GOOD FAT Poetry Zine Volume 1 Fall 2017 Edited by Mike Nelson with support from the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program pplp.org
Cover art by Anna Nuttall Seacoast Artist & Art Educator Title: Movement II, collagraph print “A piece about time and the fluidity and obstacles of life.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Bee Monk Press Portsmouth, New Hampshire beemonkpress.com
For some time, I’ve wanted to gather together a sampling of the variety of voices I've heard at local readings over the last couple decades. The poems here don’t represent any one particular style of poetry, rather they present a broad cross-section of poets and perspectives from the seacoast and the region. From Portsmouth to Walpole, Eliot to Ogunquit, Newburyport to Somerville, Good Fat covers a good chunk of the New England poetry map. I kept my poetry to myself for a long time, but when I finally worked up the guts to go to my first reading I discovered something critical that had been missing from my writing practice. You can’t grow as a writer without the vulnerability that comes from exposing your work to the community and without reading and listening to others’ work. The power of listening and being heard is a gift that this community of writers gives to each other month after month, year after year. This zine, like the poetry reading, is one more way to give that gift and to reach outside those circles as well. Whether you’re a poet or not I hope you enjoy this collection and that you feel inspired to write or create something, go to a reading, have a conversation, get involved or maybe just stare at the clouds a little longer. To submit work for Good Fat email email@example.com Mike Nelson
Teenage Mutant Sylvia Plath Teenage mutant Sylvia Plath is taking a grey walk on Commonwealth Ave. on her way to a potentially historic class where she’ll brood despite dirty looks from Anne Sexton and her friends. Sylvia Plath lingers on the bike path along the Charles seeking an outlet for her wrath and contemplating throwing herself into traffic. Awkward adolescent Walt Whitman sits on his ass contemplating democracy and leaves of grass on a dull morning dressed in brown, celebrating himself and assuming what you shall assume about his past. Walt Whitman is lurking at the shipyard watching shirtless men lift crates. Unrepentant douchebag Charles Bukowski is at the horse track swearing at lousy strangers, picking scabs and drinking warm beer while a poor woman sits at home waiting for his call; he’s writing a mean poem about her on the bathroom stall. Wild coot William Carlos Williams is driving to the hospital thinking about death and dancing, steering into a field to watch the rain fall on his windshield. William Carlos Williams is pacing halls in scrubs incanting, his patients all calling & cancelling.
Zachary Little Rollinsford, NH
10 Things That Will NOT Be Going on My Resume 1. I think about stealing a lot more than I actually do it. I have imagined my own heist montage. The careful planning, the nights spent creating false footage to feed the security cameras. In it I am all things, the hacker, the contortionist, the ballistics expert. And I get away with it every time. 2. Every boss I’ve ever had has quit, retired, or been fired shortly after I left. 3. Correlation ≠ causation. 4. When I tell people my parents are nudists and also Evangelical Christians, I follow it up with, “I know. Explains a lot doesn’t it?” but I’m not special. In the hybrid clash of hyper-sexualization and the vestigial tail of Puritanism, we were all raised by Evangelical nudists. 5. Sacrilege is the only form of worship left to the hedonist. 6. Tom Waits told me people don’t care if you tell them a lie or the truth as long as it makes a good story and I believed him. 7. I have lied by pretending to be lying while telling the truth. I have told the truth then lied about it, then lied again then tried to tell the truth but couldn’t remember the difference. 8. When I was four I brought a duckling to my uncle to see if he could fix its broken foot. He looked it over and snapped its neck against his desk. “Yup, it’s broken,” he said as he tossed the body in the trash. Its webbed foot looked like a tulip, half-bloomed.
9. I am studying Python, I have google searched contortion for beginners. And last week I shot a gun for the first time. 10. We are all as dangerous as we want to be.
L.J. Elitharp Newmarket, NH
Headliners A pusher, crazed with meth, thought it fun to light his farts— you know what’s next: his lab explodes, and we laugh reading this, at what— his idiocy? the absurd? at how the News of the World can detonate inside our skulls? It’s as if a spark of him remains inextinguishable to haunt the rooms where nightly we sit before our PC screens as Wheel of Fortune plays, with Pat and Vanna, the inane patter we’re addicted to. Oh tell me where some greater fool awaits to burst in flame.
Richard Foerster Cape Neddick, ME
Some Part of It Resonates On the side of a road, an animal’s life is pouring out. Its bloated head knocked crooked, eyes fully cataract – the sky reflecting only thunderous storms in its sockets, the road quivering in mirage. Is this me? I lie somewhere, quite possibly unconscious, unaware and consistently imploding. Someone made me this way, uncertain of my own surroundings and injuries. No matter what I might think of myself, it must be wrong. I am the lump of fur on the white line. I am driving the car. I am scared for the life that surrounds me, but not my own. I am unrecognizable. Kayla Cash Newmarket, NH
Tabanca (Spirits) From every glass I emptied, it was your voice that echoed back, birds unpinning the strings that hold in the roar of intrauterine storms. The city parks spit fireworks, the seasonal migration of sparks skyward, ascending to a heaven of magnets reverberating with your voice. A pause, a shift in direction, the body's brakes cut, threatening to launch us through years like an 18-car pileup. Doused in the light of a hangover, dried out in the morning after; an empty hallway, an absence, where your voice does not answer. Marybeth McNamara Somersworth, NH
Without Notice I didn’t say anything eloquent or rousing, no words I could look back on with pride or retell with gusto. You had told me those lies that those in power tell, to ensure they stay in power: that you were the only truth-teller, that I was weak, but filled with a potential that only you could unlock, if I promised to sacrifice my integrity for your success. I knew leaving was my only chance of survival, but it didn’t feel heroic — only that if I stayed for one more minute, the world would explode. You pretended to believe me when I said, “It’s not you, it’s me,” You wished me the best — lied for the witness I just nodded along, so you wouldn’t say anything else to keep me from walking out the door. I took only what I could fit in my backpack. Act casual. Don’t run. Just one foot, then the other. When my feet touched the asphalt, as the door clicked behind me, the music swelled. I finally took a breath and was free. Crystal Paradis Somersworth, NH
Swinging on the Screen Door Naked (to be read aloud quickly and breathlessly) so it is summer and I am out of Eighth Grade and next year I start High School so THIS summer SHOULD go on forever (if Anyone is listening Amen) and for some reason I am inside the house before the streetlights come on and for some reason the sun is just setting and I am supposed to be taking a bath (I know this is stupid but stay with me) and from the bathroom down the hall I can see through to the front door which is open and the screen door which is “keeping the flies out” and the sun is going down (and I am already naked and everything because well I was just wearing shorts anyway) so I rush into the living room and swing out on the screen door into all those orange clouds and all those trees limp with day-heat into a world that is empty except for me and all that luscious July summerness (you know where this is going right) and I rush past my brothers who are on the couch watching TV (and could not care less) and my big sister who is also on the couch who screams at my Mom who is in the kitchen “Mom! Mike is swinging on the screen door naked!” and I really don’t care because I am taking my bath in the sunset but my mother comes running from the kitchen mad as a wet hen and she screams all three of my names and she commands me to get back in the bathroom and she makes up yet another rule (Who is keeping track of all the rules here?)
“You CANNOT go outside when you’re naked because the neighbors will see you and I’ll get phone calls from the Aygarns, and the Trautmans, and the Hansfords…” (and she lists as many of the neighbors as she can think of in her Wet-Hen State which I am very familiar with) and go back and make that MORE phone calls from the neighbors because this is not the FIRST time they will have dialed 275-4282 (which they have memorized for some reason) and started a phone conversation with “Do you have ANY idea what Mike is up to now?!?” (So what’s the take-away here?) by Eighth Grade I had already figured out that this is not MY world and this is not MY family and they are certainly not MY neighbors and I have NEVER been interested in clothes (I mean: What’s the point?) and well MY world is outside and I can fly wildly on the screen door (out and in and out and in and out) bathing in the changing sunset at first marmalade orange and then peppermint-ice cream pink and then dark plum-blue and finally bathing in the stars set in German-chocolate blackness (and I get it that my mother doesn’t get it) but I can swing on the screen door naked and shout whatever nonsense I want and all those colors of the sunset will just smile because THEY love me John-Michael Albert Portsmouth, NH
Watermelon When I was young we ate watermelon by the half-moon slice outside spitting the seeds on the ground. They only sell seedless now. When my daughter found a rogue in her melon, already cut into bite sized cubes, she had found a treasure. “I’ll grow it!” she told me. With her plastic sand shovel she dug a shallow hole out back next to the generator so as not to dig up any of the grass Daddy had planted. She promised she would share her fruit with me. Imagine my surprise when she pulled me by the hand to show me the green vine curling along the earth, thriving. Theresa Monteiro Dover, NH
Break the Stigma In the world is so much hate So many negative labels It’s so hard for me to take I want to sweep them off the table. Words like wacko, schizo, psycho, freak Drunky, alcy, wet brain, lush Pill popper, junkie, crackhead, fiend Freeloader, scumbag, low life, trash Words can change the world with love Listen, compassion, empathy, kind Help, heal, guidance from above Connect, hope, faith, open mind. Without words of judgement, give them a chance Empower them to rise from the ashes and dance. Angela Whiting Safe Harbor Recovery Center Poetry Class Portsmouth, NH
To Unlearn a Life of Forgetting 1991 Force it’s legs open and have the babysitter saunter out. Have him take your tongue and leave you taking notes on everything he took, a sudden adult at six. The year you adopt the words, silent and secret and cradle their newborn heads, careful of your singing voice and the lilacs over their eyes. 2001 The Armageddon came late but you saw it arrive. Wiped its messy hands over your parent’s mouths and sprouted its feet slow. Dug roots into your dog’s thigh, and after the cancer, you gathered his fur into a thick pinch, watched it flutter to the floor. 2006 The sun’s slanted tongue sang loud once the baby was gone. Found you, a shadow in a field, bent over a blade. You cut the thick stalks of tulips, watched every one fall into the dirt like a dirge. How the black mud in you spilled the biggest vowels. 2012 Was the year of no nails. Was spent in the dark and fumbling for a window, a way out, a book half read next to the nightstand. The pile of crescent moons beside the bed, the closet, the suitcases aching for your empty hands. 2013 A familiar dawn rises in you, the year to bloom and leave the trail red with dust, to say, Goodbye to what you know as love, and go. No documents, no prints, just walk clear through the flatlands of a strange skin and leave a piece of your dark in every point on the map.
[You become a plane kissing the tongue of a golden field. You become a familiar dawn, a trail red with dust, a lonely letter on the skin of a mattress. You become a map and a torch, and set fire to the night that had settled in the corners.] Heidi Therrien Manchester, NH
Pine Island Road They ought to string five wires from pole to pole, Haul a piano out there with a pickup, And wait until the swallows settle in. Then have Victor Borge play the score. Alfred Nicol Newburyport, NH
The Fire Within Our Tears There is so much invested In the shields of rage. I will not return to find Faces obscured, And a future that's become A past filled with hideous Nameless angels with Hands fixed for violence. I know there are trapped Doors beneath me as I walk. I call you coward. The magician too has departed. Of the rest, many still gather In the streets searching For a valid alternative. There seems to be among Each a new trust for the other, As if they had uncovered Some terrible hoax. Remember thisThe fire within our tears Is a reflection of your Empire burning. Jonathan Stoker West Brașov, Transylvania
LOTK I am a chef Not the glamorized kind that walks about with stars in his eyes Nor the sort that has the crazed lifestyle of working till one AM, Getting completely smashed with my line guys To have to be functioning that same morning at 11 Just a straight edged, sharp as a Santoku Chef So, when you come to me, O Great Kitchen Manager of Mordor, Asking why I executed Chicken Marsala this way, and what for, I look at you, shorter than I, and peer past your entitled disguise At times, I swear the truest form of you betrays itself, like river folk, And it’s no wonder that I see in you Sméagol, withered and broke What is this, Precious? Has the Chefses added Espangol Sauce? Always thinking and tasting and improvings things! We hates it!! Sneaky, tricksy two-faced Chefseses! The kitchen is lost, Precious! Pretend to be its friend, yes! We will pretend to like them… And when they feel safe, we will micromanage them, my love, We will cause them to deconstruct their love for food, and then…Control will be ours! So, I look at you, pitiful shadow of a former chef, and wonder if you’ve burnt out Like the glove that fell into the toaster last week, causing my morning assistant to freak. And as smokey as it was (like the facade you wear), its mismanagement, as it turns out, that drives us band of chef-Hobbits to embrace you for what you are Gollum! Gollum! Shane Morin Dover, NH
The Wrong Hermit Crab The first thing you did when we brought you home in a happy blue cage was pull your cagemate out of his shell, pinch off two of his legs, and eat them like drumsticks. He died the next morning, eyes waving on their stalks. Now it’s just you, as you must prefer. I couldn’t look at you for over a week, murderer, but at last I knelt down, shaking my head, and asked how could you? You make scuttling sounds by way of an answer— clanking & clomping & clanging around each night: Oh, I’m your hermit crab, alright. Wendy Cannella York, ME
Me ‘N Vinnie I am the same age as Van Gogh when he died maddened by the paints he loved and the cracked eggshell of a psyche that could see depression in a sunflower. I am a reluctant survivor, my madness tamed by medications which are not a weakness, merely weapons I use to silence the voices others cannot hear; but you heard them Vinnie, and you listened like my husband’s best friend, Bill, listened and then shot himself in the chest just like you did a century earlier, leaving two thousand finger-painted canvases as your legacy; all Bill left was a glimpse of the stretcher’s white sheet glaring through the wreckage of his ribcage. Lauren WB Vermette Dover, NH
New Lyrics for the song that daunts every baseball field soloist O, say can we see by alternative facts what so smugly we claimed as diversity’s staying? Scorned black lives and hijabs, and the refugees’ plight. Our new rampart’s … a wall, (if our neighbors are paying). And the pipeline’s dark oil, soaks into sovereign soil and gives proof day and night that our treaties are spoiled. So ask – what has that star-covered cloth signified? That our freedoms are chained till our doors open wide. Maren C. Tirabassi Portsmouth, NH
My Mother’s Tongue She used to stick it out for me, displaying the deep cleft down its middle, irregular bumpy sides and tiny cracks like those on misfired porcelain. She’d extend it, roll it into a long tight tube, then flatten it to reveal its blotchy red surface. We’d stand before the bathroom mirror, comparing the hated old tongue to my young flawless, flat one and I’d listen to her berate it and whatever else she saw as her other imperfect features. It was a tongue that could slice with Samurai precision. Who the hell do you think you are? pierced phone lines when my father’s fishing buddies woke her at 4:00am, asking for Captain Joe. Would you mind moving over? she’d hiss at the churchgoer who refused to slide into the wooden pew, causing me to cower in teenage humiliation. The tongue had no respect for boundaries. With words, You didn’t let him touch you, did you? or Where does your boyfriend stay when he visits? it would pry into private areas where it had no place. Mostly, her tongue would judge— the friend who wore too many bracelets, the spaghetti sauce that never tasted as good as hers. You don’t know how to dance, do you? she would notice aloud. The tongue always called a spade more than a spade. I had planned to use my young tongue to spread rose petals, to help polish those who wanted to see their own shine. If my tongue flapped in unkindness, I hoped it would be a butter knife rather than a sword— Today, with my sixty-year old tongue extended to my dentist, I learned I have what’s called a geographical tongue. The red splotches and tiny fissures of its surface resemble Pangaea-like plates that react to spicy meals.
Remembering words, I never asked to be born. If you don’t like it, go home, cruelties I once hurled at my mother and others, I cringed when he said it, It’s hereditary, you know. You have your mother’s tongue.
Barbara Bald Alton, NH
The Night the Dreams of Mr. T Crossed Nightmares with those of Edgar Allen Poe Once, upon a Halloween night’s dreary long ago, A certain bodyguard turned actor, put head to pillow (And) Hoped he would have pleasant dreams, but little did he know Despite his Mohawk, bling, big guns, And trick or treating being done, For him, the scares had just begun, The night that Mr. T.’s dreams crossed nightmares with those of Edgar Allen Poe. The first place Mr. T.’s dreams this night’s odyssey did go, The sitting room of a man menaced by the one-word flow Of a Raven. But was T fazed by this mono-speak? Hell no! ‘Ere the next “Nevermore” this intruder did gabba, T did stop this mono-conversational blabba, When he told the bird – “Don’t gimme no jibba jabba!” A midnight made much less dreary, the night that Mr. T.’s dreams crossed nightmares with those of Edgar Allen Poe. Next, T’s nightmare did convey him to a sea kingdom’s nightglow, Where some guy was taking notes and standing by, weak and callow, His girl was getting killed and chilled by winds that out of clouds did blow. Just then Mr. T saved her, asked her name, she said Annabel Lee, She thanked him for acting as fast as he did and then asked “Who are thee?” To which he looked up in the boyfriend’s direction and grimly replied, “First name Mr., middle name period, last name…T,” The night that Mr. T.’s dreams crossed nightmares with those of Edgar Allen Poe. The dream then changed, T found himself in Venice, down below, As he who played tricks with a cask of Amontillado
He could not suppress the urge of bricking up his drunken foe “For the Love of God, B.A. Barrackus,” cried Fortunato, doomed drunker, T turned to this inebriate down on his lucker And sternly retorted, “Don’t gimme no back talk sucker!” The night that Mr. T.’s dreams crossed nightmares with those of Edgar Allen Poe. Then, T found himself in a large gothic house, a grim tableau A Prince’s masque, which the Red Death was soon to overthrow, But T’s badassedness made him immune to the plague’s woe As Red Death reached the Prince’s Chambers, things unspooled, T felt bad, though to his subjects the Prince was cruel Shook his head as he then said, “I Pity the Fool,” The night that Mr. T.’s dreams crossed nightmares with those of Edgar Allen Poe. Soon, T’s nightmares metamorphed, another dark scenario In which he found himself portraying a sinister role Of a man who killed, buried his wife then plastered up the hole Four days after, police came, and T kept his cool Til exposed by his mutually walled in, ex black cat’s mewl When arrested, all he could yell was “Shut Up Fool!” The night that Mr. T.’s dreams crossed nightmares with those of Edgar Allen Poe. Then, the sinister dreamscape’s foreboding, dark Plutonian flow Found Mr. T renting a room to an older fellow Who, with his cold blue eye, drove Mr. T insane also So T killed and put him ‘neath the floor, he thought sure He was set, then cops came, something weird did occur Mr. T. heard the old man’s heart beat then the police became suspicious when he looked at the floor and said “Don’t Make Me Mad, RRRRRR,” The night that Mr. T.’s dreams crossed nightmares with those of Edgar Allen Poe. Mr. T., otherwise largely known as Lawrence Tero Woke from his Edgar-Allanous Poelucinatious throe Smiled, got out of his bed, quickly ran to the window Asked the first young boy he saw what day it did be The boy said, why, it be November 1st Mr. T!
T said, “Find me the fattest day after Halloween goose you can get, and bring it to me!” Then Mr. T? He fatted out like a Duke, The night after his dreams crossed nightmares with those of Edgar Allen Poe. George Jack Derry, NH
The Burden It was so near the end the end slept between us like a highway. When you said trouble is as long as a river, I said at least there are two ways it could go. I wanted to know which one you would choose, the spring or the salt. But in all the drought you were already tired of not making up our minds. I had only meant to ask wouldn’t you rather put that down now and go on being in love than stare up at the ceiling because you can't get to sleep? I didn’t understand your answer, distracted as I was by how in the heat the sudden steam began rising off the street. I'd seen how the rain had come rushing to meet the pavement, how it had fallen and sighed once, and then recoiled. Oh. No need to explain. Alice Fogel Walpole, N H
The Boring World Where are the unicorns? What have we done? Did they drown in scripture’s boring flood? Were they locked away for being too beautiful because of governments boring laws? Were they dissected by boring old scienceparts tagged and filed away in a temperature controlled warehouse? Boring special effects can create one for us to watch on boring TV while eating boring potato chips. But I want to see one in real life For it to accept me onto its back to go riding across an open plain or down miles of beachwaves dramatically crashing I want to know this feeling I have is true that I’m not boring that I’m real that there’s no difference between me and the unicorn Mike Nelson Portsmouth, NH
Cutting the Mustard shouldn’t really require a knife. Other things in life are tough to cut through: steak, confusion, red tape, but mustard’s more illusion, a spice more “spread” than “cut,” using, to be fair, the same utensil, one with rare dual purpose, like keys or a pencil— lock, unlock; write, erase— fight and cancel, do and undo, while the knife’s more “this or that,” held straight or flat—it’s not the problem, nor the herb; what’s flustered is the verb, which lacks finesse— unable, I guess, to cut the mustard.
Midge Goldberg Chester, N.H.
Gorey Moods Who let the monsters out? Who collected cheese graters? Whose interest in the occult Lead to fantod deck creation? That would be.... Edward Gorey Who put the hatchet Into the alphabet? Whose feline fascination Lead to furcoat recreation? The subject of this verse? A fit epitaph, don't worry.... You already guessed it..... Edward Gorey. Who collected rocks shaped like animals? Who loved elephants more than witches’ spells? Whose wore lots of jewelry As part of his tomfoolery? Who donned the furs and hides? Who wrote tiny books with Scary surprises inside? Who appealed to our fears, For fun, and less savory ideas? Edward Gorey.... End of story. Kate Leigh Portsmouth, NH
Tainted The chickadees bathe by the cars in a dip of pavement, fluttering ice and rainbow rain water, dripping with a sheen of gasoline. Todd Dowey Portsmouth, NH
For William Carlos Williams I love the midwifery of it: birthing a poem. The patient gentle handling of one tiny part at a time, sometimes a painful bloody mess sometimes a terrifying task until at last, shivering, demanding, finding light and life, so sweet, so cold. I imagine you. Your big plum plucking hands bringing thousands of babies into the icy day along with your poems. You birthing ripe babies ripe poems ripe plums All growing up alone against a smooth purple sky. Tammi Truax Eliot, ME
Our Love If I could just catch it, Put it in a jar. Sit it by my bedsideI could stare all night, At the twinkling. But to my dismayWhen the morning light Awakened me, I had forgotten to Poke holes in The lid. Samantha Hayford Somerville, MA
Being Being that those who are peacemakers Would be much more entertaining If they hung out with the rabble-rousers, Being that those who are meek Should grow a back bone. Being that those who mourn Should suck it up, buttercup, We shall shape Our society to sustain Only the self-sufficient. Because being blessed Counts for nothing here. Carla Desrosiers Rochester, NH
Action Required Attached firmly to the entrails of receding justice, we stand in shock, aghast. Can the torch of Liberty burn out so easily, extinguished by apathy, or will we intervene? Must it be the fate of humanity to erupt into civil war, knowing historically, they failed to resolve? By voicing our truth, interpretive words, dismissing silence as passive acceptance, action required; peace is not attained by chance. Julie A. Dickson Exeter, NH
Ode to the Turkey laud the tom turkey, puffed up to breed in the face of the shovel’s discourtesies— corpses, stored over the hard clay of winter are lowered at last to the cool dark and worms and our grieving ignored as historic, the young are off dancing to country guitars, grabbing and grinding as spring peeps of potency, newts slip to vernal pools, none of which eases our emptiness; life passes swiftly and ought to be praised, how it blankets the earth like a banquet for turkeys to pick through. Andrew Periale Rochester, NH
Curmudgeon necessity without invention is a real mother now afternoon delight means a nap senses are failing; what a relief Shir Haberman Hampton, NH