl out of
Their stories tell both
my turd-yellow Datsun
of gates and pits,
how one can seem
getting tangled in
much like the other.
every lucky tree
Armed with a language
this precious loot
they speak forward slowly,
liable to lies
by some little shit
half my age
tending at times
making triple my salary
toward the grotesque,
who figured out
but hopeful at last
the demographics of SUVs
of their waiting name. —Lisa Kaitz (email@example.com) —James Fowler (firstname.lastname@example.org)
James Fowler teaches literature at the University of Central Arkansas. His poems have appeared in such journals as Poetry Quarterly, Rockhurst Review, The Hot Air Quarterly, Amoskeag, and Parting Gifts.
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The pale-pink spikes of Herb Robert
One doesn’t intend to comment on
recede in hedgebank’s galaxy
strangers lives, but when you wake
of buttercup, harebell and phlox
to a glass shattering on the floor
unsucked by butterfly or buzzing bee; one visitor alone alights on its unfancied petal- fair hard to tell if wasp or flyits pungent nectar to imbibe. As in the case of flowers spurned, insects that seem grotesque,
above you, followed by a scream and then the words I refuse, repeated, you know that sleep will not return for quite some time. They divorced and for a while
everyone and everything
it was quite. The husband would wander
is each by nature blessed
the neighborhood in white undershirts,
with purpose and the gift
the wife presumably far away. Then
of love and being loved;
they discovered the phone and a whole
and for their very difference,
new kind of one sided argument erupted,
by only fools are scorned.
louder, with no broken dishes.
—Mike Gallagher (email@example.com)
Our next door neighbors were happy, and in love, which is a different sort of problem. A different set of sounds.
—Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Blonde: Tall Legs:
Jeans: Blue Coat:
Quinault Rain Forest
Colours: Clash Beauti: Fully Long legs
There are a million pebbles beneath my feet.
A small riverbed sleeps eight feet in front of me,
The wind circles my small chest.
Bygone Old man
I rise to a full forest and a hungry belly.
A long haired father with three caught fish, —Mike Gallagher (email@example.com)
two Trout and one Steelhead.
In Ireland he has been published in The Doghouse Book of Ballad Poems, Irish Haiku Society, Revival, The Stony Thursday Book and Crannog; outside Ireland, his poetry and prose has been published throughout Europe, America, Canada, Japan, India and Australia. He won the Eigse Michael Hartnett viva voce prize in 2010 and is a current nominee for the Hennessy Award. He is the editor of thefirstcut, an online literary journal.
Limbs of Red Cedars move at night. I hear the Tree dream particles come out from underneath us. Father wakes me and feeds the fire outside, The trees then move again. —Bradly Brandt (Sergio.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Burn in g Word U 27
Invitation From Hopper
By The Grace Of
She leans forward into the bay window.
The orange moon
Water, a long way off and a loon cries.
plays the banjo, hot tempos
In the room, a man speaks,
over blackest night
someone listens. Expectations
as the city bravely lights it tower-tops.
are set in motion. She remains
frozen at the window, waiting,
presses through glass.
not a matter of time. The call
of the loon carries over the water.
the sleepless in New York.
Expectations have a way of shifting.
All things interior breed new eyes, opening to the unseen,
Though The Scream has been stolen,
held for the perspicacious
Oslo keeps its appeal, the train ride
to uncover in the star-hung night.
a preliminary. Formal introductions
have their own façade. Do you
signal windows, signal pauses
bow or let your eyes reach
their own conclusions? So much
a revelation luminous as the moon.
has entered, rushing to fill the gap.
Country calls can almost be heard,
Still she leans into the morning light.
but their value
The thicket, green and familiar,
doesn’t distract. Out there,
the air has a yellowness, lifting
Night birds have nested
from the tall growth gone dry.
in the lungs
Anticipation holds, a thread not quite sewn.
of many born in tall grass gone dry,
—Peggy Aylsworth (email@example.com)
grown foreign. —Peggy Aylsworth (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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BOUND & AVAILABLE
Ninety-Nine A SELECTED ANTHOLOGY OF POETRY
ISSN 2161-8992 (print) ISSN 2157-7366 (online) Burningword is published by Burrdowning Publishing. Copyright ÂŠ 2012 Burningword and the authors.
Published on Oct 1, 2012
Issue 64: Poetry and short fiction by 29 established and emerging writers. Visit burningword.com for all previous issues.