Blue Mountain Review September 2021

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September 2021 Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


Faylita Hicks:

Find faith & Success with the edwards sisters

The Fierce Divine Feminine

featured from athens, Georiga: Jittery Joe’s & the Georgia Theatre

Life, Love, Music & Famous Pants of David Shaw Introducing The Truth of k.Iver Swing in the joy of Sammi Garett

The incomparable Genius of Victoria Chang Hope in love with k.Rashad

Poetry, Fiction, Essays, & Microfiction

charles jensen & the ucla writers extension program


victoria chang

david shaw

sammi garett


obscuring the identity of a machine By: Jeffrey Skinner

Here are a few of the questions human beings have been mulling, without discernible progress toward an answer, for thousands of years: What is consciousness? What is the self? Is there anything in the universe besides energy and matter? What came first, matter or consciousness? Why is there something—anything at all—rather than nothing? Between Newton’s laws of motion and the Standard theory of quantum mechanics we are able to send space probes to Mars and beyond, as well as shrink the contents of hundreds of universities to the size of a device we carry in our pockets. We seem close to making artificial intelligence that can pass the Turing Test, robots that seem human. We can analyze the composition of stars at the visible edge of space, and determine the speed at which the universe is expanding. And we can estimate, to a good degree of certainty, when our sun will run out of fuel and the game is finally up—for us, and all of life on our planet. We know a great deal about the blue dot we inhabit, and about the rest of the observable universe. However. “Observable” is a key word, a word with severe limits: we have figured out that the universe is 95% composed of stuff we call “dark matter,” and other stuff we call “dark energy.” But what dark energy and dark matter are, we have no idea. The names are mere tantalizing placeholders. Ninety-five percent of the universe: No Idea. Right. We also know, according to Neuroscientist Grigori Guitchounts of Harvard, that the data footprint of all books ever written come out to less than 100 terabytes, which is 0.005 percent of a mouse brain. This does not inspire confidence, in me at least, that we will have truly human-like androids in the near future, if ever. Even if they are capable of passing the Turing Test. When a particle of matter is created its twin—identical except for the fact that it has the opposite charge— is simultaneously created. This we call antimatter. Since they otherwise behave in exactly the same way, building from particle to atom to molecule, and so on, we could theoretically meet our antimatter twin. And wouldn’t that be sci-fi fun! To look our antimatter doppelgänger in the eye, and, and . . . But, no, not really. If we were to shake hands with our negative, or even brush against him or her lightly, both he/she and we would be annihilated in a blinding flash, turned back into the energy that made us. And, in fact, it happens to particles, just this way, every time. Almost every time. There is a tiny imbalance, a slight edge in favor of matter over anti-matter—around one particle in a billion. Which is why we are here. But, why this imbalance should exist in the first place, is another thing we don’t understand. We have no earthly idea. It seems there is a good deal left for us to figure out after all. Where are the arts in this, where is poetry? Poetry is, I think, at the epistemological border. Poetry starts with the observable, material world and traces vectors between it, us, and the immensity beyond. Plato said poets



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 lie, but I think he meant that poets assert particular connection between the objective and subjective worlds, then rely on the reader for verification. And for Plato that is just a multiplication of subjectivity. The notions of “self” and “consciousness” may well turn out to be subjective ghosts. And what good is ghostly knowledge? Science is the search for objective truth. God does not play dice, etcetera . . . But: I suspect the difference between “objectivity” and “subjectivity” may in fact be another daughter, or son, or cousin, in the Family of Old Questions. Another question that poetry--line by line, image by image, word by word—attempts to answer. For the past month I have served on a grand jury. I’m in good health and no longer have a role in “essential” work, so I was without excuse. I’d been randomly chosen from the large statewide pool once before, decades ago, but that time I did have an excuse. So in addition to being slightly peeved my routine would be upended, this time I was nearly glad to play my role as citizen. I also looked forward to satisfying my curiosity about how the justice system worked in real life, as opposed to movies and tv. Most people, when they think of jury duty, me included, think of a single trial, where one hears evidence and renders a verdict, guilty or not guilty. But the way a grand jury works—at least this grand jury—is that we hear many cases per day and vote on each felony charge separately, either to indict, or not. And, what have I learned? After considering an endless series of charges of drug trafficking, murder, domestic abuse, gang shootings, identity theft, counterfeit money, strangulation, assault, etc.? I learned once again how judgmental I am, how convinced when another juror disagreed with me that I was right, and they were, simply, wrong. After a few occasions of indulging righteous anger (and the rise in blood pressure that accompanied it), I learned to just vote, as I believed the facts warranted, and let others do the same. I learned that, contrary to movie inspired stereotypes, most cops (they were our primary witnesses) seemed younger, more smooth-faced, than any of my former students. I learned the name of a new offense, “Obscuring the Identity of a Machine,” which became my favorite of all the offenses because of its absurd implications. I gleefully imagined taking a hammer to a robot’s face. And I learned, a hundred times over, the truth of Hannah Arendt’s characterization of “the banality of evil.” I learned what sad, trivial ends my own life would have come to if I hadn’t cleaned up my act—stopped drinking and drugging—many years ago.

Let’s pause. Here is a small poem by Jill Osier:

Story It might have happened at the river, petting the wild swan, the pure-breasted, black-eyed silent one drawing us down in our dresses and suits through branches and mud to banks wet and hidden.


Many things could be said about this poem—how it obeys the principle of Occam’s razor, how precisely its diction and syntax is scaled to its subject, etcetera. But I have retired from teaching, and what now compels me about these six lines of English speech, besides their beauty, is how slyly, how economically they evoke the immensity of an unknown portion of our nature. By its end this one sentence brings us to the cliff edge of the 95% of the universe that is composed of dark matter and energy, then lets us teeter there, feeling its dizzying dimension. Through the use of simple, mostly one syllable nouns and adjectives (wild, swan, black-eyed, dresses, suits, mud, wet, hidden) it releases a mysterious knowledge, perhaps outside the domain of either physics or psychology, or any science. And, it is irreducible—the poem cannot be transcribed into descriptive terms, or into any other form, without losing its essence, its raison d’etre. This is the character of poetry that, for me, hints at an eventual convergence between the parallel categories of human knowledge represented by science and art. “The universe begins to look more like a great thought,” said physicist Sir James Jeans, “than like a great machine.” Yes. My worldview is Christian, which makes me, among my intellectual friends, an anomaly, hopelessly outdated. Which is: OK. In fact, I rather enjoy my anachronistic status. If defense were necessary, I would cite my attempt to keep up with developments in contemporary science, at least in the form of books legible to a math-challenged layman. But I do this only because—I like reading such books. They seem to take place in the same arena as poetry, though the venue is under different management, and the stadium architecture is Neo-Brutalist in the first instance and Gothic (or, in some cases, Danish Contemporary) in the second. And, of course, over the journey of forty years as a poet I have read and digested thousands of poems, novels, plays, essays—from every tradition, and from many cultures. The result? Less and less do I find any conflict at all between science, religion, and art. Science, it seems, has its rightful province, and religion and art theirs (though the two often overlap). There is physics, there is metaphysics. Occasionally a devotee from one discipline will stray into another’s field and create some hubbub. But if you know just a bit about each field, poaching is easy to spot. Though there are a lot of similarities between religions, there are crucial differences, and when such discrepancies arise, I choose the path of Christ. I try to practice my faith. But I do see how hard it is for my colleagues to buy into. It’s a crazy story: God assumes human form, as in previous myths—except this time not in myth, but in an actual historical moment, to a breathing, census-counted, Jewish family. This man/god works in his father’s business until he turns thirty. Then, he roams around a small slice of the Middle East, trailing large crowds of the curious and the entranced, for three years. He performs miracles, he tells stories, he heals the sick. After proclaiming his kingdom is near, he makes a triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, on the back of a donkey. His followers expect that he will lead them to rout the Romans and assume the throne. Instead, he’s ratted out by one of his own and turned in to the authorities as a heretic. His other followers turn tail and fade into the ever dust-colored background. He’s executed, on a cross—in order “to redeem the sins of the world.” He dies, after which his body mysteriously disappears from its tomb. A few days pass and he shows up again, alive, scaring the hell out of everyone he meets. He hangs out with his followers, giving them some final instructions (Feed my sheep). He says he is coming back. Then, lastly, he is taken up into heaven, hidden inside a luminous cloud. Only a fool or a child could believe it, really.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

And I do. Being a juror has only reinforced for me many Bible verses, including “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of god.” One sees, in the charges that appear on every day’s docket, the ridiculous repetitiveness of sin. It never turns out well for anyone, and yet keeps happening. One thinks of Simone Weil’s saying, “Good is the only real surprise.” Now at the end of my tenure as juror, I feel blessed to have been reminded how close I came in my own life to death’s face—inches away. How much I needed, at the butt end of addiction’s low road, redemption, salvation. I had backed up behind me a great deal of trouble I needed saving from. And, I was saved. But though I speak only for myself, I can’t do otherwise than count myself, still, among the profligate sinners. I am ever in need of salvation. Of course there are the noisy, never-ending battles between science and religion one cannot escape hearing about in contemporary discourse. But they are almost always more to do with politics than either religion or science. And this also is an ancient question: what to give to God, what to give the state. If that question ever comes to my door, and I see discrepancy, I pray I’m able to follow Solzhenitsyn: “Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” And so we are back at the first paragraph, my list of the old questions. In one way or another, every poem, every novel, and every painting is aimed at one or more of these questions. But the dogma of scientific materialism dictates that, eventually, science will answer all questions. Because: there is nothing but matter and energy. Just as, in the past, for example, we thought the earth was flat. Then Eratosthenes measured the length of a shadow at various times of the day, and proved the planet’s roundness, by experiment. Good work, Eratosthenes! For science absolutists, the only reason anyone still believes there is something beyond matter and energy is: incomplete knowledge. Well, maybe. I believe in science, what it has accomplished, and that it will answer more questions in the future. But about the notion there is nothing beyond what can be seen and felt, I’m deeply skeptical. If true, completely and irrevocably, it would mean we are here purely by chance, and heading nowhere, for no reason. It would mean the “self” is just a persistent illusion. It would mean “meaning” is a human construction, without objective correlative— our existence means no more or less than a glazed green leaf falling from a magnolia tree. At this moment, neuroscientists are mapping what part(s) of the brain activate when the subject is shown porn, or art, and whether or not there is a difference. Not much, it turns out. And it is amazing that we can do that. But, eh—it bores me. I am certain we can and will learn less from that research and more, unfathomably more, about the mind and the fact of being human, by reading Jill Osier’s “Story.” And then, reading it again.


table of Contents 1

Bob Googe................................................. . page 81

Music 11

Adam McCabe and Cole Robbins. ................ page 87

David 13 Adelaide 17 Jimmy James.................................................. page 21 Sammi Garett............................................... page 23 Todd Clayton.............................................. page 27

Literary 31 Faylita 33 Adam 39 Bryant O’Hara............................................... page 41 Tom Sheehan................................................. page 43

K.Rashad. 91 Hemingway’s Dog. 93 Book Review: The Fire 95 Book Review: The Constant 97 Movie Review: Black 101 Faces of Faith: The Edwards 105 111 Happy Birthday Keith by Jim 113 Blackface in My Bones

K.Iver............................................................ page 47

by Melanie Smith..................................... . page 117

Dede Cummings............................................ page 51

Distant Worlds Converging on Screens During the Global

Victoria Chang............................................... page 53 Lenny Dellaroca and Michael O’Mara........... page 57 Charles Jensen.............................................. page 61

Visual Art 65 Stacey Holloway........................................... page 67

Special 73 Emily 75 Sarah 77


David Nazario. 85


Pandemic by Meredith 125 Ghosts of Us All by Megan 131 137 A Death. A Amy Dupack. ............ page 139 Miss Saigon by Daniel Aristi.................... . page 141 Carbodies Rolling Before the Blade of a Bulldozer by Roy 145

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

The Horse Wouldn’t Budge* by Annabelle Bonebrake .............................. page 147

Contusions by Lora 189

Cocotazo by Celia Lisset Alvarez .................. page 149

Yardwork, A Late Autumn by Laura 193

Flowers Are a Form of Vertigo by Lew 153 Disapperance by Peter Bloch 155 Shutter by Mark 157 Here I Am by Amanda 159 Variation on the Third Law of Motion by Gerry 165 Jazz by Tom 167 A Faint Hymn to the Moon by Kevin 173 Crushed Silk by Daniel Edward Moore 175 The Chiropodists’ Throw Pillow by Joe Pagano 177 Peace Work by Jennifer Polson 181 Daughter by Jennifer Polson 183 And Sometimes God Is by Jennifer Polson 185

Lorene by Gwyndolyn 191

Object Permanence by Laura 195 Sonnet on a Glass Snake by Sean 197 Heptaptych in Anytown, USA by Eric 199 Bastille Day by Marjory 205 209 White Gown by Catherine 211 End of Summer by Candace 215 217 Hollyhocks and Tombstones by Marilyn 219 Impotence by Mike Herdon...................... page 225 Musuem of Revelry by Bo 231 Not Good Flowers by Pamela 237 The Coal Tower by Elizaebeth 243

Pink Reading Glasses by Lynne 187




Asian American Poetry Chapbook Contest Southern Collective Experience presents

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021



1st Place: $200 & 100 books 2nd Place: $100 3rd Place: $50

Entrants must be Asian American or Pacific Islander. Former students and close friends of the judge are not eligible.

• The entry fee is $25.

• All place-winners will be

interviewed in the Blue Mountain Review and on the NPR show, Dante’s Old South.

• No more than 20 pages of poetry. A page of acknowledgements and dedication is counted in the 20 pages.

• Submission deadline is October 30, 2021.

• Please note in acknowledgements any previously published poems

• Winner and honorable mention announcements to be made on December 30, 2021.

• The contest is blind. Please put your name and contact information in the cover letter, but nowhere on or in the manuscript

Submission Link: bluemountainSubmission Link: mit/192468/asian-american-poetasian-american-poetry-chapbook-contest ry-chapbook-contest

Meet the Judge

Lee Herrick is the author of three books of poems: Scar and Flower, finalist for the 2020 Northern California Book Award, Gardening Secrets of the Dead and This Many Miles from Desire. He is co-editor of the anthology The World I Leave You: Asian American Poets on Faith and Spirit (Orison Books). His poems appear widely in literary magazines, textbooks, and anthologies such as HERE: Poems for the Planet, with an introduction by the Dalai Lama; Indivisible: Poems of Social Justice, with an introduction by Common; One for the Money: The Sentence as Poetic Form; and California Fire and Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology. His prose has appeared in Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, and elsewhere. He served as Fresno Poet Laureate from 2015-2017. Born in Daejeon, Korea and adopted to the United States at ten months, he has taught in China, in New York for Kundiman, and currently currently teaches at Fresno City College and the MFA program at Sierra Nevada University.


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the poetry collections of Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Clifford Brooks “Clifford Brooks has the rare gift of combining a lyric intensity and a grounded honesty in his poetry, one that reflects an amplified, passionate, and giving soul, but one that understands, very well, the suffering that sculpts a genuine heart...In these poems–whether narrative or lyric, minimal or dithyrambic, Brooks knows human passion, how it must suffuse any art worth making.” –William Wright, author of Tree Heresies and 2015 Georgia Author of the Year in Poetry

“Clifford Brooks writes a passionate, eloquent poetry, as wide-ranging as the models he sometimes invokes, including the blues and the epics.”-Robert Pinksy, former Poet Laureate of the United States

There are storytellers, and there are stories. Occasionally, we find no distinction between them. This is the case with Clifford Brooks.

-Kelli Allen, author of Imagine Not Drowning (2017), How We Disappear (2016), Some Animals (2016), and Otherwise, Soft White Ash (2012)

Clifford Brooks’s Athena Departs is tornadic, both in its dizzying whirl of settings, images, and motifs and in its sheer elemental energy....There is nothing faked here, nothing pretended to. Athena Departs is poetry fully meant by its creator, delivered with the force of a whirlwind. —Dan Albergotti, author of Millennial Teeth

Now for a limited time, the entire collection available, signed and personalized. To find out more reach out directly to the author at and use “CCB3 Poetry Bundle” as the subject line.


music Interv 11


Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

c views


Interview with

david shaw BY: Clifford Brooks & Andy Whitehorne Revivalists’ front-man David Shaw is an enigmatic, fashion-savvy, soul-fractured romantic now taking the stage as a solo act. Adopted by New Orleans, his pulse threads from ghosts through his fiancé to the open road. Shaw is a man at peace with a head full of furious movement.


hat is the short version of our half-hour conversation with Shaw for NPR. His laugh is infectious. Most often those who easily laugh do so from a place of heartbreak. Shaw never makes the hurt his way. It’s the path he uses to woo out the best in his fans. A whirling dervish, Jim Morrison sans the toxic Lizard King ego, watching The Revivalists comes close to a religious experience.

A strong, Grecian profile with dreadlocks, t-shirt, and jeans - Shaw met with us over Zoom to talk about his solo tour and his self-titled album. When asked about the decision to go out on his own, Shaw said, “There wasn’t any drama around it. If felt right. It wasn’t going to hurt the band. Then the pandemic hit, and it put everything on hold. But I did some great writing in that quiet.”

Quiet: That’s not a commodity Shaw has in stock on average. A man who thrives with ADHD, Shaw told us that he carries a hurricane of ideas sweeping his attention away from center. However, he says his unique perception allows him to know when he’s onto a melody or lyric worth slowing down for, “The best part about ADHD is that, if I’m able to stay with an idea without getting distracted, I know it’s a solid bet.”

Shaw speaks these things without melodrama or a faux-James Dean cool. He’s real. He steeped his solo album in the reality that, at one time, the future with his now fiancé wasn’t so clear, “So, I’m inside due to COVID and I’m writing songs about my love life, about regret, about rejuvenation. My fiancé is my lover, my best friend, and partner. We were going through a rough patch, mostly due to me, and I needed to sing us out of a funk. The biggest Revivalists’ hit was about her. It wasn’t difficult to hone my solo work with her in mind.”

“I don’t want to live with regret. I had to fix things with my fiancé. I also had to give this album my all. I can’t imagine getting too old to do this anymore and wonder why I didn’t at least try a solo stint.” The coolest part is that Shaw didn’t need regret anything. He’s already on tour with dates out through the rest of 2021. “This album is grittier. There are a few songs that sound like they belong on another album. It’s kinda all over the place.” But so is Shaw. Like his eclectic fashion sense, he has good license to take his sound anywhere his good taste dictates.

His famous pants: It’s true. When our conversation began for an interview on NPR, Shaw lit up when his jeans in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame came up. “Those aren’t even my pants, man. Those were my cousin’s.” In a last-minute decision before a show Shaw snagged his cousin’s pants, high-stepped on stage, and at some point, fell. He cut his head but didn’t notice in his blazing performance to keep hold of the audience.

“I had no idea it was bad. The people in the crowd started yelling, Dude, your head!” Shaw kept going anyway. The inspired blood pumping for his fans made it onto those pants. His dedication now enshrined in the “Church of Rock n Roll”



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


Like his new music, you catch a new light off his aura. Over that aura you might see him in overalls or an Armani suit. He is a man self-possessed and sure. He picks his clothes by the vibe he wakes with. Never contrived, the clothes seem to pick him. “I go where the mood takes me,” he answered when asked how he picks out attire. “I am me all the time and that seems to work out.” Yeah, brother. It does.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

To buy the album and find tour dates in your neck of the woods, check out

Photos in this article courtesy of Alysse Gafkjen

Follow this link to listen to the full experience on NPR’s Dante’s Old South:


Interview with

adelaide federici of the edgewood string quartet BY: clifford brooks How did the Edgewood String Quartet come to pass? What strings needed to be pulled to get your four together? In the Pre-COVID days, the four of us frequently played together in many different local ensembles including the Atlanta Opera, Atlanta Ballet, and Atlanta Symphony orchestras. During the lockdown, however, aside from a few online performances, we were stuck at home like everyone else. So, when Fever brought the Candlelight Concert Series to Atlanta in September, it was the perfect opportunity. We started out as a pickup group by playing programs that had been performed in other cities, but quickly evolved into a fully committed quartet with our very own name to prove it! We now have more input in programming and curate concerts that we love to play, and hope will resonate with our specific city’s audience.

Even as our regular ensembles start getting back on stage, The Edgewood String Quartet has become an integral part of our musical lives.

Who are you and which instrument do you play? I am Adelaide Federici and am thrilled to introduce you to our quartet. Alice Hong and I are the violinists in our group. Josiah Coe is our violist, and Joyce Yang is our cellist. Alice, Josiah, and I all grew up primarily in Atlanta and played in the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, although not at the same time. Joyce grew up in Korea. We all went away to college studying at Eastman School of Music, University of Southern California, Cleveland Institute of Music, Rice University, University of Toronto, Hanyang University, Indiana University, and Lynn Conservatory between us. Alice is also a brilliant composer, and we often play her arrangements.

A quartet is something like a marriage. It isn’t easy to find four people who are great musicians who possess the right mix of discipline, fun, passion, and determination to make the group work. It’s an intimate process, and we were lucky our paths crossed at the right time.

Who are your heroes and why? I am inspired by so many different people, but the top person would be my dad, Wayne Baughman. He’s a singer, conductor, father of four, grandfather, and genuinely cool guy. He’s charming, positive, forward thinking, and open-minded. He was a very successful singer and church choral conductor when I was growing up, but he always wanted to do more orchestral conducting. At the age of 60, two weeks after the sudden death of his wife, my mom, he started an orchestra that the two of them had dreamed about for a decade and it’s still going strong. The thing that is most inspiring about him is that even in his 70s he’s still growing, innovating, and inspiring others with his passion for the arts.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

What do your performances offer that others do not? Our violist, Josiah, says that we want to smash the ivory tower. I think we achieve that in two ways, our programming, and our communication with the audience. While we do play many of the old warhorses like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, we love introducing our audience to lesser-known classical works. We also program more contemporary and popular music including rock, anime, or movie scores.

The other very important part of our shows is talking to our audience. Too often we classical musicians expect our audience members to have the same understanding of the music that we do. But that is not realistic. We have been studying music for so long, I’ve been playing since I was two and a half, that we need to make a better effort to bridge that gap. Music is like any other language, the more you learn, the better you understand. We try to educate our audience in a way so that they can almost get the feeling of listening to the music through a musician’s ears. Knowing even a few musical elements to listen for can make the music so much more accessible and enjoyable.


Are your events COVIDsafe? How so? The great thing about the Candlelight Concerts is it gave us a safe space to perform even during the pandemic. We keep our events COVID-safe by performing outside. We performed outdoors through the fall and winter of 2020-21. We are lucky to live in such a mild climate here in Atlanta, but there were some nights when it was bitter cold. We were so happy to be playing again, though; it was worth it. When we perform indoors, there is still a mask requirement and some social distancing between audience members

How do we keep up with you online and buy tickets? Instagram is the best launching off point for following the quartet @edgewoodstringquartet. From there, you can find our quartet and individual websites, quartet news, photos and videos, performance calendar, or send us a direct message. Our Candlelight Concert tickets are available through Fever (​​ For inquiries about private events such as house concerts, weddings, parties, and other special occasions, you can email us directly at



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


Interview with

jimmy james BY: andy whitehorne You are a whole lotta guitarist. How has life shaped you into the musician we respect today? A musician’s playing is an emotive sign of the roads traveled in life - good or bad. Music puts me in dimensions beyond words. I’ll say this little bit, “Music makes me feel in touch with the oasis where my loved ones are while not physically here.”

What is your earliest memory of loving music? When I first heard The Temptations “My Girl”. That tune still today brings me back to being a kid and feeling giddy.

What spice to you add to the mix of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio? The spice is chemistry and playing what we feel which is like the weather - it’s different each day

Are you working on any other musical projects? Perhaps a solo record? I’m working with the True Loves, did some recording for Daptone, and material for other Colemine artists.

I haven’t decided on a solo album - yet.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

What is your philosophy on making it in the music business? Stick to what you are 100% passionate about musically. Find a manager who believes and fights for you wholeheartedly.

Photo courtesy of Caroline Anne


Interview with

SAMMI GARETT BY: andy whitehorne How did Sammi Garett become a siren on stage with Turkuaz? Who are you in all the madness? I received a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Berklee College of Music in 2009, but my love for music started much earlier than that. I have been singing and performing on stage since elementary school and I’ve been playing the drums since I was eight years old. For as long as I can remember, I was always singing, dancing and performing. I was in all the school musicals, took dance and voice lessons and I truly loved performing on stage. I really enjoyed playing sports too. I played softball and field hockey, even though I was the smallest goalie, you couldn’t get anything past me! Haha! I like keeping busy, learning new things and taking on new hobbies and challenges! I also love to sew and have been doing it as long as I can remember. I enjoy making clothing, quilts and stage wardrobe. Anything I can’t find, I just make myself! I’ve been in Turkuaz since 2012. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had on and off stage and I truly love what I do! Getting to play music with your best friends every night is something really special. I feel extremely lucky that I get to do this as my job and I love every minute of it!

When performing, how do you continue to find and add new energy to the older music in your catalog? I love our music and believe in everything that we do. It’s always fun to get on stage and perform for people who haven’t seen us before and it’s also a lot of fun to perform for the people who have seen us 100 times! The crowd makes it extra special. Feeding off their energy can definitely get you hyped and make everything feel new again. Also if we haven’t played a certain song in a while, when we do play it, it feels like a brand new song all over again!

Congratulations on your recent engagement to bandmate and longtime partner, Greg Sanderson! How does this inspire your voice? Does a heart well cared for lift you on stage? Thank you! That’s very sweet of you. He is the most amazing, wonderful person and we are very excited! It’s extremely special when you can find that person you can live AND work with, we are very lucky. I am very grateful that we have each other and we get to tour and play in the same band! Greg’s my best friend, I’ve found my other half and he makes my world brighter. The fact that we get to write and play music together is just the icing on the cake!!



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Who are your heroes? (Musical or otherwise) My Mom, Dad and brother. My family is everything to me. They are the hardest working, most loving, kind, generous and supportive people I know and I love them more than anything. Growing up, my parents always supported me in anything I wanted to do. Voice lessons, drum lessons, ballet lessons, acting classes and coming to see me in all the school musicals, every night! Coming to watch my first of many battle of the bands, where I played drums in my ska band. They were there when I wanted to be a volunteer firefighter and they let me train at our local fire department. I wanted to explore all kinds of different things and they were right there by my side supporting me with love. I don’t know where I would be without them.

Is it true the ups and downs of being an artist can have a lasting impact a person’s psyche? How do you stay sane these days? Just like anything really, I think everything has its ups and downs. I would say music, for me, definitely has a positive lasting impact. That’s why they call it music therapy right? Ha! Music is the life of the party, it can pump you up, it can help you relax, heal and lower your blood pressure. It can be so many different things and can change your mood in a second. That is very powerful.

I’m very happy live music is back and better than ever! The energy is wild and I love it! Performing and singing is my job and passion, so it was really scary when there were no live shows happening. But as my parents always say, “this too shall pass,” and I’m honestly just taking it one day at a time. I try not to worry about what will happen in the future. I know that’s way easier said than done, but I tried to focus on making music and creating art during the pandemic. Being creative, keeping my hands and mind busy has helped me and continues to help me. And a good piece of cheese doesn’t hurt either!

Photo for this feature courtesy of dani barbieri (p.24) & Bob Adamek (p.25)


Interview with

TODD CLAYTON BY: CLIFFORD BROOKS Who are you and what do you bring to the music scene? T.A. Clayton & the Soulminers, is a project based out of Lexington, Kentucky. The overall musical vision was birthed out of me (Todd/or the T.A. in the bands name), seeking an outlet for creativity and discovery. A few years ago, I found myself dissatisfied and in a place of desiring a deeper connection to my art.

The Soulminers came together, because of setting out with the intention of making that shift. I’m a Kentucky native, currently living in the southern Appalachian region of the state. I’ve been influenced a lot by my environment. When I sit down to write melodies, sounds and progressions always come out first. An important learning point for me as a songwriter is giving an idea the space it needs to be grow. It’s an act of letting go. Control kills creativity. Freedom creates room for magical moments. When magic happens, you know you are on the right track.

I took this batch of tunes to producer, Tom Hnatow, who always has great ideas. He captured the spirit of the Soulminers on our latest EP, “Young Again”. We’ve really created something worth listening to. I adore vocal melodies you find in soul music, as well as the lead guitar and keys work from the 60’s and 70’s. I love big horns with big hooks in New Orleans funk and a ton of other stuff. It would be unnatural for those influences to not show up in this music. I find the result to be a refreshing sound.

We are not reinventing the wheel here. Our sound is different than what most people think of when they think of a “Kentucky singer/songwriter”. It starts from my musical roots, and then it’s flavored with soul, emotion, vibrancy, and grit. I have a great sense of satisfaction. I hope people have a similar experience when listening.

We found a good vibration, frequency, and flow, and maybe through the universal language of music, this art can communicate it. Not all of it is for all people. But some folks will find something special here that resonates with them.

What are you reading right now? Right now, I am reading The Good Hand by Michael Patrick F. Smith. It’s a memoir of his experience working on an oil boom in North Dakota. I’m find it entertaining. He’s got a really good way with storytelling. At times it’s lighthearted, almost folktale like, and at other times meaningful and somewhat painful. I would describe myself as a blue collar hippy, and this read is delivering on all cylinders for me.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


If you could put on a concert with 3 other bands/ musicians, who would it be and why? For the sake of not going insane trying to answer this question, I’m going to just go with the 3 acts that have been the soundtrack of my life in recent years. 1) Widespread Panic is a band out of Athens, GA, and they have always done it for me. My wife and I have been seeing this band for 20 years and they never disappoint (in moving my body & soul to another level).



2) Xavier Rudd is without a doubt the artist who is played the most throughout our house. He is from Australia. I love him as a lyricist, and his voice for positivity and the indigenous people of his country. Not to mention he is a beast on the didgeridoo and inspired me this past winter (snowed in and deep into Covid lockdown) to begin playing one.

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 3) The other artist is Ludovico Einaudi. He is an Italian composer and pianist. I find his minimalistic yet skillful approach to the piano to be powerful. My wife and I saw him in D.C. a few years ago and it was moving.

What breaks your heart? People’s suffering breaks my heart. I wish I had something romantic to say here but I don’t. To live is to suffer so it’s not like it’s avoidable for anyone. There are so many things contributing to suffering in this crazy life, and too few things offering relief. I try to be a voice for positivity, hope, and encouragement; sometimes it’s all we can do.

More that can be done, but I think it must start with loving yourself and those closest to you. Hug your lovers, your friends, your babies, the occasional stranger, whoever. Hold them tight and with intention. Remember to be empathetic, a good listener, and be willing to be a friend. Finding ways to help or serve others is the greatest way to relieve your own suffering. Always remind yourself and each other, “Sunny days are ahead!”

How do we keep up with you online? You can follow T.A. Clayton & the Soulminers on: Facebook @ And Instagram @ thesoulminers Music on iTunes, Spotify and all streaming platforms @ T.A. Clayton & the Soulminers.


Litera Interv



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

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Interview with

faylita hicks By: nicole tallman

Please tell us about the work you’re doing as Poet-in-Residence for Civil Rights Corps. As the Poet-in-Residence for Civil Rights Corps, I have composed two poems for two critical pieces of legislation championed by the nonprofit organization, their coalitions, and several members of congress, “The Abolition Amendment” and The People’s Response Act. The goal of “The Abolition Amendment” is to end the exception clause of the 13th Amendment that makes it legal to enslave imprisoned people today, and it was introduced on Juneteenth by Senator Jeff Merkley and Congresswoman Nikema Williams. You can watch the introduction event, featuring a reading of my poem and statements from Harriet Tubman’s direct descendant, here. “The People’s Response Act « is comprehensive legislation that redirects money from police to diversion programs, mental health alternatives, rehab centers, community prevention programs, re-entry programs, and non-carceral safety initiatives. It was introduced by Congresswomen Cori Bush and Ayanna Pressley in July. You can watch the teach-in for the event here. My poems helped to open up both events.

I’ve also had the opportunity to share more information about the long-term impact of misdemeanor arrests and how the misdemeanor is directly related to America’s history of slavery via the Brave New Films’ documentary, Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem. You can view the 36-minute documentary for free online here and watch my interview, alongside director Robert Greenwald, on The Young Turks here. The documentary is based on Alexandra Natapoff’s book Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal. My work with this documentary helped me develop my Zoom production, a choreopoem entitled Bar for Bar: Afterparty , with Broadway Advocacy Coalition earlier this year.

My goal is to effectively translate the elements, benefits, and impact of the legislation for regular people who do not speak the same legal language as our legislators. It continues to amaze me how many people don’t know or understand the very laws they are supposed to be adhering to and think that is because the language of everything from our U.S. Constitution to the paperwork used to process people imprisoned by the prison industrial complex is outdated and purposefully inaccessible. As a creative writer, I can use my skills to make the language accessible. As an interpreter of legislation, I also have the ability to reimagine some of our country’s most biased laws, and can use my direct experience on the receiving end of these bias to consider what future legislation might look like. I get to reach out to policy analysts and lawyers directly for information and to double-check that my logic and interpretations are in line with what the legislation really means. It’s amazing.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

I’m also interested in your role as a member of the Recording Academy. Could you please tell us more about that? As a new voting member of the Recording Academy, I have the benefit of taking on several critical roles as a mentor to new artists, a connector for professional artists interested in membership or Grammy consideration, an advocate for fair and equitable rights of writers and performers, and as a representative of the Spoken Word community at the regional and national level. I’ve been performing and writing spoken word for over eighteen years, which makes me a professional in a still underutilized field that combines literary excellence with performance elements. This means I’ve also had the chance to meet and work with some extremely talented folx who I now can nominate for membership with the Recording Academy, consider their work for the prestigious Grammy Award in Spoken Word and other fields, and advocate on their behalf as part of the Recording Academy’s legislative arm. My goal has always been to help spoken word artists find ways to live and work sustainably, which is something that is far more likely to happen if they win a Grammy--don’t you think?

I just finished HoodWitch and absolutely adored it. What’s your favorite poem in the book? Are there any that are particularly challenging for you to read to a live audience? Thank you! My favorite poem in the book is the poem entitled “HoodWitch,” with a close second being the poem entitled “The Birth Mother’s Red Bath for Courage.” Both of these poems speak to the unique connections between the femme ancestors and the new generations, which are both important to me. As an author, I’ve made it my goal to only share what I’m willing to say with my whole chest. None of the poems are a challenge to share with a live audience, though there are times when a particular poem might make me more emotional. I had a lot of grief in 2020, the first year of the book being out in the world. Like many others, I lost a lot of people to COVID-19, and my family experienced a lot more that I haven’t been especially public about. When poems about my family are shared, it is always a little hard because of what we’re going through right now, but I continue to read the poems because I know I’m not the only one going through it. My work is for my community, not just for me. I’m hoping it makes other people feel seen.

What does power look and feel like to you? My power is rooted in my liberation and that liberation is a constant act of audaciousness. If liberation is the act of freeing one’s


self from the boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, economic status, religion, movement, surveillance, policing, and all of our societal norms--then I am empowered every time I refuse to be relegated to the stereotypes or presumptions of any of these. Power is being able to perpetually embody one’s self fully. Power is being able to move through the world without fear or shame. Power is being able to accept or refuse an ideal or stipulation. Power is being able to live exactly as one chooses, without bringing harm to others or myself. Power is mutable and is, therefore, something to be cultivated, nurtured, and shared. If I can find power in my liberation, I can help others find power in their own liberation. In short, power is a resource that can be developed for many, as opposed to a stale, unchanging, attribute of the few.

How do spells play a role in your writing? Spells are often, though not always, a linking of several ideas or elements, written in a language that can be accessed by others. They are created to influence the outcomes of a circumstance, in concert with the natural world. That sounds very witchy to say, but how would you describe wind turbines or solar panels or electricity or our sewer systems or farming? All of these culturally acceptable things were created to influence the outcomes for humanity’s survival and require the elements of the natural world to make the outcomes possible.

Words, as many will easily agree, carry a natural power. Our bodies use air, water, food, and heat to form the words that come to our minds and fall out of our mouths. To write these words, created using a combination of the aforementioned elements, is to witness the use of the natural world to influence the outcomes for the writer, the reader, and the people surrounded by the two. Some outcomes for the writer might be cathartic relief or monetary compensation, which leads to food and housing--supplement and protection for their body. Outcomes for the reader might be provocative ideas that encourage action or creation--think how about how the Declaration of Independence inspired the U.S. Constitution, which led to the laws and regulations we all operate under now.

What are poems--with their nature-like properties of repetition, pleasurable linguistics, and rooting in global ideals--if not spells? They mimic the natural world in form, are derived from the human body, and manifest real outcomes in the world around us. Otherwise--how would I be having an interview with you now?

When I think about the role that spells play in all my writing, I think about the real-world impact my word choice will have on others. What impact will my words have on my peers and on my contemporaries? If all that remains at the end of my life are those few words, what will I say? What do I hope comes from my words? Joy? Peace? Equity? Liberation? I am braiding the real world into all I create, even my fictions, and hoping that the outcome is one that betters the lives of others.

Do you have a second poetry book in the works? If so, please share any details you are comfortable with as a preview of what’s to come.



I am working on several books currently because I don’t know how to work on just one, lol. I am working on a second and third collection of poetry, as well as a memoir. Or two. Before, I worried that I would never be able to just chill and write about pretty flowers or the sun or love because I had experienced so much trauma that it would be hard to ever get to those joyful spaces. Now, I know that what I am creating is not for myself alone, it is for the people who will be left with my work when

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 I am gone. What can I offer them that will improve their quality of life? The answer: the policy. I can use my talents to address the inconsistencies in policy that affect our daily lives. Who gets to safely cross a street, or move from state to state, or visit or migrate to another country? Who can afford to eat organic food or visit a family doctor or see a dentist? Who can afford childcare or a car or vacation time? Why are the people who control our legislation the people who are least affected by that legislation? Why can’t a poet re-imagine the U.S. Constitution to be more reflective of our country’s contemporary ideas? Who declared that the personal isn’t political, and why can’t I prove the opposite?

My new work will still find time and space for joy because I have found the space and time for it in my life, but it will also be more direct in its goal to encourage equity and liberation for all. I’m obsessed with these questions, as you can tell, and I think I’ll be spending the rest of my life trying to answer them.

In addition to writing, you are an interdisciplinary artist. Please tell more about what that means to you. An interdisciplinary artist is the best way to describe my circulating interests in poems, nonfiction, fiction, spoken word, hip hop, photography, mixed media, dancing, and acting. I always want to create--but what I create depends on the day, the time, my flexibility, and my mood.

I read somewhere that you wrote a chapbook that became an EP. Where can we purchase it? I have several spoken word albums--try not to judge these low-budget closet albums, but they are available for sale on my Bandcamp, www.faylitahicks.bandcamp. com. You can get my entire discography for about $20. A new album is in the works, A New Name for My Love, which is based on the poem I wrote for Civil Rights Corps. This time, I’m working with my college friend and producer, Hänz Nobe. Cross your fingers we’ll have it ready for September 2021!

What books are you reading and/or listening to right now?

to Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson, Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of An American Myth by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford, Intimations by Zadie Smith, The Sum of Us by Heather McGee, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and It Didn’t Start With You by Mark Wolynn. My reading list for #TheSealeyChallenge is astronomical, 30 books, so you can follow me on Instagram @FaylitaHicks for the deets.

What is the soundtrack to the perfect day? My soundtrack is a mess. Ama Lou, Oshun, Chloe x Halle, Sixpence None the Richer, Kash Doll, Jungle, ROSALÍA, RIMON, Maroon 5, Megan Thee Stallion, Crystal Waters, Adele, Robert Glasper, Ari Lennox, The Internet, System of A Down, Bad Rabbits--it goes on. I tend to close out the day on Adele and Robert Glasper, but I’ll rev up with Jungle and Chloe x Halle. I only reach out to Maroon 5 if I need to cry and Oshun if I need to feel centered. Like I said--a mess.

How can we keep up with you online? I am EVERYWHERE, lol. My website is My name on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, and Youtube are all FaylitaHicks.

FAYLITA HICKS (she/they) is the author of HoodWitch (Acre Books, 2019), a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Poetry. They are the Poet-in-Residence for Civil Rights Corps and the 2021 Shearing Fellow with Black Mountain Institute. They have been awarded fellowships from Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Lambda Literary, Tin House, Right of Return USA, and others. Their work is featured in American Poetry Review, Longreads, Palette Poetry, Poetry Magazine, Slate, Yale Review, amongst others.

My Audible is poppin’! Currently listening


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Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


Interview with

adam cohen of winning writers By: clifford brooks Give us some background on you. What makes you tick? I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, part of a Boston family that had made good money developing a regional chain of grocery stores. I enjoyed books from an early age. There were times in my grade school days when I was reading several books a week. Both of my parents graduated from Harvard, and I followed them with a degree in History and Science (information technology). My last bit of formal schooling was the six-week Radcliffe Publishing Course.

After college, I wanted to gain experience on the business side of publishing. The instructors at Radcliffe suggested I look for a job in magazine circulation. I disregarded them and landed a job as an advertising sales assistant at Conde Nast in the big city. It quickly became clear that schmoozing New York style was not my forte. After 18 months, I moved over to The Atlantic to be their circulation assistant.

Circulation is all about efficiently recruiting a particular audience, direct marketing, fulfillment, and customer service. I had more success with this and spent ten years at The Atlantic, departing as circulation director. I felt ready to act on my long-held desire to be an entrepreneur. I’m customer-oriented, not boss-oriented. I hate bureaucracy, meetings, status reports, and I’m not much for drinking.

What are you reading right now? Finding Land: Stories of Japan by Marian Pierce, winner of an Honorable Mention for Literary Fiction in our 2020 North Street Book Prize competition. Before that, I read Connecticut River Valley Flood of 1936 by Joshua Shanley. A long-time resident of my neighborhood says the floodwaters swelled over the Connecticut River’s regular banks and flowed half a mile to reach the end of the street I live on.

How did Winning Writers come to be? After we got married in 1998, my spouse, Jendi Reiter, and I began discussing business ideas that sounded fun, would play to our strengths, and not require too much capital. I observed that Jendi had a deep knowledge of literary contests that came from years of entering them and winning prizes. We felt other people could benefit from this knowledge. We were also upset by the scams that preyed upon writers, such as the vanity contests sponsored by the International Library of Poetry. We launched Winning Writers in 2001 just before September 11, offering subscriptions to an online database of poetry contests and sponsoring two contests of our own, one for war poetry and one for humor poetry that spoofed the vanity contests.

The humor poetry contest is still going after 20 years–the most recent contest had 5,688 participants. During this time, we also established a relationship with an Australian author, John Reid, who sponsored poetry and prose contests of his own. John passed away recently but we continue to administer the contests that bear his name.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Most recently, we launched a contest for self-published books that has become our largest single project. We love the diverse worlds cultivated by self-published authors. In 2022, we will offer an $8,000 grand prize, one of the largest prizes in the world for a self-published book.

Winning Writers makes full use of the Internet to do its work. We worked closely with Mr. Reid for fifteen years yet never needed to meet in person. Contest entries flow in from all over the world and our judges live all across the country. One of our busiest freelancers lives in Poland.

What is your role within Winning Writers? I am the president, responsible for business and technical operations, finance, and accounting. That includes overseeing work to maintain and enhance our website, market our contests, process contest entries, sell advertising, arrange content for social media, and provide customer service. We aim to provide the best possible experience for authors. This means awarding large prizes to contest winners and promoting their work prominently on our website, in our newsletters, and on social media, even years after the award in some cases. We also make considerable efforts to salvage entries with mechanical problems and provide prompt refunds for ineligible entries.

How do we keep up with you online? Please visit our website at, where you will also find links to our social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and YouTube. Subscribe to our free email newsletter at

What do you wish people in the literary community knew? Authors should invest in a professional-looking website before spending money on other publicity. It is easy to waste a lot of money on advertising at places like Facebook and Google. If you are going to spend more than $2,500 per year, you should engage a consultant to help you. We work with Contests with (reasonable) entry fees are not inherently bad. The organizers must pay for the prizes, judging, entry processing, and publicity. They deserve fair compensation. The presence of a fee also tends to improve the quality of the average entry.


Interview with

bryant o’Hara By: lee furey 1) Please share with us a little about the genesis of your new book of poems, The GhettoBirds. This book was inspired by the need to bridge what seemed at the time two literary worlds: hard science fiction and Afrocentric literature. Many of the poems in the collection were written in Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1990s during the heyday of the latter and the nadir of the former. It was a multi-decade conversation, but the solution came early from an unexpected source: music. Music has always played a large role in my life - from taking violin lessons in elementary school, to joining the WPI Men’s Glee Club, to joining an African percussion choir in Atlanta. It was through melody, rhythm, and cadence that I found the means to bring the two literary worlds together. Taking inspiration from spirituals, funk, folk choir, prog-rock, and R&B, I blended themes and images from all these traditions into something unique. The inspiration for the title came from a conversation I had with my brother as we were driving down a shady neighborhood on a hot afternoon. We were listening to the song “Ghetto Bird” by N.W.A., and I asked him what a ghetto bird was. He told me a ghetto bird was a police helicopter. That definition and the image that came to my mind would later result in many of the characters that appear throughout the book.

1) I know that you are an IT professional. How did you start writing poetry? I started writing poetry in high school, though at that time, I was mostly into reading science fiction short stories and novels, so I had not yet thought of combining the poetic form with that genre. That love of literature continued into my time at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), my alma mater. There I picked up a love of poets and authors such as TS Eliot, Octavia Butler, and Russell Edson. I also joined the men’s glee club and developed a deeper love of the human voice. What really began to kick it off was the emergence of poetry slams back in the 1990s. That was when I started trying my hand at reading poetry in a public setting. When I returned to Decatur, I started checking out the local poetry scene, particularly in Atlanta’s West End. Once there I felt I was in a bit of a dilemma: Here I was, a young black engineer by training, sci-fi geek by nature, and I couldn’t figure out how to appeal to an audience that was in the thick of the Afrocentric movement, when most poetry was steeped in themes of racial and injustice and the place of the African diaspora in world history. I started listening to what other people were doing in terms of spoken word, both the people on the stage as well as well-known poets such as Gil Scott Heron and Amiri Baraka. The last part of the solution came from music. As I started listening to more African American poets, I also revisited the music I grew up with: Earth, Wind, and Fire, Parliament Funkadelic, and Herbie Hancock, among others. While I was looking for places to read poetry, I also sought out choirs that I could join. I never did find a vocal choir to join, but I did find an African percussion choir. It was from them that I learned rhythm, both musical and poetic. The music that I loved all my life had always had science fiction themes within them.


Once I had that “a-ha” moment, I realized I had a voice – not just knowledge of language, rhythm, and meter, but


Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 my own voice. I had something to say, and I had a way to say it.

1) Ever since I heard the first bits of this project, I have been intrigued by the thought of S-F poetry. Are there other poets you admire who also write this type of verse? Or, who are some poets you consider classifiable within this area? The first instances of science fiction poetry that I read were from the science fiction digests, particularly Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. The SF poets with which I was most familiar were the ones I’d seen in the digests, mainly Bruce Boston and Robert Frazier. However, there were some classic SF authors who also wrote poetry, such as Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein. There was a poet I discovered in high school that I would put into the category of science fiction poetry – well actually more science poetry than science fiction poetry –Loren Eiseley. I would come back to his work again and again over the decades, and it was through him that I came to appreciate the idea of using poetry to express the wonder of the natural world.

1) Tell us what you are reading these days. To be honest, not enough! I’m working on discovering new poetry – and new poets – across all genres. Some of the ones I’ve read recently are F.J. Bergmann, Wendy Van Camp, and Akna Lezli Hope. Much of what I read now is in the form of audio books. Before the pandemic I spent a lot of time commuting, so it was easier to take in literature that way. The last ones I’ve read in this fashion were Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer and Evolution’s Shore by Ian McDonald. Some examples of non-science fiction books include The Enchiridion and Discourses by Epictetus, Upheaval by Jared Diamond , and Mycophilia by Eugenia Bone.

1) How can we follow you on social media, and do you have a direct link so that readers can purchase your book? I can be followed on · Facebook: · Instagram: · Twitter: · Soundcloud: · Personal site: · The Ghettobirds can be purchased directly via Frayed Edge Press: https://


Interview with

tom sheehan By: clifford brooks

What sculpted you into the man you are? As a child, an infant, my father, a Marine, often served as COQ (Charge of Quarters) aboard U.S.S. Old Ironsides in the Navy Yard across from where we lived at #3 Bunker Hill Ave in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and my mother would push me over there in a carriage and my father baby-sat me while mother went shopping. I have written hundreds of pieces about Charlestown, a tough place in which to grow up. All of my father’s life, until he died, at the end blind, one leg amputated, still sharp enough to reply to my mother’s puzzle vocal queries from downstairs, we talked about everything possible, making way for me, literally and figuratively, in the world grasping at me, for my attention, acute attention.

What poems, poets, please you, and how did the war affect you? I can and have recited beloved poems and historical signs, like the one at Appleton’s Pulpit here in Saugus where I’ve lived since I was 10 years old, and those poems that I love or that shook me awake, like “Shot Down at Night” by Joe Nims, as I did for my comrades in the Korean war zone, who hungered for another touch at something that I could provide, in the dark, quiet hours, no fingers at the ready on rifle triggers, it being a third world for all of us. That experience shoots through me, time and time again, and still does for many of us, where there is no end to war; my story, “Too Much Asia to Erase,” says it all, a drunk veteran found in an alley. I wish I had found him before others did, or my father found him. I know that lesson, like a classroom in Heaven.

I applied to Boston College from Korea in 1951 and was accepted for the start of classes in September 1952 in the class designated for graduation in 1956, and thumbed to school for four years, with all extra time spent with the archeologist at the First Iron Works in America’s revitalization site for parts of 8 years, as it is a bare 100 yards from my home. It is now part of the National Parks System, and I was in the effort since it began in 1948. Once in college, I had the pleasure to introduce Seamus Heaney to a standing-room audience; it is memorable.

My favorite teacher in high school, John Burns, head of the English Dept. for over 40 years, to whom I have dedicated a recent book, “Back Home in Saugus,” was a co-editor with me on 2000 copies of two books we wrote on Saugus, “A Gathering of Memories,” and “Of Time and the River.” He looked up at me as I walked into his house once and found him reading one of my pieces, and said, “Saugus doesn’t know what it has.” I have never forgotten those words, or the look in his eyes. I might have said something like, “All poetry pulls at readers with the majesty of words and a sound only each person hears, not knowing when that call comes.”



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

What’s your writing routine like these days as you live into your nineties? Each night, near midnight, for the last 15 or 2o years, I wake automatically from sleep, even with a sleep mask on, pour my first of two coffees and go to work on this infernal machine, calling with its silence to say, “Amen,” and “Go to work, Sonny boy.” It’s delirious treatment for one who loves to write.


A Salutation to Saugus, Embassy of the 2nd Muse

By: Tom Sheehan

He has come out of a dread silence and given himself a name; Saugus, he says. He bleats like a tethered goat to come out of that coming, to be away, dense spiral to the core of self, to the mountain call, bird arc across such slopes of pale imaginings. Saugus, he says: I am that part of you cries not for the love but intimacy of words, light touch of skin we dread and seek, owning up of self as if in another. I am that part of you named endless searcher, thirsty one, guzzler, sufferer, warred on, the starved and the wasted, that part of you you can’t turn over by yourself. I have the secrets you do not know you know. I am lodged in a far corner of mind, some fallow place at reins’ end, waiting to be routed out, turned up, to green a page again. Has it taken you so long to find me, or do you ignore me and try it on your own?

You cannot avoid documented lightning, shock of metaphor, God on one knee, Saugus. I am not a stranger. I breathe with you, find shelter and warmth when you do, know the single star haunting the edge of your horizon, know best of all the magic when the sound is right, Oh, Thomas! when the sound is the music of one word upon another, and it tears two parts of soul to four because nothing like it has been heard before, when the word dances on its consonants, slides on soft vowels, when the spine knows the word is known by every ganglia, thong and sinew of the body. The coring.

I am Saugus and you waste me away, cast me aside. I who carry all sounds of memory, cast me aside at breast-panning, when you lose the music down in some phantom crotch, when a sweet ass ties your brain in knots. Now, just now, Thomas, feel the core wind in. Feel the word rock in you. Find the word rock. Chip at it. Let the chisel fly, the sparks dance out globally, the word broken away from the granite source in you.

Don’t you know me, Thomas? I am the gate tender. I am the one who lets you find the word rock. I am the keyman. I let you into that vast field of yourself where the rock grows. I am Saugus, and I tend that field where the rock lies in the sacred cairn. We meet so infrequently. I keep myself here waiting on you, the gate eager to rise, the field waiting to know your tread, the rock waiting to be beat upon by the hammer of your desire. I am lonely when you wander. It is dark and fearful without you. And yet I can make you cry when I am lonely. You don’t believe me yet… I am Saugus who makes you cry.

You can’t tease me, please me, appease me. Just use me. I am servant of servants. I am Id’s Id’s Id, ego sans ego sans ego. I am to be used, exploited, submitted. And I guard that huge rock in you, tend it, know what filled it dense as hardpan that time in Boxford field and you hurt all over; dense as the frozen earth DeMatteo dug fox holes with C-3 and it finally blew off the back of his head and Colonel Mason said, “Shit!”; dense as Vinegar Hill or Indian Rock or that rock wall outside Schenectady and you stopped to change a tire at her waving and she slid down that wall at her back motioning to you her bodily gratitude. Dense is that word rock, full of all your lore and legend bricked with every movement you’ve ever known, all sights and sounds and music of the words; that special



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

place where the thing rings in you, that place of core vibration.

Jesus, Thomas, take my hand again! Walk in the field with me. We belong together, you and I. Dispel me of doom. Let the music of words come, let them dance first in your eye, roll on your tongue, live to die on the page. Let them vibrate on your spine, get kissed of your skin, shoot out of here in flight of geese, and mournful sound of heading home when there is no home, steaming freight train whistle calling you from a circle of blue nights, self shout at the moon still shining on a hill East of Cleveland, South of Yang-du, East again a long stretch from the Chugach given you in a word picture, West of a cliff near Kerry and rain moved as a god laughing at the rootstock of your silence, Celtic mummery, God buried in stone.

If you can’t come with me, Thomas, you are the loser, lonely, forsaken. I can take you back to all the hard places, to the adjectives and verb ends; to the quadrangle in Japan in 1951 and the cool wind coming through Camp Drake and the voice of death talking in it and calling Maciag’s name (Body Hunger) and little Salazar (Arab Dagger) and Captain Kay (Memphis Peon) and Billy Pigg (Cowpoke) and Stoney Mason (the Pennsy Slateman) and Anadazio (Bread You Can’t Imagine) and Dan Bertelsen (AKA The Knife) and you listened and it didn’t talk your name and you still felt sad and knew you were the only ear. In three weeks they were gone, all gone, and their voices went into ground, and all their words, and they built on the word rock and now they still dance sadly… such words that make you cry with music still in them, and they come long and slowly out of another time funnel, like Billy Pigg saying, “Shit,” as he rolled over in your arms and Captain Kay saying, “I just want to go home for a little while and tell Merle and Andy I love them. Just for an hour or so.”

Do you remember, then, later, far from the Land of the Morning Calm, the room in Ireland, that space of pewter walls, made hard by the anvil? The spark spray of peacock’s fire, head-tucked-under-wing smell ripe as working acids, dead melons; tin-plated, throat-sucking water weaving its skin of iron dust thick as magnetized talcum; the unknown and unsure shapes of heat, cool in its third form, introducing friction to mattered air, the sound a gulping sizzle that swallowed bar, froze form, and the voice of the man at the end of the hammer and the end of your poem, saying, “That poem, my man, is iron. You made a good pour, a good draw. You beat it well. It’s iron.” And all the words come out of ground, out of rock, erupt and blow at you. Ah, Thomas, come home again. Come home again.

I am Saugus. I can make you cry. I remember more than you the sound of silence just before the word breaks. I am the edge of all things, the point of it all, Saugus. I will be here forever for you.


Interview with

k. iver By: robert gwaltney

Why did you start writing and why poetry? I started writing for the same reason many writers do: an overactive mind. At nine years old I started a diary, when I was trying to understand god, sexuality, and my then-ambition for a dance career. I began writing poems at 14 when my depression surfaced. I enjoyed the beingness allowed by both writing and reading it. I liked that a poem didn’t require me to say how everything happened. Instead, I could ask questions, many of them unanswerable. In real life, those questions irritated my authority figures.

How do you most want to impact people who read your work? Right now, I’m finishing up an elegy series about M., my high school ex who was trans and lived for 26 years. I began the series wanting every reader to love him. I can’t control how anyone responds to my work but when someone tells me that a poem validated their grief, or that M. seemed like a remarkable person, I’m beyond grateful. I’d like to one day arrive at an emotional plane that lets me coax a reader into a sense of wholeness the way Mary Oliver could.

Right now, my poems are trying to confront and understand severed belonging: from family, community, and self. Oliver, however, commands her nouns, often depicting nature, to come together so that the reader feels a part of them, rather than separate. I used to quote Randy Newman’s “I just want you to hurt like I do” when people asked this question. I’d also like to make them feel good.

Please share a key development or experience in your life as a poet that, looking back, appears to have been life changing. In high school, I didn’t want to read The Scarlet Letter for a literature class. My father said I should. I asked why because I’d already seen the movie starring Demi Moore, already known its lessons around shame and unnecessary punishment of desire. He defended reading the novel because of the way the words are put together. The “way” sparked my curiosity. Over two decades later, I’m still curious. Poetry invites that exploration most abundantly.

What do you feel is your responsibility to poetry and your fans? I’ve taken my time writing about gender because it’s not a subject that I, or anyone else in the gender-variant community, can afford to misrepresent. The conversation has always been a high-stakes one. Every medium is a political medium, every body a political body. Which makes the poet responsible for challenging the status quo of ideas, words, syntax, and the genre itself.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Your poem “For Missy Who Never Got His New Name” is a favorite of mine. Would you please discuss this poem and its inception? Thank you. That was the first portrait of M. that I drafted. At the time I was heartbroken, not only about the loss, but about the erasure of his memory. No one talked about him the way he wanted to be remembered. His funeral memorialized someone I didn’t know. When he died, the word “trans” was not widespread, and he had come out to only a handful of people as “a man.” He was on hormone therapy but hadn’t made the body modifications that he very much wanted or changed his name.

This poem came out of my compulsion to archive his memory and bring it to life, while also reimagining him as more at home in his body, in this world. Claire Schwartz once said that when someone we love dies, the relationship doesn’t stop, it just changes. This poem marked the beginning of ritualizing that change: On the page I could talk to him--or, more accurately, his memory--listen to it, grieve it, and pay it gratitude.

What do you have on deck in the immediate future, and how can we follow you and your work? I’m about to start the Univer-

sity of Wisconsin-Madison’s fellowship program. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, lasting a year, so I plan to make the most of it. After that, I’ll be at a residency in Taos, New Mexico for three months. My forthcoming work can be found at You can follow me on Instagram @ivertownandcountry and Twitter @k_ivertown.

Photo credit to Brooke Opie


For Missy Who Never Got His New Name by: K.Iver I hear the stars are sentient. Which gives me hope for the nitrogen feeding your grass. Even more for the mole ending the day’s burrow in your skull. I’m told your atoms are still atoms. Somewhere you’re sitting by a pool picking apart the physics of swimming. In the hallway of a large high school in Mississippi, you’ve resumed the sophomore guarding my classroom entrance with a letter, like an undiscovered prince. I’ve resumed my surprise at desire I thought was for cave dwellers. This is where I go wrong. I loved a body you didn’t. My younger self wants the word to rebuild, rather than stop at the blond hair, middle part, low ponytail, the impressive manliness with which your hips carried utility denim. I tell my young self to flatten her memory’s landscape. Picture two scars liberating a torso. A first name that doesn’t hiss. Soon, a Brooklyn apartment. We pretend it finally happened for you. It really did.



Green Writers Press, a small, Vermont-based publishing company, is dedicated to BluebyMountain September 2021 spreading environmental awareness and social justice publishingReview authors/who proliferate messages of hope and renewal through place-based writing and environmental activism. In the past five years, Green Writers Press has expanded significantly, publishing such authors as Julia Alvarez, Chard deNiord, John Elder, and Clarence Major. Read more at

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Interview with

dede cummings of green writers project By: Angela Dribben On the GWP website you are quoted as saying, “What the locavore movement did for the food industry, we want to be for publishing.” Can you give us a foundational understanding for locavore and how it can be implemented in publishing? According to author and journalist, Michael Pollan, the term “locavore” applies to those who are committed to eating as much locally produced food as possible. I started a “local” grassroots publishing company with the hope that our books would be locally produced and printed sustainably. It has always been my hope to create a community around our press and the books we publish. I like the term “LocaLore” for what we do in terms of publishing: our stories need to be heard—we all are connected on this planet we love.

Will you please tell us more about GWP’s hybrid publishing program? I love working one-on-one with individual writers. It feels special to me to have this relationship as a book designer/book packager. I have no qualms about offering a hybrid publishing option for writers nowadays—publishing is, and has always been, a changing industry. What I want to do (with my team of freelance editors) is to not make Green Place Books a division of privilege, in that the authors pay a base of $5,000 for prose and $2,500 for poetry. We don’t want to deny entry to authors who don’t have that kind of money. Our goal is to work both with the hybrid model (author funded), and the acquisition model, so we are inclusive to all the writers who approach us. To sign with a Big 5 house in New York City, it is necessary to have an agent, and agents are very hard to find. I tried to find an agent for my memoir, called “Spin Cycle.” I got some nibbles and a few emails of encouragement. I have been on the side of wanting to get published—believe me it is hard. My nonfiction titles were all acquired in the traditional manner (advance/royalty), but I was able to get my foot in the door since I am in the industry, and I represented myself. My first poetry collection, To Look Out From, was published in 2016 after winning Homebound Publications’ annual poetry contest. It took me a few years to get Jessie Lendennie at Salmon Poetry to look at my second poetry manuscript (she is so busy!), but I persevered, and she published The Meeting Place in March of 2020.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

GWP holds space for interns and offers post-graduate fellowship opportunities. We’d love to hear more about how these positions work. (Application process, compensation if any, location requirements, job responsibilities, time commitment. I ask about location requirements because at least one of the PG fellowship bios seems to indicate living beyond Brattleboro.) I volunteer as a Field Work Term supervisor for Bennington College. If you ask the former interns, they will probably tell you that I love to teach, to give them the “old-school” publishing jargon, and try to make the experience fun and lively. I evaluate each student at the end, so they are earning college credit. For post-graduate internships, we have worked with Masters Degree candidates from Finland, England, and the US. We participate with CIEE (a nonprofit study abroad and intercultural exchange organization). Our internships are mostly remote, a minimum of 20 hours per week, and unpaid. Our interns have a chance to really learn about what goes into making a book—I try to cover all facets of publishing. I am proud of the fact that almost all of our freelance staff are former interns.

I notice there are no submission fees for open submissions. What made GWP choose to go this route or maybe even more importantly, how does GWP make this work? As a writer myself, I am partial to doing without submission fees, except for contests (where the entry fees to pay the judge, the readers, and offer a monetary prize to the writer, in addition to publication). But for general submissions, I like to keep them open and free, and we absorb the cost. Our Submittable platform has exploded over the years, and we are flooded with submissions which makes it hard to respond in a timely manner.

What has your journey been like to care for yourself but also be so socially engaged and productive? I have an autoimmune disease called Crohn’s. I have a practice of morning yoga and meditation. After 25 years working as a book designer for Shambhala, I use all the Pema Chödrön books I designed! I hike daily, talk to my sisters and friends, and I find joy in gardening (weeding, I have discovered, is a great cure for depression). I always tell my new authors that my health and my family may need to take me away from work at times.


Interview with

victoria chang By: clifford brooks You radiate forward motion and words that shed light. What events from your early years stoked your drive for justice? That’s very generous of you to say. I think we all radiate something and have the potential to change the world in many ways. My childhood wasn’t super easy, and I imagine those early experiences led me to be who I am today. I know when something isn’t right and if I can help it and I see it, I will try and make it right. I might seem quiet about it or might not seem to be doing anything, but I’m always doing something to make things right.

What is your responsibility to those who read your work? I don’t know if I have a responsibility to my readers, as I don’t think I owe my readers anything, but the best art I can make at any point in time. If I try my best, it may not be good enough or to anyone’s taste, but I will still enjoy the process of making it. I think I owe my readers that. I can only promise that--I always try my very best. If whatever I made falls short or doesn’t resonate with people, that’s okay too. I’m not necessarily on this planet to make people like my writing. Likeable writing and likeable people aren’t necessarily going to change the world. I think I’m just moderately likeable as a person and I think a lot of my work isn’t super likeable either, but I don’t mind.

What is your formula in a creative’s mind that balances natural talent and honed technical skill? How should these forces mix as a writer matures? I think talent is tricky. It’s hard to know who has it, how much one has, if it can be made up with hard work and technical skill, etc. I think all artists can only try their best to remain true to themselves. I think if we do that, our true gifts of uniqueness will shine through. Technical skill comes with time, patience, passion, and lots of reading and thinking.



Who knows how much talent anyone has; how much technical skill one can gain anyway? I always just put one foot in front of the other and do what I love, how I love to do it, with an open mind and a generosity of spirit, and whatever comes. Whatever doesn’t come, doesn’t come. It’s all okay if you love the work you do.

When you talked about a poem from Milosz, “Gift”, you said you picked it as his poem gets away from “social media noise”. What other poems give you a window into quiet? Why does it, or those, give you peace? I think a lot of poems do that. Reading poems slow me down after long and hectic days. I love reading poems. I love thinking about what I’m reading too. I don’t spend a lot of time on social media scrolling. I just post what I’m reading on Twitter, and occasionally some life things on Instagram and Facebook. Scrolling is what causes me a lot of anxiety and stress, so I try hard not to do that too much.

How do you achieve calm in this mad time? I listen to music a lot these days. I watch a lot of Chinese and Korean dramas. I walk. I read a lot. I talk to friends. I go shopping. I spend time with my family. I visit my father in his facility. I think I don’t do anything differently than other people. I mostly just try and appreciate the fact that I’m alive and healthy, and still able to think and make sentences. My father lost that ability long ago and my mother is dead, and I’m still here, so that’s a gift.

How has the last five years evolved within your new poetry? That’s a hard question to answer, as I feel as if readers and critics might be able to note this more than myself. I try not to think too hard about what I’m writing, how I’m writing it, etc. I just allow fate to take me along the path of making something. If I end up writing something, then I just

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 go with it. I think my personality just likes to experiment and try new things all the time. I get bored very easily, so I imagine my work looks like this from the outside too.

Give us a glimpse into Dear Memory. This was a book that was made while making it, meaning I had no idea what I was doing or writing, and had to make lots of adjustments along the way. The original manuscript didn’t have any collages or art, but just some really bad images using Word. I really struggled with that book because I had no idea what it was--it’s kind of a mishmash of stuff. It had different titles, no poems in it before, and those collages were a bear to make--I’d make one, then scrap the whole thing, or make a mistake and then must start over. Without the help of my friends who read it along the way (three poet friends, and a poet/visual artist), it would have never seen the light of day. I sent four major flares into the sky along the way and the book just got better and better. I do think it all started with the finding and opening of some of my mother’s boxes full of papers. Once I started looking through those boxes, I had so many questions. The book was perhaps a way to lean into those questions and ended up being a sort of memoir kind of thing.

Photo credit to Isaac Fitzgerald


Is there a topic nagging you to get out, but you’ve yet to wrestle it to the surface? There is one and I’ve written a middle grade verse novel (unpublished) on that subject, but it’s still nagging me, so I’ve been thinking about it and have some cloudy thoughts but nothing coherent. It might require some research and travel which I’m unable to do right now anyway, but it’s still there and hasn’t left so we’ll see what happens.

Tell us about the upcoming MFA program from Antioch University. Our December Antioch MFA residency will be exciting! We have so many fascinating guests and faculty joining us. Our program is a wonderfully robust and rigorous program with a student-centered mission. With our social justice mission, we are constantly asking the hard questions of what it means to be a writer in society. I’m so proud of our students and the amazing work they do all year.

How do we keep up with you online? I’m not sure if you mean where you can find me online? I’m on Twitter: @VChangPoet, Instagram: @ fattery12. I’m hardly on Facebook so I won’t bother giving you that. I am a tiktok lurker, but that’s it.

You may find my books here:




PROGRAM IN A 1920’S SPEAKEASY ATMOSPHERE Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Atlanta & Nashville


Interview with

lenny dellarocca & Michael mackin o’mara south florida poetry journal By: nicole tallman Tell us about South Florida Poetry Journal and what inspired you to create it. Lenny: I was thinking of South Florida Poetry Review, which published some of my poems in the 1980s. It went

extinct long ago, but all these years later, with the Internet available, I thought of starting my own poetry magazine, and came up with South Florida Poetry Journal, and thought, ok, SoFloPoJo. I had started Interview with A Poet — 3 Poets, 5 Questions, Every Month — in February 2016. In May 2016, I expanded to a poetry journal. I enlisted longtime friends to help — Michael, Barbra Nightingale and Gary Kay. All three of us at one time or another were on the board of the long-gone South Florida Poetry Institute, which published South Florida Poetry Review.

Michael: I became an Associate Editor at the South Florida Poetry Review under S.A. Stirnemann in the 1980s,

maybe a year or so before it closed. When Lenny suggested creating SoFloPoJo, I was thrilled. Most of the initial staff have known each other for decades. As an independent and self-funded venture, we would be free to make of SoFloPoJo whatever we wanted.

What are your specific roles with the Journal? Lenny

: I’m founder and co-publisher. Michael is co-publisher and managing editor. Michael is the corporate guy, and I’m the shoot-from-the-hip guy. Michael handles all the performance videos, and he records the Miami Book Fair interviews. He also keeps track of nuts-and-bolts things, such as the number of webpage views we receive each month, how many views our posts receive on social media. He does spreadsheets and crunches numbers. He also fixes things on the site that I can’t. Each time I hit a roadblock, and it’s usually technical in nature, I call Michael and say, “Um, Mike, I can’t get such-n-such to work.” And he fixes it. He has a magic wand. I lay out the poetry, flash, essays, text interviews, special section items, and art pages. Michael is also in charge of Submittable.

Michael: I thoroughly enjoy web design, graphic arts, and the facilitation of audio and video on our website. I’m excited about our transition to Submittable. Automation of the submission process on a widely used submission platform is a huge opportunity for us. It increases our visibility in the poetry world.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

What do you look for when choosing poems for publication? Lenny:

Funny, we were just talking about this tonight at dinner with some of the SoFloPoJo staff. Speaking for myself, I love mystery and ambiguity, music and rhythm, heightened language, imagery, imagery, and imagery. A good story that is full of surprising language and a I-didn’tsee-that-coming ending. I love poets like Traci Brimhall, Lynda Hull, Mike Hettich. Gjertrude Schnackenberg, Maggie Smith, Joseph Fasano, Patricia Smith, Kim Addonizio, Chen Chen, Doug Ramspeck, Marcel Hernandez Castillo, and Tracy Brimhall. Yes, she’s mentioned twice, on purpose.

Michael: We read over 1,500 poems per issue and publish

fewer than 5 percent of them. As editor, I constantly read poets who seem to be trying to write the same poems as everyone else, the downside to synchronicity. I’m looking for poems whose content, craft and imagination stand out among the 1,500 — the poet’s most inspired work, or, as one of our editors recently remarked, the “I wish I’d written that” poem.

Besides the Journal, you publish anthologies, host reading series, and interview poets for the Miami Book Fair. Tell us more about these projects. Lenny:

Our first anthology — Voices from the Fierce Intangible World — was a print magazine. Our editors went back to the first 10 issues and selected two to eight poems. Maggie Smith, Denise Duhamel and Joseph Fasano — some of my favorite poets — are in Voices. And the amazing, late Lyn Lifshin, too. Michael is putting together our second anthology. This time I got to select some of the poems. Our Zoom readings are handled by Judy Ireland. I turned it over to her because she’s very professional. I’m not. I usually stick my foot in my mouth. Judy has poets lined up through September. I ended Interview with A Poet last year. But we publish traditional interviews, both on video, and text.

Michael: For me, the Miami Book Fair has been a

godsend. Look at the incredible local and national poets we’re able to converse with: ​Kim Addonizio, Richard Blanco, Mahogany L. Brown, Jericho Brown, Libby Burton, Cathleen Chambless, Jos Charles, Chen Chen, Cheryl Clark, Tiana Clark, Jim Daniels, Neil de la Flor, Denise Duhamel, Catherine Esposito Prescott, Carolyn Forché,


Ariel Francisco, Ross Gay, Roy G. Guzmán, Kimiko Hahn, Barbara Hamby, Lola Haskins, Robert Hass, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Michael Hettich, Jane Hirshfield, Jen Karetnick, Steve Kronen, Mia Leonin, Jesse Millner, Rajiv Mohabir, Caridad Moro-Gronlier, Paul Muldoon, John Murillo, Deborah Paredez, Maureen Seaton, Gregg Shapiro, Charles Simic, Patricia Smith, Diane Thiel, Michael Torres, Chase Twitchell, Julie Marie Wade and Brendan Walsh. I and everyone at SoFloPoJo owe Mitch Kaplan, Lisa Palley, and everyone at the Miami Book Fair, an immense debt of gratitude.

What books are you both reading right now? Lenny: In poetry, I’m reading Between Angels by the late Stephen Dunn, New and Selected by Tom Lux and Help Me, Information by David Kirby. In fiction, I’m reading She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan. Michael: I’m re-reading my queer poetry family: Chen, Danez, Marcello

and Ocean; I’m also enjoying Julian Jarboe’s short story collection, Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel, and all the Wuxia in translation that my schedule permits.

How do we keep up with South Florida Poetry Journal on social media? Lenny: The usual places. Except TikTok. Is that video only? I don’t even

know. Or Snapchat, whatever that is. There are probably other platforms I’ve never heard of. I think you must be under 30 to even know they exist.

Michael: @soflopojo on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


Interview with

charles jensen, program director of the UCLA Extension writer’s program By: clifford brooks

Program director Charles Jensen: You carry a strong command in the wheelhouse of poetry. What gave you the song you sing on the page? I honestly can’t remember why I started writing poems, but I did so in adolescence. I was lucky enough to have teachers who made me feel it was important, and I had success in state writing competitions before I left high school. I just never stopped writing. More than poetry, though, I love telling stories in unique forms. Poetry is the most flexible genre for me, and I try to push it to its limits, formally, without losing my reader in the process.

How does identity play into your creative work? How has that changed over the years? I go back and forth between writing about direct experience and writing in persona, usually cycles of many years. Sometimes I get sick of myself.



Tell us about the books you have out now and how we can find them.

My most recent is Nanopedia, available from Book Shop and other online retailers or direct from Tinderbox Editions. It’s a collection of prose poems comprising America’s smallest encyclopedia of terms coined or corrupted by our culture. My next book, Instructions Between Takeoff and Landing, will be out in March 2022 from University of Akron Press.

What new verve do you have for your future projects? What are your next moves?

I’m taking my formal ambitions from poetry into prose—novels and essays for now. Poems squeak out here and there, usually as part of month-long sprints I find inspiring. Recently my subjects have focused on fire, Los Angeles, and falling in love. I also have a memoir complete that hybridizes personal essay and film criticism and I’ve been seeking an agent for that and a comedic novel.

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

What are your top 3 rules for strong poetry?

Each poem needs to know and understand how its form, content, and occasion work together, and which of those elements is in the lead. All poems have form, so form must be an intentional element. Poets should be lean into what makes them uncomfortable not just in subject but also in process. Lastly, poets must let nothing be precious. Let someone else inscribe your words in stone. Consider everything ephemeral.

You steer a mighty ship with the UCLA Extension Program. How did it find you and what makes it home?

This job opened at a critical time when I was seeking direction, and it was the direction I wanted to take. I absolutely love it. My job is to encourage people to give themselves permission to be writers, and to demystify the process. I also take very seriously my role as a leader of this creative community—ensuring it’s inclusive, inspiring, and collaborative. My colleagues, both program staff and instructors, are just phenomenal people who have helped me grow in all areas of my life. I’m grateful for this work.

What makes your program stand out?

We are open enrollment, which means people do not have to apply or be admitted to take classes. Anyone can take anything (with just a handful of exceptions). Our instructors all have active writing careers and teach with us because they are passionate about helping new writers succeed. I think there’s so much energy in the program. Enthusiasm. We believe in each of our students.


What are some of the cutting-edge programs you’ve added recently?

We have a podcast called The Write Process in which one writer talks about creating one work from concept to completion. We’re launching a student-edited literary magazine, Southland Alibi, with free submissions. We also created a membership program that gives students enrollment discounts, software discounts, and free memberships in organizations like AWP, SCBWI, New Filmmakers LA, and other regional and national organizations, along with free members-only professional development events throughout the year. We also have what may be the only certificate program in Literary Representation in the United States.

What’s your philosophy behind a quality education?

A quality education is the intersection of a student’s passion and an instructor’s passion. I look for instructors who bring that excitement about giving back and I empower them to teach directly from their passion. We also offer our students a lot of guidance and support, as they need it. Despite the size of our program (202021 we offered 570 classes and had 9,243 enrollments), we keep our regular classes capped at 15 or fewer so there’s a lot of individualized attention for students. They need to know someone believes in them.

How can we find and sign up for courses with UCLA?

Go to the UCLA Extension,, and click through to see what we’ve got on deck! We can take students from anywhere at any time.



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Interv 65



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021



Interview with

stacey holloway By: clifford brooks

Tell us about yourself, Stacey. What brought you to art?

I’ve been an artist since I was a child, as I started off drawing and painting at a very young age – mostly copying Marvel comic book characters. This was further encouraged by my mother, who had illustrated the same talent in high school, but never pursued it. As I grew older, these interests landed me in art school where I found a true love of labor through sculpture and installation-based work. I had a required three-dimensional design course where I was handed an angle grinder to fix one of my pieces. From the moment I saw the hot sparks fly, my life changed, and I became immersed in sculpture and all its possibilities.

What is your responsibility to the public you feel through your art?

I have always been interested in themes of human development and social connectivity. We all have an innate desire to belong, to be loved, and to form relationships and strong emotional connections within our communities. I try to illustrate situations that these desires create for some by using animals as symbols in still installations and audience participation in my more interactive work.

Similar to Aesop, I often use animals and their specific attributes to explore how we progress and adapt through life by creating surreal scenes of tension and awkwardness. Humans are not so different than other animals; we just have more direct forms of communication. However, we too follow the communicative methods of animals by using body language, sounds and scents to exhibit dislike, love, dominance, pain, etc. Just like other mammals, human growth can be intimidating and exciting, which is typical, so I hope that my work projects a universal overall feeling of familiarity for my audience.

What rituals do you go through before, during, and/or after you create?

As someone with obsessive-compulsive behavior, just the act of committing to an idea can be difficult as I can always find a way to talk myself out of it. So within the last 10 years I had decided it’s best to just jump right into a piece without overthinking. I usually comprehend and refine my ideas more as my hands are on the materials, which allow the overall concept and installation to be more organic and fluid. Sometimes I’ll realize that I bite off more than I can chew, but I somehow always manage to at least come close to what I want to accomplish. This too has resulted in a few unrealized pieces, but those are the best to come back to later when “artist’s block” sets in.

I also like to think about these installations as single ideas only when they are in an exhibition. Once the exhibition ends, all the components are just pieces that can then be rearranged and combined to create different narratives and stories



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


Who are your heroes?

My biggest hero will always be my mother, Shelley Hazzard, who has always encouraged me to do what makes me happy and has inspired me to pursue my interests. She was a body builder when I was very young, which allowed me to see what you can do when you stay focused and motivated. As a child, my mother and I also volunteered at a wildlife rehabilitation center, rode horses together and our home was practically a zoo with domestic animals and some wildlife that we were nursing back to health. So, I think my strong empathetic connection with animals is a result of these experiences.

I am also very inspired by the work of Beth Cavener Stichter, Cai Guo-Qiang, Ernesto Neto, Yinka Shonibare, Basia Irland, Andrea Zittel, Ai Weiwei, Do Ho Suh, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Tehching Hsieh, and Janine Antoni. However, recently, I find myself completely intrigued with “ethology,” which is the study of animal behavior with the emphasis on the behavioral patterns that occur in natural environments. I came across a TedTalk by biologist/primatologist, Frans de Waal, on moral behavior in animals. Here Frans talks about chimpanzees (in comparison to humans) and their perceived competitive and aggressive behavior.

He said he found that chimpanzees tend to reconcile after fights, which led him to investigate the two essential pillars of morality in the animal kingdom, reciprocity and empathy, as biological products rather than from religion, civilization, or tradition. He switched his research programs to focus on socially positive behaviors, such as conflict resolution, empathy, and cooperation and found that many other animals do actually possess these behavioral traits that we thought only existed in humanity.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

What are you working on now?

Currently, I am working to complete a solo exhibition for Gallery VOX in Tarrant for September, organizing the exhibitions for the 2021 Mid-South Sculpture Alliance Interdisciplinary Sculpture Conference in Cincinnati for October, preparing a presentation on my “Fabricated Interactions During Social Distancing” series for the 2021 SECAC Conference in Lexington for November, planning for research activities with animal behavior/ethology as they relate to human behavior and sociobiological instincts for my sabbatical in the spring, and creating work for the 2022 Alabama State Council on the Arts Fellowship and exhibition at the Georgine Clarke Alabama Artists Gallery for May of 2022.

How can we keep up with you online? Website: Instagram: @hollowspace YouTube:





Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

VISUAL POETRY | VISUAL ART To browse available work, visit:

Connect: Instagram: @writeroctavioquintanilla Twitter: @OctQuintanilla

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Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

pecial features


interview with

emily dingus

of the georgia theatre BY: clifford brooks Hello, Emily Dingus. How did life bring you to the Georgia Theatre? What about your role in this glorious machine do you love the most? Hey Clifford! I was a student at UGA getting a certificate in music business. Before graduation, I attended South by Southwest in Austin, TX and went to Georgia Theatre’s annual showcase. My first boss, and the woman who hired me, overheard me in the bathroom saying I was there to network for a job. The rest is history! I do find it funny that I went all the way to Texas to get a job in Athens. Over the last six years my role changed. I began as a marketing assistant and now I have the role of General Manager. It’s been a wild ride to get here, but my favorite part has always been being a part of the Georgia Theatre family. The relationships with the house staff and touring crews are what keeps me going day in and day out. I’m very honored to be given the opportunity to steer the ship alongside my fellow managers.

What are some of your favorite shows seen here over the years?

Some of my favorite shows are the ones that surprise me. When Maren Morris played in 2017, she had just won her first Grammy a few days before. She was super emotional about it on stage and had the rest of us tearing up. It’s a special feeling to be working with someone realizing their wildest dreams, not to mention the show was killer! More shows that have stood out to me are The Flaming Lips in 2018, Run the Jewels in 2015, and shaving the drummer’s head on stage during Mac Demarco’s performance in 2018.

What working philosophy do you add to your day-to-day routine?

The live music industry is fast-paced and requires a lot of moving parts which can make it feel stressful and overwhelming at times. During those moments, we all like to remind each other that it’s not brain surgery, it’s not life or death. If the show goes on, we’ve done our job.


Essentially, don’t take yourself too seriously, stay positive, and do your best.


Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Give us a little background on this venue. This building started as a YMCA in 1889 and has housed a handful of businesses in its history including a Masonic Temple and a Sears Roebuck store. It became the Elite Theatre in 1935 and, for the most part, has remained a performance space ever since. Eventually it was renamed the Georgia Theatre and become a mainstay for emerging Athens bands and National touring acts. In 2009, the building was devastated by fire. Thanks to our local Athens community, we were able to rebuild, restore and reopen our beloved venue in 2011.

How are you keeping customers safe postCOVID? We are beyond thankful to have been able to open back up, post-quarantine, and return to doing what we love. In hopes that we can continue to remain open, we are following AEG’s new policy that requires concertgoers to show proof of vaccination beginning October 1st, 2021. Prior to that date, we are accepting a negative test result or proof of vaccination. Masks will be required for both patron’s and staff unless actively eating or drinking.

How can we help support, keep up with, and check out future shows online? Our upcoming shows, and updated policies are listed on our website at:

Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to hear about new shows, tickets on sale, and more updates!


interview with

sarah leffler

of the linden row inn BY: clifford brooks What’s new for and with Linden Row Inn since January 2021?

We have added a few new members to our team at Linden Row Inn, including our new General Manager, Julie Carlson. Additionally, we are in the process of renovating and upgrading our 20 Garden rooms. Our on-site restaurant, Parterre, has re-opened for dinner service Wednesday-Saturday as well as Saturday and Sunday brunch. And we have begun to host events such as weddings and board meetings on property again!

How are you getting back on track after COVID-19 vaccinations have become available? With increased vaccine availability and pent-up demand for leisure travel, our hotel occupancy (like that of many hotels in the country) has been increasing. After a difficult year for everyone, our guests are excited about visiting friends and family, escaping their daily routine, and making memories here in Richmond. The city has seen the return of many popular summer events and festivals, and all the local attractions are seeing an uptick in visitors as well.

Linden Row Inn has a couple of sister hotels. Please tell us about those and what we can look forward to with each. Meadowbrook Inn is a 62-room mountain retreat located in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. It is the perfect destination when traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway, exploring North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, visiting Appalachian State University and the Boone area, or visiting the abundance of outdoor attractions in the region. Our property is popular with families and couples alike, especially because there is something for everyone within proximity. The property has some of the largest meeting and event space in the High Country. So, it is a popular destination for conferences, board meetings, weddings, and other gatherings.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

The Liberty Trust is a luxury lifestyle hotel located in Roanoke, Virginia that will be opening its doors in Fall 2021! The hotel is in a seven-story, early 20th century bank headquarters building that is going through a full historic restoration. Also located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Roanoke has something for everyone, from outdoor recreation to breweries, museums, and arts venues. We are excited about bringing a boutique hotel concept to the Roanoke area.

How are you keeping your guests as safe as possible as the floodgates open again for travel?

For the protection of our guests and team members, we are continuing to follow the many preventative measures we introduced at the start of the pandemic. This includes increased frequency of cleaning our public areas and hightouch areas using EPA approved disinfectants, additional cleaning measures in all our guest rooms, and availability of hand sanitizing stations throughout the property, among other things. Also, we are fortunate that the layout of our property encourages social distancing as many of our guest rooms are accessible via exterior entrances within our enclosed garden courtyard, and all our guest rooms have individual heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units. As recommendations from the CDC and health department change, we are doing our best to adjust our operations with the priority of keeping our guests and team members safe.

How do we keep up with you for news on all fronts?

Visit us on our website at or by following us on Facebook ( or Instagram (@lindenrow).




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


Road to the Sun showcases Metheny’s developed musical hallmarks in compelling new and bravely wrought compositions, expertly performed by kindred spirits and modern masters. All Music

Harmonically adventurous...beautifully nuanced... toys interestingly with a musical language shared by Debussy and Django presents significant additions to the solo, ensemble and transcription repertory from an unexpected quarter. Wall Street Journal


interview with

bob googe, owner of jittery joe’s coffee BY: clifford brooks Bob Googe, it’s an honor to speak. Who are you? Who has life carved you out to be? Wow! What a question. I’ve been a singer, a dancer, a CPA, a consultant, public speaker, Presbyterian minister, coffee shops and roaster owner. In my best moments life has made me an entrepreneur who likes to create companies that work for the community, the folks who work for us and make a profit. In my worst moments I’m like the dog on the movie UP. I have serious “Squirrel!!” Syndrome.

What inspired you to create Jittery Joe’s? Who cheered you on when you wanted to throw in the towel? Did you ever think of throwing it in at all? Actually, two brothers created Jittery Joe’s and, as frequently happens, working together with family was not the utopia they had imagined. I purchased the two stores in existence not long after 9-11. My consulting business collapsed in the economic aftermath of the attacks and living on the salary of a campus minister was not realistic.



My wife and I borrowed against our house, maxed out our credit cards, and borrowed from family. My wife, Deborah, is the person who cheered me on the most. I’d lie awake at night saying, “We are not going to make it. We are not going to make it.” She would reply, “We’re going to make it. You’ve got this.” It’s an incredible blessing to have someone at your side that supports you in that way.

What is your philosophy behind a life well-lived and a company designed for humanity? Treat everyone (and I mean everyone) with respect and dignity. Ignore their religion, politics, gender, orientation, ethnicity, etc. etc. Ignore all the labels and see a person in front of you. It’s not glamorous advice but it works.

How has Jittery Joe’s grown over the years? We started with the two stores in 2002 and with a partner purchased the roaster supplying us with coffee in 2006. There are now 19 Jittery Joe’s Coffee locations that are a mixture of company owned and licensed locations. Our roasting operation has a 17-state footprint.

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

What makes your coffees stand out?

There are two answers this question: 1. Our Roastmaster, Charlie Mustard, has a master’s degree in food science so he deeply understands what is happening in the roasting process and how to bring out all the nuance of each variety he roasts. He has been roasting for over 20 years so when you combine the intellectual knowledge with artistic skill picked up over two decades you end up with an outstanding product.

2. This will sound odd but, our community involvement makes our coffees stand out. We are neck deep in the Athens community, have inroads and causes in the cycling and music communities and, and, and. When people drink our coffee, it is not just a dark beverage with caffeine, it is a product that literally makes a difference in people’s lives. FYI -I could go on for a long time about point #2.

Do you promote any charity organizations or outreach programs? How can we help?

Oh . . . so many. We are very active in public schools and even have a blend named Create that we developed for fundraising. Proceeds from that coffee help by uniforms, instruments fund field trips, buy books, provide teachers with awards for service. We are big believers in public education.

We are also very involved with the Java Joy coffee cart staffed by the great people of ESP (Extra Special People), Java Joy serves Jittery Joe’s Coffee, we host them at our roasting facility and do our best to promote them. Again, that is a tip of the iceberg answer.

How do we find you online to see specials and ordering information?

Online at Sign up for our promotions and / or subscription service and you’ll receive notices of discounts on products and shipping as they occur.

What do you want people to take away from Jittery Joe’s besides an excellent cup of coffee? Be kind, do good things, drink good coffee.




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


Marco Rafalà SCE



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How Fires End is a raised fist of a novel, one filled with men’s brutal tenderness and tender brutality. It is both a subtle and powerful indictment of the silences between generations and a poignant testament to the bond between sons and fathers of all kinds. A blazing debut by an important new Italian-American voice. —Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men

Beautiful, mesmerizing, consoling, and under immaculate control, Marco Rafalà's How Fires End is a powerful novel about the religion we create for ourselves as we face that which perhaps even God has not imagined for humanity.

—Alexander Chee,

author of Edinburgh, The Queen of the Night, and How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

Marco Rafalà’s debut novel, How Fires End, avoids Mafia tropes for a moving depiction of multi-generational loss and love, grief and gratitude, heartbreak and hope.

-Kirkus Reviews

purchase your copy here purchase your copy here


interview with

david nazario BY: clifford brooks

In the maddening rush of the world, who are you and how do you stay optimistic? I always try to think of myself first as: a human, a lover, a friend, a spirit, a brother, a sun. After that I’m a writer, educator, and speaker. I stay optimistic by trying my best to consistently participate in activities that bring me joy. Some of these activities include meditation, being in nature, laughing, dancing, listening to music, writing, being in community, taking risks, crying, stretching, and helping people.

Tell us about the trek you’ve taken that brought you to where you are today. My trek has always involved writing in one way or another. I’ve known since I was a young child that I enjoyed writing and that I wanted to do it for a living. Following that calling, I believe, is what brought me where I am today.

What is your mission now? My mission now is to write and help as many people as possible.

What music and books have you lit up now? Music that is soulful, truthful, and heartfelt has me lit up now. Some of the artists I go to for that kind of music are Cleo Sol, Ari Lennox, Londrelle, Snoh Aalegra and Janet Jackson. I just finished reading a book of poetry by Nikki Giovanni. The title of the book is A Good Cry. Her books always inspire me. Her writing makes me laugh and smile. I am also making my way through Maya Angelou’s autobiographical series (currently on book three). And lastly, The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less by Christinne Platt and Love Songs for Boys by Keone, both have me lit up now.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

How do we keep up with you online to share in the sunshine you provide? Thanks. Folx can find me on Instagram @Davidnazariodotcom and follow my book page on Facebook @ www.Facebook. com/Makeloveyourreligion


interview with

atlfoodies: adam mccabe & cole robbins BY: robert gwaltney Introduce yourselves and your motivation behind the inception of ATLFoodies.

What restaurants in and around Atlanta make your top 5 and why?

Hey gang! My name is Adam McCabe, and I was born here in Atlanta but raised in Tallahassee, Florida. All of my family is from the Metro- Atlanta and Atlanta area. I moved back to Atlanta in 2015 after playing professional soccer overseas.

Oh man, that is such a tough question. It depends on the occasion, mood, and budget. But here are a few of our “staples”

Hey! I am Cole Robbins. I was born in Huntsville, Alabama and moved to Atlanta after graduating with my Master’s Degree from the University of Alabama in 2009. Adam and I have been dating for 6 years and live in Grant Park.

St. Cecilia for Italian/seafood and a great date night spot

ATLFoodies was created as a quarantine project, out of boredom and a need we saw! I (Cole) used to work for a Point-of-Sale company in the restaurant industry and was furloughed at the beginning of the pandemic. We were still trying to eat out and support the restaurant community in Atlanta because we knew how much they were struggling. One day somebody suggested that start a TikTok account and highlight our food adventures since we love to eat out and share our foodie finds with friends. One night we decided to run with it and create an account. One of our first videos went viral and the rest is history. Out of nowhere we had restaurants requesting we come in and do videos for them and brands asking us to make videos with their products. It has been a crazy ride.



The Optimist for incredible seafood and the Lobster Roll Barcelona for Spanish Tapas and amazing Sangria Falling Rabbit (Duluth) an amazing experience and unique cocktails The Select (Sandy Springs) for a stunning space and amazing food

If I opened your refrigerator in your home right now, what would I find? You would find A TON of leftovers! We shoot so much content for restaurants with our videos and photos we always end up taking multiple bags of food home. You will also find a mixture of fruit, CELCUIS Energy drinks and Hello Fresh Meal Kits.

My favorite ATLFoodies TikTok is “Sonic Bursting Bubbles.” How would you describe your TikTok style? I would say we are a mix of fun and informative. We try

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 to put as much of our spin and personality in the videos, while honestly describing the highlights of the meal. We try to interact with our followers by reviewing restaurants they have recommended or showcasing unique and hidden gems

What are your passions aside from ATLFoodies? Adam

– I have always had a passion for soccer. It was the sport I played from an early age and it allowed me to travel the world and experience different people and cultures. I still play as much as I can and run a soccer training business where I coach one on one sessions for individuals looking to improve their game. We both love sports, traveling and are super social people.


– I’m a huge sports fan. I went to the University of Alabama and caught the college football fever. I actually had a crazy streak of 11 seasons without missing a home, away, or bowl game. That finally ended when my friends started getting married.

What events do you have coming up? And how do we keep up with you online? I feel like we are always on the move! There are some pretty cool immersive experiences currently in Atlanta like the Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience Atlanta and the newly opened Illuminarium Atlanta on the Beltline that we are going to be reviewing. A new food hall opened at Colony Square in Midtown Atlanta called Politan Row and we are doing some collaborations with their team. The three best ways to keep up with us are: One: Via our TikTok Page – which you can follow us on the TikTok app at (atlfoodies). If you do not have the application on your phone you can follow us on the URL at: https://www.tiktok. com/@atlfoodies?lang=en Two: Via our Instagram – which you can follow us on the Instagram app at (atlfoodiestiktok). If you don’t have the application on your phone you can follow us on the URL at: https://www.instagram. com/atlfoodiestiktok/ Three: Via Email: Feel free to reach out or connect with us at




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Sunset Calling Over Seven Thousand Miles Virago – dominate the expanse, reaching, wrenching the horizon loose. Torn from its moorings, cascading (she) tap dancing, toned, emboldened except what she carves out for others. Gnarled through fisted hands the past, the first days, forcing elasticity into time. Concrete shoes: C’mon girl, the shoes don’t fit. Lakes, the deepest hands go into earth, to water, to be seen, noticed, lightened, untethered from any harmful star. Three hours is too long. Distance doesn’t grant a pass on closeness.

from The Book of Old Gods


interview with

K.Rashad By: Cliffford Brooks

Tell us about yourself. What helps you stand up and out in this media-drenched society? I’m just a man who has a passion for motivating inspiring and uplifting people. I’ve struggled in so many areas in my life, especially when it comes to self-love, self-worth and accepting who you are. Writing was my only outlet, and I understood the power of words at a young age when used correctly. Most people say, “Actions speak louder than words,” but the right words put together in the right way can move mountains.

I just want to be to people what I needed during my battles, dark days and journey to self-discovery. Let them know that it’s okay to feel lost, it’s okay to feel confused, it’s okay to feel broken, and that they are not the only ones. Don’t hide your pain and don’t be ashamed of your scars. I fight for those who doesn’t have the strength to fight for themselves and I speak for those who are afraid to speak for themselves.

There’s a specific mission with your new book. Give us details about your book and your passion behind it. Growing up I watched the women who mattered most to me settle for abusive men and settle for less than they deserved. My Aunt was tragically murdered by her ex-boyfriend when she was 22-YEARS-OLD, and that’s what inspired this book

“Love Isn’t Constant Pain,” is a little bit about everything. But mostly, it’s a book of soulful poetry and gorgeous art aimed at helping women help themselves. We explore everything from toxic relationships, emotional abuse, self-love, and hope. We all make mistakes and have bad days, but that doesn’t mean that love should be a continuous struggle, but I also want women to know that some men do understand, some men do grow, learn from their mistakes and change. I want them to know that some of us do hear them & feel for them. Not all of us are the same.

How has your faith in God helped you fulfil your purpose?


I think when you’ve reached the point of no return, when you hit rock


Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 bottom, and have no fight left in you, but still, you continue to fight and push through. There’s no one else to give glory to but God. There was something inside of me that just wouldn’t let me give up no matter how hard things got for me. When I wasn’t strong enough to keep going, he carried me, protected me and sheltered me. Gave me the strength to keep going when I was broke and broken.

What do you consider an ethical, well-lived life? A well lived life to me is basically just accepting and loving who you are. Doing what sets your soul on fire and doing what you love. Understanding that life is about the journey nothing more and nothing less. Enjoying now, living now, loving now, being happy now! Because right now is all we will ever have. Detaching yourself from the evils of this world and understanding all you will ever have full control of is your inner world. Walk in light, spread love and share your wisdom. Love your life fully and be true to you.

How do we keep up with you and get our hands on your book? You can follow me on Instagram (@k__rashad) but you can also contact me on my website my book is also available on the website. It’s available on all platforms as well Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Google Books, etc.


hemingway’s dog ask a publisher

I’ve had 64 pieces published in journals and on the web, why doesn’t a publisher want to publish my book? Shouldn’t that alone be enough for a book deal, since other editors have already read and published them?

This is a great question and I’m glad you asked it. Editors at a journal are working with sometimes 20+ authors on the finished product, and (most of the time) that finished product doesn’t cost anything to manufacture since it’s web-only. A publisher’s team is working with one author on a physical product which requires much more overhead. To give you some numbers, many established writers self-report having a 10% acceptance rate for individual pieces and less than 1% acceptance rate when it comes to publishers. Publishing is a business, and to stay in business, the publisher must be confident that they will at least break even with every book project they take on. The natural next move for most folks is to submit to as many places as possible, but blindly submitting to as many publishers with a pulse is a waste of your time and theirs. Besides revision and joining a writing group, the only way to increase your chances of being published is to read a few books from a publisher before submitting so you know if your work is a good fit for their catalog.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 The best thing you can do when a publishes passes on your manuscript is to keep writing, keep editing. Never take it personally.

Do publishers even read cover letters? Those 64 pieces have been published in stellar places and I name all of them in my cover letter.

Yes, we do read cover letters, but please, keep it short, to the point, and professional. Some advice: only list the top three places you’ve been published because listing more is a red flag to us. A seasoned writer knows that adding more than three is a trait of an unexperienced writer. Be confident in your three favorites and if we’re curious we’ll check out your website where you should have a list of all your publication creds.

Why do your books cost so much?

Publishing is a tough business to make money at. The big publishers are really struggling right now, most small presses are nonprofits, and the others are run by one or few dedicated individuals. Most people in publishing are here because they love it, and they are getting paid (if they get paid) a fraction of what they could elsewhere. Why it’s so difficult is because of the logistics. Let’s say a book costs $18. The bookstore it’s sold at takes 40% and sends the remaining $10.80 to the distributor. The distributor takes half of that and sends $5.4 to the publisher. With that, the publisher must pay for the printing of the book, promotion, overhead, and pay the author royalties. According to Berrett-Koehler Publishers, “The average U.S. book is now selling less than 200 copies per year and less than 1,000 copies over its lifetime.” It’s simple math, if you support publishers, they will have more resources to publish more books (maybe yours!). If you don’t support publishers, it will be harder for authors to find a publisher.

I have friends in Hollywood, 10K followers on Instagram, and I know a lot of people will buy my book. I can probably name 500 people right now who will buy my book. Doesn’t it make “business sense” for a publisher to publisher my book?

Most people in publishing are work in this industry because they love books. If they don’t love your manuscript, their heart will not be in it during the publishing process and the book will not be good as it could have been if it found the right publisher. We can’t trust that your Hollywood connections will turn your manuscript into a movie (from experience, most of that industry is all talk, and if there’s no contract there’s no deal), and we can’t assume that your followers or friends will buy 500 copies of your book. It’s our experience that friends and family are not as supportive as an author assumes. If you don’t believe me, Courtney Maum writes about it in her book: Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book. It’s a great author-perspective on the publishing process.

I’ve been thinking about self-publishing because I’m tired of getting rejections from agents and publishers. Why doesn’t everyone self-publish? After this last rejection I thought, I don’t need you in your fancy office or any other gatekeeper to do what I can do on my own.

You’ll have a hard time finding a publisher who will try to talk you out of self-publishing. We know how difficult it is, and if you have the drive, go for it! There are numerous success stories, and maybe you’ll be one of them. What a publisher does have is experience. We have professionals who proofread, typeset, design covers, and will put together a PR/marketing plan. We have established connections with journals, bookstores, and we have a fanbase. This is what you are getting when you publish with a traditional or established small press. It’s very hard (but not impossible) to do all this one your own. Also, please note that most of us do not have fancy offices. Most of us, including award winning presses with awarding winning authors, are (poorly) funded by universities, are volunteers at nonprofit publishers, or are just scraping by and our “headquarters” is our home office or shared office space.


book review the fire eater BY: Jose hernandez diaz BY: CLIFFORD BROOKS

What motivated you to name this collection The Fire Eater?

“The Fire Eater” is the title of the lead poem of the collection; a prose poem I feel is one of the strongest in the collection. The metaphor of a fire eater left to perform on Hollywood Blvd also serves as a starving artist figure, representing some of my artistic endeavors at the time of writing this collection.

What facets of your culture flesh out within these poems?

Within these specific poems in the collection? Not much of my culture is represented. This collection is primarily a series of surreal/absurdist prose poems written in the third person and not directly about my life. I also don’t feel Poets of Color are always obligated to write about or perform their culture. With that said, I oftentimes do write about Latinx identity and growing up first-generation low-income in Southern California. In fact, the first half of my full-length manuscript is entirely about said experiences, odes to familia, childhood, homages to Latinx artists and identity, etc.

Which of the poems is a favorite? Why?

I don’t have one single favorite. I do have a few that are favorites, though: “The Fire Eater,” “The Dragon and the Coyote,” “The Fire,” “The Man and the Antlers,” “The Hole,” and “The Skeleton and the Piano” to name a few.

What unexpected twists did this book take with you?

Well, I think each poem has a twist. I don’t usually write with a clear idea or plan of how the poem will end. Instead, I improvise and follow each word and line to discover meaning in the prose poems.

Please follow the link to purchase: book/9781680032086/the-fire-eater/



11:11 Press

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

New & forthcoming in 2021

January 19

April 13

May 4

May 18

July 14

July 19

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book review the constant rabbit BY: Jasper fforde BY: CLIFFORD BROOKS


asper Fforde commands attention among contemporary authors in any room he visits -regardless of genre. Wielding a Swiftian wit, The Constant Rabbit woos readers in with a deceptively simple plotline that slings us into a maelstrom of too-relevant judgement, misunderstanding, and violence. Yet, with the soul of a bluesman, no matter how bleak the worst moment he leaves readers with hope. Over the surreal alternate reality of a Britain Fforde casts a spell.

This Britain is on the privileged shoulders of Peter Knox in a world where rabbits, and a uncomfortably anthropomorphize into the daily lives of humans.

The heft of the message isn’t delivered in a heavy-handed manner to leave anyone with guilt. No, here the message finds us gradually, building as life creates with years of experience. There are hints of Fight Club, Watership Down, Dr. Strangelove, “The Court Jester,” and Animal Farm – but Fforde seasons his novel with these after crafting a story altogether original. One of his lasting feats of strength takes the mundane, the imagined before, and spins it into a new drink. It doesn’t go down easy, but

What event and/or feeling galvanized your resolve to write The Constant Rabbit?

Like most of my ideas, it began as a ‘what if?’ daydream thought experiment, where I was wondering what sort of place rabbits would occupy in human society if they were anthropomorphized in some freak unexplained incident. It’s in many ways a sort of ‘Alien Invasion’ story in the mold of ‘District 9’ or ‘Alien Nation’ where humans are supposed to do the right thing with genuine and well-meaning visitors, but somehow just can’t stray away from their old habits.

The more I thought of the idea, the more I liked it - rabbits were ideal as there are few (if any) discourtesies not

heaped upon rabbits that haven’t at one point been heaped upon humans by humans. As the ideas started to jumble in, I realized there was a good opportunity to explore not just mankind’s confused relationship with the other animals we share the planet, but also the confused relationship we have with one another, and with the Rabbit’s view of life somehow radically different from ours, but also more principled. That there could be another way, so long as we listened to wiser others.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

The writing of the book coincided with BREXIT here in the UK, amid a reimagining of what being British meant, and how we should embrace a selective view of history to define ourselves, rather than casting a critical eye upon our colonial past to improve.

You’ve an affinity for the industrious librarian in this novel. How did Peter first develop in your mind?

Peter Knox affability/spinelessness is key to the whole book. Since I was telling a story about privilege and complicity in a discriminatory society, I became acutely aware that I probably wasn’t best placed to understand those issues as I won the lottery without buying a ticket: White, Male, Moneyed, European. Peter became the perfect surrogate as he is blissfully unaware of the discrimination that surrounds him because it doesn’t affect him and never will. His journey from ignorance to qualified understanding of the issues facing rabbits is what drives the narrative, and although he does not emerge as a savior or an agent of change, he achieves an understanding of the problem. And from there, I think, there is hope.

What parts of you are left in this story?

It’s a good question, and I tend to regard writing as an additive process. Yes, there is much of me in my books, but it is me sharing rather than giving outright. Writing is very much a critical examination of life, society - and me. My books give to me; they don’t subtract - and I hope that works with readers, too.

Did you find a new sense of peace once you finished?

Another good question, and I think that yes, I did. Writing is a double-edged sword. You like what you do, and you think some of what you write is sort of okay - but there is always a nagging feeling that you could do better, part of the furnace that drives. The magnum opus of which you can be proud is always out there waiting to be written, and that true and lasting inner peace can be yours, so long as you can find that mysterious and unobtainable ‘Book X’. I’m not a great writer, I know that now. There are, dismayingly, limitations to anyone’s skills.

The Constant Rabbit might be the best I can do, and even if it is not universally acclaimed nor even sell well, then I do have that sense of peace within myself. I gave my writing career my hardest work, and if TCR is the best I ever do, I think I’m okay with that.

To find out more on the creation of this book, follow: The Constant Rabbit is for sale everywhere that books are sold. To buy the paperback, please visit this link: To hear an interview with Fforde on NPR’s Dante’s Old South, please follow this link:




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


movie review black widow BY: Chris terry


arvel’s Cinematic Universe went on a year-long hiatus during the midst of a pandemic, starving its insatiable fan base. Originally slated to open the summer movie season in 2020, Black Widow was one of the casualties of the covid war, sitting on the shelves for over a year. However, the house of the mouse wouldn’t be so easily defeated, hitting the new year with a bevy of Disney Plus shows to fulfill the masses. WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki have laid the groundwork for the next steps of the MCU. (TL;DR: Prepare for the multiverse!)

On the theatrical side of the schedule, things would be a little less clear. Marvel/Disney was in a release strategy quandary... putting it in theaters only, releasing simultaneously in theaters and streaming, or only for subscribers? Disney eventually selected a traditional brick-and-mortar strategy combined with a premium streaming offering. Whether or not the dual release strikes gold enough with quarantine-weary audiences to hit “event picture” status remains to be seen.

Phase 4 of the MCU begins with Black Widow, although its placement in the timeline (between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War) is more accurately described as a flashback. Natasha waited more than a decade for a solo film in the MCU, only to happen after her death in the franchise’s main continuity. She has been relegated to a bonafide sidekick, painted with shades of sexualization in an otherwise sexless franchise, even her demise overshadowed by Tony Stark’s.

Considering the diversity and inclusivity of the coming slate of Marvel movies, it’s even more difficult to swallow the numerous slights handed to Natasha’s character while the studio worked out its storytelling kinks. Their attempt to fill in the void of the character’s ill-defined backstory may seem insignificant at this point, but it ultimately reminds us that everything is interconnected. If ever there was a hero who deserves to be taken on their own merit, it is the Black Widow.

There is a decidedly intimate scope to this film which is welcome here. While Infinity War and Endgame were expansive and sprawling events, Black Widow is almost the antithesis of their excesses. It forgoes the typical template with no cosmic entanglements or ramifications to speak of. Make no mistake, the action is still grand and extravagant, with plenty of surprises for our band of merry marvels. The key difference is we have a focus on a central



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 character instead of dozens of costumed folk battling for our attention. Up until now, the franchise only hinted at her past as a Russian operative for the Red Room, a highly secretive group of trained assassins.

While the Avengers movies are primarily about a ragtag team of heroes finding comradeship against a common foe, Black Widow is about an alternate family tainted by deceptions and betrayals before restoring trust in a series of volatile situations. Black Widow is centered around Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and her parents Alexi (Stranger Things actor David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz from The Mummy) along with younger sister Yelena (Florence Pugh from Midsommar).

An unhappily-ever-after family reunion anchors the plot in an unusual emotional register which is simultaneously tense and comical. Instead of the brief moments of downtime that usually occur between the action-packed universe-saving sequences, the film follows the family in its fullest sense. Whether they’re strangling one another with a shower curtain or squabbling over drinks, Johansson, and Pugh exhibit real sibling chemistry in their onscreen relationship. Natasha and Yelena’s heightened tension provides the emotional energy behind the movie’s action set pieces and, perhaps surprisingly, the humor.

Although Melina has a troubled past, Weisz portrays her with brilliant intelligence and a steely resolve. Harbor’s Alexei believes he is an invincible superhero called the “Red Guardian,” but he’s just a blabbermouth who recounts long-forgotten exploits. Black Widow’s villainy is somewhat thin with Taskmaster, a killing machine that can imitate its adversaries’ moves. This leads to some exciting confrontations, but without the stakes of a stronger enemy.

Australian independent filmmaker Cate Shortland creates an MCU movie filled with a blend of adrenaline, humor, and understated emotional interactions. The production is a major leap in scale for Shortland, who made her name with the intimate Somersault before going on to direct Lore, a Holocaust drama, and Berlin Syndrome, a psychological thriller.


Shortland has explored the lives of young women in every one of those films with sensitivity and care, which is something she continues here, adding unexpected depth to a genre that is all too often lacking in character growth. Black Widow is crafted beautifully, with dynamic camerawork by Gabriel Beristain and a score by Lorne Balfe that ebbs from gentle piano to high-intensity suspense as it combines powerful choral elements.

If there is any fault with the film, it lies within Marvel’s need to connect to the next thread at all costs. While the film was supposed to be a moment of glory for a shunned hero, it frequently yields to obvious successors. Natasha’s growth throughout is tremendous but limited. Having been in this universe for a decade-plus, she’s locked into a certain character and a persona. Sadly, the main hero and villain are the least appealing aspects of the story. Moreover, the studio didn’t seem prepared to dive deeper into the depths of the plot the story alludes to. When Black Widow embraces the darker yet even more intriguing elements of her origin story, it punctuates the dour mood with quips in true Marvel fashion. In the end, there are enough twists, turns, and pay-offs to get you excited about the future. There is no doubt that true fans will find the wait worthwhile.

9/10 stars



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


faces of faith the edwards sisters BY: Clifford brooks

Cristha Edwards Your energy and positivity create a comfortable space for those around you. How has your life developed you into the strong businessperson you are today? The way that you operate in business is an outer expression of your personal beliefs and experiences. I watched my father transition from working for a company to eventually running his own electrical company in Los Angeles throughout my childhood. On the opposite side of this, I watched my mother graduate from nursing school and be a wonderful stay-at-home mother for my younger years. She faithfully served large hospital corporations for over fifteen years. Observing how my parents handled their jobs revealed some pertinent values that I always wanted to uphold in my life.

Understanding my father’s time and effort to manage his own business created my desire to create a company tailored to the small business owner. Admiring my mother’s integrity towards her work to honor God and then honor her choice to work there inspired me to keep that position towards other people.

The artisan eye you possess brings out a symmetry that can’t be ignored. How do you develop such a balance in how you present your clients to the world?

Client vision is one of the most important aspects of my work! I genuinely enjoy listening to entrepreneurs describe their passions, experiences, and objectives because the narrative shapes the vision. In my video productions, my two most important pillars are quality and honesty. I want to ensure that all clients receive high-quality work that they can be proud of and align with the current media market while remaining honest about who they are. A client’s needs are revealed by paying particular attention to personal descriptions, anecdotes, personality descriptions, and sometimes horrifying past missteps.

Presenting a trustworthy product at the end of a project is a process of active listening and check-ins to move through the journey together. Client success and ease are more likely when they can understand the steps of the process and what it will take to make it to the end.

When we met you spoke of your faith being a pillar in your house of ethical business. How does that fit into your work life? Faith fits into my work life because it’s the foundation on which I operate. My faith in God through my relationship with Christ is vital to me, and I always aim to exude faith and love to others in my daily interactions. I never make



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 any business decisions without considering if it is ethical and will it have a result that is unfair to others. While there are times where things can get dicey in business, having integrity is always my main aim.

I never want to have a business deal where someone feels disrespected, taken advantage of, or unheard. My work life consists of doing the thing that I love, giving honor to God for giving me the gifts and talents to do it, and then sharing that love with others. Kindness, love, and honesty are virtues that can sometimes be missing in the business world but are essential in my business ethics.

I have always wanted to be asked about how my biological background fits into the media world. How does your training in biological studies affect your approach to brand management? One of the services that my company offers to small businesses and institutions is brand development and management. When a new or existing client shares their current needs, I create a concept map based on their responses to create the overall narrative. Concept


mapping was a skill I learned in Biology 120 at Spelman College with my professor and research mentor Dr. Tiffany Oliver. We used concept mapping to trace the interconnections of various biological pathways for cells and to memorize concepts. Now, I use the same method to understand a client’s personal needs to develop how best to serve their brand development or management needs.

Aside from my biology and media background. I am also a minister in the Christian church. People are often perplexed and do not understand the intersections of each field. I have always wanted to be asked, how many seminary experience at Candler School of Theology affects my creation of video productions?

While in seminary, one of the first classes we had to take was Pastoral Care. Before learning how to care for others, we spent weeks unpacking the labels we place on ourselves. After going through our narrative healing process, we were tasked with thinking theologically about how to respond to the needs of others. This skill has been used in my video productions because with every video consumed daily, there is a story being told. Something about this video either makes you watch with intrigue or quickly turn it off because you have lost interest.

While my clients come from various backgrounds, I am thinking about the story being shared to the audience and

Renisha Edwards What’s your story, morning glory? What elaborate chain of events brought you to the oasis you enjoy today? Looking back from where I am today, I can say the foundation of my story is one truly led by my faith, my life as Christian, following the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether it be from unforeseen circumstances to change resulting in blessings I could not have imagined by going on faith in Christ and letting go of what I thought I knew to follow His way, this would be what brought me to the oasis I enjoy today by the grace of God. This all started at this time in my life.

Your ability to capture a person’s truth on film is unparalleled. How did you discover and hone this gift? Capturing who someone is…It started, since my childhood, by being the self-designated photographer around the house, even when my family did not want their photograph taken! Fast forward, I got the supportive opportunity from my parents who invested in my professional camera, and I started taking pictures of EVERYTHING I could! My dad asked me the question of what I genuinely want to do with my photography. In pondering on what direction, I wanted to go, I then niched down to lifestyle branding. Lifestyle Branding entails much more than capturing a photograph. Brand Consulting is the foundation I use to ensure each project accurately reflects the goals intended for filming/photography needs for a successful product. Overall, I give honor to God for my gift He has given me and the ability to continue perfecting my craft through practice.

How has the Holy Spirit brought you peace in this turbulent time?

The Holy Spirit has brought me through this turbulent time through truly seeking the Lord and wanting to know God through the reading of His Word, the Holy Bible. Our call as Christians is to be diligent in pressing on daily as the scripture says, this is where our sanctification in Christ is. Truly prioritizing my relationship with Christ and the TRUTH of His Word first is the only way to survive and operate in the character of Christ. His peace and assurance once I knew I am truly living for Him is what gives me peace.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Why do you believe that branding is impactful to business success?

Consistent Branding is the foundation of any successful business. This is important in your brand whether personal or commercial because it is the foundation of your brand’s message to your clients. Inconsistent branding leads to stressful or non-existent marketing. This results in your potential clients not trusting your brand and damaging client relationships. Branding Education is a huge part of what I do, and Lifestyle Branding is directly tied to your brand foundation and the personable interactions brands need to establish with their clients.

What is one thing you are passionate about in your faith?

If there is one thing, I am passionate about in the Christian faith, it is not allowing age to deter you from choosing Christ overall. This truth applies at any age, young or old. However, especially being young, in many situations, you are told you have time, or you are too young to want to be all in with Jesus. From scripture and live evidence, we see that neither of these are true. My passion is to encourage other young believers to live their lives how scripture says, following Christ in His word and not worry about worldly advice.




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

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Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


happy birthday keith by: Jim kelly

For Bob

Bands toured together back then, back in 1967. Played on the same bill, night after night, all across the country. One hit bands went first, did their hit, maybe two more songs, then got hustled off the stage. Total playing time, ten to twelve minutes tops. The headliner, the band with the most hits, played for maybe an hour, but usually less. With songs being two and a half minutes long to fit the format of Top 40 Radio, hear a headliner and you’d probably hear everything they’d ever recorded. My buddy Bob loved music. Loud live music. Music you could dance to. Dance and get crazy to. Rock n Roll music. The louder the better. Every weekend, after he got his license, Bob drove us somewhere to hear music. Coffee houses, high school dances, ancient ballrooms fitted out with strobe lights and pots of day-glow paint, clubs, hockey arenas, wherever the best music was playing. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Wilson Pickett, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Lovin Spoonful, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Moby Grape and...The Who. That summer, the summer of 1967, The Who was our favorite band. Bob drove because he always had the best cars. Cars his Dad designed. That summer it was a metallic blue GTO convertible. It was his Mom’s car, but come the weekend it was ours. Our four wheel ticket to music and goofy good times. The Saturday night we went to see The Who for the first time Bob had a date. But then, Bob always had dates. For me it was a first. A beautiful brown eyed girl who made my heart levitate in my chest said yes. Said she’d go out on a date with me. Astonishing. The concert was in Flint, fifty miles north of where we lived. Piece of cake for a GTO with a big engine and a loud, loud radio. It was a three for the price of one deal, The Blues Magoos, The Who and Herman’s Hermits. The Who, by then, were already a great rock n roll band. They had all sorts of hits. They played louder, faster and longer than any band out there. So what were they doing opening for a crap band like Herman’s Hermits? Cosmic joke? Karmic meltdown? Crap taste of some tone deaf, quick buck promoter? Who at this late date, more than half a century later, can say? It remains a mystery, a mystery and an enduring monument to colossal bad taste. The concert was held in a high school football stadium. We sat on bleachers and the bands played on a tiny makeshift stage way out in the center of the football field. The first act, a true one hit band, came and went. Then came the amplifiers. A continuous, ominous wall of amplifiers all across the back of the stage. Then the drums. More drums than any of us had ever seen smack in the middle of the stage. Then The Who came on and announced that it was Keith Moon’s twenty first birthday. That twenty one was a bit old for a rock n roller. Hopping off the stage, the birthday boy acted out his rock n roll antiquity by kicking a plastic bucket this way and that around the grassy field. “You’re all invited to Keith’s birthday party” Pete Townsend said, just before they started to play, ”if you can find it.”



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 Skip to the finale, “My Generation.” Through the quick growing frenzy of the song the bass player, John Entwhistle, stood statue still on one side of the stage, dressed all in black, dead pan, fingers playing bass runs faster and faster. We were used to talentless high school thump thump bass players, not real musicians, not a guy who could make it race and soar. Stunning. As Pete Townsend started smashing the neck of his guitar into amplifiers, filling the night sky with electronic mayhem, Keith Moon stood up and started to destroy his drum set, kicking drums this way and that while still keeping the out of control, maniac beat going on any left standing. Then, all those smoke bombs. Explosions, smoke everywhere on the stage. Colored lights. A roaring electronic haze. Pete Townsend swinging his guitar by the neck and smashing it on the stage, again and again, to amplified shrieks and crackles, howls and high pitched, ear splitting sounds that made us blink and cover our ears. Then the only person on the stage was John Entwhistle, straight man still, keeping up the furious pace. Abruptly, he takes off his bass, throws it high into the air and disappears into the smoke and the darkness, invisible before it smashes back down onto the stage, adding the last sonic craziness to the explosive finale. From the title, you know what happens next. We left before Herman’s Hermits came on. How could they, with their tame, their tepid hits top the pure rock and roll madness we’d just witnessed, head to toe experienced? So, we’re flying south down the freeway for home. All of us have curfews. Curfews with consequences. In my case a father who, if he’s drunk, might thump me, knock me around. Then we see the sign. That well lit Holiday Inn sign that says “Happy Birthday Keith” in great big letters. In Michigan, in 1967, the only people who can cut across a freeway and reverse directions at a dirt turnaround are state cops, state cops out on patrol. Anybody else tries it they go to jail. Big fine. Bob, our fearless wheel man, not even breathing hard, does a quick left at the dirt and cinder cut across, guns it and has us skidding back north in seconds flat. At the front desk nobody’s talking. We ask where the birthday party is. No dice. We ask if The Who are staying there. Stone wall. Then Bob waves us down a short hallway. There, at the far end, walking into an event room, is Pete Townsend. Nobody else in Flint, Michigan, on that Saturday night in particular, was wearing a long flowered frock coat and tight, bright orange bellbottoms but Pete Townsend. We joined the party. The four of us stood around drinking cans of Budweiser beer from a big ice filled metal tub and talked with Keith Moon. We wished him a happy birthday and asked him how many drum sets he went through on a tour. Bob’s date asked if she could give him a birthday kiss. He said sure so she kissed him and then we left. The crowd was getting bigger, lots and lots of birthday cakes were arriving and being lined up on long tables. Nice to stick around and try a piece but, like I said, we all had our curfews. Decades later I read that, not long after we left, The Who set the standard for after show, touring band hotel mayhem. Template for on the road craziness. Reports vary. A food fight with all those cakes. Keith Moon skidding on the floor and busting off half a tooth. Cherry bombs in toilets. A car in a pool? Myth and fact blend and blur. Were they really banned from every Holiday Inn in America the very next day? Something like that. But, the four of us completely missed out on that infamous bit of rock and roll history. We left too soon. On balance though, I didn’t get whipped when I got home. I didn’t get whipped and the next weekend, the very new weekend Bob drove us two towns over us to see…

Jim Kelly, a retired traveling salesman, has been published in in War Literature & the Arts, Harvard Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Coachella Review, Blue Mountain Review and others. Kelly’s story collection “Pitchman’s Blues” won The George Garret Fiction Prize from Texas Review Press.




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


blackface in my bones by: melanie s. smith

In February 2019, I was discussing the recently disclosed photograph of Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam as one of two students, one in blackface and the other in a KKK robe and hood, in a medical school yearbook. The setting was my writing class on public health research ethics. “Not only is the photograph not surprising to me,” I said, “it makes sense.” Virginia, I explained, was the state that gave us a slew of our country’s most notoriously racist chapters of medical history, including Buck v. Bell, the 1927 Supreme Court case on eugenic sterilization; the so-called Racial Integrity Act to maintain purity of “white blood,” which Richard and Mildred Loving succeeded in overturning in 1967; and the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis, a 40-year “experiment” to document how syphilis ravaged a Black body, undertaken by doctors largely from the University of Virginia’s medical school and appointed by Woodrow Wilson to the United States Public Health Service. Not only did Virginia’s racist history show how the ideas of a small faction can take root and spread, it showed their singular longevity. The governor’s participation in performative racism, even in medical school, was consistent with that legacy, and thus—I said—should not come as a surprise to students of public health history. Blackface: not a surprise; in fact, predictable. Two years later, I am experiencing the exact opposite reaction: a complete surprise at the performative racism of blackface. This time, however, the offender isn’t a public figure. This time they—plural—are family members: my father’s father and my mother’s mother, respectively, long deceased persons representing two sides of my family as different as they were physically distanced. My father’s family lived in a tiny fishing village in rural Nova Scotia, and my mother’s Sicilian-immigrant parents lived in a Boston suburb. There is no shared cultural history, like that of Virginians, to explain the pantomime common to these two tribes. But the bigger piece of my surprise is the generational nearness of this familial racism. I am shocked that my forebears were so enamored of blackface that they photographed it. And I am equally shocked that I didn’t know.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Here’s how it started. It’s a pandemic, and I’ve been going nuts trying to find things to do. I began to sort boxed family photographs, scanning and labeling them for posterity. Then I found the photograph of my father’s family assembled in a village hall with what looks like practically the entire community. In fairness, all the men except my grandfather are in blackface, but my father told me his father often donned blackface to play the rhythmbones in a local minstrel show. By the time I found the photograph of my grandfather, a fisherman whom I never knew, (and my grandmother, whom I did know, also in the picture), I had come to know how this beloved man had died of pneumonia when my father was a mere boy. The second photograph was of my mother’s mother, or Nanna, as I called her. She wore a grass skirt, blackface, and a bone through her nose, and appeared to be dancing for partygoers. I was her eldest grandchild, and we were close. Because of her, I loved poetry; she often recited it to me as a child, and when I went away to college, she sprinkled excerpts in her letters. She imparted the family’s Sicilian lore to me, and in our long conversations shared views that were decidedly more liberal than those even of my own parents. Once in a while she expressed a view of Black people that was paternalistic (“You people have such melodic voices,” she once said to a home health aide, intending it as a compliment) but never malevolent. Three of her five granddaughters married Jewish men, and one married an Indian. None of that would have mattered to her, had she lived long enough to see it. Studying the old photographs prompted many questions. Why did the photographs bother me? Should they bother me? When I shared my feelings, my mother said, simply, “Nanna wasn’t racist. Everyone did it.” Both were somewhat true statements, but did that erase the offense? Or was I using a 21st century moral lens to judge the actions of people in their prime during World War II, a decade after the blackface sensation Al Jolson was at the height of his popularity? Did I have a responsibility personally or professionally, having seen these photographs, and if so, what was it? And most baffling of all: How could I reconcile blackface in two communities so culturally and geographically different? The answer might arise from the perceived immigrant experience of the two sides of my family, the Sicilians having landed right before the 1924 Immigration Restriction Act limited the numbers of Italians, and my father having arrived from Canada in the late 1950s, at the onset of the civil rights movement and in time to enlist to fight in Viet Nam in exchange for citizenship (he was rejected because of a heart defect). At lively Sunday dinners in the 1960s, the discussion of racism elicited a common response: “Our ancestors weren’t here during slavery,” as if that defeated the argument that we could be racist. The offending photographs had been taken between the late 1940s and early 1950s, about a decade before my birth. My Sicilian grandparents, in their fifties when I was born, described being Italian-speaking foreigners


at the bottom of the immigrant hierarchy. My grandfather in particular, who had come over when he was about twelve, was a treasure trove of stories. At grade school in South Boston, he didn’t understand what it meant to be called a “Dago,” “guinea,” or “WOP.” “All it meant was ‘without passport,’” he told me with a twinkle in his eye that suggested the name-callers were merely ignorant. His explanation of “WOP” has been debunked, but the string of insults and fisticuffs with Boston-Irish kids, and later, his being identified as an “enemy alien” during World War II, told of the prejudice Italians had endured. During the enemy-alien period, my grandfather’s movement was restricted and he was required to report regularly to authorities. A “nervous breakdown” ensued, causing him to give up his well-heeled job as chief steward of the Ritz Carlton hotel. He became a successful self-taught carpenter. Despite that trauma, my grandfather remained deeply patriotic. I learned about love of country by watching him sing the National Anthem at Fenway Park, his fedora over his heart. He railed against Republic “fat-cats,” championed unions, and celebrated Jackie Robinson’s ascension to the major league. My grandmother was no less progressive. She worked for a Jewish tailor during the war, and I grew up thinking tchotchke and oy vay, among other Yiddish words, were Sicilian because of how abundantly they laced her speech. She was a feminist long before I was, sporting an ERA bumper sticker. My grandmother loved old musicals and the lyrics of Steven Foster, while my grandfather opined about the “golden age” of movies, when Al Jolson sang “Swanee” and the Jewish funnymen Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin served up social criticism. We lived a mile from my grandparents and across the street from our cousins in a tightly knit first-generation immigrant community. Most Sundays found us at Nanna’s house, eating eggplant and artichokes and shriveled black olives. On holidays, the grandchildren dressed up in costumes my grandmother had sewn, parading across the hearth to put on musical shows. In a long skirt and embroidered shawl, I sang “I like to be in America,” from West Side Story, and everyone clapped. Afterwards we listened to old 78-rpm records of Nelson Eddie singing Pagliacci. I enjoyed a deep sense of belonging to a culture that continues to shape my worldview.

My father’s contribution is more complicated. Not wanting to become a fisherman like his recently deceased father, he emigrated from “the French Shore” at the tender age of 19. He arrived in Boston having never seen a city, and soon cultivated skill in heavy construction. But every summer, I was flown or boated back to see “Nannie,” who lived on a bluff overlooking the ocean and still used a hand-cranked washing machine to wring out laundry. Time seemed to stand still in the village of Sandford, whose sole Black resident, an old man affectionately called “Uncle Ned,” visited her once when I was a child. He wasn’t anyone’s uncle, but I was too young to question the “Uncle



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Tom-ism.” I didn’t think about him until I was an adult, researching my father’s genealogy. Why was there only one Black resident in an all-white village, when on the other side of Yarmouth—the nearest big town—there was an entirely Black community? A Nova Scotia historian wrote back to say that Ned’s father was a Jamaican immigrant. He worked for a well respected village resident who ensured that the man had his own parcel of land. As I recounted this to my father, he casually shared that as a boy, he used to go hunting with Ned, because his own father was too frail. As a kid at the dinner table, I had heard my father rail against affirmative action “on the job” and the way his bosses were compelled to hire unqualified “colored people.” His views evolved; decades later, he threatened to end his friendship with a man who used racist epithets about President Obama. Still, the picture of my youthful father palling around with an old Black man came as a complete shock. My mother professed to being liberal, but I remember her expressing views that suggested otherwise. Like that she didn’t oppose interracial marriage, but she “felt sorry” for the children. Years later, teaching Loving v. Virginia, I would find that the “it’s bad for the children” argument was the basis of support for anti-miscegenation laws. Once she told me that a beautiful Black woman on television clearly had “white blood” because her nose was narrow, and much later, when I discovered remote Mi’kmaq ancestry on my father’s side, that I might have been “dark” as a baby because of my “Indian blood.” I thought of my mother as a bright woman who understood prejudice from firsthand experience. As a bride visiting Nova Scotia, she endured stares at her jet-black hair and comments about how Sicilians were “close to being colored.” Such prejudice is centuries old, Sicilian Americans having been routinely characterized as “uncivilized” and racially inferior, “too obviously African to be part of Europe.”1 She recounted the indelibly wounding experience of an in-law’s refusal of her cooking. “I wouldn’t walk across the street for eye-talian food,” the in-law said.

The most critical question was one I hadn’t yet posed: What did the photographs mean to me? Did they change my view not of my forebears but of myself? Of my sense of responsibility to myself, as much as to students or readers of my writing? To ongoing discourse about collective white benefit from racism, including the luxury to treat it as an academic rather than personal issue? And how, if we are not explicitly working to end it, we are part of the problem? Most immediately, the photographs compelled me to ponder racism up-close and personal. I teach material that challenges assumptions about whiteness, believing that if you grew up white in the United States, you likely did



not escape the constant bath that is racial animus. There’s rarely a moment in my class when I am completely at ease with the topic, and I see that as a necessary discomfort. The discomfort of loving people who put on blackface, however, feels worse. I should not be surprised that my grandparents participated in blackface. The fact that I am, is key. Revisiting blackface itself was also necessary discomfort. I watched clips of Al Jolson, read about the history of minstrelsy, and re-watched the cartoons of my childhood. The cartoons stopped me cold. Their depictions of Black people as gullible, rhythm-driven, drool-mouthed simpletons are the very essence of blackface, and I, like others of my generation, took them in with Captain Crunch and milk every Saturday morning. Blackface was as much a staple of my childhood as my beloved Bugs Bunny. In focusing on my grandparents’ blackface, I had neglected its place in my own life—routine, accepted, and at one time amusing, even. The photographs of my blackfaced forebears had led me to…myself. The same society that was entertained by minstrelsy fed impressionable children racist fare as routinely as sweetened breakfast cereal. Blackface’s babies showed up in Loonie Tunes, and its great-grandchildren on the blackface sweaters Gucci sold in 2019. Blackface is intergenerational, because racism is intergenerational.

The scholar Eric Lott argues that blackface is evidence not solely of derision, but also of attraction and even love—an object of psychological projection. Become the thing you love or hate, and you have the ability to put it away at will rather than live with the love or hate that Blackness elicits. This angle might help to explain why Black audiences loved Al Jolson, who some argue, elevated blackness. But at the end of the day, Jolson had the power to take his blackface off. Which is all to say, the story of blackface is more complicated than one of simple mockery. I’ve thought about that particular argument as it relates to my Nova Scotia grandfather’s playing of the rhythm bones. Present in ancient Greece, the rhythm bones migrated to Scotland and Ireland, then Nova Scotia, in the instrumentation of jigs and reels. Eventually they became a staple in minstrel shows. The bones my grandfather holds in the family photograph attest to this intersection of culture and prejudice. Did he adopt blackface in a misguided homage to Black musicians? Or as a garden variety racist? I’ll never know the answer; no firsthand account of his life remains. But blackface does, and close to home. In my tony liberal suburb of Boston, I regularly pass a lovely center-entrance colonial that prominently displays a



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

black lawn jockey. In the era of Black Lives Matter, the dehumanization of Black people isn’t always violent. Blackface is not a bygone relic. It is as much my legacy as Sicilian lore or the rhythm bones. I choose to believe that, had they lived today, my beloved grandparents would understand the offense. I imagine my Sicilian grandfather’s indignation over George Floyd’s murder, my grandmother knitting of pink-pussy hats for the Women’s March, and my Nova Scotia grandfather’s rhythm-bones clacking to the uniquely American Rhiannon Giddons. I’ve realized my discomfort is, like blackface, a mask I can take off at will. I choose to wear it as a necessity, face forward.

Melanie Smith is a graduate of the 2019 GrubStreet Writers Memoir incubator. Smith has been published in Ruminate, The Windhover, and The Coil, among others, and have enjoyed residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and the Elizabeth Bishop House. Smith has been a lecturer in Boston University’s Writing Program since 2008.




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


distant worlds converging on screens during the global pandemic by: meredith stephens


delaide is half an hour ahead of Japan, and today while in lockdown in Adelaide I keep an eye on the clock so I can join a meeting over 7000 kilometres away in Japan. Ten years ago this would have been a scene in a science

fiction novel (at least for me), but now I just have to click a link and I can participate in meeting in a distant place and in a different language. Until now my worlds of Australia and Japan have been hermetically sealed. It has been impossible to be simultaneously present in both, but this crisis has brought them together for the first time. I can sit in front of the screen and attend a meeting in Japan, with the comforting presence of my ageing Labrador snoozing at my feet in Adelaide. Until now my worlds have been separated by distance, language, culture, friends, acquaintances, food, pets, seasons, flora and fauna. Despite these innumerable differences we share one important commonality - the time zone. Adelaide shares its longitude with Japan and is only thirty minutes ahead in the Australian winter, and ninety minutes ahead in the Australian summer. Few have shared my two worlds other than family, a few friends, and a few students. When I go to check in at the airport in Adelaide the ground staff have never heard of the Japanese city where I live. I am the sole person regularly making this particular commute. I rarely tire of having parallel lives in locations which don’t intersect. My work is in Japan, and when I am there, I commute to the workplace, visit the shops and go to the doctor by bicycle. In spring I can enjoy plum blossoms, cherry blossoms, azaleas, irises and hydrangeas. What’s more, nothing rivals the stark beauty and symbolism of Japanese gardens. I have Japanese friends, so I can enjoy daily conversations in their beautiful language. I can exchange emails in a language which is flexible enough that it can be written both horizontally or vertically. I also have English-speaking friends, mainly Americans and Canadians. It’s very exciting to make North American friends from such distant plac-



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 es as Arkansas, South Carolina, Philadelphia, New York and Spokane in the US, and Quebec, Ontario and Vancouver in Canada. I could never hope to meet such friends in Adelaide, which is in the southern hemisphere and faces the Southern Ocean. So my world has expanded not just because I am in Japan but also because of my ex-patriate friends. In Adelaide my world is characterized by immediate and extended family, my doggie, and native birds with distinctive birdsong that you will not hear anywhere else. It is always a great pleasure to arrive in Adelaide back from Japan and be woken early in the morning to a family of cackling kookaburras, magpies, and lorikeets.

In the older suburbs, the spaces between houses are wide enough that you can forget that you have neighbours and imagine you are living in the country. Japan has taught me to be alert to seasonal change, and has enhanced my enjoyment of the Australian spring, when I can enjoy golden wattle, bottle brushes, eucalyptus flowers, jacaranda and roses.

It’s gratifying to participate in two different cultures and landscapes as I commute between Japan and Australia. However, each side is pulling my allegiance in a different direction. My colleagues in Japan think that I take off to Australia too often, and my family in Australia tell me it is time to come home. Each side seems to be unaware of how important the other side is to me. I feel guilty that I cannot please both parties, but I can give up neither. I hope the decision will be taken out of my hands. There is a word in Japanese to indicate the struggle between two children


when they fight for a toy and neither will let go- toriai – and I feel like that toy which is being pulled in two directions. It has taken a global pandemic for these two worlds to converge. Protecting people’s health has led to Australia’s international and state borders being closed. International flights have been cancelled. My lifestyle of commuting to Japan has come to an abrupt halt. Social distancing has been imposed. Shops, other than supermarkets and pharmacies, are closed. Most medical appointments are now by telehealth. Meanwhile my employer has entreated me to return to Japan and I feel guilty for refusing, but I am frightened of both the trip and being marooned in a country where I have no family. A hurried solution to this has been online participation in meetings. This has been facilitated because of sharing a common time zone. If I were in America or Europe I might find myself participating in meetings during the night. My hitherto mutually irreconcilable worlds are finally converging. I have been able to click on a link and hear the familiar voices of Japanese-speaking colleagues from the comfort of my Adelaide sofa, with my faithful doggie at my feet. Never has participation in a meeting been so pleasurable. I can listen to my sweet Labrador’s regular deep breathing, progressing to gentle snoring as she rests, oblivious to this international communication. When I rest my eyes on the computer screen during the meeting I see the familiar Japanese writing, and watch the movement of the mouse as the moderator indicates the progression of the agenda. Meanwhile the intense Australian sunshine forces its way through the slats in the blinds. For the first time I might be able



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 to hear kookaburras competing for my attention during a meeting which is being held in Japan. The hermetic seal between these two worlds over 7000 kilometres apart has been punctured, and I feel a sense of relief that the familiar voices of Japanese colleagues can reach me not only in the southern hemisphere, but also on the southern coast of this Antipodean continent.

Meredith Stephens is an applied linguist at Tokushima University in Japan. Most of her writing concerns language pedagogy, but recently she has taken inspiration from her colleague, the writer Suzanne Kamata, and begun her foray into fiction and creative non-fiction. Her work has appeared in The Blue Nib, The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine, Transnational Literature, The Font, and anthologies published by Demeter Press.




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


ghosts of us all by: megan baxter


ver the past four years, I’ve been working on a memoir about my decision to leave college and work at an organic farm in Vermont. At the time of the memoir, I was living in Portland, Oregon with an ex-boy-

friend who was struggling with addiction. He was my high-school sweetheart and splitting from him was a slow unraveling, like the destruction of a favorite sweater. We pulled each other out of our lives until there were just single threads, nothing woven anymore. In the book, I finally break with this old love, pack up my car and drive back to the farm in Vermont where I’ll end up spending fifteen years managing 40 acres of organic fields and greenhouses. I wanted the book to be a coming-of-age story, a celebration of a young woman’s boldness but lives are messy and sometimes the truth is too muddy for the page. I tried to tell the story cleanly but in reality, while I was splitting up with my ex and dreaming of going back to the farm I was also in love with P. I don’t know when I first met P or when I was introduced to him. He was always there, like the stonewalls and white pines that defined my childhood in New Hampshire. We both grew up in the same rural town and our families overlapped so that his brother and my sister were in the school play together and his youngest sister and my youngest sister were best friends forever for many years, wearing broken heart necklaces that fit back together, jagged toothed then smooth as beach stones. I met P when I read his palm while our siblings sang on stage and our parents, sitting beside us, laughed and held video cameras to their eye sockets. I wonder what I said to him, what I thought I knew then. I remember the charge of his hand, turned upright, exposed to me in that private huddle of tight auditorium seating. I traced the lines with my fingertips, how erotic it was and I think he and I were young enough to believe what I was saying, even if it was all make-believe. I met P in letters, notes, and envelopes sealed with kisses from summer camps and beach houses. But when we returned to school that fall, we split, with the suddenness of children. I felt my edges rounding, I was, I thought, too old for our puppy love. By high school, I was half a country away and he was a back-country punk, smoking cigarettes while he split wood. For years we met as strangers, in daydreams and homesickness only. His hair bleached, his jeans torn, his Doc Martens laced tight. I was shipped off to art school, in uniform, and it was in that time of unknowing that P became a character for me.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 I met P in my fiction, my poetry, my essays. Every genre held him, distilled in memory’s amber of a girl far from home. P, white-blond in his family’s hayfields, P in the broken light of the barn, handing up little kittens, P fishing for brook trout in the maple’s shade. Sometimes these stories were true, other times they were mostly fiction but always he was there on my pages. I met P for a winter picnic in the snowy woods of late December during my college’s winter break and our love story started again. I remember the feeling of touching his grown body for the first time – in my childhood bed, on New Year’s Eve. The tenderness of it, the surprise as if aging was not inevitable but rather some sort of magical transformation. It’s here that I’ve had to erase him. At the time of my memoir I was driving up each weekend to see him at his apartment near Evergreen State College or he was taking the train down to see me in Portland. Our stories fused. When my ex moved out P spent the night. P packed up my car. P helped me drive those thousands of miles. P moved into my new apartment back east. P and I woke at dawn, six days a week, and biked along the quiet river road to the organic farm, where we worked together, in the heat and rain, and six days a week we biked home, our backpacks full of vegetables and dirty flannels. We lived like this until we didn’t. By the first cold mornings he was moving on and I was heartbroken, completely shattered in a way that, perhaps more than my decision to leave college and return to the farm, defined the course of my life. But this wasn’t the book I was working on. As I wrote about that year P kept changing everything I wanted to say. He stole my narrative line! He overran the plot! I could almost hear his voice speaking beneath mine, like the river stones animated the stream. We talk through friendly likes on Instagram and Twitter and engaged in a series of polite letters, forgiving each other and resolving whatever pain remained. Our relationship feels settled but as I typed P fought back. I tried it every possible way. Past tense, present tense, second person, but there was no solving the complication of his presence. I wanted the story to follow only that one single year of my life. I wanted to carve out a theme and so, one morning, after a half dozen drafts and years of headaches I sat before my monitor and deleted P. I selected and cut every section of the manuscript in which he appeared. I ran a document search for his name and erased his mention from the pages. What was left was skeletal. It was a frame rather than a house but I built it up over time into another story. A year without, rather than with love. I wrote about the cool rain of Portland in spring but not the hot sun under the cherry trees, licking donut sugar off his fingers. I wrote about the drive across the country alone, not with P reading me articles from the New Yorker, his Ray-Bans reflecting the Cascades, the Sawtooth’s, the Badlands. I wrote about those morning bike rides to the farm, their silence but in reality, P’s old six-speed was clicking beside me. I wrote about the hollow death of fall in the fields, the tomatoes black with frost but I didn’t write about the nights I cried only for him.


As a nonfiction writer, I’ve studied and argued about truth in the genre. I’ve listened as panels of experts and famous authors debated this very topic; how much shaping renders a story fiction? What can be concealed, eliminated, reorganized, or remembered slant before you’re over the genre line? When I erased him, I worried that I destroyed the truthfulness in my memoir. With each retelling, we redirect the flow of memory until, years later, the story runs a different course. But I think if you put the two things together, the fiction and the fact, they’d nestle like those broken-hearted necklaces I wore when I was young, and love felt like a shared singular object, rather than a river fed by wild, unknowable tributaries. There’s a part of my heart that got broken and healed around him and that part tightens at the prospect of him discovering that I’ve cut him out. Love makes ghosts of us all. Along his heart line or in the crease of my palm some diviner might read another story but it’s not the one I wrote.

Megan Baxter has won numerous national awards including a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been listed in The Best American Essays of 2019. Recent publications included pieces in The Threepenny Review, Hotel Amerika, The Florida Review, and Creative Nonfiction Magazine. Megan serves as a mentor to young writers and loves developing cross-genre and innovative creative writing pedagogy for her workshops and classes. Megan lives in New Hampshire where she teaches writing at Colby-Sawyer College and Southern New Hampshire University. Her memoir ‘Farm Girl’ debuted in July, 2021.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021




www. the-blue-mountain-review



“Poetry is always sublunary.”

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

—Julio Cortázar

New & Forthcoming

The Posthumous Works of Thomas Pilaster Éric Chevillard

Homecoming Magda Isanos

A Cage for Every Child

Vagaries Malicieux Djuna Barnes

Heinrich von Kleist


The Last Days of Immanuel Kant

Morsel May Sleep

Three Dreams

S. D. Chrostowska

Thomas De Quincey

Ellen Dillon

Jean Paul & Laurence Sterne



poetr 137



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


a death, a dream By: amy dupack


n the cerebral drawbridge between wake and sleep, reality and dreams, life and death, Caleb’s body was still flooded with blood. In the waking world’s December, his dying lasted ten full days, but in my dream, weeks later, his dying was indefinite. The sky above his mother’s house was an open grave.

When he came into the living room, I tried not to gasp. He was terribly skinny, with hands bent all funny and legs that didn’t quite work; he walked cock-eyed and crooked, shorter than me. Was it the tumor’s fault? Or some ruthless god’s? I wanted to stretch him like a slinky until the six-foot-three Caleb I used to know sprang back to life. He sat on the floor and I squatted down to tell him, “I’m sorry”—two words that never mean as much as they should. He said, “I know, I know,” and it sounded like a song.

Then I wondered: what happens to our voices after we’re gone? Do the sounds linger in air, audible only to the highly trained ear? Perhaps voices from centuries past speak to us in dreams, where we defy the rigid boundaries of death. For even when Caleb burned to ash, I knew they couldn’t cremate his voice.

He got up from the floor on those shaky legs and I watched him stumble back into his deathbed. He was practicing for his final escape, preparing to blast off into the realm of endless dreaming. But I wouldn’t let him leave me. Not again. Not yet.

His mother appeared then, oddly calm, holding pencils and paper. She asked me to draw or write how I felt, but there were no images to convey my impending grief, no language to describe this liminal place. I recalled the way Caleb had hidden me in the dusty corner of his bedroom, in the space between mattress and water-stained wall, in the shadow of the disappearing moon on that rooftop where we kissed: our proverbial swan dive into a shapeshifting love we would never admit.

The last time we spoke, in the waking world, his voice had been coated with morphine. We were speaking through invisible wires stretched across state lines, from my kitchen to his hospital room shining with cold light. I was too many highways away. All I could cling to was that feeble voice, fading like the last licks of a candle, heavy with the promise of endless sleep as we awaited the inevitable.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

I sidestepped his mother and walked through a sliding door that opened to a field. From my vantage point I could see clear to the horizon: a thin line separating today from tomorrow, past from present, when Caleb would exist without a body—no trick knee, blue eyes, kissing lips, or melodic voice. I knew my dreaming couldn’t resurrect him. He was destined to succumb to this.

But my knowledge didn’t end the dream, and a boy walked out to join me. I said hello, but he didn’t respond. He simply opened his palms to reveal a small white bird. Then he lifted his hands and set the bird free; it flew into the gray expanse of rain-soaked sky.

I watched its wings glide as it ascended, disappearing into the celestial grave. I longed to follow its flight into a more forgiving future, one where we could resist our final breaths, where our dreams were as real as the reality of death…where all of this meant that Caleb could rise from the ashes, not an echo of the past but a full-bodied voice that would never stop singing.

Amy Dupcak is the author of Dust, Short Stories (2016) and the co-editor of Words After Dark: A Lyrics, Lit & Liquor Anthology (2020). Her fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in Entropy, Phoebe, Fringe, Sonora Review, Litro, Hypertext, and other journals, while her poetry has been published in Pangyrus, Passengers, District Lit, The Night Heron Barks, and Alternative Field’s anthology. She earned her MFA in Fiction from The New School and acts as the Fiction Editor of Cagibi. She also leads creative and essay writing workshops at Writopia Lab, primarily working with teens, and works with adults at The Writer’s Rock. She lives in New York City.


miss saigon By: daniel aristi My maiden flight

…On a scale of 1 to 10 it was my fault inasmuch as I’d assumed quarterback centaurs enjoyed more and brighter rights.

…Was ajar, got flung open.

…He carries his safety pin right through the neck, he, hand-grenade-boy-man.

…I recall nodding yes, like a flower bobs under heavy rain – a bland staccato, unquestioning.

…Poor dad, when he found out he went extreme panda mortified, with a pale face and night-filled under-eye bags, for months.

…And if every woman ever is a bird, I was a pelican. There was this utility factor about me. But you don’t get to pick your predators.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Daniel Aristi was born in Spain. He studied French Literature as an undergrad (French Lycée in San Sebastian). He now lives and writes in Brussels. Daniel’s work is forthcoming or has been recently featured in Main Street Rag, Berkeley Poetry Review and Cold Mountain Review.



! n t a ha c t I x i f






(770) 894-3496


Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


carbodies rolling before the blade of a bulldozer By: Roy Bentley —Jim Wayne Miller, “How America Came to the Mountains”

It’s 1946. My father is seated in the cab of a bulldozer, rolling burned-out carbodies down a creekbank outside Neon Junction. Bentley Cemetery side of the road. Past a Pure Oil filling station.

And the way my father remembers it, Howard Collier, his supervisor at the Pure Oil station, is waving away diesel fumes and a bothersome black snake while telling my pops which beat-up car minus cardoors

goes where. He isn’t shaving yet, my father, and is years from enlisting and getting himself shipped off to Korea. He knows how to run a dozer; has been called gifted by Howard; and more than once, even so young.

Howard Collier might be Dorothy Gale’s scarecrow, his arms spread. He motions whatever direction is necessary between a handkerchief to forehead and face in the August heat which isn’t a story of heat

but the matter-of-fact redistribution of shade and the open places. Today, dozer treads leave twin trenches in Kentucky summer earth—



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 in this the Appalachia that “weighs heavily on America’s conscience”

before it weighed heavily on America’s, or anybody else’s, conscience. Before a bumperless Chevrolet commences to roll and gravity takes over. Dull, dented metals and duller, undented metals and the tendency of Time

to tiptoe-creep in Letcher County in the nineteen forties indistinguishable. Forgive my not mentioning the bloodletting and unfairnesses of the world. A broad smile on the dozer driver’s fledgling, unscarred face is arresting.

for Cait

Roy Bentley, a finalist for the Miller Williams prize for Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has published ten books; including American Loneliness from Lost Horse, who recently issued a new & selected. Roy is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA, and fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and Ohio Arts Council. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Rattle, and Shenandoah among others. Also, Hillbilly Guilt, his newest, won the 2019 Hidden River Arts / Willow Run Poetry Book Award and is forthcoming in 2021.


the horse wouldn’t budge* BY: annabelle bonebrake As if to say, I am not your stairway your grace your executioner.

I am not the cross

and mercy

between your world

the exit route

at the heart of your fresh

running funk.

I am muscle

I am silence

I am like you.

With your desperate heel in my side, I don’t run.

Don Leonis, we bend to the wounds of this blushing gushing land

no forgiveness

no joy ride

no exit

on commands of cowardly men.

Do you taste it now?



The salt is sadness.

How it accumulates,

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 can’t go;

do you feel the ripples of the stubborn beast you drive?

You have the ephemera of a dying man: the noose, the tree—

and still the ghost won’t give you up.

This isn’t beastly retribution.

This is just flavor of blood pressing

at the stoppered throat of every life. Even yours.

*Note (historical context): Miguel Leonis was a major landowner and French Basque settler of Southern California. When Leonis’s daughter Marcelina died from smallpox at the age of twenty, some say he was so distraught that he attempted suicide. By some say, I mean an anonymous contributor to They say he “went over to an old oak tree at the rear of his adobe. He tied a rope around his neck and flung the other end of the rope over a large branch. He climbed upon his horse and tried his best to get the horse to gallop from beneath him, but his horse would not budge until he had dismounted; at which time it took off running. Marcelina’s father was so angered by his botched attempt to take his own life that he stormed off to his barn, grabbed a saw, and immediately cut down the branch.”

Annabelle Bonebrake has been previously published in a variety of places including Hawk & Whippoorwill, Cathexis Northwest Press, the Northridge Review, and on for the Academy of American Poets George Dillon Memorial Prize. I am a current graduate student at California State University, Northridge.


cocotazo By: Celia Lisset Alvarez

There’s a rusty Impala ambling in front of me ten miles under the speed limit and me here in my Ford Porquería trying to hold down this job this house

this life

this car

this life.

Trying to justify— some kind of reason for existence, when the coconut falls

starbursts my windshield It sounds like a bomb

like the end

like something finally happening and the Impala turns without signaling

the black road

in front of me empty and I wonder faster

if I go

how much pressure

can the glass take

what would be

the anatomy of the collapse. I wonder

how much longer

I can drive fractured, how



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Celia Lisset Alvarez is a graduate of the University of Miami’s creative writing program. She has three collections of poetry: Shapeshifting (winner of the 2005 Spire Press Poetry Award), The Stones (Finishing Line Press 2006), and Multiverses (Finishing Line Press 2021). Her fourth collection, Bodies & Words, is forthcoming from Assure Press. Her poetry, stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, such as Fresh Words, Catamaran, Blue Mountain Review, and the anthology How to Write a Form Poem (T.S. Poetry Press 2021). She is also the editor of the journal Prospectus: A Literary Offering.

I don’t want to be this person— how I’d rather done now

be the coconut

a final act of courage

choosing between me and the Impala, the most likely to keep going.


Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts Submissions open

15 May - 15 August 2021

Grist publishes emerging and established artists, like Joy Harjo, Denise Duhamel, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth Gilbert, and others Poetry | Nonfiction | Fiction | Artwork Fiction and nonfiction up to 5000 words Poetry and artwork up to five poems or images


We are proud to pay our contributors

151 | University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


Flowers are a Form of Vertigo By: lew forester

So little safe footing, yet we long to linger here among wildflowers, scattered like prayers that fell just short of heaven— linger longer with purple gentian, sky pilot, blue forget-me-not, yellow Rocky Mountain buttercup on a slope more suitable for pica, marmots, bighorn sheep— not meant for head-heavy bipeds, as rivulets of snowmelt undermine our feet. It’s as if we fell

from a remote star, the way we’re so seldom at home in this world— forever roaming in search of a settled place, where unlike petals coexist. Rash words like loose rocks



throw lives off balance.

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Lew Forester is a social worker and Multiple Myeloma survivor who lives with his wife in Arvada, Colorado. His poems appear in Atlanta Review, Main Street Rag, Plainsongs, POEM, Slipstream, New Madrid, Pinyon, The MacGuffin and other journals, magazines and anthologies. His first full-length collection, Dialogues with Light (Orchard Street Press), was published in 2019. In his spare time Lew reads, travels and is caretaker for his aging house— “base camp” for frequent hikes at elevation.

Storm clouds gather on the steep terrain of heart and we tumble, pressing wildflowers into the gilded afternoon.


disappearance By: peter bloch garcia for Julester From the blue grass hills of Kentucky where she trained show horses and learned sex was a thing stolen in secret, she came to Mexico and set up house at the base of two volcanic mountains. Each morning she looked out her window, measured the width of the crater and height of the fumes. She said she loved living in the country, with its white plaster churches and thick manure breezes. With its tilting brick houses creeping out to a maze of nameless streets, the best landmark a roving chicken, a wandering dog pack, her town, San Andres, could hide a person who wanted to be lost. She stopped going home much, dated Aztec-featured albaniles, hid her artist friend, Alma, who feared the robbers who took her stained smocks would take her next. It was easier moving Alma in the rainy season, afternoon showers mixed up quicksand mud that slurped down shoes disguised her car’s color and covered her tire tracks. Each year Julester wondered why she stayed, each night she smoked her pipe and thought about geography, the closeness of the volcanoes, the earth’s hot liquid center pushing itself to the surface, an eternal burning core, whether a God really put this in motion and how the people of Pompeii vanished in a flash.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Peter Bloch Garcia grew up in Yakima, Washington. He has been writing since high and school and studied writing with Colleen J. McElroy. He attended Western Washington University where he learned to teach adolescents how to enjoy poetry. He has studied po-etry writing with Grace Schulman. His work has appeared in Manzanita Quarterly, Poets West, and Real Change Newspaper. Also, one of his poems was selected as a finalist win-ner for Red Wheelbarrow 2019 national contest and published by San Jose Poetry Center. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington, where he works during the day to advance racial equity, and during non-work hours, he opens his mind and body’s ear to the voice that compels putting pen to paper.


shutter By: mark havlik [09:11:01]

There is a photograph. We are holding hands. Caught in that very act. It is not a very good photograph, pilled and blurred. Shot from a distance far down. And from that we take our dram of solace. Never intimate or even friends. Though strangers we were not. Huddling in an elevator launching us beyond the clouds on soggy days our ears popping, or walking briskly from east and west ends of the hallway we would nod at one another, but not always. Too faithful to that social covenant inbred in big-city dwellers. We were acquaintances, comfortably indifferent. Until one late-summer’s morn. I cannot do this alone. Her words, blanketed as they were in such bewitching calmness, I coiled beneath them praying they might silence the disquieting notion possessing me: the possibility of doing it at all. Though three had done just that, rushing blindly from the billowing blackness to the shimmering blue-white. All dear to me for years, though kinship was not the refuge they sought. She moaned. The soles of her shoes were liquid. Atop a desk I put her, swiveled it against a window dashed all to bits and joined her. Our heads lurched out, thirsting for a droplet or two of untainted air,



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 all that was bequeathed to us from a parched, fast-corroding world. We are the fortunate ones. Her gaze angelic, her heart wreathed in regret. Those who love us will be seared with sorrow. be we may comfort them?

Can it ever

Yes, oh yes … in the twilight of sleep will come our caress, lips touching lips, a shared, sacred remembrance pinned to a pillow. Eyes on the sky. She sang to me. Astride the ledge. Hands sewn together.

Then out we stepped.

Mark Havlik’s work has appeared in Trajectory, The Hungry Chimera, Anomaly (FKA Drunken Boat ), the anthology Flying South, Kaleidoscope, Chaleur Magazine, *82 Review, Passing Through, South Florida Arts Journal, Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Journal, and Washington The Magazine. He won the Pamlico Literary Contest 1st Place Prose Fiction Award and his creative nonfiction piece placed first in the Winston-Salem Writers Competition.


here i am By: amanda miller Here I am Seated on a one-armed office chair. Going on twelve years In this two-floor walk up Above a bodega in Brooklyn, Former Covid-19 headquarters. Now the city is reopening. (If I return to the massage studio, I will have to don PPE like a hospital worker.)

Here I am Readying myself for a masked cross country flight To care for my seventy-three-year-old mother after shoulder surgery. Aching lungs told me I had the virus pre-testing: Doc said it was Covid induced pneumonia; Antibody test results were negative. (With virus testing now rampant, I got the swab five days ago— Hope to get the results before boarding.)

Here I am Calling council members to insist black lives matter By defunding a hyper-militarized racist police force That rips life from black bodies (I’m abstaining from joining the chorus in the streets Because I’m afraid of killing my mom.)



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 Here I am Awaiting the arrival of my father’s birth certificate in the mail Cementing in print that a woman who survived Because the Nazis ran out of gas Is his biological mother. A new law entitles the children of the adopted deceased to this documentation. (Received a message that they need more documentation than what I sent, Can’t get through to find out what.)

Here I am Navigating a relationship with a man who proposed When he thought the world was ending, Still alive weeks later, he retracted the proposal. Traumatized by his parents’ meteoric divorce at age ten, He is terrified of commitment. (We still love each other. I’m seeing a new therapist.)

Here I am Seated in a house in San Diego Purchased by my mother After the death of my father. She’s three weeks out of surgery Can now shower and dress all by herself. I’m sleeping in a room with a sunroof. (Light wakes me in the wee hours; I read articles about Coronavirus and black history at dawn.)

Here I am The day after driving my boyfriend turned fiancé turned boyfriend To the airport after a week-long visit. In ten days I will join him in the apartment we share. A month later I’ll turn thirty-seven.




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


(With each passing day A child seems less likely.)

Here I am Counting down the remaining days of Pandemic Unemployment Insurance A “writer/performer” In a hyper-capitalist society With minimal financial rewards For “writer/performers.” (Compulsions in overdrive Feels like an affliction oftentimes.)

Here I am Educating the next generation of Jews About the pursuit of wisdom, sacred service and acts of loving kindness As it pertains to our cultural heritage, A job I fell into because of its financial rewards. (I’m prepping to lead youth programs for the holiest days of the year Over Zoom.)

Here I am A woman with white skin Approaching middle age Flooded with eminent relief Every time I remove the focus from myself. There is so much need I ought to sublimate all my energies into justice work. (I applied for a justice position at a synagogue, Learned the job was not mine when the winning candidate was announced.)

“Here I am” Uttered Abraham, Moses and God’s many prophets In response to God calling their names.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 I have heard no call And yet I am here, speaking these words In the hopes that “God” will respond To tell me where to go From here.

Amanda Erin Miller is a Brooklyn-based writer and performer who earned her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. Amanda’s nonfiction, fiction, and poetry have appeared in The Rumpus, Freerange Nonfiction, PEN America’s Temperature Check: Covid-19 Behind Bars, Sylvia Magazine,, Fearsome Critters, Quaranzine: Art in Isolation, Chortle, Cratelit, So Long: Short Memoirs of Loss and Remembrance, Underwired Magazine and other publications. She is the co-editor of Words After Dark: A Lyrics, Lit & Liquor Anthology (2020) and author of One Breath, Then Another: A Memoir (2012). Since 2012, she has produced Lyrics, Lit & Liquor, an NYC literary and performance series. Amanda serves on the Nonfiction committee for PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest and has toured her solo shows to festivals in the U.S., Canada and Scotland.


variation on the third law of motion By: gerry lafemina Some say David Hume is still relevant, others talk Newton, especially in my neighborhood, especially when a fire engine sings its solitary note on Main Street and thus sets the first Shitzhou barking. Then, down the block, a Malamut chimes in, followed, further away, by a German Shepherd, a cascade of barking with a few elongated howls as if in imitation of the alarm. The cat in the window jumps down. You stutter alert ask what’s wrong. There’s a hurricane delivering a series of body blows in the Bahamas & farmers in the Midwest sit in diners discussing soybeans slowly growing moldy in silos. It was only a fire engine, some emergency somewhere far from the refugee camps, from ISIS safe houses where conspiracies are being shaped, plans made; far from the crying girl with the black eye, from the pillow-hidden pistol. Our neighbor is telling her dog to behave, to quiet down. Everything we know about heartache in the tremor of her voice. The evidence suggests you’re done with sleep—it’s in the restless pulse, the cat now seeking solace beside you. The mailman will deliver requests from the Food Bank & Red Cross,


from St. Jude’s & the Wounded Warriors. Like a storm


Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Gerry LaFemina is the author of several books of poems including 2018’s The Story of Ash, numerous books of prose poems, a short story collection, and Clamor, a novel. In 2014 Stephen F. Austin University Press released his latest poetry collection, Little Heretic, and a book of his essays on prosody, Palpable Magic. His textbook, Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically, came out in 2017 on Kendall Hunt, and a new collection of prose poems, Baby Steps in Doomsday Prepping, was just released by Madville Publishing. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, he is a professor of English and serves as a mentor in the MFA program at Carlow University.

surge need overwhelms, it’s what directs the does to the backyard—they’re out there now— despite the dogs barking, despite the traffic. In their want they come for the windfall apples that lie among the grasses, waiting to be grazed.


jazz By: tom laughlin dancing boy, danc ing girl and a boy


tiptoeing on the wooden raft circling as it sways he circles and it sways in the stillness of the creek around and to the diving board where he rattles and thumps and springs

twirling float-

ing up and out and curving down to slice then splash then explode up and out splashing shouting laughing at the moon swirling in the hot summer dusk thrashing and kicking with smiling wetness before climbing the ladder to sit back smile and watch to see the girl tip-toe on the swaying dock circle no not circle almost circle to the edge then almost circle again



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 as the creek stills ripples slightly anticipation her footsteps pat the dampened wood she finds the worn wooden board-bobs up, rattles rattles and slaps running to take that board bending, spring-ing as part of her

part of the swing of her arms soaring upward

the slow subtle arc and twist of her naked shoulders outward

twirling floating


outward and down slicing unexpectedly, swallowing her reflection, toes pointing to the last the aching unruffling pause before exploding up smiling, laughing to herself, to the raft, to that hot-mooned dusky August day

And she turns splashing, suddenly racing, toward

the reaching-branched shore tree

the boy now unfolds his sitting to sprint thumping and springing out quickly over creek water spraying strokes pushing in pursuit of the laughing hair reaching toward the rooted wild-grassed bank

she grabs the knotted rope past the thick trunk, up the dirt path to pausing

deep-breathed jump

holding hanging swish-

ing beyond trunk and path whistling wildly over grassy bank


then water then over the boy

half out of the creek, caught

in a broadening smile of awe

and appreciation, watching

the arcing girl as she sails then dances on her smooth-watered reflection



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

About the Artist: Janet Kozachek is an internationally trained and exhibited artist. She holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree in painting and drawing from Parsons School of Design in New York and a certificate of graduate study from the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing (CAFA). She is the author of The Book of Marvelous Cats, and My Women My Monsters. The Turbulence of Rivers interprets the concept of rivers in math, language, poetry, and visual art.

Tom Laughlin is a professor at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts where he teaches creative writing, literature, and composition courses, as well as coordinating a visiting writer series. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Green Mountains Review, Ibbetson Street, Drunk Monkeys, Sand Hills Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. His poetry chapbook, The Rest of the Way, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.


Experience Roswell,GA through its public and performance art opportunities! Art Around Sculptures Bike Rack Project Roswell in Print Pop Up Performances Pop In Series Local Artists Marketplace Much much more!

Roswell Arts Fund, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the designated arts agency for the City of Roswell, GA. Roswell Arts Fund is funded in part by the City of Roswell, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, the Imlay Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


a faint hymn to the moon By: kevin longfield Shakespeare’s envious, inconstant moon Once a silver bow new bent in heaven, Then a full moon gazing upon the water, Always an arrant thief, snatching her pale fire from the sun, Governess of floods, witness to our world Or the hot-tempered twin of Apollo, Bashful of revealing herself, Jealous of others’ beauty, goddess of the hunt Named either Artimis or Diana, inhabitant of the shade Or the Maori moon, snatching the intemperate Rona Imprisoning her, cursing her people And spilling her water bucket to pour rain on the earth? Did the punishment fit her crime of cursing the moon, Because it hid behind a cloud and caused her to fall? Or the Algonquian moon of twelve names, Setting our schedules as you change identities Flower to strawberry to buck to sturgeon to harvest to hunter And so on: how bureaucratic, how practical and yet how poetic Or the Hindu god Soma, storing his immortal elixir in the moon As he drives his white-horsed chariot across the sky Hoarding his treasure for other gods only,


Who drink until the moon wanes to almost nothing


Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Kevin Longfield has published poetry, fiction, non-fiction and drama. His poetry has appeared in a number of anthologies (including one by the League of Canadian Poets) and in the chapbook “Dream for a Winter’s Night.” Two of the poems submitted have been part of Wine and Words, a fundraiser for Theatre by the River, a local theatre company, as part of a blind submission process.

Before Soma returns to replenish Today, her mystery not diminished by landings Precise measurements cosmological advances She reflects the sun’s light onto us, Moves the tides, and perhaps even incites labour or outlandish behaviour. And whether the man in the moon, Soma, Diana or Rona look down on us A silent witness to our triumphs and disasters As we look up from our various Wilde gutters to see the same moon follow the same cycle Let us not, in Shakespeare’s words make it “guilty of our disasters” . . . as if we were villains by necessity


crushed silk By: daniel edward moore

It takes eight tiny legs of imperfection to weigh the body’s woe, on a pedestal of silk in the corner’s shadow, before every broom’s sweeping clouds of thunder’s golden straw.

Oh, little darlings of damnation how quick you own my eye, weaving me to this wicked place you are exiled from, consuming all that’s dead in me long before it grieves a life made of hungry,

pretty things on the bottom of a shoe. Can’t you see, I’m one of you, alarmed by what we lose, but not enough to keep my teeth safe from sweat and skin?

Confused by how we rest among the beauty we digest, if only they had used less time gnawing into nothing, they’d be at peace with marvelous welts, mapping the way to heaven.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 Daniel Edward Moore lives in Washington on Whidbey Island. His poems are forthcoming in Lullwater Review, The Meadow, The Chaffin Journal, The Chiron Review, The American Journal of Poetry, The Bitter Oleander, Armstrong Literary Review and Gulf Stream Magazine. He is the author of the chapbook, “Boys” (Duck Lake Books) and a full length collection “Waxing The Dents” (Brick Road Poetry Press).


the chiropodists’ throw pillow By: joe pagano jr.

As green as Sir Gawain’s foe Peridot Hewn from a Mayan hillside Suited to the spine Of a war club; It clings to my heart -the jagged paws of a cicada’s exoskeleton clinging to oak bark; rich as the sound of my grandmother’s small olive hands washing an empty cup, the late show signing off into eternal static.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Joe Pagano Jr. attended Columbia University and has worked both as a magazine editor and as the general manager for a New York City newspaper. The author of the novels Derrick Quinn and Lilac, he was a finalist for the Wisdom-Faulkner award.


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Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


peace work By: jennifer polson peterson

Afternoons, when I’ve consigned the child to crib, the toys to bins, the half-day’s dishes to machine,

in that prized hour before the house all comes undone again, I write. Sometimes I’m bothered

how unlike my grandmother it is to waste this quiet, counting lines and stresses.

She probably exhausted every minute of her children’s naps in housework, baptizing her hands

with scalding dishwater, or starching sheets and drapes. I’m sure she even pressed

the shirtwaist dress she wore to do the ironing. I could not dream her seated

idly as I am now, dreaming of her. When she sat it was to shell the peas for supper, maybe to crochet



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 another afghan square or table runner, like this where I set my notes and tea mug. She produced

a hundred of these, each a single thread she worried, knotted on itself til it became

a pulsing river, turned a tulip, snowflake, mandala—the tiny, neatly

tangled universe. And maybe this is where we meet, just in the day’s small leaving when we

slip the knot, make chains of our own choosing, try to loop our troubles into lace.

Jennifer Polson Peterson is a poet living in South Mississippi. Originally from Greenville, SC, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT. She is now pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Writers. Her work has appeared in Pembroke Magazine, Cumberland River Review, IMAGE, and elsewhere. With her husband, historian Joseph Peterson, she has two daughters, Helen and Harriet.


daughter By: jennifer polson peterson Like homeopathy, this love between us, expelling suffering with some like suffering like how the cure for laundry soured in the machine is back in the machine, with vinegar or how a child at last let down from months on the cradleboard walks free, her legs made strong by straining at their bindings. How very like my mother I become the aid for each rare injury I inflict. And like me you discover that one’s own saliva can rub out the stain of one’s own blood. I offer no prescription but to strive against my arms, no blame when sometimes you must rage and spit at me, the knife that cuts you and the handkerchief that wraps you after.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


and sometimes god is By: jennifer polson peterson a retired Atlanta businessman, you may have seen on YouTube, who comes in twice a week to hold the NICU babies. Down the bright, antiseptic corridor he walks wearing spectacles, a sweater, and silent white Reeboks. He settles in a great blue vinyl easy chair, backdropped by twinkling monitors—the breath, heart rate, and temperature of all the children here. The ones ejected early from the womb, dragged unready into air by the anonymous gloved hand lie here in rows of Isolettes. And you could fill a world with what they do not know: siblings at home, jobs, bills, the child in the next bed, oxygen and why they are not being held and Tuesdays of which today is one, so one is fetched. On a nurse’s forearm, the whole body, red and fluttering, adds almost nothing to the weight of a blanket and tiny wristband. The old man reaches, takes it, says hello to small eyes that are nearly always closed. The man asks if they will be friends. Receiving back a whimper troubling toward a cry the old man begins to rock, You are my sunshine he sings and faintly palms the naked head. The brow releases and the breath goes smooth, innate: You’ll never know dear . . .



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


pink reading glasses By: lynne kemen Poppy’s reading glasses were pink before pink was cool. They often sat on his head instead of on his broken nose. Look, it’s broken! No cartilage! As he smeared it sideways. Left, right, right back to left. Mine murmured “no”, refused to roll.

Sun glinted the glasses, smiled.

Blue eyes became huge behind the pink glasses. I tried them, dizzy, dancing while magnified.

Poppy protected peonies, rooted roses, mixed mulch, recorded his gras mixtures: Zoysia, Fine Fescue, St. Augustine. My eyes rolled as he extolled, but I do remember the sun shining. I’m still running across his lawn.

Softest blades ever, like butter, greenest grass living large in a tiny world of fertilizers,


twiddled turf formulas.


Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Lynne Kemen lives in Upstate New York. Her chapbook, More Than A Handful (Woodland Arts Editions, was published In 2020. Five of her poems appeared in Seeing Things Anthology, Edited by Robert Bensen. Her poems are in La Presa, Silver Birch Press, The Ravens Perch, Blue Mountain Review, Fresh Words Magazine. She was Runner Up for The Ekphrastic Journal’s competition of Women Artists. She is on the Board of Bright Hill Press in Treadwell, NY.


contusions By: lora robinson my love notes are charcoal sketches and song titles, lilies and lyrical half-measures, stare straight ahead blowing cool vapors, blackberry cucumber, a resin monkI suck a golf ball through a straw, take my own vow of silence, write a poem with my breathingI’ve never learned a second language.

I am true-blue, sheets stained petrichor, the storm and the blooming afterI am knock-kneed, bent groves, out-of-my-depth I am swirling, stress-fractured, spilling overI am stretched canvas, cleansed palette, every color dripping on my tongueI am cinnamon-sprinkled freckles, nearly ripe bananaI am split, unmagnificent two scoops vanilla melting in his palms.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 I’ve been coffee rings next to coasters, more trouble than I’m worth

I’ve been dangerous scintilla, bad timing I have survived on rainwater and jellybeans-

I have sown my baby teeth in the dirt, watched the warriors they sprung feed grey wolves-

I have been up all night sleeping, drinking with our ghosts-

I have been dreamcatcher, shaman brewing tea-

the haunting, and the haunted.

Lora Robinson is a Maryland-born, Minneapolis-based poet, nonfiction writer and cat-mom to Shark and Thea. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Superfroot, Sad Girls Club and Ethel Zine, among others. Her first poetry chapbook will be published in 2021 by akinoga press. Connect with her on Instagram @theblondeprive and Twitter @starsinmyteeth.


lorene By: gwyndolyn savens

It would be my mother’s touch, if my mother had lived to be a grandmother, but she was only ever a mother to sullen teenagers and dogs. Now, the sun on my face and an uneven brick sidewalk. I take her arm a year after the last time we touched, a year and a half since she lost her Jim. Her walk is more unsteady this spring. Over 70. She’s let her hair go grey since he passed. Our walk through the Market stalls; the high ceilings of a Florentine Hospital. People working to understand each other. Me with her. Dark green peeling paint. We talk of history. Julia Soulard donated the land that can be used for nothing else. This is all it is meant for. This second building. A second attempt. A welcome for all people and a saxophone. Family trips to New Orleans as a kid when I was too young for anything but beignets and antebellum souvenirs, but now, I could buy that live chicken or the apple tree I need for my backyard. Soap to keep it all clean.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Gwyndolyn Savens is a dedicated teacher of teenagers, both at school and at home. She earned her Bachelors in English, English Honors, and Liberal Arts Honors from the University of Texas (2004); a Masters in Gifted Education from Lindenwood University (2016); and is currently going back for her MFA in poetry from the University of Missouri, St. Louis. She is interested in beautiful language and feels compelled to write her own.


Yardwork, a Late Autumn By: laura schaffer I’m thirty now, but squatting to gather up armfuls of leaves feels just like it did when I was eight. Only now I notice the tiny slugs stuck to every surface: their body-long grips refusing to give, as if one of us has to be stubborn. Loose of the maple, birch, sycamore, leaves fall crazed in bird crap, or the gnawed gaps riddle them down. Our maple mints an ashen half-life like shadows on snow. The birch curls, and the sycamore sheds hand signs for popcorn and death and Wednesday. I can’t fit it all in the yard waste bag. Even pouncing down inside with locked arms and the heels of my hands I can’t, against that slow upsurge like longing exhalation. The slugs buoy and scrape as autumn bits relax apart, and it all takes up more and



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Laura Schaffer is currently completing her MFA at Boston University. She has a master’s in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State, and her poetry has appeared in 3Elements Review.

more space. A few leaves teeter the edge of their sidescraper walls, drift loose. My wet knees press back at the ground.


object permanence By: laura schaffer On the table, beside the book you’ve been reading aloud to me, someone’s left a mug on a wicker-weave coaster. One armchair in the corner is heaped purple in yarn and slabs of ropey sweater from your last attempt. Dust fizzes the beige of a pleated lampshade, and the desk from Chicago thrusts aggressive squaregaps to bully the windows back. By the door stands our shut piano, never, to my memory, tuned, and the long Madonna: her hands folded across her chest to keep the crazed blue veil from blowing away.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


sonnet on a glass snake By: sean sexton [with a Line from Derek Walcott]

Already shorn of length, he’s in the road— a shining apparition of the world that made him, same as the lissome sables, maudlin thrush, heedless, invernal mistral sent to chastise the fields and brown the brush. Difficult to handle as oil-soaked ice, he’s not a snake, nor made of glass, yet legless, benign in danger; will not bite; gives a piece of himself, to save you both. Flees like a word, or name not coming forth from the somnolent realms of the tongue

trying to fasten on everything it moved from. Only late finds a door to the alleys of grass, and like summer wind, flies away at last.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Sean Sexton was born in Indian River County and grew up on his family’s Treasure Hammock Ranch. He divides his time between managing a 700-acre cow-calf and seed stock operation, painting, and writing. He has kept daily sketch and writing journals since 1973. He is author of Blood Writing, Poems, Anhinga Press, 2009, The Empty Tomb, University of Alabama Slash Pine Press, 2014, Descent, Yellow Jacket Press, 2018. and May Darkness Restore, Poems, Press 53, 2019. He has performed at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV, Miami Book Fair International, Other Words Literary Conference in Tampa, FL and the High Road Poetry and Short Fiction Festival, in Winston Salem, NC. He is nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize and received a FL Individual Artist’s Fellowship in 2001.

He is a board member of the Laura Riding Jackson Foundation ( and founding event chair of the Annual Poetry and Barbeque held each April, now in its tenth year. He also co-founded Poetry and Organ Advent and Lenten Concert Series at Community Church in Vero Beach, FL ( featuring nine concerts annually attracting poets from all over the US. He became inaugural Poet Laureate of Indian River County in 2016.


Heptaptych in Anytown, USA By: Eric Steineger I.

Habitat Normale

Even the trees dream of moving away, a few feet… There, by that ray of grass: dreams of a real yard. Even the trees observe the traffic of the day, a streak of yellow flowers. Even the trees consider weather and do not mind if their feet scratch another’s itch. Even the trees tire of being chaperones and marvel at the sound of planes; though they cannot crane their necks, they listen, the trees, to tongues without distraction from the luster of devices. Even the trees rouse to anger and hide standing up. II. Urban Renewal In adequate light, the grid reveals the usual markers: grocery, church, gas station… others with their expertise. In adequate light, the city looks more or less preserved, though a drive downtown reveals scant construction, windows boarded, graffitied brick and OPENs where the precinct breaks down, people wear masks for peaceful protest: black, white, LGBTQ, old and young. Who denies the right to assemble? Police, who reach for the baton, but police who lay it down. To weaponize choice. To step off the concrete III. On Change Conventional wisdom says stay, don’t rock the boat, keep alive



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

the American Dream. Let the recovery commence though some are summoned to the front. The multitaskers of our time pursue goals while their circles purple with conventional wisdom. So many dollars deflected. So many years under the knee. Let the recovery commence with an introduction to neighbors, for what is convention but sameness? An openness for an open wound. IV. Two vs. the Others To slow it down like the sky has been doing for some time. It’s nothing new though novel to them, as they limit drink, stay home, Zoom. Forced by mandate, they’re reluctant to comply. When routine means the treadmill and TV day and night they hate this shit. They’re going out. They boast a red sign, want to vanquish the other side until there’s nothing to discuss privilege as a chain-link fence to keep out the friendly, suspect neighbors. V. In a Time of Art and War When a witness decides what he/she/they has seen cannot stand and gets involved. Maybe one thing. Orders groceries for a senior. Donates to black-owned businesses. Hears finally the rising despite attempts to quell its truth.


Some tune out like the witness who has committed to fear so completely only the architecture of its body remains. When a witness, desperate for relief, reads local news. When a witness decides on fuchsia for the hallway because why not. Let’s see how bright it can get in here.

VI. The Insurrectionists Some confuse revolution. Some want to burn it all down. When help is scarce and mandates last, some stumble on spin or the Capitol steps. Are the steps… interesting occupied or graffitied? Every house a sanctity, hall one would not trace with a random hand for the portraits on the wall might fall if they fall you can sweep up the glass and replace the frame but you do not forget the wreckage it was not in a picture no it was perpetrated by some a few for freedom. VII. Quietly, The Mask Quietly, the mask like a hat end of day, though this one gets care, picked up heading out the door in such places as Mesa, Arizona or Boston, Mass for quiet battle with the air as mouths stay warm, feet shuffle, bodies hug the wall to let others pass, inside desks are spartan. Quietly the mask returning to the kitchens of Pittsburgh and Santa Cruz soaking in a bowl ready for tomorrow quietly, the mask in Brooklyn and Olympia too just like in the Dakotas or Miami quietly the masks piecing a quilt quietly the mask so quiet until it is time



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 Eric Steineger is the Senior Poetry Editor of The Citron Review and Editor of Zest, the book re-view and interview forum of the journal. His work has been featured in Waxwing, Asheville Po-etry Review, Tinderbox, Rattle: The Poets Respond, and other places. His chapbook, From a Lis-bon Rooftop, is based on Fernando Pessoa's Book of Disquiet and is available at Plan B Press.


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The Ghost Gospels

introducing Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Holding the reader a willing captive in the liminal spaces between life and death, survival and surrender, recovery and decline, Laura Ingram dazzles the heart and mind with the tenderly-wrought insights of a young woman coming to terms with the aftermath of her eating disorder. As the narrator trains her own thoughts away from hunger, the reader is fed hearts from jars, blackberry brambles, and boxes hidden under beds, hearts that have been pickled and skipped like stones across the tops of creeks, hearts grass stained and wobbling and scrubbed pink in the kitchen sink. And bones—bones blooming and curved like question marks, bones kissed and buried and “scrawled against [the] skin like a pharmacist’s signature.” Yet, even as the imagery blooms and fills and increases, becoming ever more tangible, the poems by: laura ingram narrator fears she will dissipate into something no longer substantial, and “you will remember she is only ulna and aspartame and leave her in search of something more solid.”

the ghost gospels

This is a collection that will break your heart and hand it back to you illuminated between the cracks, for like Kintsugi, the Japanese art of using gold to highlight the cracks in repaired pottery, Ingram’s poems embrace wounds and imperfections rather than glossing over them, modelling that through careful attention and reflection, the selves we can create after we have been broken can be stronger and more beautiful than before.

To puchase your copy or contact the poet: Each copy $10

the latest work from

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bastille day By: marjory wentworth

As evening descended and the light turned gold at the end of the workday, after long baths and a clean shave, hair set and shoeshine, after taking the freshly pressed Sunday clothes off their hangers, zipping into trousers and breezy summer dresses, farmers, and their families piled into cars for the drive to town. As the vineyards emptied, the square filled with vendors selling balloons and candy; a band played beneath a tent. French flags unfurling from windows above every shop. Wine was sold by the glass. I wore a new green and white dress and danced with a tall American boy with dark eyes that only watched me. For the first time I knew the sheer wonder of love – the way it overtakes you unexpectedly. It was like walking into the sea without turning back. And though I don’t remember the moment of surrender, I can still see the older couple beside us holding hands, singing “La Marseillaise” as the sky lit up with fireworks. The way the man suddenly paused to watch his wife sing before kissing her on the mouth and the look on her face that followed.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

MARJORY WENTWORTH is the New York Times bestselling author of Out of Wonder, Poems Celebrating Poets (with Kwame Alexander and Chris Colderley). She is the co-writer of We Are Charleston, Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel, with Herb Frazier and Bernard Powers and Taking a Stand and The Evolution of Human Rights. She is co-editor with Kwame Dawes of Seeking, Poetry and Prose inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green, and the author of the children’s story Shackles. Her books of poetry include Noticing Eden, Despite Gravity, The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle and New and Selected Poems.



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Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

American Neolithic Terence Hawkins “This is a one-of-a-kind novel…Terry Hawkins is a bold and fearless writer.” Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Mrs. Fletcher

It’s the day after tomorrow. America is Police State Lite. The Bill of Rights has been swallowed by the Patriot Amendments. Science bends the knee to state-sponsored Creationism. The Supreme Court is powerless before the Patriot Tribunal and the Homeland Police upholding their motto, “Always Watching.” Enter Blingbling. Foreign-looking, undocumented, and apparently homeless, he’s implicated in a hip-hop murder. His lawyer, the hard-boiled Raleigh, keeps him from Homeland’s clutches until a routine DNA test exposes a secret that threatens to destroy his client, his career, and much more. Release Date: November 4. Pre-order at

the skin o dreams: new and collected poems 1995-2018

Quraysh Ali Lansana “Quraysh Ali Lansana has woven a roadmap of poems and prophecy from Tulsa to Chicago, slowly breaking open the voices of history with each step. Follow the path on these pages to enter your own skin.” Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer Prize winner, Olio

the skin of dreams is a remembering, an offering and a gathering of geographies. Traversing twenty-three years of earth and breath, Quraysh Ali Lansana’s first new and collected works roadmaps small town Oklahoma to southside Chicago in compelling poems that question, surprise and dare. As a direct descendent of the Black Arts Movement and last student of Miss Gwendolyn Brooks, Lansana explores the complicated internal and external terrain of Blackness and history from a post-King, post-Kennedy childhood through the election of the first non-White president while grappling with the definition of home. These are poems that cry, sing, scream and see. Available now at


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Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


white gown By: catherine harnett

Her botched October mountain honeymoon: the fog, the wet firewood; she wants to go home. Cut her hair, look nothing like the bride in the wedding stills in the photographer’s keep. She dreams persistently: of herself in the white dress, in a different church; worried guests won’t show again. Never reaching the altar, she never ties the knot; each night is a dress rehearsal.

# Years later, in a London room in a small hotel which reeks with the smell of paint. Splintered trees in St. James Park, felled from the raging, unexpected storm a week before. She loves the devastation: limbs and leaves shorn off, all the English tidiness erased.

In the room where she lay with her husband, he says she’ll have to wait for daughters; he will know when it’s the right time.

The city’s early dusk, the threat of rain; taxis navigating through the night, Hammersmith’s slick streets.

# She wants to drown in a sea of falling leaves. They lay together, the dog and her, fending off the cold. His lungs and heart will give way; not soon, but inevitably.

# And in the bed, the light pine one they’d bought; for when the right time never came.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Nothing took root, nothing nestled or hatched. From the window, she sees the tops of lush, summer trees; she craves London’s broken boughs.

# They sell the used bed, as they part ways for good, to the young couple from Kashmir. The bed in which the warm tawny dog slept for years, the bed in which she’d tried for daughters; whose blue eyes will never look up at her, in milk-white Baptismal gowns.

Catherine Harnett is a poet and fiction writer originally from New York, now living with her daughter in Northern Virginia. Nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, her poetry and fiction appear in numerous domestic and international publications and anthologies.

Catherine’s short fiction has been published by the Hudson Review and several other magazines, including upstreet, the Wisconsin Review, Assisi and Storyscape. Her story, “Her Gorgeous Grief,” was chosen for inclusion in Writes of Passage: Coming-of-Age Stories and Memoirs from The Hudson Review and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has also authored a chapbook, At Some Appointed Time, published by Finishing Line Press in 2018, as well as two books of poems: Still Life and Evidence. Many poems and translations have been published in magazines and anthologies. Catherine retired from the federal government as a Senior Executive after three decades of service on Capitol Hill, the State Department and Department of Justice.




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


end of summer By: candace hartsuyker

Two years ago. Summer. An orange creamsicle, the sugar clotting the roof of her mouth. Old white sneakers bleached a dull gray, the shoelaces frayed. Her red rubber ball wobbling across the street, squashed by the tires of a car. Summer again. A heavy rain and no umbrella. Glittery pink rain boots squelching in the mud. Her left foot stepping forward, accidentally flattening the body of a small frog. Its distended belly splattering open like a broken water balloon, a cluster of eggs still buried inside.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

Candace Hartsuyker has an M.F.A in Creative Writing from McNeese State University and reads for PANK. She has been published in Cheap Pop, Okay Donkey, Spartan Lit, Fractured Lit and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter at C_Hartsuyker.


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Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


hollyhocks and tombstones by: marilyn morgan

Anna watches the hummingbird plunge its long beak deep into the pink blossom of hollyhock growing up the side of grandma’s chicken coop. She takes a step closer to get a better look, then turns and skips around the gravel driveway. She bursts into the kitchen, the screen banging shut behind her. “Grandma,” she hollers, her enthusiasm for sharing the hummingbird’s plight fresh on her mind. Abruptly she halts when her eyes fall on Aunt Jennie perched at the wooden kitchen table. “Hello,” Anna says and dutifully wanders over to the empty chair on the other side of the table. “Hello, Anna,” says Aunt Jennie. “I’ll be ready for our walk after tea.” Anna stares at the black pillbox hat with its see-through veil draping over the wrinkled face. It was as if the face were cracked into a million pieces. She really can’t remember when these awful walks started but even the thought sends prickles dancing around her neck. A long time ago, she’d tried to tell her mother that she didn’t want to walk in the cemetery with some old lady but her mother had just shrugged it off and told her she shouldn’t be so selfish and it wouldn’t hurt her to give up a half hour to cheer up a lonely old lady. There was a time when she had loved staying with grandma in the summer, but something she can’t find words for has changed. Early this morning she’d settled herself under the old maple tree with her book, but the words floated together. Later, she’d sought out her favorite place under the grape vines, a patch of green hair-like grass where the sun shone down through the tangled vines, but even there, Anna had felt restless. She thinks of grandma’s chickens. Trudging out to lift warm eggs from the hay in the roosting nest. Best of all grandma’s rice pudding and cookies. But she misses all her friends in Westford and especially David. She wonders if he is swimming in the lake this afternoon. Anna settles on the edge of the kitchen chatter while grandma boils water in the copper teakettle.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 When the teakettle whistles grandma fills the three teacups. Just this summer, Anna had been allowed to have a very weak cup of tea. She’d watched grandma take a teabag and dunk it in her cup only twice, just enough so it looked like water from a rusty drainpipe. And now the news begins. Crippled tales. How’s Mable? Once in awhile Mable joins the tea party, but not today. She hobbles over clutching her cane and Anna shudders at the thought of Mable’s back. A protruding round hump. Like a camel. And then there’s Joe down the street. Crippled with the rheumatism. “Hard for him to get around any more,” says grandma. “He can’t even hoe his garden.” “I think Marge Smith’s taken in more of those dirty foster children.” “I hear ‘em hollerin’ way down here. I don’t like Anna playing with those kind of children,” says grandma and her eyes settle sternly on Anna. Anna squirms in her chair and stares out the window. A robin alights on the red wheel barrow in the yard, cocks its head as if listening. She remembers the day she snuck down to play with those foster kids. Lucy ran out in the road and the yellow truck roared around the corner. She’d dashed out and dragged Lucy from the road. Mrs. Smith shook the little girl so hard Anna thought her head was going to fall off, and Lucy screamed and screamed. Mrs. Smith then dragged her upstairs and slammed a door on her screams. But she treated Anna with a piece of hard candy, so sour it had made her tongue pucker. Anna grimaces at the memory. Summer is so long, Anna thinks. David did send her one letter but that was three weeks ago. She stares at Aunt Jennie. Glazed dark eyes peer through thick glasses shrouded in spider webbing. Once she’d asked her mother how she was related to this old lady. Her mother had explained this was her great great aunt but Anna never did figure out the connection. She watches long spindly fingers lift the teacup to her narrow slits of lips.

Anna looks at the white gloves resting on the table. Once she’d slipped her fingers into

those gloves but her aunt had pounced, her fingers like claws snatching up the gloves. “Don’t get my gloves dirty,” she’d cackled. And Anna’d abruptly released the gloves and watched as Aunt Jennie inspected each white hollow finger for traces of stains or wrinkles. “Are you ready, Anna?” No way, she thinks, but she pastes a half smile on her face and stands to go. Aunt Jennie pulls on her white gloves, carefully smoothing out each finger. “We’ll see you in a little while,” she says to grandma. The screen door squeaks as Aunt Jennie pushes it open. Her black laced chunky shoes clunk down the


old porch steps, creaking as they descend. Tall stone pillars stand stately anchoring the wrought iron bars that guard the entrance to the cemetery. Bars like the kind over jail windows. The incline of the gravel road leading into the cemetery is a steep climb and from time to time Anna glances breathlessly sideways as Aunt Jennie strides effortlessly up the road. What happens when you die? Anna wonders. On up the hill they climb, and soon they arrive at the McGraw family plot. It was as if the cemetery hugged grandma’s house and the family plot stood high on the hill guarding the living down there beyond the chicken coop. “Walk gently on the grass,” squawks Aunt Jennie as if footsteps will disturb something underneath. Anna shivers. She tiptoes along after her aunt to a small gray marble stone, In Beloved Memory of Elizabeth McGraw. Anna’s great grandmother. Sprays of daisies scatter the gentle earth mounds in the McGraw plot. Anna grabs a daisy, and plucks the petals while in her head, the refrain, he loves me, he loves me not. “Look,” says Aunt Jennie pointing to the overgrown area beyond the gravestones, “That’s where your grandmother will be buried.” Anna’s heart pounds in her ears. She pictures grandma lifting raisin-eyed sugar cookies out of the oven. Up the hill along the gravel road they walk, winding to and fro among the gravestones. Anna bites down hard on her lip, gazes up through the hovering trees until her eyes perceive a patch of deep blue. She imagines David reaching down through the blue space and pulling her up into the sunshine. She can’t keep her eyes off the drooping hem of the black coat bobbing along beside her. At the top of the cemetery there’s a hand carved marble bench under a spreading elm tree. Its edges are trimmed with a delicate floral design and Anna traces her finger along the petals. She watches her aunt remove the glove from her right hand and click open her purse. The bony hand lunges into the black darkness, rummages around and brings forth the foil wrapped cylinder. “Here’s your mint.” “Thank you,” says Anna and holds out her open palm. She pops the mint into her mouth, sucks on the sugary tanginess and looks up through the branches of the towering elm. The wind whispers among the limbs and sunshine spatters the ground below. “Anna,” the voice as if echoing from a deep tunnel startles her. She glances sideways. Aunt Jennie’s



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 eyes are riveted straight ahead, fastened tightly to the rotund tree trunk on the edge of the plot. “I have something to tell you and you must listen very carefully.” Beads of perspiration leap across Anna’s palms. “You’re growing up,” she continues. Anna stares at the ground, an ant crawls up over her shoe and into the blades of grass on the other side. “Boys do evil things to girls like you. Soon a boy will want to do these things to you. Stay away from boys. Do you hear me? Never let a boy touch you. God loves good girls and if a boy touches you, God will know you are a bad girl and your sin will be severely punished.” Anna thinks of all those times up at Ross’s barn where the loft became a doctor’s office. A trembling runs along Anna’s arms. Crows swoop to the branches of the pine trees lining the very top of the cemetery. Anna stares at the endless rows of tombstones. Marilyn Morgan is a retired English teacher. Marilyn’s prose has appeared in MOTIF, EDGE, KYSO FLASH, *82 REVIEW, MINERVA RISING, THRICE FICTION, among others. Her poetry has been published in ATLAS POETICA, AMERICAN TANKA, RIBBONS, SKYLARK and other poetry journals. In the wintertime, Marilyn lives in New Hartford, New York, and in the summertime, you can find her at her cottage on the St. Lawrence River.


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Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


impotence by: mike herdon The name of the soap is familiar, but I don’t know why. It’s not the kind you see on the shelves at the grocery store. It’s heavy duty stuff, like a mechanic would use. You get it at auto parts stores or online and that, it finally dawns on me, is where I’d seen it – in a pop-up ad on the computer, one of those annoying boxes that jump around your screen and force you to chase it with your cursor like a displaced imbecile to click the X and turn it off. The people who invented them should be disemboweled, hung by their ankles and burned alive, right alongside whoever invented spam. I’ve been getting an inordinate amount of spam lately. My laptop has a spam blocker and a firewall but they’re only as good as whoever installed them, with their inordinately important-sounding names, as though the world depended upon their existence. Without the firewall, we’d all be fried into bacon and buried under 28 feet of ash like those poor bastards in Pompeii. But checking email still means wading through grand Caribbean vacations at cut-rate prices, closeout sales at some furniture store where we’d once shopped years ago, pleas from Nigerian princes for assistance in transferring 1,000,000 US dollars to me if I would only be so kind as to please send a bank account number. And of course, the pills – little blue and yellow solutions to low-T or ED or whatever other neutered pseudonym they’ve invented for it. I have always wondered how they knew. I have never conducted any searches or visited any websites that would give any indication. They just somehow know. Not that it matters much now. It’s been five years since Sheila died, and I only leave the house to go to work, selling cell phones to kids half my age who know more about them than I do. The few friends I still have rarely call any more, and the idea of dating seems like betrayal, like living in Detroit and driving a Toyota. She’s in a box in the ground and I’m going to go off and do what? Find the next one? Not that I even could have. There were those years in between, the separation, when I’d tried to put myself back on the market, as they say. I went on a couple of dates, both of whom seemed hopelessly boring and hopelessly bored by me. One was a divorcee who spent the entire evening talking about where she wanted to be in five years, a sort of application form for her next husband, and the other was a mousy woman



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 who nibbled on her grouper almondine and waited for me to direct any conversation, shrugging in barely concealed distaste at each new trial-balloon topic I tried to float. I have never been good at it. The pre-marriage years were littered with failed attempts at courtship and missed opportunities. There was the long-distance runner in high school I’d tried for a year to win, going out for the track team to increase my chances, only to fail to get so much as the time of day while barely noticing her best friend’s flirtatious messages in my yearbook. There was the one in college who came back to my dorm after a house party, only to watch me fall drunkenly asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. And the other one who sat in my lap on the quad at midnight, waiting for me to making a move, finally going home unkissed and disappointed after I pondered too long over why such a beautiful girl was there with me in the first place. It’s not that I wish my life had turned out differently, or that I think it somehow might have. But high school would have been more fun if I’d given up on the runner and dated the fast friend who wrote in my yearbook. College would have been more bearable if I hadn’t drunk so much I passed out, if I’d kissed that girl on the quad. There is no good that can come from thinking about the past, especially when one has screwed up so reliably. When one chooses his career on a whim and fails to foresee the impending decline of the industry. When one nearly lets his soulmate slip away with his indecision, four years of indifferent courtship finally culminating in an offhand proposal in the kitchen while waiting for waffles to pop out of a toaster. When one insists on buying a ninety-year-old fixer-upper of a house while ignoring the fact that he is only slightly handier than a humpback whale. When one misses the birth of his own daughter because he doesn’t have the stones to tell the boss he’s being an ass by sending him out of town so close to the due date. And particularly when one has been stupid enough to nearly throw it all away, to give away two years only to rediscover how bad he is at small talk and understanding the opposite sex. To continue to second-guess the one decision he’d made that had been right. To walk out on a wife and a daughter and return a lesser man in one’s eyes, and a lesser-known entity to the other. It was shortly after that my trouble started, but she never complained, never gave in to the disappointment, never used it as the weapon it could have been. “Let’s just go to sleep,” she’d say, pulling my arms around her as though that had been all she’d wanted. I deserved so much worse. If I felt worthless then, it was nothing compared to sitting in that doctor’s office barely a year and a half later, staring at the painted paneling behind his desk and trying to comprehend words like “inoperable” and “terminal.” It is ridiculous, I know, to think anything would have been different had I made better choices, had


I been a better man. But I cannot help it. She deserved so much better. We crammed as much as we could into the next nine months, winding our way up the East Coast before she was too sick to walk. We spent most of June in the mountains of North Carolina, the morning smoke rising from the valley below as we drank coffee in wooden rocking chairs. The Fourth of July found us on the mall in D.C., as I tried to place her in just the right spot to snap a photo that looked as though she held the Washington Monument in the palm of her hand. Her August birthday passed in a playhouse on Broadway, while we giggled like schoolchildren at the sight of a fat man on the stage in curlers and a nightgown. We used up our savings on that trip, but what good were savings now? We weren’t home three months before she was bedridden, and I sat at her bedside, holding her hand, learning what it meant to be truly helpless. All I could do was promise to take care of myself and Rebecca, not knowing if I was up to the task of either. Because Rebecca never fully forgave. I have come to realize the loss of those two years are why she tunes me out, why she takes every bit of advice I’ve tried to give her with a shrug and a barrel of salt. Those were the years I should have been nurturing the idea that Father Knows Best and instead cemented the knowledge that Father Can’t Be Counted Upon. Small wonder, then, that she wouldn’t listen to me about Todd. She’d met him on some wayward weekend at the Gulf, a tattooed Lothario who exuded a charm that I never could muster and an arrogant confidence that immediately put me on guard. I tried to warn her, but she wouldn’t hear it. She was in love, and the idea that he might be somehow dangerous, and that I disapproved of him, made her fall even deeper. When she started to turn on me, I had to back off. I had to smile and pretend to be happy when they got engaged. I had to hold my peace as I walked her down the aisle, and when the minister asked if there was any reason these two people should not be lawfully married, I bit my tongue so hard it bled. I don’t know how long I’ve known he was hitting her. Maybe it was before the miscarriage, maybe not. She will not listen to me, and he laughs off my threats as the empty ravings of a discarded old man. She wears dark sunglasses all the time now, and she won’t talk about their relationship. Whenever I bring it up, she changes the subject. When I tell her to leave him, she laughs at me like I’m a child, and she is right. I’ve done it again. It’s too late. The soap is supposed to be industrial strength, is supposed to cut through anything according to the ads on the computer, but it isn’t any match for the blood. There’s more than I ever imagined possible. The pool around his head is growing into a lake as I towel off my hands, and they’re still sticky with it. But where Lady Macbeth despaired, I do not feel the least bit bad. Grow, damn’d spot. From a lake to a sea to an ocean.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 I’d hoped the bastard would beg, that once he saw the gun in his face it would force some humility into him. But all he did was laugh again, always laughing, always seemingly in control. He must have figured, with the last misbegotten thought to wander through his head, that the old man didn’t have the stones to go through with it. No matter. No amount of begging would have changed any of it. When they find the body, it won’t take them long to put two and two together. This was premeditated to the extent that I knew where to find him and I knew what I was going to do when I got there, but not to the point of getting a passport and booking a red-eye. I don’t speak Spanish and Canada is too damn cold. I know what I’m in for. I am not that stupid college kid on the quad, the high school idiot who went out for track even though he hated running. She will despise me for this, will turn her back and refuse to ever speak to me again. She will say I ruined her life. She has not lived long enough to know any better. I can only hope she’ll be smarter next time. Outside, the air is crisp with the chill of a north Alabama November, and the leaves crunch beneath my feet. I can’t see them in the dark as I head out through the backyard, but I know they are everywhere, in their varying shades of brown, separated from their limbs and fallen. It is that time of year.

Mike Herdon is a former journalist and adjunct journalism instructor who has had fiction published in Aura, Oracle Fine Arts Review and Literary Bohemian, among other magazines and websites. He also recently completed his first novel.




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021


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museum of revelry By: bo kearnso Dear Phoebe, I’m sorry you missed mother’s 80th birthday party. Though it’s suspicious you resort to rehab whenever there’s a family gathering in Alabama. You really need to snap out of it, girl! We all need to go home again, at least every once in a while. All the guests asked about you and Mother almost told them the truth, but instead she said you were an ethnobotanist on a canoe trip paddling up the Amazon. Of course, no one had a clue what an ethnobotanist was, so following our mother’s fabrication, I told them you worked with shamans in the jungle, hoping to discover tribal medicines that might save the planet from extinction. I sensed the guest wanted to know more about shamans so I began to talk about them too, but Mother stopped me with that icy glare of hers. I could tell she didn’t want her party ruined with talk about ethnobotany, shamans and saving the planet. She wanted everyone talking about her and how wonderful she looked. She wore a long white lace dress, a wide-brimmed white straw hat, pearls and a white corsage. If you had been there, she probably would have wanted you to wear the same. I’m sure you remember how when you were little, she would dress you in a matching outfit so you resembled her in miniature. People would stop you two on the street and say, “Why, you are the prettiest girls in town!” Our mother would beam with pride while you gazed in silence at the sidewalk. Downtown used to look so grand, but now all those brick buildings with lattice ironwork are shuttered and covered with graffiti. On the way to the party I passed Daltons Shoe Store. Remember the time Mother wanted you to get those shiny black patent leathers and you threw a tantrum. You wanted the Buster Brown boy’s shoes instead. To keep you from embarrassing her further, she bought them for you. Afterwards we walked through Lafayette Square, strolling along the brick walkways under the old oaks, past the cast iron benches and the circular bandstand. While Mother and I fed the pigeons, you ventured off and fell into the tiered stone fountain with your new Buster Browns. Looking at you dripping wet, Mother said, “Phoebe, I can’t take you anywhere.”



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

As I approached the Majestic, I looked across the street expecting to see Ferguson’s Funeral Home. The white columned building is still there but is now a museum— the Museum of Revelry. I ventured inside and was greeted by awkward mannequins in garish, sequined costumes. When I glanced about, it all came back to me clear as yesterday. I smelled the pungent flowers and heard the soft strains of the organ. I saw our father’s casket, closed, so no one would notice the gunshot wound. Mother told everyone it was a ‘hunting accident.’ Family honor didn’t allow her to say otherwise. Ladies in black dabbed their eyes with white handkerchiefs as they filed past, and the men solemn, heads bowed. I know you still harbor ill feelings toward Mother because you weren’t allowed to attend the service. Though twelve at the time, she didn’t think you were old enough to comprehend tragedy. Mother was wrong not to let you go. I wished you had been there with me. I left the former funeral home trying to refocus. I didn’t want to appear gloomy at the party. The Majestic is again the grand dame of Southern hotels. Guests approach the portico and the doorman greets them like an old friend. Actually he was an old friend. It was Clarence. “Hello Walter how’s California? And how’s Phoebe?” I really didn’t want to improvise so I just said, “Good to be back, Clarence.” One thing I’ve learned is that when you improvise about other people it’s hard to be consistent over time. Our Mother though, with that prodigious memory of hers, never forgets an inconsistency. The party was in the private room where every president since Teddy Roosevelt has dined. You remember the one with the high ceilings, crown molding and crystal chandeliers, the same room where Mother held your debutante party when you were introduced to Alabama society. You wore a pink chiffon dress, a camellia in your hair and your picture was in the Press Register captioned, ‘Phoebe Comes Out.’ For the occasion, Mother bought you your first pair of high heel shoes. She wasn’t happy when you showed up in Buster Brown look-a-likes. Exasperated, all she said was, “Phoebe, I can’t take you anywhere.” The theme of the birthday party was ‘Mardi Gras in June.’ You know how Mother loves going to all the parades and costume balls, and never hesitates to inform visitors that Alabama had the first Mardi Gras three hundred years ago, long before New Orleans stole the show with its more raucous Bourbon Street. She regularly sends me souvenirs tossed from the floats: purple and green glass beads, serpentine and, of course, moon pies. She was going to send you a Mardi Gras care package too, to cheer you up, but I told her that the sight of another moon pie might just put you over the edge. The number of guests has dwindled since you last came for Mother’s 70th. Most were women, with a


few men including Dr. Harry Mertz who’s married to Nora, the music teacher. You may not remember Harry. He’s a psychiatrist. When we were growing up there weren’t any psychiatrists in town, or at least none that anyone knew of. Nora met Harry when she lived in New York majoring in music therapy at Columbia University. When Nora married Harry, her mother, being a bible belt Southern lady and all, wasn’t happy. Not only was Harry from New York, he was Jewish. Everything Nora’s mother knew about Jewish people she learned at the First Baptist Church. Harry’s mother, Sophie, wasn’t too happy about the arrangement either. Everything Sophie knew about Southerners she learned from observing Nora. And Nora with that syrupy drawl of hers had once been overheard to say, “Harry, I don’t see how anyone can eat that vile gefilte fish yo’ mama makes.” Harry, on the other hand, thought that marrying Nora was his lucky day. She was a beautiful buxom blonde prize who could take him to Alabama where he could set up practice in a place where no psychiatrist had gone before. It was virgin couch territory and Harry planned to make a fortune. What he didn’t realize was that Southerners don’t like to talk about their problems to anyone, especially some slick Yankee from New York. So poor Harry has had to live on the pittance Nora earns as a music teacher. Harry dreaded Chanukah when his mother would visit. Sophie would say, “Harry, you schmuck, you could have had a successful practice on Fifth Avenue. There everybody has problems, real or imagined. You are wasting your life in a place where people go around wearing Mardi Gras beads, smiling and eating sickening sweet moon pies.” The women at the party looked elegant, frail but elegant. They had a twinkle in their eyes, and minds honed over many years. My favorite was petite Olivia with her wig of brown curls. Even at ninety-two, she was spry as a kitten. Olivia mentioned she had been in an accident. “Walter,” she said. “You won’t believe what happened. I was in a hit-and-run at Walmart.” “How awful. Was your car badly damaged?” “Oh no, it happened inside the store. I was standing in line at the pharmacy waiting to pay for my laxative, when I saw one of those motorized handicap carts out of control. The wild-eyed driver headed right for me. I tried to move aside but it was too late. Next thing I remember, I was flat on the floor.” “Oh no,” I said. “Were you hurt?” “A few bruises but nothing serious though I did think about suing Walmart. You remember Stella Liebeck, the eighty-one year old woman who got a million dollars from McDonald’s when she spilled hot



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 coffee on her private parts. My lawyer said since my privates were intact I probably didn’t have much of a case.” “And what happened to the handicapped driver?” “Oh him. Well as I understand it, he careened down the center aisle knocking stuff off the shelves. He created a trail of destruction. The surveillance camera showed him zipping out the front door, but the pictures were so grainy they couldn’t make a positive identification. He’s still at large.” For a moment I thought Olivia was putting me on, but then I remembered I was back home in Alabama. Mother sat at the head of a long table decorated in Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. As I’m sure you’ll recall, years ago all the waiters at the Majestic were gray-haired locals. They’ve been replaced with dour Boris from Romania and voluptuous Mercedes from Guatemala. Everyone had a wonderful time, especially Harry. Throughout lunch and to the consternation of the elderly Southern ladies, he would regularly hoist his empty glass and shout to Boris, “More wine, garçon.” Harry thought Boris was French, and Boris thought Harry was rude. Actually Harry got quite intoxicated, probably wishing he was back in New York where people talk about their problems, where waiters are really French, and where he wouldn’t have to deal with some Romanian incompetent who couldn’t keep his wine glass full. Toward the end of the luncheon, Boris and Mercedes brought out a layered cake with lemon frosting and many candles. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” as Mother blew kisses to the masses. It was all very elegant. After the guests departed, I stood with Mother in the center of the now empty room. She gazed at me with tears in her eyes. “Such a wonderful day, Walter. I wish Phoebe could have been here. I wish she would come home. I may not have many birthdays left.” Mother is already planning her 85th birthday celebration. She’s counting on Nora and Harry being there, and Olivia and Boris, and all the others. Phoebe, you should make an effort to join us. Bring your partner Clarice. I would like to meet her. Of course then Mother would have to explain about Clarice. She might say that Clarice is also an ethnobotanist, or she might say that you are gay and everyone will pretend that you are gay like people get during Mardi Gras. I suspect growing up things were difficult for you, though there are times when life is difficult for all of us. And that’s just the way it is. I apologize my letter is so long. The trip to Alabama prompted me to think about a lot I wanted to


share. I miss you Phoebe. When you get out of rehab, I will take you anywhere— even home. Your brother, Walter

Bo Kearns, born and raised in the South, is a journalist and writer of fiction. His debut novel Ashes in a Coconut received the 2020 Finalist Eric Hoffer Book Award. Several of his short stories have won awards and been published. He’s a feature writer with the Sonoma Index-Tribune newspaper and the NorthBay biz magazine. He’s a beekeeper, avid hiker and active supporter of conservation causes. Bo now resides in Northern California with his wife and rescue dog Jake.



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hen scoliosis pushed her to retire from her career as a massage therapist, Angela Dribben still wanted to be of service, so she began doing legacy work through her local hospice. She felt she needed to gather skills if she was going to honor others, and she started an MFA program at Randolph College. From there her work made its way into journals such as Crab Creek Review, Cider Press Review, San Pedro River Review, Blue Mountain Review, and Crack the Spine. Her first mixed media piece is coming out in Patchwork. Her first collection, Everygirl is now out in advanced sales with Main Street Rag

angela Dribben “Angela Dribben’s poetry does not look away, even from difficult truths. She brings to the page a gift for sound and image, but it’s her compassionate wisdom that makes Everygirl a book like no other, embracing both indictment and forgiveness, suffering and gratitude, its music that of the phoenix the moment the flames in her throat become song. Bring your broken pieces, your trouble with the world. Everygirl is the best friend to whom you may tell everything, in the dark beneath a fistful of stars, and come away more loving, more loved.” -Rhett Iseman Trull, author of The Real Warnings, editor of Cave Wall “How can I believe Adam/ came first when the flower precedes the fruit?” Angela Dribben writes in Everygirl. Coming of age in a Virginia of hunting dogs, pick-ups, and hog farms, these poems, evocative in their details of men “smelling like labor,” food, such as gelatinous ham, military school life for young women, menstruation, rape, and including occasional photographs, bluntly acknowledge the destructive impact of male prerogative when social class and rural life leave few ways out.” -Susana H. Case, author of Dead Shark on the N Train and Drugstore Blue “Wordsworth wrote that any great writer must create the new taste by which they’ll be enjoyed. In Everygirl, Angela Dribben doesn’t just offer a new taste, she’s created an entire menu. From tragically vivid poems about surviving military school, to surreal poems exploring belonging, Dribben had me eating out of the palm of her hand. Dribben writes “To love and to see are not the same,” and I agree. But I do both love and see this book.” -Paige Lewis, Spacestruck

to learn more & purchase visit:


not good flowers By: pamela baker Sarah’s in the kitchen when I arrive home, her auburn hair tied back in a pony tail with a black ribbon. ‘Baked penne tonight,’ she says, looking up briefly before turning back to her chopping board. ‘That recipe you invented years ago, darling,’ she says. I can’t judge her expression. Is she looking pleased? I was hoping for something more celebratory than baked penne tonight. Water is bubbling on the stove in the biggest saucepan. I drop my briefcase on the floor. Her knife continues to clunk up and down on the chopping board as we exchange a kiss. She’s slicing the ends off a purple eggplant. ‘I can’t stop,’ she says. ‘You know how eggplant goes brown when it’s exposed to the air.’ The bench is littered with enough vegetables to feed an army. Which is practically what we have. A small army of hungry children. Red onion and leek and some roughly hewn cubes of pumpkin, or is it sweet potato? I used to include both when I did most of the cooking. Sarah sweeps the lot on to a large oven tray. I’ll wait until she’s finished in the kitchen before I ask. For so long I’ve been the sole breadwinner, I can’t believe it’s nearly over. I slosh a generous measure of whisky into my special glass with the heavy base. I add ice cubes from the freezer, swirling the pale liquid, taking pleasure in the sound of the ice clinking against the sides of the glass. I swig down a large mouthful. Sarah’s dribbling oil over the vegetables. The best virgin olive. You can’t compromise on food, Sarah says. We consume litres of the stuff. No longer reserved for salad dressings or special meals. She notices my whisky as she slams the oven door shut. ‘Oh, darling, I would have got that for you.’ She’s whizzing stuff in the food processor now. Something green. A sharp scent that I can’t quite place. The noise of the processor is bringing on a headache. ‘Put your feet up until dinner’s ready,’ she tells me. She’ll be with me shortly, as soon as she’s checked on the homework, upstairs. She’s tipping the pasta into the strainer. Clouds of steam rise to the ceiling. She’s forgotten the exhaust fan again. I rise and flick it on. What I can hear above us sounds more like the burble of television, or perhaps a CD. The kids tell me music in the background helps them concentrate. I take my whisky out to the back porch, my favourite place in warm weather, almost as good as



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

sitting outside. Although there’s a cool breeze through the fly wire screens the mellow autumn sunlight has gilded the end wall. I swing my legs up on to the cane couch and plump a cushion behind my head. I close my eyes. I can’t close my mind. The news from the exchange was bad at ten, even worse by the afternoon. I’d advised against investing clients’ money in that latest trendy stock, especially so much of it. Jim, you’re too conservative. Now the promised big fat profits have been pulverised. Thank God, I didn’t invest any of our own money. This mansion is safe, despite the massive mortgage. Nick told me he was embarrassed to bring his friends home when we first moved here. It’s over the top, Dad. He and his friends seem to have adjusted. They go for the full-size pool table and the massive plasma screen for all the big matches. Sarah loves the house. As soon as it came on the market, she was plotting for us to buy it. I was happy with our old house. Sarah dismissed my concerns. ‘Once I’ve done a refresher course I can return to nursing, a few shifts to start with,’ she said. ‘The kids can all have their own rooms, and a place to entertain their friends. There’s a guest room, too, with its own bathroom, so when your mother comes to stay...’ She made a sour face. ‘And of course all my clan.’ I think that’s why she wanted a big family of her own, because she came from a big family. But four’s plenty. No more afterthoughts. I swallow the rest of my whisky. Sarah’s taking ages. She probably thinks I’ve forgotten that today is the day she was finding out about the course. Back at the drinks cupboard I pour myself another. Surely there can’t have been any hitches. I hear Sarah’s voice upstairs. It sounds as if she’s coming down. I leave my whisky on the bench and find one of those delicate crystal glasses Sarah likes for gin and tonic. Blue Sapphire, of course. It tastes so much better than the cheaper stuff. I measure out the gin, admiring the cool, blue colour of the bottle. I used to think the gin itself was blue. I crush two ice cubes and slice a lime, thinly as Sarah prefers. I sniff the eau de cologne scent of the gin. Here she is at last. She smiles as she accepts her drink. ‘I need this,’ she says, before I can say a word. ‘Mandy and Tom have been fighting ever since they came home from school.’ As she’s about to sit down in the back porch with me she remembers the vegetables will be ready now to combine with the pasta and the basil. Basil. That’s what the green scent was. She leaves her gin on the table and hurries back to the kitchen. I hear the baking dish clattering on the bench, a spoon scraping against metal, the clunk of the oven door again. ‘Dinner will ready in half an hour,’ she says. Now she’s calling up the stairs for Lily to set the table. Our little princess has just turned seven and setting the table is her special responsibility.


A whooshing sound as Lily slides down the banister. ‘Hello, Daddy.’ She beams at me. She’s wearing her pink taffeta dress with her tiara. ‘Hello, princess.’ Sarah and I smile at each other. I didn’t want a fourth child, but she’s everyone’s darling. Nick says Lily’s the glue that holds the family together. We listen to Lily humming as she circles the dining table. The clink of cutlery. Sarah likes us to eat properly, sitting up at the table on the nights when we’re all home. Wednesdays and Sundays usually. ‘Well?’ I ask. A squawk as a fork is dropped, spearing Lily’s big toe. By the time Sarah has applied the Betadine and a bandaid we have ten minutes left for drinks. I’m glad I started early. ‘Poor little darling,’ Sarah says. She sits down. I put my arm around her shoulders, breathing in her perfume. I hand her the glass with the gin and tonic. She sips and sighs. ‘You make the best G and Ts,’ she says. ‘Well, what’s the news? How long’s the course? Will you be able to start nursing again by the end of the year?’ Then I can enrol for Indonesian cooking at the Neighbourhood centre next year and say no to extra projects, extra commissions. She nods. She sips from her glass. Then she shakes her head. ‘The hours are impossible. I wouldn’t be here when the kids get home from school. It’s too much yet, Jimmy.’ She squeezes my hand. ‘In a couple of years, maybe.’ The icy cold from my drink seeps down my arms. ‘But we agreed it’s time for you to go back to work. The course is only a few months. The kids’ll cope.’ Does she realise how many years have passed since she worked as a nurse? How much hospitals have changed? Her knowledge is already antiquated. Is she scared? Or worse. ‘I suppose you like having a nice time at home while I slave away at work.’ I try to speak lightly. ‘Jimmy. You know we agreed that children need a mother at home when they’re young.’ ‘Lily’s at school now.’ Then she lists all the after-school activities she has to drive the kids to: music for three of them, everyone has sports practices, even Lily. Ballet. Swimming. I rode my bike everywhere when I was a kid. I wonder if she expects I’ll be dead by fifty-five. She’ll be alright with that massive life insurance policy I have. I’m sure the bank was happy about my insurance when we took out the huge mortgage on this house.

Lily’s complaining about the fennel in the pasta. It tastes nasty. Tom’s whingeing that he prefers Spaghetti



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 Bolognese to this fancy stuff. I thump my fist on the table. ‘It’s been a long day,’ I tell them, trying to keep my voice calm. ‘Your mother has cooked us a delicious meal.’ And lots of children in the third world are starving, Mandy mutters sotto voce. Sarah begins talking to Nick about the career day at school next week and everyone else eats in silence. The phone rings. Mandy jumps up to answer it. Her face falls. Can’t be that pimply youth I’ve seen her with, standing outside the house, both of them propped on the saddles of their bikes, shrieking with laughter. ‘Grandma,’ Mandy says, passing the phone to me. Holding my hand over the mouthpiece I swallow another mouthful. I push my chair back. ‘No, Mum, I haven’t finished eating yet… Your shares? No, I haven’t checked them today. I don’t think much will have changed since you asked me yesterday… Yes, I do know about the big falls.’ I listen as my mother rabbits on about how worried she is and how little she expects of me and what is the world coming to, etc, etc. I hold the phone away from my ear. Nick and Mandy are laughing, Mandy miming my mother’s worried face, the way she leans forward, her chin jutting. ‘Yes, Mum. I’ll drop in to see you as usual on Friday.’ I press the talk/end button and the phone clatters on the table. I pick up my fork.

When we’re undressing for bed, Sarah says, ‘I’m know you’re upset about the delay in my going back to work, Jimmy. But I’ve been thinking this year will be a good time to have a last family holiday together, before I have work commitments. Nick will be at university the following year. He won’t want to go away with his parents then. I’ve made some preliminary enquires about New Zealand. We could go for a month. What do you think, Jimmy? Our last holiday all together.’ A whole month. ‘What do you think that will cost? I can’t take a whole month off. You know how fragile the financial world is at present.’ Her mouth opens and closes. She sighs. ‘New Zealand sounds a bit ordinary for you, Sarah.’ I try to smile. Last year we went to Fiji. Definitely too dangerous now. I suppose I should be thankful for that. And Thailand’s dicey too. But we’ve been to those places, and Bali, before the bombing of course. Sarah probably has some special adventure in mind. Hot air ballooning or scuba diving. Or something I’ve never even heard of. When I was a kid, we stayed for a week every summer at my aunt’s place in Portarlington. ‘Jimmy, we have to do something special for our last family holiday.’ ‘A week or two on the Mornington peninsula wouldn’t do?’ She bites her lip. ‘I suppose if you think we can’t afford New Zealand…’ Her voice trails away. She


climbs into bed and immediately turns off her light.

Sunday is Fathers’ Day. Lily sits on my lap and presents me with an envelope. ‘This is for you, Daddy,’ she says. ‘I made it at school’. My fingers quiver as l slit the envelope open, as if it might be a huge bill, or another speeding fine. ‘They’re dahlias,’ Lily says pointing to the flowers she’s drawn on the card. Red and yellow dahlias, big as saucers, filling the whole space. Like her Grandma grew in the old garden before she moved to the retirement village. I hug Lily and tell her how beautiful they are. ‘Other kids drew cars and boats and trains for their dads but I wanted to make you something beautiful. I like flowers better than cars and boats and things.’ Inside she’s written to the best daddy in the entire world. I can’t speak. I have to get up and look out the window. I pretend I’m checking to see if it’s going to rain, or whether I should mow the lawn. I’m four years old again. Red-haired Miss Jones is peering over my shoulder. ‘Those are not good flowers, Jimmy.’ She’s frowning at the card I’ve made for my mother. Pamela Baker has been writing literary fiction, (and reading) after a career teaching in adult education. She writes both novels and short stories. She has had several stories published and most recently won a Boroondara Literary Award.




Blue Mountain Review / September 2021




the coal tower By: elizabeth mayer It was the coal tower’s fault. Well, that and the crippling depression. And Mary leaving. And the brilliant first novel I knew I could never repeat. And, well, basically, the whole sordid fucked up state of the world. But mostly, it was the coal tower. I’d fantasized about it for months. It was the romance of the damned thing. I walked past it every day, down the gravel path by the railroad tracks, and I could see myself, see myself as if I were outside my own body, climbing the ladder and crawling inside the rusted cylinder and playing out my final scene in a place with real ambiance. Real history. God, I wanted it. I wanted to look out the cracked panes toward the low downtown skyline or over at the purple mountains blistering in sunset and shout FUCK BEAUTY at the top of my lungs. By then, and, mind you, there were periods of scintillating mania back then, I’d whittled the source of pain and suffering down to one ultimate cause: BEAUTY. If the world weren’t so utterly, utterly beautiful, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much when you found out it was mostly full of dumb assholes. The assholes couldn’t be blamed. They were too dumb and full of the same pain and suffering as everyone else. It wasn’t their fault. But the coal tower! From up there, I thought, maybe everything would be sepia-toned. Maybe the plunk and jitter of old-timey jazz would ricochet around the metal walls. Maybe I’d cavort with ghosts. Old railway guys. Petticoated beauties with see-through daisies in their hair. My grandfather might be there or my Uncle Greg or that old lady I used to talk to at the bus stop when I was a new graduate and miserably lonely. None of those people were there, but I was right, at least, about the ghosts. Or ghost, I suppose. Lewis dwells in the top of the tower. I couldn’t see him until after I’d done it, but then, after I’d blinked into that other existence, after they’d photographed the scene and cleared away my body, there he was, hovering in the eaves of the control alcove, his feet dangling in transparency from the high perch. He told me to call him Merri, but I couldn’t of course, not after my Mary, so I just call him Lewis.



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 Lewis, it seems, exists in a state of eternal inebriation, so it doesn’t really matter what I call him. It’s lucky he’s so incorporeal, what with the way he bobs and weaves through the top of the tower; if there were any substance to him, he’d be a goner for sure. He’s moody too, which might sound a little hypocritical coming from someone like me, but after you’ve listened to what the BLACKNESS feels like after the sparkling exploration of the SPLENDIFEROUS western territories for the one millionth time, the bleakness becomes a little redundant. Maybe this makes me a bad (former) person, but I can’t help thinking: come on, man, get over it. Billy can’t see Lewis, but he can see me. Sometimes. Billy is our regular guest. He is what I refer to as a neo-hippie. He wears the same frayed patchwork pants and raggedy Phish t-shirt every time I see him and carries a corduroy backpack which usually contains (among other things, I assume) a silver tablespoon, a hypodermic needle, and a small bag of what I believe to be heroin, although it may be some other powdered opiate. After he does his drugs, Billy either quickly loses consciousness, his chin falling to his chest, or he remains lucid for a while and stares in wonder as I float back and forth in front of him, à la a suspended Fred Astaire. I never tried heroin while I was alive. No matter how low I got, it just didn’t appeal to me, but now when I watch Billy, I think I get it. It’s like a temporary death. Suicide light. Sometimes, his breathing slows so much, I think for a moment he’s actually dead, but so far, he always wakes up. Lewis wants to know what he’s doing. I explain it all to him, and he grins madly. Why, if I had been able to take death breaks, maybe I’d never have done myself in! I shake my head. You don’t understand. It’s dangerous. Every time could be his last time. The next time could kill him. Like a game! A dreadful game of life or death! Yeah. Like Russian roulette, I say. Ah, yes. The Russians are a terrible force to be reckoned with, he says, nodding with oddly convincing authority. I don’t want him to die, I say, and Lewis bows his head in grave agreement. For a moment I feel a deep sympathy for the old bibber—he too knows, albeit too late, that life is better than death. The coal tower is circumscribed by tight boundaries. Through the mud-spattered panes, we can see neither skyline nor sunset. A massive dark cloud encloses us, into which I can stare at burgeoning shapes for


endless amounts of time, shapes that, stare as I might, never fully form. The coal tower itself is a wretched thing. All rust and grime and garbage, lit by a urine-colored light that gives it the feel of a decrepit NYC subway station. A giant yellow cock is spray-painted across one side. On the other, someone has scratched into the metal a heart holding the initials S & M. Had I known that the gunshot would yield this and not the stark oblivion I expected, would I have done it? Though the hands of my wristwatch spin freely, because I am new to death, I still cling to the concept of time. Lewis, I yell, TWO CENTURIES? TWO CENTURIES OF THIS? How? How can you still—? Lewis giggles recklessly and turns to ethereal slime, puddling on the sooty floor. As far as I can tell, death has no escape. Once, while we were in bed, halfway between sleep and wake, Mary reached out her hand to me, and I held it and squeezed and felt an all-encompassing sense of warmth that flowed back and forth from my toes to the top of my head, and I thought-slash-dreamed that if all of life could be as that one moment, if I could feel that warmth always, then never, ever would I want to die. The hole she left was like ice. But it wasn’t as cold as the coal tower. Our Billy, it seems, is a father. On his last visit, he clutched in his dirty hands a tattered photograph of himself and a dreadlocked woman holding a full-cheeked infant. The child looked to be no more than a few months old but already full of all that cherub fat that is really just too much. Gratuitous cuteness. Yet another reminder of the savage passing of time. Lewis hovered over Billy, and I watched his face melt in misery. My father died when I was very young, Lewis tells me. My mother’s new husband didn’t like me. It made for a very lonely childhood. I can see his thoughts. They spin in rough script behind his eyes. He wants us to save Billy. Billy doesn’t want to be saved, I say, but really, I have no idea what Billy wants. What are you talking about? Everybody wants to be saved. Don’t you wish someone had saved you?



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 You have to save yourself. That’s the only way. Horseshit. Don’t you wish someone had tried to save you? I try to dissolve, but I’m already so dissolute, nothing happens. I nod. I want to cry, but it’s no longer possible. Very well. We will be the ones to save Billy. For him and for his child. We will save Billy the Hippie. Great, Lewis. We’ll save Billy. What’s the plan? Lewis deflates. Planning was never my strong suit. I was a planner. I planned decades in advance. I planned my forties, fifties, sixties. I was going to buy an old farmhouse and convert the attic into my office. I was going to write prize-winning novels and groundbreaking essays. I was going to marry Mary. No children, but two Great Pyrenees who would sleep at the foot of our quilt-covered bed. I’d take up yoga and eat lots of cruciferous vegetables to ensure I aged gracefully. We’d vacation in Croatia and Thailand. Then, of course, my plan changed. Fuck this goddamn tower. If only we could Ghost-of-Christmas-Future him, you know, give him the old Scrooge treatment, I say. Scrooge him. Scourge? I don’t think torture is the answer. We want him to want to live, don’t we? No, no, Scrooge. Scrooge is the name of a character. From a story. He gets visited by these ghosts and one of them shows him what the future could be like if he doesn’t change his ways. Ah, I see! Perhaps we can be these ghosts for Billy! Yeah, but I don’t know how to do that, do you? Like, we can’t just conjure up a movie of a shitty future and play it for him, right? Movie. Hmm. Movie? It’s like a… Never mind. What about visions? Hallucinations? Can we do that to people? Mmm. You mean dream-spinning. It’s not easy. It requires a tremendous degree of effort. And few are susceptible. It requires a soft mind. Not dumb, no, no. Soft. Giving. Though… Billy’s brain does seem rather soft most of the time, does it not? Why, he can see you plain as day half the time! Yes, I don’t see why we couldn’t spin him a dream of a dreadful future and frighten him back to life! Or two dreams. One of father-


hood, fortitude, rehabilitation. And another of endless misery. Lewis advances to the top of the tower, swooping about and muttering to himself. He hasn’t bothered explaining what exactly dream-spinning is, but I assume it is some device of his imagination. There is no guidebook to this non-existence. No definition of terms. In this way, it’s much like life. After what seems to be a great amount of deliberation, Lewis recites the stories he has formulated for me in overlapping repetition until a clotted vapor forms around me and I can’t see anything but the scenes he describes, and it is almost how I remember dreaming to be, except far more uncomfortable. In the first dream, I (and now I am Billy) am standing in a crystal-clear stream. The water flows over a mosaic of stones. A tiny pink pebble glimmers in a shaft of sunlight falling through trees overhead. In my hand is a fishing rod. At the end of my line, a lure bobs in a little current curling through the rocks. Beside me is my son. The cherubic cheeks have slimmed but are still ruddy and round with youth. His hands, as he casts his line, are strong, and when he laughs at a minnow nibbling at his boot, I am filled with an overwhelming feeling of joy. This is my son, this creature I created and nurtured into existence. It is like no other feeling I have ever felt. It is as if I am expanding. My body is reaching out and reaching out and I feel new and old and empty and full all at once. It is as if my body is singing and this child is the song. It is the kind of feeling I want to feel forever. When the dream ends, I feel as though the wind has been knocked out of me (or out of my Billy dream-body). In the next dream, I am seeing, but I am not there. Here is my son, sitting on a city bench beside an old man in a dirty shirt, hugging his backpack to his chest. His cheeks are slack, not with calm, but with resignation. There is nothing there in the once celestial face. He stares past me with a devastating blankness. He is not dead, but all around him is the loitering loneliness of death. Behind him the city blurs by, gray and indistinct. And I am full of fear. Because my boy is not dead, but he lives as if he were. He does not know color. Or comfort. Or the embrace of unconditional love. Soon, he will seek out some short escape from life. A death break. Soon, he will live that half-life his father lived before his father disappeared forever. Soon death. Oh, death. Stupid, stupid death. I believe the dreams will work. If Billy is moved, as I have been, he will no longer tango with death. It isn’t long—or it doesn’t seem long—before Billy appears again in the coal tower. He hunches against the metal wall and fits the needle into the crook of his elbow. Lewis swerves beside me and gives me a meaningful look before he begins his rapid, whispery recitation. The cloud begins to form. I can feel our child taking shape. I want Billy to see. I want him to feel the life in his veins. I want him to know his power, this endless



Blue Mountain Review / September 2021 reach within in his grasp. Guys, what am I looking at here? The future. This is what your future could be. It’s your choice, Billy. Weird. You know, sort of feels like that’s my past. I look at Billy as he hovers between me and Lewis and stares at the slumped figure of his body. I look at Lewis. Lewis looks at Billy and his face crumples and dissolves. The cloud evaporates. Billy gazes around at the wavering insides of the coal tower. I don’t know, fellas, he says, but I think this thing might be cursed. Elizabeth Mayer is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her previous work has appeared in The Forge Literary Magazine, CHEAP POP, Bodega, CRAFT, Fiction Writers Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her daughter Ruby.


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Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

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Contributing EDITORS shannon perri

angela dribbens

contributing editor

Shannon Perri holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas. Her writing has appeared in various newspapers and literary magazines, such as Houston Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Joyland Magazine, and fields magazine. Her short story, “Liquid Gold,” was a finalist for the 2019 Texas Observer Short Fiction contest; her story, “The Resurrection Act,” was awarded a 2016 Joyland Magazine Publisher’s Pick; and her story, “Orientation,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in South Austin with her husband, son, and menagerie of pets.

contributing editor Angela Gregory-Dribben lives with her two favorite redheads down in a bottom in Southside Virginia where they are hard at work growing the fattest sandwich tomato in the Piedmont’s trademark red clay. Her poetry and essays can be found or are forthcoming in Main Street Rag, Deep South, Blue Mountain Review, San Pedro River Review, Motherscope, Crab Creek Review, Crack the Spine, Cirque, decomp, New Southern Fugitive, and others. A Bread Loaf alum, she is currently a student in Randolph College’s MFA.

robert gwaltney

dusty huggings

contributing editor Robert Gwaltney, a writer of southern fiction, is graduate of Florida State University. He resides in Atlanta Georgia with his partner, where he is an active member of the Atlanta literary community. By day, he serves as Vice President of Easter Seals North Georgia, Inc., Children Services, a non-profit supporting children with disabilities and other special needs. Robert’s work has appeared in such publications as The Signal Mountain Review and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. He is represented by Trident Media Group, and has completed his first novel, The Cicada Tree.

music editor

Dusty Huggins is a family man, musician, writer, and lover of literature. His interest in writing surfaced during his freshman year at Young Harris College due to an English professor nurturing his interest, stimulating passion, and building the confidence required to find his way as a writer. Dusty is the founder of the Atlanta blues-based, Southern rock band The Ides of June, and also performs as both the lead vocalist and bassist. He is a member of The Southern Collective Experience acting as the music editor for its journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review. In his spare time Dusty enjoys touring with The Ides of June throughout the southeast.

photography credits Andreas Strandman Annie Spratt Daniel Bonilla Diego San Jairph Jakob Owens James Bold Javardh Joshua Newton



Kira Auf der Heide Kristopher Roller Liana Mikah Liao Je Wei Amina Filkins Anastasia Shuraeva Andrea Picaquadio Arthouse Studio

Furanfdemir Jack Krzysik Jonathan Meyer Julie Aagaard K. Zoltan Karolina Grabowska Kat Jayne Marios Proniaris Nani RJ

Ron Lach Sarah Chai Ylantie Koppens Sharon McCutheon Thomas Park Tyler Nix Veit Hammer Will Syilgdgb Crystal Partridge

Drazen Neske Picsabay Pexels Unsplash

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

clifford brooks


Clifford Brooks is the CEO of the Southern Collective Experience and Editor-in-Chief of the Blue Mountain Review. He is also the journal’s content editor. Aside from these duties, Clifford is the author of The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, Athena Departs, and Exiles of Eden. These collections of poetry can easily be found online.

andy whitehorne

contributing editor

Andy Whitehorne is a writer and live music fanatic residing in Atlanta, Georgia. He spent two-and-a half-decades regularly attending live concerts and working in the hospitality industry. He holds a BFA in theatre, currently works in customer success, and is the Music editor of the Blue Mountain Review.

casanova green

Contributing editor Casanova Green is a writer, singer/ songwriter, educator, and pastor. He is a 2010 graduate of Ohio Northern University where he earned a BA in Language Arts Education, with a minor in voice. In 2018 he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Reinhardt University located in Georgia’s Etowah Valley. Casanova is a member of the Southern Collective Experience, often serving as a contributing editor. He has been published in several publications including The Blue Mountain Review, Raw Art Review, and Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. In 2019, Casanova published a mini-chapbook of poetry entitled Whispers & Echoes, and his first book of poetry Things I Wish I Could Tell You is scheduled to be published in 2020. Casanova has done extensive ministry work since the age of nine, and has served as both a worship leader and choir director for over twenty years. He released his first album A Worshiper Mentality in January 2016, and his second album Songs from the Journey: Part 1, in August 2019. He is currently working on his third album Songs from the Journey: Part II, which will be released in 2020. Currently, he is the Owner of CGCreate LLC and serves as the lead pastor of True Vision Christian Community in Lancaster, OH, where he and his family reside.

Emily Kerlin

contributing editor Emily Kerlin has published poems in Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Bridge, Cider Press Review, Storm Cellar, The Pittsburg Poetry Journal and Blue Mountain Review. Her chapbook, Eighteen Farewells, won second place in the 2020 Women of Resilience Chapbook Contest. She attended Antioch College and holds a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois in Bilingual Education. Her current home is in Urbana, Illinois where she works with international students and families. You can find her at

tom johnson

contributing editor Tom Johnson was born in Roswell, Ga. He went to college focused on a career in Information Technology but to make ends meet, he worked in a few demanding sales jobs that taught him the ins and outs of marketing. He had always loved writing and he found that marketing gave him an outlet as well as a way to pay the bills. He enjoyed those aspects of his work so much that, after college, he decided on a career in sales instead of going straight into IT. Within a few months, he studied for and passed the Georgia Real Estate Exam. For the next four years he worked for Remax and later Lindsey and Pauly as a seller’s agent. After that, he became the Director of Marketing and Residential Support for a computer company. There he helped them to increase their visibility, develop new leads and on occasion, write content for client’s websites. In late 2009, he decided to go solo as a freelance copywriter for a wide array of clients. In recent years, he has been branching out into fiction and entertainment writing. His first book is slated to be published in 2020.


Megan baxter

contributing editor

Megan’s first book ‘The Coolest Monsters, A Collection of Essays’ was published in 2018 by Texas Review Press. Her debut novel ‘Farm Girl’ is forthcoming. Megan has won numerous national awards including a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been listed in The Best American Essays of 2019. Recent publications included pieces in The Threepenny Review, Hotel Amerika, The Florida Review, and Creative Nonfiction Magazine. Megan serves as a mentor to young writers and loves developing cross-genre and innovative creative writing pedagogy for her workshops and classes. She is currently conducting research for an environmentally themed novel as well as writing personal essays and poems. Megan lives in New Hampshire where she loves walking her dogs, running, and cooking with local foods.

rebecca Evans

Contributing editor

Bio: Rebecca Evans earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Sierra Nevada University. She’s hosted and co-produced Our Voice and Idaho Living television shows, advocating personal stories, and now mentors teens in the juvenile system. She’s the co-host of Writer to Writer podcast on Radio Boise. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, Entropy Literary Magazine, War, Literature & the Arts, 34th Parallel, and Collateral Journal, among others. She lives in Idaho with her three sons.

kaitlyn young

design & layouts Bio: Born and raised in the land of peaches and peanuts: Georgianative, Kaitlyn Young is a freelance graphic designer-specializing in both print and digital editorial designs. With a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and a minor in Public Relations from Kennesaw State University, she has worked in the marketing field professionally for nearly a decade. While marketing is her full-time occupation, her true passion is turning ideas into functional and informational works of art by designing magazines, invitations, business creative collateral and more. Kaitlyn lives in Canton,Georgia with her husband, daughters and labrador, Dolly.



jennifer avery

Contributing editor

Jennifer Avery is an editor and writer from the foothills of Northwest Georgia. Her poetry has been published in the Blue Mountain Review and featured on Dante’s Old South. She spends much of her time attempting experiments in skincare and wordcraft. She is currently working on her novel, Ezra in Every Dimension.

Mildred K. Barya

contributing editor

Mildred Kiconco Barya is a writer from Uganda and Assistant professor at UNC-Asheville where she teaches creative writing and world literature. Her publications include three poetry books as well as prose, poems or hybrids in Tin House,, Poetry Quarterly, Asymptote Journal, Matters of Feminist Practice Anthology, Prairie Schooner, New Daughters of Africa International Anthology, Per Contra, and Northeast Review. Her nonfiction essay, Being Here in My Body won the 2020 Linda Flowers Literary Award and is forthcoming in the North Carolina Literary Review. She received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Denver, MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University, and B.A. in Literature, Makerere University. Visit her blog:

Laura Ingram

contributing editor

Laura Ingram is poetry editor and social media manager for the Southern Collective Experience. She has had work published in one hundred journals and magazines, among them Gravel and Juked. She is the author of four poetry collections: Junior Citizen’s Discount, Mirabilis, The Ghost Gospels, and Animal Sentinel.

jess costello

contributing editor

Jess Costello is a fiction editor, writer, counseling student, and indie music nerd based in Massachusetts. In addition to The Blue Mountain Review, her work has appeared in Boston Accent and iO Literary, and she covers local art for Boston Hassle. She is at work on a novel.

Blue Mountain Review / September 2021

asha gowan

contributing editor

Asha Gowan, poetry editor, hails from Chapel Hill, NC. She writes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Her subject matter usually revolves around matters of the heart, but natural world and its imagery also figure prominently in her work. She has publications in The Coraddi, Blue Mountain Review, The Gathering of Poets, and other magazines and journals.

nicole tallman

contributing editor

Nicole Tallman is a ghostwriter and poet. Her professional writing has appeared in The New York Times, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Business Journal, and Al Jazeera, and her poetry is featured or forthcoming in the Train River COVID-19 Anthology, The Blue Mountain Review, Wrongdoing Magazine, and others. Born and raised in Michigan, she currently lives in Miami, works in the office of the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, and serves as an Associate Editor for South Florida Poetry Journal. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @natallman and at

Chris terry

contributing editor

Chris Terry draws from his fanatic love of films & music when crafting his reviews. After receiving his Master›s in Fine Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design, he’s gone on to work on numerous independent and major films along with producing film scores and music for a wide variety of genres. Chris is currently working with the film production company Fifteen Studios on upcoming projects.

Hester L. Furey

contributing editor Hester L. Furey is a poet and literary historian who lives in Atlanta.

edward austin hall contributing editor

Edward Austin Hall lives in Atlanta, where he writes whatever he can get away with.

slade gottlieb

contributing editor

Slade Gottlieb is a fiction writer born in Atlanta and raised in Milton, Georgia. He received his BA in creative writing from Oberlin College and his MFA from California College of the Arts. He’s published short fiction in print editions of the Plum Creek Review and Wilder Voice. Slade currently resides in Oakland, California, where he is at work on his debut novel. He currently co-edits fiction and poetry for The Blue Mountain Review.