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Ben Nardolilli & Friends Defense Mechanisms and Other People’s Poems edited by Walter Ruhlmann co-edited by Ben Nardolilli Š mgv2>publishing & contributors, February 2013

Contents Cover Illustration by Alain Lacouchie 1 Foreword by Walter Ruhlmann Ben Nardolilli Mind Ward The Whole World in My Hand Patriotic Front Pupil Gifts Ballroomy Longer Versions of Incidents A Dying Bedmaker So Protected Across the Town Urban Flight War Stars Army of Ancient Updated Blast from the Canon

Interviewing Skills Romance in Galillee New Socks Hard to Believe A Cooking Egg The Original Idol Rusting Up Nocturnal Homicide Echoes Nocturnal Cache Me Stay in the Whirlwind Pluralities Astor Place Mornings

& Friends Joanna C. Valente

Dear Niagara Falls

Shenan Prestwich


Damilola Michael Aderibigbe

I Hear

Jeff Grunthaner

Strategic Grill Locations

Biographical Notes


This illustration appeared on Mauvaise graine 30, January 1999

Foreword by Walter Ruhlmann I came across the mustached poet nearly two years ago and read much of his work online, started following his blog and thought: “This is what I want to read more often, this is what I want to see in the pages of the journal and more...� All these wishes were fullfilled with Ben Nardolilli's contributions, first to mgv2_69 Fifty Stars and a Maple Leaf, then to the two following issues, and now with this new volume from the X & Friends series. Lately, Irish publisher Dennis Greig wrote that poetry readers

were tired with social realism and wanted more

fantasy, more magic in what they read. Though deep inside everyday life, Ben Nardolilli's poetry always has this twist, this crack, a door through which the mind gets sucked and sent away to lands of impossible dreams, places that swirl and twirl your brain in every direction. Places that won't leave you unharmed, or rather won't let you go without having your mind still billowing and banging on the sides of your skull, full of thoughts, wondering and mooning on and on. Ben Nardolilli's poetry has this effect and much more and what is even more surprising and proves he is a great poet is that he writes poetry with self-confidence and selfawareness, some would be tempted to say egotism. I wouldn't say so, and wouldn't agree with such criticism.


He certainly has a high self-esteem at first view but when you tend to exchange views with the man, even the most down to earth words, you'll notice he is not that egocentric. Sure, the title of this volume “Defense Mechanisms & Other People's Poems” may lead the reader to think that these other people are just there to contrast. Not at all, and their poems intertwine and match perfectly with Ben's work. They do not contrast, they echo it. Whether it is the relationships between visions and reality, dreams and nightmarish thoughts in Joanna C. Valente's “Dear Niagara Falls”. The state of half-sleep, as if woken up by a vision, the type that makes you feel so awkward, almost sick, in Shenan Prestwich's “Déjà Vu”. An excavation of irony, or sadness maybe, but turned into a laugh, in Damilola Michael Aderibigbe's “I Hear”. Or this visual poem, “Strategic Grill Locations” by Jeff Grunthaner, full of words in bold and/or capital letters, set as a block, a block of words, showing the massive impact of society on the poet's mind, the hugeness of a world of affair crushing the fair, the weak, the simple, and so on and so forth. Reading this volume will take you higher, will make you think. Sure, there will be travels, there will be sceneries, vistas, but there will be thoughts. Your mind will be worked as a loaf of dough and baked, cooked, and though you may not feel better, you will surely feel wiser.


Dear Niagara Falls by Joanna C. Valente I wrote a song about you moving New York into an igloo reading from crystal balls giving answers about why we won't die in a supernova but in Antarctica swallowing what's left of the titanic sharing each of its many hooves, light fire to stories about birds and mothers—mothers and birds and bats floating off the gulf coast like toxic waste with a sign that reads please do not swallow spoonfuls only teaspoons & please remember to place gauze inside your son's marrow to prevent cancer that will kill him by spring,


only to release moths belly down on his grave, DNA translates to speech 窶馬ow a mother will finally know her son's secrets: a furnace thumps & swans beat their wings, gun-metal shots melt an igloo losing all helvetica text.


Mind Ward She asked me for some memory help, A question of what tableaux to let Fade in and out of her mind, Who were the people there, That night? The hospital, The reason, Never mind, Who was there with her, other than the staff? There’s always a staff, Which friends? If they were friends, If she told them, She asks for my journals, Some hard evidence, No reason to go back Her accounts Information overload, Overlord, Do I know the lineup, The magi who visited her, The gifts? Why didn’t I bring one? Good enough that I was there, I remind her, She knows, Who else? My journals open, Old windows, I have the names, Here is my gift, For her memory to be filled in No need for her to relive Any more than she has to, 7

Today she is feeling nostalgic In the worst possible way, A friend of hers In a different city, Gone to the hospital, One last stand In a sanitary perimeter.


The Whole World in My Hand The standard line is dragged out Until it encircles me, I am strangled as the rage Leaves and disappointment enters. It leaves to wait for the next incident, Another which will not let Me through to the utopia I chase, That place of self-satisfaction. I can see paradise and I wonder If this world is an inferno or A purgatory that is merely A painful bench to wait upon. A hope for gates sustains these feet, What keeps my hands still When I am forced to pause I no longer know enough to say.

Patriotic Front American kind of day, feeling bloated And heavy owing everything To people who will not speak to me directly, Greasy all over too but I cannot leave Anything oily alone, my fingers keep dripping, I wonder if I should intervene In my own affairs, declare a police-action On my sins and save myself the trouble Of dealing with a gang of nations united Against me by carefully using That tool of past wounds, secession, Since America and I both are itching to get out.


Pupil Gifts Making me illusions, the eyes Open and control the fresh field Of sight, giving me all The lines and colors I need. Two directors sharing one editor, They work in combination, Rarely blinking to argue Over what is best to look at. Up ahead, they make observations When I look through the rain, Leaving me the option To see a curtain of beads instead.

Ballroomy She dances with the sangria, Hands out with the pitcher, She dances with his Rasta hair, The lids in unison With the profile amassed, He dances with his hair as well, Shifting the head in between Statements religious and profane, Another, he dances with the past And present in his hat and shirt, Short-sleeved and pork-pied, In case a tribute band wants to start up, I dance with the table, Around the plates and the cups, That hold together the meals That dance with me and grapevine Over both sides of the border.


Longer Versions of Incidents we love at nightfall our mouths echo out dark words, on daybreak the serpents are the very least love swings drinks before us, it will hit you simply and blue as a master redeemed, who also hears of daybreak we drink death's music to a degree, we teach it to walk with the noon, a silence ample to lie in disaster.

A Dying Bedmaker Forgive me innocent eyes, Forgive me folk guitar Strumming over beaten speakers, Grant me peace and revelation Out of this stereo, Surround and fill me, With your sounds this evening, Eyes, I cannot call you Up for such a power, Innocent eyes, look away, Or else judge me with a verdict For this sinful husk I wear.


Déjà Vu by Shenan Prestwich Somewhere outside, a radio plays. Two legs entwine like roots trying to divine water blindly in what lies beneath them. A fog of light floats through a red gauze of cotton. I know you, without knowing who you are. With eyes closed, I am swimming in these things. They drown me brightly in a heady flash. With my eyes open, they’re too slippery to hold and I am hollow like a dried-out piece of driftwood, aching to divine a hand or sound that gripped me once, a light like honey in a memory I never had. Unsure of when to speak, I roll the question on my tongue like a copper penny, sweet and burnt, soft and deadly. I move with blindness, unsure if it’s a fair price to pay for what is blinding.


So Protected We are preserved and remembered As ones who were spectators Fell down, were wounded, and recovered, But never lived for ourselves, Or even just sat and thought About the mad parade of life, No, our smiles never convey this, There was no chance for a cryptic grin, The photographer demanded the show of teeth Pulling a confidence trick at the flash, Those smiles, our smiles He lived for waiting them to develop, And because we let him live through them, We go on being remembered not living.


Across the Town Above ground, what do I find, But the yellow gondolas, Wipers beating against the softcore rain? I give off Aryan salutes, The only way to get noticed, But who stops for me? The tires seem to only cease Their roll to recognize a doge. Oh it’s a republic, But it’s not serene, except For the tips of skyscrapers, The only quiet down here Against the water Is the beat of my own song, Keeping time for the burning away Of the laughter by the arcades, And voices crying To try and reach a friend, lover, Even an enemy. The moon is melting As I chase after replacement Globes with green hemispheres, I flow and float among Thin arms and vicious legs, Lips caressed in cosmopolitanism All of us unable to seak To one another in the haze of night, We struggle across asphalt seas, Striving for a home that’s not here.


Urban Flight I follow the welcome she offers and take a step Through the threshold to glimpse Her cupboard life here in the shade of a city, The efficiency oozing out Through the kitchen and bookcase, Where she has stacked her office into her dining room, While no clothes clutter and no plates Clog any bit of this diorama from view. Winds do not disturb her balance As her brown hair remains tied up and hibernating, An indigo blouse retains her modesty, When she bends down to soothe her cat And quiet its brown stripes to my presence, Her white toes on the ground Seem to bring the sun out of its hiding spot, I wonder how she might redecorate my living space She rises and I take another step back To see how she ultimately preserves her sanity, Above the doorway she sleeps in a loft Accessible only by a faint iron ladder That is too weak to lift two giggling bodies Up to a bed only sheltered by a papier-mâchÊ roof, Still, I imagine my head banging into it And joyously tearing through some firmament with her.


War Stars Writing with her umbrella At the risk of ghosts and geodes, She made mythological families That we tried to find a home in, Where isolation and poems were joined. We had full a cappella access But did not produce believability. Just banter with filming, The maternal was just immaterial While Christine’s skin was our gallery.


Army of Ancients I am marching with an army of ancients, Here we camp together and stitch A bivouac with stories, music, and verse, Bearing praises for this little struggle of ours, After a collected, and regimental pat On the back and slap in the face, We go to bed snoring off our pains. Among the generals, I am the only private, They have made a plain uniform A rare commodity and although I am dressed in fatigues, I am not tired, They keep me busy by fetching lice From the moss of their epaulets. I am also the sniper, the cook, and the chaplain, Listening and taking notes, the only aide In this camp, sharpening all my weapons And cleaning them out in case of war, When I will follow the drumbeat of orders To go rushing into the deadly hale From some force trying to proselytize its barbarism. In past battles I was alone, until I tossed A stone to knock foes in the middle of their eyes, Shattering a bridge and scattering Philistines, From victory came the recruiting drive For the army who locks my present steps Even as we make no real conquest, But I have been rewarded with new stripes, Given a promotion to private, first class.


Updated Blast from the Canon The new Nietzsche says The world is divided between Those who boogie up And those who boogie down, A real division With implications for civilization, Between the positives Partying for a little progress, And the negatives Who celebrate every failure, He tells us that Aeschylus Got it right with pessimism, That Sophocles was fine Enough with his wine half done, But Euripides poisoned The well with the severed head Of reason spinning on a pike Without a warm body to support it.


Interviewing Skills When she told me over wine that she wanted Ezra Pound’s words to stain her arms Like petals on the smooth white boughs, I should have told her that I would marry her then. Yes, I waited until I saw the bright band, Duplicated on both of their mirroring fingers, And though the last thing I wanted to do was sink The contours of her celebrating shadow that night I finally told her my offer, with him in earshot, So she would know that if she went back To clutching her sheets by herself, Then I would still be there, ready to face her direction.


Romance in Galilee I deserted my expectations, So I could collect myself to sigh, Then smile in resignation, You are not coming back Over the hill of distance, I am content to let this shore And blanket remain with me, To be king of all things Azure and calcium white, Ruling celibate without you, I make a throne out of sand And a checkered cloth, If I look back to your land With a sick sense of yearning, The smell of salt sets me Right to face the ocean waves, Yet even in this direction I have a bitter thought, In the sea enough fish swim To satisfy my deep net, Yet, in the same ocean I see There is enough for you too.


I Hear by Damilola Michael Aderibigbe After seeing Nigeria's got talent Tension rises on their eyebrows, their Minds are hallowed temples, Each runs his or her voice inwardly, As they await judgment. Fear, disappointment, and Hesitant compulsion, clinging to the Mouths of those to judge. My heart beats, Anxiety, visibly, invisibly, takes over The posh stage. The winner is cut away from the finalist With a sharp-edged decision. He stands with his knee-caps, his Hands pointing to the spangling lights On the ceiling of his success. The winning losers, clap for the Jubilant envy before them, The judges send salutations, to their Tearful decision. He keeps saying things to his Mind, but I could hear, Like the deaf hears. Welcome to the land of fame and Fortune - he's saying. The finalist too say things in Their minds, I hear them too, Like the dumb understands his Wound tongue. We will rue this forever - they're saying. 21

New Socks Dressed in new socks I run Up an avenue in the West Village, space itself Screaming down my thighs and tickling to reward me For all the finished business I run towards, And on the whole, I feel it was good I left That first dome by the mountains, The one I kicked down with my feet and plundered Using debts which came to me at sunrise, in a drawback.... Just behind me, over the cable wires Of this long alley of triumphs, I notice a departing Of the meekly sane and acquitted I once chose to follow Just getting to this short block of eternity. There is something reassuring them. But damn it I look so marvelous moving with these socks.


Hard to Believe Her ideal house rests as a pixel Somewhere in a computer On an architect’s desk, Perhaps it even dangles As a file ready to be retrieved By all those who admire Such recklessness with gravity. I have the very real result Right next door in front of me, She might be happy With how the tumbled die Looks in our neighborhood, But she only sees it In the morning and night. I wish we could just exchange Our houses and live Next to what we want to see, She can enjoy the wide White windows of her house While I look out of them Onto my foursquare hacienda.


A Cooking Egg They punished the child And stimulated her Creativity at the same time, A feat they liked To applaud when I asked Why she was all alone In a room colored Like the inside of an egg. Plain walls and dull light, She was supposed To remember her faults And project them Out onto the bare screens, I asked what they did If her eyes were closed During the whole time. Her parents saw their error, They went inside And grabbed the daughter, Shaking her from slumber, After that they set An alarm clock to go off Every five minutes, Not enough time to escape.


The Original Idols I thought they were a pair of Gods, The ones who named the world for me And gave me a name as well, Who could lift me up Or restrict me to a room of their choice, And who knew where I came from, They spread manna out for me Every day three full times, While mastering dangerous machines. But in time they could not tell me Where I was going and why, Offering no new commandments, Only platitudes to little effect, The best they could do was become Elder statesmen to me, And that was the end of their reign. Rusting Up I am full of canned goods, Foods processed with American pride, The cooking was slight and brief, Everything stirred into heat By microwaves and vibrations. In bed, I receive a pitch from memories My mother wound up When she fed me from scratch, I know the chemicals I ate were the same, But the body still feels deprived Shivering will come later in this attic, A digestif to speed the meal along, Though I hope not too quickly, I want to hold onto this full feeling Before discovering a hunger at midnight.




STRATEGIC GRILL LOCATIONS by Jeff Grunthaner For 70 years Leon Turnip had ruled the great industrial military starship that he called his home, and which com- -plained to the tellurian enterprise of petite friendship de- -velopment that “I am still a commodity.” A turniquet, Turnip was now ACQUIRING AN OCCULT ABILITY TO ADD VALUE TO ITSELF. $96,000,000,000,000, 000,000 in debt, but still old vigorously and mentally. Too frail his body to bring forth any living offspring, or to lay any golden egg. A problem for any man his age, remaining solitary in areas of unforeseen accident. A broken lip that would never mend, ABOUNDING IN METAPHYSICAL SUBTLETIES, and which could never alter him with smile. Howsoever, such THEOLOGICAL NICITIES had yet to occur. And as was his arbitrary whim, he arrives at the seizured Bureau of Intelligence, AN EXTREMELY OBVIOUS AND TRIVIAL THING, and a terrifying site in the VAMPIRE heart of virtual governance. At 8 in the afternoon, GREAT SOCIAL CHANGES IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT FEMININE UPHEAVAL cools him off – Oof! – and he lay in abject silence, until raised by special chauffeur to floors of a building where there were offices, through which he moves like a snail doing work, writhing stupidly in his 3-wheeled electric cart.


Nocturnal Homicide I dreamed I killed you last night, It was not particularly painful For either of us, I have trouble dreaming of blood. There was simply a blow And then you were on the ground, Cold, quiet, but with a beauty I had never seen in you before. I dreamed I killed you last night, There was no blood to clean, But when I hit you on the head, I felt my skull start to swell. You were on the ground, And I was above you, Still I wondered out loud Why I was the one feeling dizzy. I dreamed for certain I killed you Last night, you were a thief, Trying to steal my clothes, You were wearing them when you fell. Trying to look like me in my house, You thought I would be afraid To punch a hole in my likeness, But I killed you, yes, you, in my dream.


Echoes Glad to have the bad Go over to my side and know Through it all we are not different, nothing new, Design brings no inherent line Around these labels, we are not bound, West and east no enemies, neither best, Peace is internal, and so is grace From the daylight woes and the drum, Numb thoughts bring us down under a thumb That is lifted only by us, once they sat Above me, but I raised myself up like a dove.

Nocturnal Cache Here comes the knowledge That one who looks out at the world Through broken glasses And rejoices at the bent world Can survive all of these cracks. Here comes the further knowledge And awareness of a position, A wonderful world of names That describe the coast and the spin Of feelings going by in passing. Give little regard to the cargo, It is ballast in uncertain weather, And in many depths, it hinders, Care only for the direction of the ship, The position and the progress achieved.


Me Stay in the Whirlwind The requirement is that you are a fan Of something not held in the closet Under your skin and bones. Every piece of creation Has someone who likes it, Even if the club is one strong, It is there kneeling faithfully To turn one tree or one smokestack, Into an altar for humble worship. You might have a follower, You might have twelve, You are a follower too, There is always a destination You measure yourself from. Nature hates the lonely, Nature has rain and wind, It gifts rivers and erosion To bring the mountain into the sea.


Pluralities The dictator struts on us, The dictator walks on us, The dictator knows the group, Claims to work all day For the collective good Even though he claims the obstacle To security and prosperity Is us, us, us. And the cynic speaks of similar Problems and plagues, There is no solution, the group Can never hold themselves straight, They are trapped, They are hateful, The cynic takes another drink, All because of them, them, them. I hold myself back, But not to embrace a notion That this body and its shadow Are free from history, I am part of these discussions, And all solutions flow through me, But am I selfish? No, I speak of we, we, we.


Astor Place Morning Must be sunrise, That certain slant is between the buildings If the air remains stale at any moment, Then at least every breath is my organic resistance For now no pamphlets stain the ground, Only petals casually blown off spring trees I stop my strolling to strike up for a cotillion, A slow dance with the buildings and my shadow We are nicked by the occasional car horn, But we strike out to embrace every busking note I laugh at my clumsy concrete partners, And they cut off the music and metered steps It is time for the hip guerrillas to break out, Carrying Yoga mats like guns slung over shoulders.


Biographical notes Ben Nardolilli currently lives in Arlington, Virginia. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, fwriction, THEMA, Pear Noir, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. He has a chapbook Common Symptoms of an Enduring Chill Explained, from Folded Word Press. He blogs at and is looking to publish his first novel. Joanna C. Valente was born in Manhattan, New York. She attends Sarah Lawrence College as a MFA candidate in poetry writing. In 2011, Joanna was the recipient of the American Society of Poet’s Prize. She is also the founder and editor of the magazine, Yes, Poetry. Currently, she co-directs the Sarah Lawrence College Poetry Festival. Her work has appeared in La Fovea, The 22 Magazine, The Medulla Review, Owen Wister Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Uphook Press, The Westchester Review, among others. In her spare time, she is a mermaid. Shenan Prestwich is a Washington, DC-based poet and graduate of the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing program. Her poems have appeared in publications such as Slow Trains, PigeonBike, Lines + Stars, Dirtflask, Dr. Hurley's Snake Oil Cure, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Orion Headless, Outside In, The Camel Saloon, and Seltzer, and her work has been nominated for both the Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes. Additionally, Shenan edits Magic Lantern Review, an online journal of writing and film. D.M Aderibigbe is a 23-year old Nigerian student, who lives and schools in Lagos. His work earned the 2012 Most Memorable pieces at the Beachies Award, and his poems were also included in the 2012, Best of Anthology - Storm Cycle. His poetry and short fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in journals across 11 countries. Jeffrey Grunthaner is a poet & art-writer living in Brooklyn. Recent work can be found @ Bomblog, Revolutionesque, & Art Comments. & in The Death and Life of American Cities, & Creative Sugar, where he also serves as contributing art editor.

Ben Nardolilli & Friends