The Centrifugal Eye Wi nte r/S pri ng 20 13 Vol um e7 Issu e3
Sinkhole: Drowning or Surviving Themes on Coping, in Poetic Form
The Centrifugal Eye Staff: Editor-in-Chief & Art Director: Eve Anthony Hanninen Contacts Editor & Review Columnist: Karla Linn Merrifield Assistant Editors: David-Glen Smith & Maureen Kingston Essay Columnist: Erik Richardson Editorial Assistant & Reviewer: D. J. Bryant Art Assistants: D. J. Bryant & Stephanie Curtis Staff Readers’ Circle: Anonymous Reviewers
Cover Art: “2 Ways of Walking” Chris Solberg is an avid amateur photographer who lives in Seattle, WA.
Copyright 2013 The Centrifugal Eye * Collected Works *
Editorial Floundering in a Whirlpool: . . . By Eve Anthony Hanninen 07
Featured Mini-Folio Poets: Paul Hostovsky & Risa Denenberg: 4 Poems (Lost & Found)
12 Featured Interview Poet: Kathleen Dale 16 30
4 Dale Poems
“We Only Think We Choose” — a Dale Essay
33 Drowning: Poetry on Succumbing 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 42 43 44
The Life Insurance Company Is Calling Your Friends by Lynn Otto The Gay Divorceé Contemplates December by Janice D. Soderling riding with him & I Am Seventeen, My Parents Are on Vacation . . . by Tommie Slayden In the Basement by Martin Elster In the Time of Novels by Risa Denenberg The Inland Whale by Ralph Gordon On Adversity & Escape Artist by Paul Hostovsky Flying Fish by Sarah Kravitz
45 Surviving: Poetry on Surmounting 46 47 48 49 50 51
Stinson Beach by Thomas Piekarski Today I Am Thankful by April Salzano Missing by Robert Sell Near Spring, Near the Coral Sea by Phillip A. Ellis It Can Be Imagined by Richard C. Freed Spice of Life by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Featured Mini-Folio: Eamonn Stewart: 1 Poem & a Photo-Essay
53 Coping (Drowning & Surviving): 54 56 57 58 60 61 62 64 66 68 71 74 80
Poetry on Withstanding First Person Plural, First Person Singular by Pamela Johnson Parker Travenanzes by Davide Trame Dry Spell & After a Meeting by Colleen Powderly Once the River by Amy Neill Bebergal Woman & Man by Kitty Jospé Macbeth at the Writers Group by Tim Diggles Peevish by Paul Hostovsky Their Divorce Began at the Kitchen Table . . . by Karla Linn Merrifield Hard Frost by Jennifer Lagier
Essay Column: Into the Labyrinth: Drowning, Surviving … by Erik Richardson Review Column: Merrifield’s Tao of Poetry: “drab dabs …” On Scot Siegel’s Thousands Flee California Wildflowers by Karla Linn Merrifield Ships Come in & Bridges over Muddy Waters: The Latest News & Guides
“I Am Here” By Karen Greenbaum-Maya, 2013
Floundering in a Whirlpool: When the Muck Keeps Getting Muckier By Eve Anthony Hanninen Maybe you’re like me: Things aren’t going so swell, but you keep your chin up, tramp through the puddles to get to the other side of the road. Only, one of those puddles is deeper than you expected and suddenly you’re wet to the knees. You swear. Maybe laugh. You make a move to step out to safer ground, but the next you realize, you’re actually sinking. Now there’s water, possibly even mud, up to your waist. If you know how to swim, you’ll probably make it across the murky expanse and climb out of the sinkhole after a modicum of discomfort. But what happens if you can’t swim, or there are additional circumstances beyond your control that make surviving your predicament a treacherous proposition? Crashing waves, undertow, quicksand, muscle cramps? Yes, this description is a metaphor for the troubles we all might face. And not only is it a rhetorical happenstance, it’s also a real, figurative event for a lot of us at this very moment. It is for me, too. As much as I always hate admitting my puddles have grown into pits of hell, I share a bit of my turmoil so that I don’t feel so lost in the muck; so that you might not feel so alone in yours. You don’t need all my details, and be assured I think I can just about reach the other side of my abyss, okay? But, yes, during all my floundering over the past year, I also made some mistakes that affected a few of The Centrifugal Eye’s contributors. Two of those contributors, poets Paul Hostovsky and Risa Denenberg, were left to swirl into the vortex that was my stressed and frantic life during the production of TCE’s previous issue, Chapter & Verse. These poets were supposed to appear amongst that issue’s neon line-up of authors. Alas, I lost sight of them in the murky waters. Once my head bobbed up from the depths of overwork, however, I found Denenberg and Hostovsky bobbing right along with me. So, to honor the intentions of these two poets’ works that were meant for last issue’s theme on writing and the digital age, I offer you their four surviving poems in a mini-folio of their own, starting on the very next page. (You’ll also read more works by both Hostovsky and Denenberg for our Sinkhole theme in the issue proper.) Despite my current, continued residence in a consuming whirlpool, I am usually spurred to heights of creative work while under stress, and I think you’ll find our Sinkhole issue proves that out; join Featured Interview Poet Kathleen Dale for her take on surviving the abysses of life. And if it’s possible you haven’t heard yet, after all my crowing over the pond, TCE’s 5th-Anniversary Anthology was published February 14, 2013. You’ll find details on page 80.
Eve Anthony Hanninen is an American poet, editor, and illustrator ranging the Saskatchewan prairies. Her poems will appear or have appeared in Karla Linn Merrifield & Friends (mgversion2>datura), Inertia Magazine, Eye Socket Journal, Switched-on Gutenberg, Sea Stories, Magnolia: A Florida Journal of Literary and Fine Arts, and many other fine journals. She=s anthologized in The Centrifugal Eye’s 5th-Anniversary Anthology, Crazed by the Sun and Trim: A Mannequin Envy Anthology. Eve edits and publishes The Centrifugal Eye poetry journal and is currently at work on two poetry collections of her own.
The Centrifugal Eye’s Featured Mini-Folio Poets Those “Chapter & Verse” poets who survived disappearing into last issue’s vortex:
“Jumbled Letterpress” By D. J. Bryant, 2013
Paul Hostovsky & Risa Denenberg
“Die Beiden” By Paul Hostovsky
He couldn’t speak a word of German. She didn’t know any English. I could recite “Die Beiden” by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and my r’s were perfect drum rolls. He was stationed at the American military base in Mainz. I was in my junior year abroad, studying German at the Goethe Institute. But the fact that he was a soldier impressed her more than my German and my Hofmannsthal and my Goethe put together. She poured him another Pilsener, leaned over the bar on her elbows, and gave him her vertiginous cleavage, tittering as he downed the beer in one long esophageal orgasm. This was the extent of their communication. He drank, she poured, he leered, she tittered. And they went home together, I’d have bet my last pfennig, at closing time. So what was the point of poetry, what was the point of language itself, I asked myself between trochaic hiccups, tottering drunkenly back to my twin bilingual bed.
The Untied Stales Hostovsky
of America, my daughter
“Melted Crayon Art” By D. J. Bryant, 2013
has written above the map of the lower forty-eight a little carelessly, transposing two letters, forgetting to cross one t, the map itself colored in a little sloppily, dark crayon spilling in from Canada and bleeding into Mexico. And how perfect is that?
Paul Hostovsky is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Hurt Into Beauty (2012, FutureCycle Press). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer's Almanac, and Best of the Net. This is Paul’s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Visit his website: http://www.paulhostovsky.com/ To read more of his work in this issue, see pages 42-43 & 64-65.
Reverse-origami By Risa Denenberg
“Unfolded Origami” By D. J. Bryant, 2013
I unfold poems to shed their methods, scan for smallish flaws. Bared, many seem married or smell of sex, flirty without disrobing. They speak of merles or plumes, Holsteins or fishnet stockings, how to handle snakes or tame bears. More experimental than experiential. But why compare the space needed greedily, to peek at defects, to react to my own ripostes. The gorgeous ones, I unfurl with envy; Roethke’s spotting the sadness of pencils. Olds’ letting sparks fly as she strikes her tiny parents’ genitalia together. Learning is at such odds with teaching. Will I ever stop competing? I didn’t want it to rain tonight, to drive to unknown parts in the dark.
Take heaps of notes Denenberg
At 31,000 feet, jammed inside this aluminum can, render the anonymity of air. Dreams are full of words. Sentences warp what is written. Converse with anyone who’ll listen. Ask, what is a South wind? Ramble to gather substance. Hold the confession, the indulgence. Say less than you mean. You’ll never be first-class.
(You are no Whitman, no Ginsberg, no Plath.) Don’t give up now. Worship verbs that slice silence. Notice the beach, grey and strange. Never abandon resonance. Inscribe the stillness, soft and crumbly. Language is faith. Best to trust chaos with your singular nescience.
Risa Denenberg is an aging hippie currently living in Sequim, Wa. She earns her keep as a nurse practitioner and freelance medical writer. Recent poems have been published online at Mudlark, Escape into Life, Scythe, IthacaLit and THIS Literary Magazine, and her chapbook, what we owe each other, is available from The Lives You Touch Publications. To read more of her work in this issue, see page 39.
Poet Kathleen Dale
“Tidal Vortex” By E. A. Hanninen, 2013
Dale Interview, pages 12-15 Dale Poems, pages 16-29 Dale Essay, pages 30-31
The Centrifugal Eye’s Featured Interview Poet
Kathleen Dale Eve Anthony Hanninen, editor-in-chief of The Centrifugal Eye, explores with Poet Kathleen Dale how writing and other means of coping help one survive the “Sinkhole.”
Hanninen: Kathleen, thanks for agreeing to share some of your thoughts and interests with TCE’s readers. What is it about TCE’s “drowning or surviving” theme that drew you to submit to us?
Hanninen: Terribly sad to lose a sibling. It sounds like you’ve found many ways to overcome the difficult associations with that and other losses. Can you give us a little taste of what’s to come in your essay?
Dale: Even though I'm a Pisces, it was a long time before I learned to trust the water, having been denied access to it as a child because of the polio epidemic in which my sister died. I am now, however, a (mostly) self-taught swimmer, board diver, and sailor. And, though I take no credit for it, I also think of myself as a "survivor" of many storms. It may be that, at some point, one’s metaphorical “boat” has to be “swamped” so that one can learn how to navigate the elements when they threaten. For that, it’s always good to have teachers, other survivors, who can point out what’s worked for them. My essay (on pages 30-31) offers a little bit more detail about that idea.
Dale: Maxine Kumin is both a wonderful poet and a survivor — also of many things, including the suicide of her best friend, Anne Sexton. My best friend also committed suicide, and I've had to slog through the quagmire of emotions common to that kind of survivor — guilt, anger, and finally forgiveness. Writing has helped me through that process. Hanninen: Oh, yes— suicide is a trauma some of us must “survive” after our troubled friends or family members do not. As a survivor, though, if you’ve ever felt you were drowning in life’s events or ordeals, in what ways have you coped?
Dale: Although not traditionally religious, I have been a student of the I Ching for over 30 years. Wilhelm’s English translation hadn’t even been written when I was born, though the I Ching is one of the world’s oldest books, and THE guidebook for Taoism, which encourages giving up what we think of as control and, instead, trusting the life process. Other techniques that have helped me are mindfulness and meditation, anywhere, but particularly in nature. Any creative activity in which you “lose yourself” — ironically, perhaps to "drown" or surrender — can “save” you: for me, these have been playing the piano and writing. Hanninen: Ah. Nice analogy. No doubt losing yourself in these and other activities serves you well. You play the piano . . . ? Dale: Yes, I'm a serious amateur pianist. In the last six years, I have performed several piano recitals of all-women, 20th-/21st-century American composers, about ten in all, including Libby Larsen, Joan Tower, Margaret Bonds, and Emma Lou Diemer. In just a few months, I'll be giving another one that starts with Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, but then takes off with Elizabeth Austin's “Rose Sonata,” which riffs on the theme from Brahms' “Intermezzo 2.” It's especially wonderful to correspond with living, women composers. My particular interest in female composers is a distinct preference, and probably a reaction to all the male composers I played through middle-age, and to all the male poets I read in school, including graduate school. I also teach part-time, adult-education classes (freshman composition and social work training for caregivers). I mentor younger poets and tutor kids at a settlement house nearby. Oh, and I do Iyengar yoga. Hanninen: You sound incredibly busy. I’m glad to hear that you’re mentoring. And are you also mainly interested in female rather than male poets for reasons similar to the one you gave about your interest in female composers? Dale: Yes. Today I will buy anything by Louise Glück, Linda Pastan, Sharon Olds, Jane Hirshfield, Ruth Stone, Dorianne Laux, Jorie Graham, Tess Gallagher and Marie Howe (just to name a few). I'm also interested in the idea of women's collective presses (e.g. Green Fuse Press) and I would like eventually to be a part of such an initiative. I also pay attention to the political activities of young women worldwide — Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, for instance, and I sponsor a woman in Afghanistan through Women for Women International. I also admire Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, who were imprisoned because of their 2012 Pussy Riot punk band protest against Vladimir Putin (about which I did write a poem, though my poetry group and I agree that writing good "political poems" is a real challenge.) My husband, two grandsons, and male Husky-mix do keep me more or less balanced on the gender spectrum, however; a few favorite male poets I’m reading right now are A. R. Aammons, W. S. Merwin, and Edward Hirsch. And I did my dissertation on the “supreme fiction” of Wallace Stevens. Hanninen: Good to be buoyed by both genders! Any shared creative activities within the family? Dale: My husband and our three daughters all partake in various creative activities. My youngest daughter is also a poet, with whom I share a fascination for the realm of astrophysics. When I retired from full-time teaching, one of the first things I did was to take a "Physics for Dummies" class (not the real title), but the simple equations of even that were beyond me (to say that you can understand
physics without doing the math is a LIE!). The New York Times’ Tuesday science pages are more accessible, and I often find inspiration for poems among them. Hanninen: Can you name one of your poems as an inspirational favorite? And do you have any upcoming projects keeping you afloat? Dale: Like Ted Kooser, my favorite poem is always the one I have just written: in this case, called "Keeping Company with the Figment of Blue," which looks at some of the mixed feelings — sadness and pride — when one’s adult children “disappear” into their own lives. Green Fuse Press (a collective in Colorado, mentioned above) will publish my third chapbook, probably to be called Baubo Speaks, sometime later this year, as part of their "Grandmother" collection. You probably recognize the name "Baubo" from the Persephone myth (she is the crone who makes Persephone laugh by “mooning” her, and thus brings both her and the world back from the brink of destruction). I should probably add both raucous, belly laughter and mythology as means that have also helped me to create perspective and meaning in times of crisis. The title poem of my last chapbook, Rescue Mission, is based on the Orpheus myth and was inspired by all kinds of personal losses. Hanninen: “Raucous, belly laughter,” my favorite! Head-thrown-back-barking laughter a close second. The great healers. But, oh, the inevitable losses we all must face; they do seem to inspire some incredible poetry. So tell us, why do you write? Surely not just to come to grips with emotions or events? Dale: Here is the answer I give my students: "The reason I write is to find out what I mean" (Leslie Marmon Silko). Writing not only creates meaning, but it helps to clarify the many aspects of who one is and what one wants. In that sense, it heals. Like music, it will not leave me alone and pursues me into my dreams. Hanninen: As a writer, Kathleen, who are you, and what do you want? Dale: I will answer that question with a story. Fifty years ago, when I was a junior in high school, my English teacher asked me to enter a contest in which we were to write autobiographies. My autobiography (no doubt fleshed out with a bit more narrative and description) went something like this: “I find myself alone on a little boat on a huge body of water. A faint light glows in the distance. I don’t know who I am or where I am or where I am going, but I keep aiming for that light in the distance, watching it as it grows larger and brighter. I know eventually that when I reach that light, I will understand.” Annoyed and frustrated with me, my English teacher gave it back, demanding a more traditional autobiography. But I was stubborn, as perhaps only 17- and 67-year-olds can be, and told him then what I will tell you now: “But this is who I am, and this is what I want.” Hanninen: Well, I for one am glad to learn more about who you are — as a poet, as a creative, surviving woman — and if what you want is not so traditional, then I’m certainly all for that. I now invite TCE’s readers to climb into your boat for a little while to be towed into the great sea of poetry awaiting them.
Read Kathleen’s poems, her bionote, and essay on pages 16-31.
Sonata By Kathleen Dale
i. exposition This is about a girl at the piano. This is about flight. This is about practice. This is about the practice that makes possible the flight. This is about beginning, the first part of the pattern when it seems you can do anything, take any form: first stroke on canvas, first kiss, first caress of a chord. This is about the possibilities of small hands. Daughter of my body, you sit rigid before the keyboard, balking at what it requires of you. Haltingly, you try a melody, slump, correct a wrong note, sigh. A cripple came to me in my dream, trying to keep up, demanding my love. I wanted only to be free. The music perches on the rack like air before a flight, the keys grounded before me like planes in a port. You begin.
ii. development Daughter of my spirit, I feel your hands grow excited, sensitive, quiver with unsung music. So it was for me when our house, saddened by my sister's death, permitted no dance. I lugged my yellow books to the teacher's house after school where she recognized at once what no one else had seen: my love of flight and my lack of control. She hooked me by the back of my vision, made me account for carelessness. Made me slow down. Made me lumber through exercises invented by men so old I never knew their faces. I sat rigid before the keyboard, balking at what it required of me. Over and over, trying to get it right, at last there came moments when even the most difficult arpeggios spun out like silk from my fingertips, when playing was like wings effortlessly brushing bells: two hands in consort, soaring through a forest of intricate harmonies, not caring for the names of notes, not needing me, really, at all, except to get out of their way.
iii. recapitulation Then there are times when fingers are stiff wooden clubs translating nothing, a dream in which I can't remember the way home, the swift flight of fingers crashing to earth, creatures that never knew how to dance. Daughter of my heart, you sit rigid before the keyboard, balking at what it requires of you. I, too, have stamped my foot at God, demanding respite, seeing no progress, pleading for release. So was pregnancy: a huge helplessness before the creation of someone else. Limitation and failure and waiting: time and space and size were barriers to the ultrasound of boundless music. When you were small I did not play at all. Dust sifted between keys, which you tentatively touched with sticky jam. Secretly gardening, I cultivated beauty, hoarded landscapes improvised rock by rock, seed by seed, note by unheard note.
Now I understand when you want to shut the door, grow incensed when I sing along. iv. coda Melodies remain; words fade. Daughter of my soul, at last understanding imperfection, we honor the best we can do done over and over until we surpass ourselves, leaving earth, unaware. Now am I lost in play while you cup hands and shout at me while pots boil over. A woman, playing alone, composes herself, knowing there is always more to draw upon. Early or late makes no difference. â€œThrough the Garden Gateâ€? By D. J. Bryant, 2013
Space, and time, and limitation, and failure, are means. To see that truth is to see the gate in the wall, sequel, reassurance there is yet more, like flight, to pull from impossibility, from inaudible frequencies, into the reach of real.
She Folds Laundry Dale
Sun-dried shriveled hands flashing rings with sprung settings, they have come to this: humped over an old-woman smell, folding other peopleâ€™s laundry. Unhurriedly she smooths, presses each piece, flattens, turns, multiplies dimension. Long fingers prop fabric into fanciful forms: a long-beaked bird, the dragon in the mirror, the dog flopping asleep on her bed, the hornet bumping against glass. She looks back down at the clean towel on her lap considering its shape while a spider in the corner crochets its template of web. In silent mimicry she thinks, like you they crimp possibility into the same old nets, tuck thought into tight packets of words: hook, weave, pleat from their programmed spinnerets. She smiles, creasing the soft mesh of diapers warm, soft and sweet, seducing the cheek.
Flesh flowers and withers, fills and wrinkles, time doubling back materially as sideways she sees her own young mother through the door watch her with that worried look. The weave of her love would never stretch as far as this old woman, she thinks: these folds no longer dimpled, kissable, but slack, hung from brittle bones. She stacks intricately plaited textiles back into the basket so that light tips radiance cross many layers. It will not last, she thinks. The moment it is donned it comes undone, the inexact geometry of tomorrowâ€™s universe unfolding. I ply cloth, but who has shrunk this life called mine into such pinched shape even light canâ€™t love?
i. From branch to stem to needle we grow, shoots predictable and unpredictable as stars. Her winter garden hisses with snow rattling bleached bones of coneflower and verbena, cowled roses dark in their March hollows, goldenrod roots tangled, massed under the frozen crust. Second full moon in March, blue moon suddenly blooms like the first moonflower on a trellis, climbing an invisible vine. Such moons she has always watched swell and wane, hoping that in their dark doubled ridges, the things she planted would thrive. But Athena still springs full-blown from her father's bright brow, no mother to let her lag, wax slowly, muse, be a little girl whose dreams grow new rooms looming suddenly past the wall where before there was no door,
but now are rooms within rooms, fractal rooms of infinite length. We have not dreamed large enough. ii. Twilight dallies with the toes of girls loafing on curbs, brown arches caressing dust. Small green doublets of sunflowers, sprung volunteer, turn likewise, young, blind, to setting sun. Full moon rises unseen over the stems of their backs, in the east, dawning. Inside, she washes dishes at her kitchen sink. Her heart rises, glimpsing moon's porcelain globe before it cracks among trees. She turns back to rinse the precision of each white cup, hangs the blue linen cloth carefully to dry, slips out to calmed dusk to idle with her daughters dreaming a garden.
iii. She muses: we thought the world would change, we young and noisy feminists, but we have slackened, the waves subdued now, an occasional stridency swallowed, like a gull's cry by the dark. But today somewhere a woman's clitoris was sliced from her body, somewhere tonight a woman walking stares at a radium-infested field, somewhere today a caged dog was killed by white coats, somewhere tonight are women and their daughters draped and locked away from sight of men and moon. iv. Receding snow releases scent of broken spruce boughs brooding over red fists and then the softening mudras of peony stems as well as small carcasses gathered lovingly to earth. The living dog lying in spring sun licks the crevices and furrows of her palm and so weaves kith into the woof of poem just as
earth weaves death into the warp of spring. The girls go on playing with dust and the woman with water and from their play rises creation that matters the world, which withers without the muddy juice of their play though it lead to nothing but deep-winding pleasure. Earth opens to the dark newness of moon and to green seeds ever so small they vanish, shoots of stars, into the vast imaginary lines of her palm. She folds leeway back into her veins, does not term her creations, but dreams lavish iterated wonder into moon's
â€œFalling from Her Handsâ€? By E. A. Hanninen, 2013
blue light, which, rising ever again and new, wicks the world.
I Am the Witch Dale i. From their windows they always watched me in my garden as I nurtured the little plants: breaking ground after last frost, spading and hoeing the hard clumps till only fine, sifted soil remained. The seeds I sowed at new moon, watering with infusion of fish. Into this coldness they came, risking their wholeness to break ragged root into furrows I had furnished. I crooned to them, my children, smoothed the way, coaxed them up from night into the glory of day. When the first tiny leaves unlatched, moist, tender, I saw the two â€” man and wife â€” watch, drool over what was mine, what I had toiled for: the fruit of my perseverance and my love. The night he came to snatch the first pick I sat waiting, old woman hunched under old tree, trying to remember what it was to covet, to yearn. Age sometimes teaches patience; gardening, endurance through spells of apparent emptiness. I was waiting when he climbed the wall and took what was not his to take. He did it for her, I knew, but still he had to pay for her craving, his indulgence.
Your child for mine, I challenged him, rising as he prepared to leave.
Were he Pluto, I would not let him steal my spring for nothing. Sealing the bargain as if I were the devil, he fled, leaving my garden torn, ravaged, rootless, seedless, long past the season for planting anew. Holes gaped where my children were pulled from their warm beds. I sat down, resting on scattered hopes, began again to wait. ii. I never thought to keep the child. My intent was just to borrow, bask in her, then return her to her sniveling mother. But she was so happy here with me that finally I could not suffer her to go. She loved the forest, the herbs of my garden. I fed her pomegranates, taught her what I knew of growth and decay, movement and rest. She dug in the earth while I gathered stones for a tower. I taught her all the songs I knewâ€” songs of hope, of sorrowâ€” strange, coming from soft young lips. Yet she parroted perfectly as I piled rock upon rock into rings, fitting them round her flawlessly as a nest of iron.
At first we sheltered there only in bad weather, brooding together over rain, wind, stone. But then we lingered longer and longer, and one day, didn't leave. The garden went to ruin, overgrown, then a tangle of briars and bare branches. Inside was my spring: I never tired of looking at her, braiding her hair, combing through the thick strands as I once had raked my garden. I left our aerie only for tidbits now and again to keep her happy. When I returned, played out, she would lift me with her braids as lightly as if I were a trout hooked in shallow water. And so we lived. iii.
From craving comes grief, from craving, fear; she who is free from craving knows neither grief nor fear. And yet I forgot, as one forgets the most painful lessons. In feeding her every whim, I fed my own and thus we shrank to fat sails slapping in irons in the center of a windless sea. But still she sang. And one day her chant lured another into our doldrums. Again my harvest was plundered. An idle prince who had never posted seed threatened to rob me of what I had raised, pirate what I had reared.
Even after I cut her hair, a sacrifice for us both, she was not safe. We ran with the wind— scratched, exposed— surviving on my dark roots and her tiresome tears. We came back to that stairless tower to await his inescapable return. And when that fish struck bait, climbed the now-dead hair, as we had done, I threw him back, hard, into the eye-scratching thorns.
“Only in Fairytales” By E. A. Hanninen, 2013
Loss renders some compassionate. His first glimpse of blindness was her last remembered sadness. Her song now genuine, inevitably they found each other — her tears piercing the cloud of his sightlessness, his suffering freeing her at last from me. Seeing them there enfolded, I longed for death, like the barren vessel of earth in early winter after its vines are cut down and thrown into the fire. And in that awful purity it came to me how desolation, how a perfect radical surrender sinks, waits without waiting, sinks inexorably to a tight tiny pellet, a ragged packet, a kind of completeness all its own.
Kathleen Dale is the recipient of several prizes and best-in-issue awards for her poems, which have appeared in over thirty journals, including the Beloit Poetry Journal, Switched-on Gutenberg, Main Street Rag, and FutureCycle Poetry. Her most recent chapbook is Rescue Mission (Antrim House Books, 2011). Ties that Bind was published by Finishing Line Press in 2006, and The Baubo Poems is forthcoming from Green Fuse Press in 2013. Contact Kathleen at firstname.lastname@example.org Or buy her books at http://kathleenanndale.squarespace.com/
“We Only Think We Choose” By Kathleen Dale
By coincidence, when asked to write something about the theme of this issue, “Sinkhole: Drowning or Surviving,” I had Maxine Kumin’s Always Beginning: Essays on a Life in Poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2000) by my bed. I opened to her “ Poem for My Son,” which she wrote forty years prior, and in which this late stanza appears:
Once, after a long swim come overhand and wheezy across the dappled seam of lake, I foundered, dizzy, uncertain which was better: to fall there and unwind in thirty feet of water or fight back for the land. Life would not let me lose it. It yanked me by the nose. Blackfaced and thick with vomit it thrashed me to my knees. We only think we choose. Though the poem was inspired by the struggles of her son, who “began life in an oxygen tent,” and who later struggled to learn to swim like the rest of his family, the real subjects of her essay about the poem are her use of form “when confronting intimate subject matter” and how differently she would write the poem today. She says that though the poem “is not quite the poem I would write today,” and that she would change parts of the poem that she now sees as “glib,” “facile,” or even sentimental, she nevertheless still likes the above stanza, and comments: “Does one need to be a deeply fatigued longdistance swimmer or marathon runner to have experienced this ambivalence toward finishing the task?” Diane Wakoski, in Contemporary Women Poets, says of Maxine Kumin: “She believes survival is possible, if only through the proper use of the imagination.” Kumin herself said, in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor, “writing is my salvation. If I didn’t write, what would I do?”
“Bullfrog Waders” 2013 By Karen Greenbaum-Maya
I have always admired Kumin for many reasons, including the survival of her multiple emotional and physical challenges (including the broken neck that put her in pain and rehabilitation for months in 1998). Forty years ago, it was her best friend, Anne Sexton, whom I most admired, and whose suicide, like that of Sylvia Plath, made her a kind of martyr of the women’s movement. I hope we are coming to a stage where we no longer need martyrs to further a cause (though the case of Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai gives me pause as well as hope). Indeed, it often seems to be the survivors (famous and non-famous) who can offer the most help in terms of vision and encouragement. I, too, am a survivor in many ways, but, despite what I just said, I do not take any credit for it. I agree with Kumin that “We only think we choose.” I have struggled with the idea that survivors are somehow “stronger” than those who succumb, but I no longer believe that this is a helpful stance. Sometimes the elements that challenge us are just stronger than the bonds linking the atoms of our body. Having said that, I also think that some survivors have learned important things, including the perhaps strange notion that drowning and surviving are not always mutually exclusive, but both sometimes involve a kind of surrender to what is. The other thing that interests me about Kumin’s essay is her discussion of what she might do differently today if she were to rewrite this poem. Unlike Kumin, I don’t usually write in “form”; however, I do believe that much of my writing is musical/rhythmic. But like Kumin, I wrote the four poems that are included in this issue of The Centrifugal Eye many years ago (ranging from ten to fifteen years). They have never seen print, partly, I suspect, because of their length (except for “ She Folds Laundry,” which is just strange!). But each one is wrapped around a technique for dealing with “sinkholes”: from nature in “Evergreen,” or creating something (“Sonata” and “She Folds Laundry”) to the kind of radical acceptance of loss articulated by the witch in the Rapunzel story. I have made minor changes in all of them over the years, but most uncomfortably, today I see a tendency in them (similar to what Kumin noticed about her earlier poetry) to try to resolve the pain of ambiguity rather than to allow it to just be in the poem. I am always suspicious of poems with “messages,” especially if you can point to or paraphrase them. Messages are about staying in control. Life is more complex than that; it will not be contained. And good poetry is always complex. I guess it is in that complexity where I find the surprise and the freshness of life, constantly renewing itself in altogether unexpected ways. We think we know; we think we choose, but experience has taught me that we really don’t. If we can, we surrender to the process — of life, of creating something, of writing a poem — and in that process, we both lose ourselves (drown) and hopefully survive, and, if we’re lucky, occasionally help to transform the elements around us. The I Ching offers this view of the “abysmal” (sinkholes): do not try to escape them, it advises; keep moving forward; do what has to be done; let the abyss (sinkhole) fill up to the rim and then
swim across it. Don’t look down.
“Sax and the City I” By Karen Greenbaum-Maya, 2013
Drowning Poetry on Succumbing By
Lynn Otto Janice D. Soderling Tommie Slayden Martin Elster Risa Denenberg Ralph Gordon Paul Hostovsky Sarah Kravitz
The Life Insurance Company Is Calling Your Friends
By Lynn Otto
I told the guy you were a fan of Lewis and Clark. I told him you had planned a party for your arrival at the St. Louis arch, a big celebration of your Missouri River miles. No, I said, you didn’t seem depressed. I told him Barb was going to meet you at Floyd Park in Sioux City and cut your hair. Floyd was the only explorer who died— you told me that. Burst appendix. But I didn’t tell him that— didn’t tell him I offered to teach you to swim and you said no, you had a life jacket, the best, like the rest of the gear you picked out of catalogues, all that stuff you and Paul tested in January, tent in the snow, heated with ambition. I said I hadn’t seen you since the middle of May, when you left for Three Forks, Montana, your waterproof packs in the back of your pickup, your forest-green Kevlar® canoe on the rack, thirsty for the headwaters of the Missouri. Now I rock in the chair you left at my sister’s. You’ll walk in the door any minute. Any minute. Then you’ll tell us what happened, how the Montana rancher found your green canoe, why your life jacket was under the seat, bone dry.
Lynn Otto is an MFA student at Portland State University, where she was selected for the 2012 Shelley Reece Poetry Award and the 2012-13 Excellence Fellowship in Poetry. Her work has appeared in Plain Spoke, Generations of Poetry: The eZine for Genealogists, Triggerfish Critical Review, and Strong Verse (upcoming). Contact Lynn: email@example.com
The Gay Divorcée Contemplates December
By Janice D. Soderling
And all the little field mice now are fled, grown fat and sweet on pumpkin seed and corn, close-curled in burrow beds scratched underground while I in mine curl bitter and alone.
“Alone” By D. J. Bryant, 2013
Janice D. Soderling is a previous contributor to The Centrifugal Eye and her work is included in TCE 's newly released 5th-Anniversary Anthology. Recent and forthcoming publications include a translation at The Raintown Review, an ekphrasis at American Arts Quarterly, flash fiction at MiCrow, Boston Literary Magazine, Penduline Press and 100 word story; poetry at The Literary Bohemian. A villanelle was nominated by Tilt-a-Whirl to Best of the Net 2012. Janice is assistant fiction editor at Able Muse.
riding with him
By Tommie Slayden
on a dark winding road from the airport to the quiet-surfacechaotic-undertow of home, he takes swigs from a bottle. this is where home begins. she is silent and still as an unwound clock, breath held, eyes closed, no screaming from the front seat of this roller coaster. a lifetime of silence, Rebel Yell and ginger ale, vodka tonics, one after another. she’s no fool, she knows this noose she wears will tighten if she speaks.
“Bug in the Works” By E. A. Hanninen, 2013
I Am Seventeen, My Parents Are on Vacation, Things Go Horribly Wrong with My Grandmother Slayden When I came home from school, you, with your hair wild, your eyes terror-crazed, pulled me in, whispering,
There’s a man in the house! You drew me from door to door, your fingers lightly touching fissures you said the intruder had made trying to force open the doors. At the window we peeked out from behind the shades, your quivering finger pointing to the open door of the cellar.
The Russians are burning holes in my brain. And in that moment I saw you as a glass building holding the sky, and I, a soft bird flown into it.
Tommie Slayden has a doctorate in psychology and has published articles only in that field prior to this. She worked many years as a psychotherapist and is now a consultant with the Tennessee Disability Determination Services. In her consultant’s role, she helps make decisions about who will receive Social Security Disability benefits due to mental health reasons. Working in a bureaucratic atmosphere, where many times the closest she comes to the poetic is when a claimant files for disability due to “low cell esteem” or “antipersonality disorder,” poetry has come to save her own sanity.
In the Basement By Martin Elster
The spider at the bottom of the bath, engulfed in liquid, static as a tack, legs folded inward, tiny torso black as venom, clearly took a perilous path. Slight as a droplet, a mere nano-blot of ink or paint upon a field of white, it likely fought the good arachnal fight before it drowned like a forgotten thought. Did this Lilliputian creature screak in panic? Overturn itself and try to float, limbs flailing like the oars of a foundering boat? Sink like a seed? Or was its war titanic? The water in the bathtub must be drained, and the spiders in this basement must be trained.
Martin Elster, author of Thereâ€™s a Dog in the Heavens!, is also a composer and serves as percussionist for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. His poems have appeared in journals including The Chimaera, Lucid Rhythms, Mindflights, Scarlet Literary Magazine, and in the anthologies Taking Turns: Sonnets from Eratosphere, The 2012 Rhysling Anthology, New Sun Rising, and Poe Little Thing Presents: In Space No One Can Hear You Scream. Martin is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
In the Time of Novels By Risa Denenberg
The kingdom is the phylum. For the past hundred or so years, I cried for days. Certainly not emergence as chrysalis, nor ovulation (crack the shell, swallow the yolk). I foresee landfills with codswallop bearing warnings: Poles Shifting. We mourn our dead avian comrades. (Note to parrots: take cover.) Daylight looms offshore like warm crumble-cake. Shorebirdsâ€™ calls forecast dead fish. Finally, this small boat is sinking. The news is perilously close. Class order is a false prophet.
Read more of Risaâ€™s poems and her bionote on pages 10-11.
The Inland Whale By Ralph Gordon
Accreted layers rise from the sea floor, the ocean overflows into a slender throat and you cross the sandbar with young in tow. You rest like a ship in a bottle, a hillock of green in a scorched land, some miles upstream, settled in the Klamath beneath the riverâ€™s bridge. Perhaps you had turned to the protection of that barrier in some final hours? You present us a mystery in baleen and bone to contemplate like the bond between a mother and child or like the father transformed in his final hours by a sudden kindness. We witness your life gathered up, pressed between the narrow banks of fresh water, a sheet with room enough only for what you will take with you. Even the memory of your life in the open sea is now discarded. You wean your young self, as your calf seeks the depths, but not before hundreds of well-wishers cross over the bridge, name you and care enough as you swim in tightening circles to worry that here you have enough to forage on, just small snails and tender eels to sustain. You breathe a little.
The father with cancer, his wish to know you granted, or an elderly mother too bound in the shallows of her life now choosing her spot to dig down and to reach with you.
â€œWhale & Snailâ€? By D. J. Bryant, 2013
Their stories, like your own, live on in their weaned young as a spirit growing in their bellies, as an unfolding kindness in the darkness, in the belly of a whale.
Ralph Gordon lives with his wife and daughter in San Francisco, California. A career writer of technical manuals, Ralph began writing poetry as observations on the intersection of city life and the surrounding, natural environment that inspires him. The Inland Whale is his first published work; Ralph wishes to dedicate this poem to his maternal grandmother.
On Adversity By Paul Hostovsky
“Facing the Abyss” By D. J. Bryant, 2013
I’m wishing now I’d read that book on adversity, the one the blind mountain climber wrote about climbing mountains and not looking back, but looking straight ahead, or inward, or maybe upward — I forget now where he said to look in the face of adversity, because I only read the review and the excerpt, and I don’t think that was enough to see me through. Which is why I’m wishing now I’d read that book on adversity when I had the chance, now that I have no chance, no net, barely a toehold, and the ropes have gotten twisted round my neck. I could use that book right about now. And yet I wonder, even if I’d read that book, would I have the wherewithal to look where it said to look? Would I remember to do what it said to do, to clinch salvation in a pinch? I think not. I think there is no way to prepare for this. This is not a test. Though some will pass with flying colors. And for others falling will be a kind of flying.
Escape Artist Hostovsky
I’ve always wanted to be excused. From the table. From school. From work. From life, actually. I don’t feel well, may I be excused from feeling? I’ve always wanted to get out of things. Downright Houdiniesque. I’d like to get out of this body. I don’t remember how I got in. I’d like to go by climbing your body. Down your body and out of my body. I think that’s how we get here in the first place. I don’t remember the first place. I’d like to go back there, though. Excuse me if I elbow, shoulder, knee. Excuse me if I worm my way out of the crowded now. We either go by breaking into blossom, or by wilting in place, the latter being so heartbreaking, you have to look away. You have to look away.
Read more of Paul’s poems and his bionote on pages 8-9 & 64-65.
Flying Fish By Sarah Kravitz
In my dream, our daughter died, and I woke, my eyes dry to the point of cracking— I felt the sunburst radials of my iris peeling, chipping like paint off a mural.
“Night Fishing” By E. A. Hanninen, 2013
I lay in the sheets, listless, grieving for the intangible, for the silver glimmer of a fish that will never break the surface.
Sarah Kravitz graduated from UC Berkeley’s English department in 2008. Currently, she teaches English at an alternative-education high school in South San Francisco, CA.
Surviving Poetry on Surmounting By
Thomas Piekarski April Salzano Robert Sell Phillip A. Ellis Richard C. Freed Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Stinson Beach By Thomas Piekarski
Magpies in the elm keep up a continuous frenzied chitter. Lots of folks on the beach despite autumn cold and overcast. The Doors of Fate are Rococo-style chiseled marble slabs. Carbon dioxide in the air is spent energy crushing synergy. Nature can’t be altered by anyone’s make-believe God. The mouse nibbling chocolate gets caught in a glue trap. That satellite falling to Earth is coated with melted agate. Coastal redwoods have endured centuries of hard rain. Those pelicans can’t fly with heavily dusted angel wings. Weekends are fine except when they finally wind down. Nature the wary predator consumes exactly what it makes. Did you notice your watch battery died in heavy traffic? Only Morning Star is bright as all other stars combined. Mars eats Venus for lunch eating Mercury for supper. Good thing the mouse wasn’t a rat that would struggle. Wolfman lonely for his mate howls at a magenta moon. Think not something’s the matter when there is no matter.
Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His theater and restaurant reviews have been published in various newspapers, with poetry and interviews appearing in numerous national journals, among them Portland Review, Kestrel, cream city review, Nimrod International Journal, New Plains Review, Poetry Quarterly, and Clockhouse Review. He has published a travel guide, Best Choices In Northern California (Gable &Gray), and Time Lines (Nimbus Press), a book of poems. He works as a fine art salesman in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California.
Today I Am Thankful By April Salzano
for the shit I had to take, for your having left your phone in the bathroom. For the unusual, sudden compulsion to creep into your text messages and inbox like a cat burglar while the bird carcass bakes, its feet tied together to hold stuffing, basted hourly with its own excretions of fat. For what I find, messages that prove me right when I wanted so badly to be left alone, wrong, free from your scarlet letter. I was moving on, willing to get past a minor indiscretion made monumental by mania and addiction. The gravy will not be passed. No cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie. Dessert would make a mockery of my pilgrimage into native lands of infidelity. Instead, I celebrate without civility as I throw your clothing, your precious books, invaluable artifacts that made up a life into the first snowfall, two laundry baskets and a suitcase I am thankful I find so quickly before tradition turns me back.
April Salzano teaches college writing in Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and two sons. She is working on her first several collections of poetry and a memoir on raising a child with autism. Her work has appeared in Poetry Salzburg, Convergence, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, The Camel Saloon, The
Applicant, The Mindful Word, The Weekenders Magazine , Dead Snakes, Daily Love, Visceral Uterus, Crisis Chronicles, Windmills, and is forthcoming in Inclement, Poetry Quarterly, Decompression, work to a calm, and Bluestem. The author also serves as co-editor for several online journals at Kind of a Hurricane Press.
Missing By Robert Sell
You wouldn’t know me now, stick-man. You missed my first two-wheeled ride, running alongside, holding my trust. You missed tough math homework, calming my fears of getting it wrong. But I’m growing, stick-man. My body is stronger and I understand now: business conferences, turbulent times and incompatibilities. If you were here, you could see my mark left on this wall, when I was fourfoot-four, pressing up on tiptoe to gain another inch. I know you are out there, stick-man, but if you were here, you could see this round stick-sun, this empty swing idle in this stick-tree. If you were here, you wouldn’t need to say _____.
Robert Sell is a self-taught “weekend poet” living in Illinois. He’s a “boomer,” who stubbornly continues to work for a utility service. He says the tough lifestyle of the construction world has been a strong influence on his writing. He admires the work of W. C. Williams, B. H. Fairchild, Stephen Dunn, and Frank O’Hara. This is Robert’s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Robert: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Near Spring, Near the Coral Sea By Phillip A. Ellis
The heat of the late month breathes with an open mouth and cigarette smoke through the ragged breeze that comes and goes from off the shore of the Gold Coast. The buses grumble as they draw up then depart from the bright sidewalk; in the shadows families wait and watch for the 605 to Murwillambah.
â€œDroughtâ€? By D. J. Bryant, 2013
Somehow, the seagull that limps with its curled and broken foot manages to survive the lack of water, as though it were a genius loci.
Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic, poet and scholar, and his poetry collection, The Flayed Man, has been published by Gothic Press; Gothic Press will also edit a collection of essays on Ramsey Campbell that he is editing with Gary William Crawford. Phillip is working on another collection, slated to appear from Diminuendo Press. Yet another collection has been accepted by Hippocampus Press, which also published his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei. Phillip is also the editor of Melaleuca. Recently published is Symptoms Positive and Negative (Picaro Press), his chapbook of poetry about his experiences with schizophrenia.
It Can Be Imagined By Richard C. Freed
that she leaned on the kitchen wall, her father seated before her. She was naked and drunk and young. By turns, she remembers him livid or soothing, that she withered or did not, that she was bared or was not, that he looked away or could not look away. She has stitched and patched her edifice for decades, teetering on the pivot of memory, and her dreams, yes, her dreams, they begin with long journeys and end in the fabrics of faraway places.
Richard C. Freed is professor emeritus at Iowa State University, and until several years ago he focused on a different kind of discourse as evidenced by The Variables of Composition, which won The National Council of Teachers of English award for best research book in professional communication, and by Writing Winning Business Proposals, the 3rd edition of which was published in 2011 by McGraw-Hill. In his short career as a poet, heâ€™s written perhaps 20 poems, 15 of which have been published or forthcoming in journals like The Adirondack Review, Melic Review, Octavo, Blood Lotus, The 2River View, Poydras Review, and Chautauqua.
Spice of Life By Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Once again we come together. This is the season to sharpen knives, test the waters, prepare for the weather. Bitter almond, thyme, sage, cloves: spices that this time of year requires. This is the season to sharpen knives, mix whiskey sours, set the fires, discard the outdated bitter spices. This time of year requires softer ways when candles sputter. Well-worn ornaments, all those quarrels: perhaps, discard outdated bitter words, the ones we still remember? It’s long since past the date for justice. Well? Worn as ornaments, all those quarrels are out-of-date, although they crushed us once. Again we’ll come together, air-kiss, pass the date-bread, just as we test the waters, prepare for the weather.
Karen Greenbaum-Maya is a retired clinical psychologist in Claremont, California. From 1998 to 2003, she reviewed restaurants for the Claremont Courier, sometimes in heroic couplets, sometimes in anapest, sometimes imitating Hemingway. In an earlier life, she was a German Lit major, read poetry for credit, and lived for Art. She started writing when she was nine, and resumed writing in 2007 after an 18-year hiatus. Since then, her poems have been placed in many publications, including: The Dirty Napkin; Off the Coast;
Umbrella; qarrtsiluni; Lilliput Review; Abyss & Apex; In Posse Review; The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review; Waccamaw; and dotdotdash. Chapbooks Eggs Satori and Burrowing Song are forthcoming from Kattywompus Press. Karen is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
“The Kindness of Women,” & a Poem on Coping
By Eamonn Stewart
Rhapsody on a Chain-Link Fence When the nets in The Golden Bough were married, Neither more nor less fish were caught. So many marriages unavailing — So many inane feelings overwrought. When frost whetted the grass The snails weren’t cut: But cold brillianteered the escargotique ondes Prophesying on the hopscotch grid Too close to the road. Hoarfrost like THC crystals On the chemical plant – Refuse and rhapsodies on the chain-link fence.
Eamonn Stewart was born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1964. He was twice the winner of the Irish National Children's Poetry Competition, and is now director of photography for TextFilms. He is currently writing scripts. Eamonn is a longtime contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Coping (Drowning & Surviving): Poetry on Withstanding By
Pamela Johnson Parker Davide Trame Colleen Powderly Amy Neill Bebergal Kitty JospĂŠ Tim Diggles Paul Hostovsky Karla Linn Merrifield Jennifer Lagier
First Person Plural, First Person Singular
By Pamela Johnson Parker
“A woman’s voice is naked.” Babylonian fragment “A single line, at the bottom of a page, leaves too much space.” Printer’s Handbook
I was never interested in falling, as you Told me you had fallen, head over heels, I was interested in heels over head, My legs straight up, twin columns against your Shoulders and you like Samson between them. Veux-tu m’épouser? you’d ask, and that Seventh time I answered, smiling, openMouthed. Oh, I remember the chill of that April day, the heat from your body caught In your black cashmere sweater as you draped it Over my shivering shoulders, and I Remember that looking blinded me, that Talking deafened me, that kissing muted Me. I remember gesture, remember intent, Remember intensity, remember mornings When the tables were turned, when we overTurned the table, each day a lattice for Us to twine upon like morning glories, open, Closed and open according to the light.
I see the light gone from your green eyes, I Feel the cold of your hand, much colder, I Think, than the chill of the anodized table I Find you lying on; I’m aware that I Am thinking this is not you, this is not, I Don’t believe it. Beloved, once I Waited for you in the lake, breathless, I Opened there in the water for you, I Was origami unfolding, oh I Was a paper flower dissolving, I Felt your legs scissor me, heard you gasp I Was so warm, and I was the lake and I Was the water and then I was, I Was, wasn’t I, anything — wasn’t I Something, and I was flesh of your flesh, I Was bone of your bone, I was one of two, I Was singular, wasn’t single. As I Linger here, no arms to hold me as I Shiver except my own, I am tower, I Am obelisk, obituary; I Am survived by, I am loving wife, I Am Beloved, first person singular; I Am poor typography, widow, I, I I.
Pamela Johnson Parker is a writer and medical editor who teaches creative writing at Murray State University. Her chapbooks are A Walk Through the Memory Palace, which received the qarrtsiluni chapbook prize, and Other Four-Letter Words, available through Finishing Line Press. Her poems have found homes in Alligator Juniper, Poets and Artists, qarrtsiluni, New Madrid, and Best New Poets 2011, judged by D. A. Powell.
Travenanzes By Davide Trame
Redness, a sediment present now in the hidden throat of the seconds of sun and stone. From the top you see this huge nerve of rocks that almost howls into view, and inside the valley, you are corralled by high brown and crimson peaks â€” kings â€” spreading silence, and would continue even should a river of blood loosen a thousand veins over the sunlit gravel. It scatters your sense of direction, laughing now at your loneliness. The majesty of the mountains, always penetrated by loneliness shrugged away, knifes the sky.
Davide Trame is an Italian teacher of English writing poetry in his second language since 1993. His work has appeared most of all in the UK, US, and Ireland, in print and online, and several times in Orbis and THE SHOp. He published a collection, Re-emerging (2006), in a downloadable e-book from Gatto Publishing. He is eagerly waiting for the publication of a print collection in the UK, entitled Make It Last, comprised essentially of poems dedicated to the memory of his wife. Davide is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Dry Spell By Colleen Powderly
I am searching for a lost poem in my house. The downstairs cabinets next to the books are empty of all but family pictures, mementoes of times that couldn’t return even if I wanted them to. The sofa cushions aren’t hiding my poem, just popcorn hulls and three tarnished pennies. My desk with its folders of papers, its computer and bills, has little poetry near it on a good day, let alone now when I’ve lost my poem and want it back. In the kitchen I go through my recipes, waiting for the poem to appear, for my mother’s recipe for two pecan pies to become one pie and one poem. That poem would be too sweet for many people, but I would savor it, roll its sugary syrup on my tongue before swallowing, let the flavor settle in my mouth. The poem is not there of course, so I move to the bedroom where I search my drawers, pull off the bedclothes, reach under the bed and find nothing, no simile or metaphor, consonance or assonance reaching for sky beyond the windows. The bathroom doesn’t hide my poem. I flip through the magazines, find an old almanac and locate the moon’s position for nights to come. Hours later I search my back yard by the full moon’s light, probe hostas, marigolds, until my hands are wet with dew. Long willow withes sway in a breeze and deep within them, folded in on itself like a loveless heart, my poem leans on the willow’s trunk, its arm outstretched, palm on the bark, right ankle crossed over left. It cocks its brow, mocks me.
Now that you’ve found me, my poem says, what will you do with me?
After a Meeting Powderly
I just left my friend who’s alone now, widowed several years ago and scraping by on spousal subsidy, old enough, like some of us, to qualify for medi-something and grateful for it, hustling a few bucks to put food on the table, care for a cat. Would rather not grow old alone but not afraid of it. I’ve known this man for years but he’s never talked to me with the lilt in his voice that sings testosterone. We’re about the same age, would no doubt enjoy each other but somehow it’s just never come up. Sad, when I think of it— might ease a bit the loneliness, bring at least the touch of companionship. But companionship is a time-consuming thing for those of us chary of our time, who’ve learned women carry the burden of keeping such things alive, and maybe they’re just not worth the work. We’ve finally wised up, finally trust ourselves enough to make lonely times bearable, few enough to be tolerable, because we’re interested in more than a few beers and TV. Of course, I’ve known some beers to be beautiful things, and I’ve loved TV characters more than my own family, but I’d be dead in a year if that’s all I settled for. Still, it’s frightening to look down the long years, hope there’s another twenty-five or so, and know that the only folks who’ll really care when you kick are friends and one or two relatives. Know that TV, your drinking choice, the blessing of long showers, the transcendent power of a well-done poem — solitary pleasures woven day after day— will form your remaining warp and weave.
“Framework” By E. A. Hanninen, 2013
No money woven through this final tapestry— no vacations to plan or Christmases with gifts, but dinners at diners and clothes from Goodwill, food from neighborhood cupboards reducing the grocery bill — this life I will lead, too many will lead, and there’s no metaphor bare enough for it. Not much color, precious little love, no dark and thunderous clouds of drama or despair — just Thoreau’s desperation ground into subsidized apartments, scattered on benches outside graying buildings, fashioned into canes supporting hips through checkout lines. No beauty, no bounty, just the thick flesh of quiet longing padding the skeletons of hearts.
Colleen Powderly began writing poetry in 1997. Early poems reflected her childhood in the deep South and youth in the Midwest. Those poems eventually formed the basis for her book, Split (FootHills Publishing, 2009). More recent work has focused on stories from the working class, particularly from women’s lives. Her work has appeared in many journals, including Palo Alto Review, RiverSedge, California Quarterly, The Alembic, Fox Cry Review, HazMat Literary Review, online in Sea Stories, and recently in Adrienne Rich: A Tribute Anthology. Colleen supported her poetry habit by working as a chemical dependency counselor before leaving the workforce in 2010. She now tries to live poetically, write dangerously, and dream impractically of living in Ireland. She keeps writing poems because she simply cannot stop.
Once the River By Amy Neill Bebergal
The cartographer’s map is an artifact. Once the river slowed, dropped sand, made an oxbow. But we later know currents and unforeseen winds smear, redefine entire continents. And memory spreads a delta, too. We carry granulations aloft, arils collecting between rocks — rocks that will divide one day, but meanwhile they attract. Seeds take rest in fertile cracks. We’re drawn to the faltering of the act — our plea — to pretend it isn’t seen. We’re leaves circling in the eddy, casting our shadows over reflective sediment. Picture harbors, havens, entrances, and exits. Boats moor in the lap of silts’ brief nap. It lulls — the temporal sway. But a heart that casts and reels, casts and reels, struggles to refold the soft blue map. Creases unmatched, press and unpress, firma fitted to the palm. If lines are drawn, followed at all, still nothing will tell us where we are. We want what’s not in evidence: mermaids, monsters of the sea, compass rose, carbon kisses — what’s uncanny — in the subterranean.
Amy Neill Bebergal studied and has degrees in anthropology and writing from The New School University, the School for International Training, and Sarah Lawrence College. Originally from Amherst, Massachusetts, she now resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son. She has recently started submitting her poetry. Previous publications can be found in RiverLit and Killing the Buddha. Contact Amy: email@example.com
Woman & Man By Kitty Jospé
She took away his head, replaced it with a crossword grid or was that puzzle always there? 1 Across: 7 letters: Italian for need 1 Down: 5 letters. How English translates “être” in Sartre’s L'Être et le Néant 23 across: like hunted, but add an A, replace the H with a G; meaning: the idea of gloved by starkness. You can see how this is not going to work between them. He is in his black suit, unaware of the complex exigencies she applies to his meaning— and we haven’t even begun the two-letter abbreviations. His job is simply to replace the outline of her body starting up from the curve of her butt rounding the collar bone, down the breast, ending at le mont de Vénus ignoring the intelligence that waves underneath her hair, the strength in her arms that know how to do so much more than what he desires. He, too, took away her head; both at a loss of heart.
Kitty Jospé writes and teaches in Rochester, NY, and enjoys spreading infectious enthusiasm. In addition to work in Nimrod International Journal, Grasslimb, and other journals, she is in several local anthologies. Her first book, Cadences, was published by FootHills Publishing in 2010. Her chapbook, Mosaicq, was a semifinalist in the 2012 New Women’s Voices Chapbook Award, and will be forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2013; another chapbook, Gathering Lines (also from Finishing Line Press) is expected in 2014.
Macbeth at the Writers Group By Tim Diggles
Thank you for sharing that with us William I hope you don’t mind if I call you Bill We’re an informal friendly group open to all and here to offer you help I must say I found your play interesting I’m sure the others did You have a how can I say it very different style to the rest of us That’s not saying it’s wrong of course just different Maybe rewriting it as flash fiction would make it more powerful We had a dramatist as a member a while ago Some of you may remember Ken Ken wrote amusing monologues and a local Amateur Dramatic Society Performed some but they didn’t go down well and we were told By the library that if Ken still attended we’d lose the room Marcia chirruped in have you had anything published Bill I have
Maybe as a fellow writer I could offer you some tips I think your play is a bit gloomy people like happy things don’t you think I had my first well my only poem published by an American publisher The World’s Anthology of Poetry I’m sure you know it I bought the Special Leather Bound Edition it’s a pity they spelt my name wrong No I haven’t read the other poems there are so many mine’s on page 497 I read it to Benji every day he purrs every time he hears it It’s called The Baby Lambs in Spring happy things Bill that’s what people want Frank butted in booming from his corner seat
Well I think you missed a great opportunity Bill Those witches that sort of thing witches wizards sells Frank is one of our stars four articles published so far this year Aye one just last week in Dog Fighting Monthly I’ve got another soon in The Slaughter Man’s Digest Those witches and that bloke Macbeth they could have a naked orgy Then the witches could take over his body and have lesbian sex with Lady Macbeth Aye I know who’d publish that aye that sort of thing sells
Walter timidly raised his hand to offer his opinion
I couldn’t see any influence by the working class on this play We needed to see how the people rise up and overthrow the tyrants And you should think about the language you use William I know our brothers and sisters on the street They won’t understand a word you write They would sympathise with Brother and Sister Macbeth Oh and I’m sorry just another minor criticism you don’t reflect the community You know William in Scotland there are many minorities You appear to have written only about white Scottish characters Why not make Sister Macbeth a Muslim shop steward With a violent husband have you read Trotsky Well Bill Veronica interjected or as the Garuntians would call you Vog Well Vog what you write about reminds me of my time on Garuntia I was abducted by a Garuntian inter stella craft while I was gardening It’s unfortunate I didn’t have my writing book pencil and camera on me I do carry them everywhere now so that next time I am properly prepared But I have all my notes here about the experiments they performed on me I’ve gone into great detail about the extensive vaginal and anal probing I can show you the marks some of the deeper ones are quite startling You know Vog I have been called a genius by my pen friend in Dartmoor He reads everything I write and is always asking for more detail When he is released in twelve years he wants to closely examine where they probed Have you ever been abducted by aliens Vog Well I think we’ve had a good discussion about your play Bill It raised some interesting issues and I hope was helpful to you Maybe when you’ve done some rewriting you’ll bring it back to us Now Gerald I think it’s your turn to read next Is it another amusing story of your time as an embalmer
Tim Diggles went to Cardiff College of Art, then worked in film and photography with local community groups. In Boston, Lincolnshire, he organized performances by touring theatre companies, then moved back to his birthplace, Stoke-on-Trent, where he ran a community arts organization. Later, he became coordinator for The Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers for 16 years. He currently works at developing his writing, a mix of poetry and novels. In January 2013, he published his novella, The Report (Amazon Kindle). Tim also attends a weekly group called Renegade Writers, peopled mainly by novel writers, and gets a great deal of first-class feedback from them, none of whom are featured in “Macbeth...”! Instead, the poem is based on an amalgam of people he’s met at writers groups over the years. Tim’s Blog: http://timdiggles.wordpress.com/.
Peevish By Paul Hostovsky
I don't care for him. Or him. Or him. Or them. Her I like. I like her vim. But she's too damned earnest for my taste. I can only take so much conviction this early in the morning. Please pass the horseradish. I hate people who say they're doing excellent. How you doing? Excellent! I want to slap them. I mean they really grate on my agape. And then there's Bob. Bob who always asks how the poetry's going. Bob who doesn't write poetry or read poetry himself, but is good with people, and good at asking you questions about yourself, and saying your name at the end of every sentence like a refrain. It's so cold out I can see his breath's little diplomatic envoys
of wispy warmth puffing my way. How's the poetry going, Paul? Good, Bob. Excellent.
“Balancing Poetry with Sanity” By E. A. Hanninen, 2013
Please pass the kidney dish.
Read more of Paul’s poems and his bionote on pages 8-9 & 42-43.
Their Divorce Began at the Kitchen Table over Soup Beans and Cornbread By Karla Linn Merrifield
I. One she’d slow-cooked rich-thick, one she’d baked slow to crumble. She’d simmered onion in the broth. She’d left a lot of ham meat on the bone. Same as I do today, except I add a couple sliced carrots to the pot. She’d followed her own recipe, too. She’d boiled rebellion in her brew. She’d folded anger in her batter — her secret ingredients were to him her manifold sins. My father-the-Reverend stirred a litany of complaints into his grace before serving:
Dammit, you know they’re supposed to be runny. For sopping. What in the Sam Hill is gristle doin’ in my bowl? Answer me that, Marie. Now, pass the oleo. And snap to it.
II. So much for butter. As a kid, I watched the divorce begin around that table on Coleman Avenue— with the cursing of food to hungry bodies. So be it, said the strange man who’d suddenly found Jesus.
Overnight we’d gone from merchant class— Lion’s Club, Garden Club, Country Club— to dirt poor. Praise the Lord for gruel. By then he’d taken to wearing his collar at supper, a newly minted circuit preacher with five churches, meager budgets, hence payment in stewing hens, hog parts at slaughter, put by to be rationed. Sermonizing didn’t pay, so he took the cat-eye shift, minding the office at the mines outside Fairmont, along Barracksville Road, for a pittance, time alone, mostly— with Him. When he practiced his authority on us all, the brimstone of hypocrisy burned my tongue. For another twenty years of divorce postponed by God, my mother prepared an honest table before her family: blue-ribbon soup beans, blue-ribbon cornbread, homemade bitter blessings upon our house of the damned. Amen.
Read Karla’s review column and her bionote on pages 74-78.
Hard Frost By Jennifer Lagier For my father, January 2009
A blasted world sparkles; cold sun glares the morning my aunt calls to say he is gone. Around me, poinsettias blacken and droop. Our birdbath crackles with splinters of ice.
“Winter Birdbath” By D. J. Bryant, 2013
A widowed dove, lone survivor of hawk attack, picks among fallen seeds.
Jennifer Lagier’s books are Coyote Dream Cantos (iota press, 1992), Where We Grew Up (Small Poetry Press, 1999), Second-Class Citizen (Voices in Italian Americana Folio Series, 2000), The Mangia Syndrome (Pudding House Publications, 2004), and Fishing for Portents (Pudding House Publications, 2008). Jennifer is a longtime contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Essay By Erik Richardson
Review By Karla Linn Merrifield
“Drowning in the Night Storm” By E. A. Hanninen, 2013
Into the Labyrinth:
Drowning, Surviving, and the Therapy of Writing By Erik Richardson
We are destined to be creatures of paradox. This is true in so many ways, but perhaps none more fundamental than our struggle to be ourselves, trapped between the drive to be pluribus, unique, to break new ground and stand apart from the madding crowd, and at the same time, to be unum, bound by the drive — programmed deep in the hardware — to be a part of the group, to be tangled in a web of connections, to belong. Our struggle with this paradox has given rise to much that is best and worst in our history, and it has also given rise to an encyclopedia of mental illnesses and attendant therapies. For you, devoted TCE readers, it will probably come as no surprise that writing, including poetry, has developed over the past few decades into a powerful and effective therapy in and of itself, mirroring English author Graham Greene, who once said, “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear, which is inherent in a human situation.” (Ways of Escape, 1980) Although the exact reason why therapeutic writing yields health benefits is still somewhat unclear, a number of possible explanations in the scholarly literature exist. One of the more prominent theories holds that writing about a traumatic experience, for example, may help confront the negative emotions associated with that experience and help lower emotional inhibition. This, in turn, may ultimately lead to lower psychological stress. A second common position argues that writing what is called a coherent narrative can help patients understand their experiences more deeply, put those experiences into a larger context, and thereby change the way they think about the events and the characters involved. Other researchers suggest that benefit is gained by allowing the writer to step back from the event and take a more objective stance toward the story and the main character. Then, of course, you have those inevitable peacemakers in the group who try to mix and match the theories. It is important to point out, however, a couple of things that show strong consensus among researchers: First we must cast aside one of the oldest and probably the most intuitive of ideas; namely that it is some kind of catharsis. Perhaps more important, though, is that we hold all the more tightly to the precaution that writing therapy is definitely not a project to be attempted by the untrained, in the face of significantly traumatic events. Pushing yourself to write about something major that is too strong or too new can be dangerous. The writing process taps into the traumatic feelings, and in cases that are too recent, such writing can prematurely interfere with the mind’s natural coping processes.
With that precaution in mind, though, it is fascinating to see the long and varied list of ways writing poetry or prose can help lift us up and keep us afloat when we feel like life is pulling us under. Therapeutic writing not only has immediate short-term health benefits, but long-term ones, as well. Some long-term benefits of therapeutic writing include: lower blood pressure, fewer stress-related visits to the doctor, improved mood, improved lung function, improved liver function, and many others. Writing has also been shown to provide faster and more complete recoveries from a wide range of ailments like rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and even in post-op cancer patients. In addition, patients with cystic fibrosis, HIV, chronic pelvic pain and those with poor sleeping patterns have seen relief when using this therapy. Perhaps more important than the physical health benefits are the mental health ones. Expressive writing has been shown to improve memory, boost grade-point average, improve chances of reemployment, reduce absences at work, and alter social and linguistic behavior. It has also been shown, in study after study, to improve moods and outlook for clients with psychological conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), chronic depression, anxiety disorders, and for victims of childhood abuse. The list of benefits is far more interesting and impressive so far than the prominent theories trying to explain them, though. I believe that the scholars and clinicians have only been able to construct their theories and attempted explanations from an artificially narrow point of view, such as their modest suggestions that attempt to answer the “why” question: why does writing have such a powerful effect on our mental and physical well-being? As writers and poets, I think we are in a position to help the researchers construct a richer set of theories. To lay the groundwork for that, I want to revisit the fundamental paradox with which I set out: we are trapped between the need to be unique, to stand apart, and the need to belong, to be a part of a community. If a theory is to work — and I mean work deep in our bones, not just in textbooks or in the therapist’s office — if it is to keep working when the bills are paid and the clients move on with their lives, it has to connect and engage with that fundamental paradox. In looking back at the clinical attempts to explain writing therapy, though, I would like to suggest that they are one-sided, lopsided, from the outset. As a species our constant survival depends on creating and nourishing mutually beneficial relationships. We have a deep-seated need to feel connected, to be trusted and loved, and to trust and love in return. The researchers’ theories about writing have not addressed this, so what they must mean by “writing” is some cold, two-dimensional shadow of what we mean by writing. What is more, their theories only seem to address one side of the paradox. All that jazz about patients fitting events into their views of themselves and coming to terms with their emotions could all happen if they — patients, writers — were off living alone in caves somewhere. But contrarily, psychological research has shown consistently that we need a sense of community: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and a shared emotional connection. Our sense of connectedness to community greatly contributes to our overall mental health, how we react to stress, and how we recover from it. So, let us instead, as a community of poets and writers, set out a new theory that sees both sides of our paradox; I will offer the proposal, and you, in turn, will write back — share your anecdotes, your poems and stories, your examples and counterexamples. Let us explore together where this might take us, and maybe, in the process, we will find something interesting on the other side.
My proposal is this: Writing works; it heals us and moves us forward because it allows us — every time we pick up the pen and from the first moment we pick it up — to create a private community of two. There is, in that instant, a writer and a main character. It is a place where we belong, but where our vulnerabilities are safe (which is all too rare and is all the more important when we are in a state of heightened vulnerability). This allows us to be apart from the larger crowd— especially if we are pouring out our ink about some issue we are not ready to share. Now we might decide to open up that particular piece and invite more people to share in it. But that moment of healing starts when it is just the two of you. You are no longer alone. You are no longer trapped, because now the story can be written out differently. And of course, for most of us, and for most stories, the private community we’ve created also has a variety of other characters and an imagined audience who will accept us and listen, and understand what we need to say. So, let’s hear it. Send me your thoughts, poems, and stories about how writing has healed you, how it has created a private community where you can be your true self with your shields down and still belong — how it has kept you from drowning. Agree with me, disagree with me, give me examples to prove me right or wrong. If we do it well, my aim is to eventually land our creation in a peer-reviewed journal and spark a larger dialogue.
“Writer’s Self-Portrait” By Karla Linn Merrifield, 2013
Send your material to me at firstname.lastname@example.org by June 1, 2013.
Erik Richardson lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his family and assorted pets. The whole group is a tangle of dandelions in the middle of the suburban lawnscape (and takes pride in that). In addition to teaching math and computers and attending grad school in psychology, he runs a small business with his wife fueling sci-fi/fantasy fandom. Erik is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Merrifield’s Tao of Poetry:
“… drab dabs of ash / on their lips // & the future” By Karla Linn Merrifield
Thousands Flee California Wildflowers Scot Siegel Salmon Poetry 89 Pages $15.60/ € 12.00
In a flash, it happens. I have a vision of the future in which a thousand years from now I see a team of archeologists sifting through the watery remains of Western civilization in a post-climate holocaust that swallowed the former United States’ coasts and all those who dwelled there. Diving off the erstwhile southern shores of what had been Western New York, waving waterproof metal detectors, they discover in the shallows a large mollusk-encrusted safe. Once exhumed and hoisted aboard their research vessel, they carefully crack it open. A stash of beautifully preserved poetry books spills onto the protected deck. The cultural anthropologist in the group gingerly extracts a slim volume at random. With a latex-shrouded finger, she strokes the familiar creature on the book’s front cover. It’s a lone coyote seated on a desolate patch of ground, howling at a whirlwind of golden leaves in a smoky-red sky. “This is a significant cache of pre-debacle treasure; and, judging the book by its cover,” she quips to her fellow gape-jawed colleagues, “this single book may prove to be an important text about 21st-century life. Thousands Flee California Wildflowers, the title reads. Why are they fleeing? Why California? Why wildflowers?” Dr. Blackman questions. I reach out across time and space to her to reply to her questions.
“This is the age we live in.” Thus concludes “He’s Got Mail,” a short poem that defines, I think, Scot Siegel’s 2012 book, Thousands Flee California Wildflowers — and begins to answer my imagined anthropologist’s questions. In the poem’s first stanza, we read about a man mourning the death of “one of his contacts.” She’s been dead four months and “no one knows how / to update her profile.” Ah, so. Siegel situates us in our era of inescapable technology, then goes on to explains his subject’s compulsive “multitasking,” an all-too-common activity of which, I’d argue, most of us are guilty. Then the clincher. With his contact’s death quickly forgotten, he’s staring at his computer:
The yellow flower on his screensaver is missing a pixel and he’s trying to fix it with rubber cement— This is the age we live in. We’ve fled the wildflowers because we’ve been ensnared by technology; we’re inured to their beauty because we’ve been programmed to prefer pixelated flowers. Yet, the irony is: We don’t have the tools or the capability to cope with this new way of living. Rubber cement doesn’t cut it. Or we can’t afford to keep up with it, dwelling as we do “in the mute country / of foreclosed homes” (“Elegy for Silicon Valley”). Or we’re immobilized by the futility of combating environmental devastation and its landscape of “derricks, / smug & devilish” (“R is Not for Rollercoaster”). Indeed, Siegel imagines the future of our modern era and it’s much like my own in the opening paragraphs above. Thus, in the sci-fi poem, “Report from the New Common Era,” he describes “the last of the freshwater lakes made / excellent farms.” Or we’re too sick to function as is the man in “Advance Directive” who’s “preparing for / a terminal illness // brought on by lead shot / residue and chromium in the / groundwater.” Or… Or… Or…
In the land of “floozies and the whiskey fits” So, why California? my fictional Dr. Blackman asks. Poet-activist David Biespiel in his The Book of Men and Women answers her question succinctly: “California, with its
huge economy and ethos of tolerance and environmentalism, has long been considered a bellwether for American popular culture, high technology, and politics. ‘As California goes, so goes the country,’ they say.” And who better than Siegel, a Californian, to write with authority about his bellwether state, whether depicting the carney girl of “Santa Cruz Carney Girl” or the Gold-Rush country inhabitants of “Placer County Roadside Marker”? Siegel is the keenest of observers who can detect the “ghost trains and swallowed rivers” (“Idling, Sacramento”) of the Golden State. His senses are acutely attuned; they give rise to lines that situate us in a California that we experience viscerally, a place that “always reeked / of juniper” (“Eclipse Over Alturas”) and where hungry “gulls cry in the distance” (“Farallones (Gulls In The Absence of Stars)”). We inhale and come, as Siegel has done, to learn “pines know the smell of their own kind / burning” (“ Chromium Tahoe”).
“the color of wind” That brings us to the anthropologist’s “Why wildflowers?” This is a tough one that requires some speculation, which is far more the province of poets than scientists. But I’ll venture this explanation. Thousands are fleeing wildflowers perhaps because the wildflowers are a collective symbol of Nature’s fragility, and we flee because we cannot bear to witness the wildflowers as they succumb to destruction by the wildfires of global warming, the poisoning of groundwater by lead and chromium, the metaphoric sinkhole of…. The irony is: In the end, as readers of Siegel’s book, we don’t really flee them.
“ripen a heron loose from the reeds” Siegel seduces us into bearing witness, as he has, with poems of breathtaking imagery; he is at his most sublime in Nature. Even when we fear that the world as we know it is coming to an end, we can find solace in the world-yet-beautiful. Thus, though following Siegel through the trailer park of “Placer County Roadside Marker,” we can find ourselves “turning under a canopy of aspens / buried in amethyst lupines.” And though “a gull would sit on us,” we can take pleasure when “gulls laugh” and know “the world was full of / potential” (“Farallones (Gulls In The Absence of Stars)”). We can experience pure delight in the darkest hour, as in “Autumn Turns Through Stratified Wars”:
Three warblers balance on one blackberry cane not ordinary warblers, yellow-breasted chats one silent in the breeze—
No wonder we can come to agree with Siegel that “a moment / is a miracle” (“Words for the Wedding Rehearsal Dinner”). And if Siegel’s soul-felt, tender rendering of miraculous moments in the natural world aren’t enough of an antidote to his serious message about Earth’s despoliation, he peppers his book with flashes of levity as in “Actuary Table”: “Look into your soup / and divide by three.” Or turn to “Somewhere, Under the Rainbow” to meet a soccer mom “fussin’ with the belt, eye bulgin’ like a smelt / with the bends.” Or relish “ Request for Proposals (RFP),” a kind of two-poems-in-one creative coup that marries whimsy (in regular font) to seriousness (in italics): “Name: Recovery of Giant Garter Snake Habitat inhabitant of gray cubicle.” Also, there’s the power of human love to combat the evils of our times. There is the young, innocent love of “Reasons I Resisted Kissing Your Sister,” in which the speaker remembers a “girl’s fist / warm in my palm, juniper smoke in her green eyes.” And a mature love as in “Eclipse Over Alturas” when:
winter here feels like her jawbone when we’d kiss against the split-rail . . . the bedspread always reeked of juniper And nostalgic love as in “Before the War,” an impressionistic prose poem that just about made me swoon.
Rain. Spring rain, like sheet metal and rolling pins. It wasn’t always this way. Once they held hands in the rain & wandered the town smelling jasmine stamens by the bay. And, perhaps the most beautifully crafted and imagined lines about love I’ve encountered in many years: “our heartbeats throbbing like the round / gears of the earth’s cartilage” from “Chromium Tahoe.” Contributor Howie Good, who recommended the book in his TCE Reader Survey, thus instigating this review, said Thousands Flee “shows a modern sensibility within the context of fine craftsmanship.” Fine craftsmanship certainly (although I found several wimpy line breaks, a few missing commas and hyphens in absentia). But “modern sensibility” doesn’t do Scot Siegel justice. This is a book of astonishing depth and wisdom, simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. An ominous future seems to be taking shape now, evidence of which some 31st-century anthropologist may unearth, but, out of the sinkhole of modernity with its “desperate wives / and overweight children” (“ Santa Cruz
Carney Girl”), rises “the aspen chorus” (“Chromium Tahoe”), and strains of music in the square drift skyward as we watch “the dance / of full-grown boys” (“Santa Fe, Fiesta”). Ultimately, we join in the celebration of life that is the fine, fine poetry of Scot Siegel.
Column Editor’s Note:
What’s your story behind a poetry book that you’ve read and desire others to read? What path led you to that book? Tell me. Just complete our online Reader Survey. From your stories I’ll select the books and I’ll review them for all our readers in future issues of The Centrifugal Eye. Give me something new to rave about! Survey:
Award-winning poet, National Park Artist-in-Residence, and assistant editor and book reviewer of The Centrifugal Eye, Karla Linn Merrifield has had work published in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 9-going-on-10 books to her credit, including Godwit: Poems of Canada, which received the 2009 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for Poetry, and her new chapbooks, The Urn and The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica, from Finishing Line Press. Forthcoming from Salmon Press is her full-length collection Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North. She recently co-edited the Liberty’s Vigil, The Occupy Anthology: 99 Poets among the 99%. Also recently published was her full-length book, Lithic Scatter and Other Poems (Mercury Heartlink). You can read more about Karla and sample her poems and photographs on her blog. Contact email@example.com Finishing Line Press: http://www.finishinglinepress.com/ Karla’s Blog: http://karlalinn.blogspot.com
“Poetry Safari Viewscape: How One Poet Copes” By Karla Linn Merrifield, 2013
The Centrifugal Eye’s Ships Come in & Bridges over Muddy Waters: The Latest News & Guides
Press Releases With its harmony of strong voices The Centrifugal Eye’s 5th-Anniversary Anthology is calling out to join your library’s rank of great poetry. Now available from TCE ’s Centrifugal Works imprint, through Lulu.com: http://tinyurl.com/TCEs5thAnniversaryAnthology Contributor Annie Bien’s first book of poetry, Plateau Migration, was released in late 2012 by Aldrich Press/Alabaster Leaves Publishing; it’s available from Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/PlateauMigration Contributor Susi Gregg Fowler’s newest book, Arctic Aesop's Fables: Twelve Retold Tales, was released by Sasquatch Books in February 2013. http://tinyurl.com/ArcticAesopsFables
Collapsing Outside the Box is contributor George Korolog’s new book; published by Aldrich Press, it’s available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/CollapsingOutsidetheBox
TCE contributor and book reviewer Karla Linn Merrifield has a new book, Lithic Scatter and Other Poems, now available from Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/LithicScatter, or you can order a signed copy (with no postage in US) by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Contributor Keith Moul’s new book of poetry, art, and photography, Reconsidered Light, is the first color-interior book from Broken Publications. It includes contributions from his daughter, artist Ianthe Moul. Available through Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/ReconsideredLight From contributor Scott Owens is Shadows Trail Them Home, a continuation of his collaboration with Pris Campbell from Clemson University Digital Press: http://www.clemson.edu/cedp/cudp/pubs/shadows/index.html Or readers can order directly from Scott ($15 plus $3 shipping) by emailing to email@example.com Contributor Margaret A. Robinson’s chapbook, Sister Missing, is now available online. The poems chronicle the year after her younger sister died suddenly on August 23, 2011. Visit: http://tinyurl.com/SisterMissing
Back Issues The Centrifugal Eye has been around for 7.5 years and much of the work published during that
time is still available in our online archives, and has been collected into an anthology (see the facing page for details). During the past 4 years, all but one of the issues has also been made available as a print-on-demand edition through Lulu.com. If you’d like to peruse our archives or pick up print copies, please visit these sites: Archives http://home.earthlink.net/~centrifugaleye/index.html Centrifuge/Special Projects http://home.earthlink.net/~centrifuge/ TCE Storefront/Lulu http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/centrifugaleye
Submissions If you are a poet, essayist, reviewer or artist, and you think that your work may be a match for us, please visit our guidelines page on TCE ’s website. Submission Guidelines http://home.earthlink.net/~tinyviolet/thecentrifugaleyepoetryjournal/id5.html
Back Cover Art: “Getting Around” Karen Greenbaum-Maya is not only an artist photographer, but also a poet. Read Karen’s poem and her bionote on page 51.
“Getting Around” by Karen Greenbaum-May, 2013
Published on Mar 14, 2013
Published on Mar 14, 2013
An online poetry journal of literary force to experience: poetry, essays, interviews, book reviews, and illustrations of an exhilarating na...