ouroboros review poetry and art
Issue ďŹ ve June 2010 ISSN 2040-5782
Featuring an interview with Kelli Russell Agodon and January Gill Oâ€™Neil Poetry from Barbara Smith, Rob Mackenzie and Andrea Potos
“The Secret of Life” After Denise Levertov
Interview Kelli Russell Agodon & January Gill O’Neil
Poets Sara Hughes Ann E. Michael Mark Pietrzykowski Kate Bernadette Benedict Matthew Keuter Bob Johnston Liz Kay Barbara Smith Teresa Breeden Robin Chapman Grant Loveys Christine Swint Brandon Courtney Amorak Huey Patricia Byrne Rob A. Mackenzie
3 3 4 5 6 6 7 8-9 10 11 11 12-13 22-24 24 25 26
Jaki McCarrick Anindita Sengupta Kate Peper Charmi Keranen Andrea Potos Pris Campbell Tasia M. Hane-Devore John Grey Joan Mazza Amanda Silbernagel Michael Diebert Stefanie Maclin Jeff Calhoun Dan Wilcox Trina Gaynon
27 28 29 30 31 32-33 34 34 35 36-37 38-39 40 41 42 42
I’d never seen before. Crooked as a coastline, that wrinkle left me stumbling across a new continent, through valleys no one had ever walked. Then the moment slipped away, which happens every time I ﬁnd it, every time I come to that edge, like meeting my dead grandfather in a dream then not recalling a single word. I wanted to take
Artists James Brush Anna Dickie Kevin Dickinson Patricia Byrne Mary Hillier Melora Walters
Last week I found it: a crease on my husband’s cheek
4 8, 9 (in collaboration with the poet) Cover artist, 37 10, 25, 29 32, 33 (in collaboration with the poet) 41, 43
EDITORIAL Editors: Jo Hemmant (London), Carolee Sherwood (New York), Jill Crammond Wickham (New York) Website: http://www.ouroborosreview.com Cover art: Triangles by Kevin Dickinson
Ann E. Michael Game Go directly to seven. Begin the count in media res. Whatever went before is out. Leave home with the cupboards open, doors ajar. Stop wherever you are, jettison your cares. Empty the pocket your mother sewed shut to keep you out of trouble (though it did not). Invoke a higher power. If none answers, call for whale-songs, spinning wheels, 90-proof alcohol. Move ahead six. Take a card. Lose a turn if that’s what it says. Earn someone’s scorn. Hoard money, health, ability, and thus advance ‘til something goads—risk it all, girl, take a chance. Poet, essayist, librettist Ann E. Michael lives in Pennsylvania and teaches at DeSales University. Her work has been published in many journals, including Poem, Natural Bridge, Runes, Atlanta Review, and others. She is a past recipient of a PCA Fellowship in Poetry. Her chapbooks include More than Shelter, The Minor Fauna, and Small Things Rise & Go. Her website is www.annemichael.com.
my husband in my arms last week, whisper the secret in his ear, but by then I’d already forgotten what I almost knew. It had something to do with something, yes, something entirely new. Sara Hughes is in her second year of the PhD program in poetry at Georgia State University, where she also teaches undergraduate composition. Her poems and reviews have been published in Rattle, Rosebud, Arts & Letters, and Love Poems and Other Messages for Bruce Springsteen: An Anthology.
Kate Bernadette Benedict Tu, the Driver
I Sit In A Chair And Read The Newspapers
Sorry we’re late. Our driver’s from Burkino Minh, he doesn’t know our words for things yet. The grid all but defeated him, the severity, those sharp parallels. He took up the wheel in unimaginably different circumstances. They say the place is unmappable.
I sit in a chair and read the newspapers and wait for spring to trail her hem across the windowpane. Raw buds and meltwater will gird me against the newspapers. Starved sparrows will light in the yard and save me. Marduk will stick Tiamat with an arrow. My neighbors will uncover and scrub their boats and cars. The Sun will perch at 0° on the Celestial Equatorial Plane, and the newspapers and the news and the world of men who prattle and battle and frustrate and steal and kill will recede, and I will pile the newspapers and tie them with twine and put them in the basement to dry into stacks of brittle wings meant to set the ﬁres of next winter aloft.
Marc Pietrzykowski lives in Lockport, NY, with his wife and various furry mendicants. He has had poems and essays in 88, Diagram, Pleiades, Alaska Quarterly Review, Ghoti, and a few others. His books of poems are: ...and the whole time I was quite happy, available from Zeitgeist Press, and The Logic of Clouds, published by BlazeVox books.
So we zagged when we should’ve zigged, yes. And wound up south when we were heading left. And turned up into the downturning trafﬁc. We have the grazes to prove it, my friend, the dings and the nicks. Sorry about your gate, then, and those perennial beds. He plowed right through them, oblivious. What has he to do with ornamentals? Cotyledon, wrought—these ideas are unpronounceable, not of his alphabet. Just look at him out there, all starch, no affect, his bearing a complete rigidity. There’s just no getting a rise out of the fellow. Still, he got us here. He’ll get us home.
Everything But Oh, sure, focus on mummy instead, so rheumy-eyed and tipsy—that spectacle. On daddy locked inside the boat’s head—those sounds. The nymphet sunbathing in a bikini? Just another distraction, her pungent armpits gone to stubble. It isn’t about the chop on the sound, not this time, or the eels in pails or the ﬁres cracking on Half-Moon Beach. And if a little boy there crisps and blisters, it’s no fault of yours. So put down the spyglass. Train your eyes on She who stands before you, armless, omniﬁc and bare, though you have to look up, way way up, she is so tall.
Kate Bernadette Benedict is the author of the full-length poetry collection Here from Away and the editor of the poetry journals Umbrella and Tilt-a-Whirl.
James Brush, Rolling Bottle 4
Liz Kay Poem for the Third Anniversary of Your Death
The Dry Season Three Years After the Floods
1. Prayers of the Faithful
God is thrilling. Hazards the sun out longer everyday. Dogs have drunk the last water from the cat’s eyes, mosquitoes worry the blood from their wings, all the trees skinny-up, shy of noon a shadow holds its head and cries. This is where our ﬁnal love encounter takes place. In the dry gulch at the bottle neck where the Colorado can’t ﬁnd its way around the bullfrog poisoning the last puddle in the county. You take your shirt off, snap-shoot your bra at the frog in response to the sun constricting everything. We loose down in it barefoot, my toenails could scratch out a screen door. There’s no one in harm’s way, I answer you. Then the sun kills us. Then gets down to the meanness of bringing us back.
When you died, we had you shrunk down to postage stamp size and stuck on a prayer card. I carried you in my pocket for weeks like a worry stone.
Matthew Keuter’s writing has appeared in journals across the U.S. and has twice been nominated to the Pushcart Prize. The Short Imposition of Living, a book-length collection of poetry is available from Rain Mountain Press, NYC. His plays have been produced in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, New York City, and London. He currently lives in San Francisco, CA.
I rubbed my ﬁngers raw.
Seduction–The Witch Takes a Lover
I strung memories of you like rosary beads, but the only mysteries I’d pray were joyful. Sorrow swept in like incense.
I twist the bone until I hear it crack beneath my hands, and pull the marrow forth
I kept losing my place.
to set it sizzling in the pan.
2. Eating the Dead Begin with the ﬁngers, delicate ribbons of seasoned skin along the bone, each digit little more than a dainty nibble.
I press it to his lips, but he turns his head from the taste. I suck it through my ﬁngers,
Next, the palm, a weightier matter, gnawing those lost fortunes, the tangled lines of possibility unraveling against the tongue.
Coarse Texture You always were an ornery sort of critter with a crossgrained disposition. We used to say you’d swallowed too much sand in those bad years when you had to ride out to the back range to see how many head of our herd had choked on tumbleweeds and dust.
press my face against his face. The measure of a man I know only one way
Digest them. Know that it will take seasons.
to take--it’s to judge how hard I have to push
3. Mourning Song Bob Johnston is a retired petroleum engineer and translator of Russian literature. At 89, he is occupied mainly in completing various projects ahead of the ultimate deadline: The Great American Novel, his memoirs, and a collection of his poetry. Meanwhile, he continues his efforts to bring his immortal words to the attention of an indifferent world. For rest and relaxation, he sends nasty commentary on the local political scene to New Mexico newspapers.
It wasn’t until we laid you out in your best suit when I ﬁnally put my hand on your face that I knew the sand had gotten into your blood and kept us apart.
His poetry has been published in Rattle, Margie, Pearl, The Formalist, Iambs and Trochees, Light Quarterly, and many other journals. Prose pieces have appeared in Pangolin Papers, The Lamp-Post, Liquid Ohio, Nuthouse, Journal of the Institute of Petroleum, and Australian Bridge Journal.
A two ﬁngered pinch of the spoon and we begin our slow spin— revolving, revolving. This is how I stir my coffee, deliberately.
before he starts to break.
Liz Kay holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska, where she was the recipient of both an Academy of American Poets’ Prize and the Wendy Fort Memorial Prize. In 2008, she was awarded a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize for excellence in lyric poetry. Her work has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, such journals as: Margie, Red Wheelbarrow, Whiskey Island Magazine, and The New York Quarterly.
Meanwhile the lilies grow outside my window, a gorgeous shade of grief— pumpkin with streaks of sunshine, spots of apple seed. Your memory powders, puffs, blows in the wind like pollen
empty now once I queened this whole byke alive constructed some cells laid ﬁrst workers a year to die
Arcs run errands the pleasing rails of journeys made No path runs straight parallel lines hate each other
Rooted In the quest for sudden moisture you’ve grown greedy: each of these under-limbs was once a white tendril of searching cells that became gnarled, aged with geotropic groping, as the seasons turned and ﬂed your groaning girth, your grasping clutches.
Zigzags grip black against the purity of crystal white
Anna Dickie, Wasps
how do we we are shes know to build build more cells cubicles like our eyes forage for caterpillars magniﬁed – each cell greenﬂy, meat scraps collaborate buzz-sawed and twenty two days to make the byke chewed is our life survive the summer make new queens ﬂy and ﬁnd a spot to we are hes in our city hibernate at summer end of eyes we obey six weeks of ﬁnding each other’s will so sweet fruit for honey we become one conmake new queens glomerate supera year to die then we die organism laid ﬁrst workers constructed some cells this whole byke alive once I queened empty now
Barbara Smith is a full-time wordsmith and mum-to-six, living in Leinster, Ireland. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast. Barbara’s work has won many awards, including a prize at the Scottish Wigtown Poetry Competition in 2009; appearance on the shortlist for the Smith/Doorstop Poetry Business Pamphlet contest; and a substantial residency from the Tyrone Guthrie Writer’s and Artist’s Centre, Ireland.
Anna Dickie, Roots
Anna Dickie, Tracks
Barbara’s debut collection is Kairos from Doghouse Books. Barbara blogs at “Barbara’s Bleeugh” (http://intendednot2b.blogspot.com/).
A Clearing in January
The Ice Man
On the south sides of houses, snow evaporates, soil steaming in the heat. Cats congregate on front walks, shoving their bodies into warmed cement,
Early spring eviscerates the snowdrifts unbolts the frozen cage around the body and the slush loses its grip beneath the skin shaved ice like points of starlight in the cells disappearing as the the blood wakes, grows thick and full-bodied and carves the hooked glyphs of its bildungsroman into vein walls
pressing it into all the dark places of their furs. Neighbors wander past, faces tilted skyward, and if I look closely, I can actually see them growing,
seedlings in a rare clearing of winter. On the front steps I melt like butter in the light, listen to the last echo of cold fade from my bones.
Genevieve at Twelve Months
A cat stops by with rub and purr to acknowledge my good judgment as I dream of seeds, plan ﬂowering vines and hot peppers. I imagine
Teresa Breeden is a member of the Ash Canyon Poets, has an unrequited love for the words of Tony Hoagland, and adores garden tomatoes. She was a recipient of the 2007 NV Arts Council Fellowship for Literature and has poetry published in 13 states in various journals and anthologies.
the dark juices of blackberries, the pulp of a garden tomato sluicing out under the knife. I step onto the soil, measure its promise by how deeply I sink, lean my sun-starved body into the light, letting it carry me into an early bloom.
until I am whole again static-crackling under a new sun straddling the peak between vitality and vinegar ancient and ugly and fresh-hatched all at once of the earth and upon it and searching now for some shagged beast to lay hands upon and love.
While children hurl dried grass into the bonﬁre and ash drifts over us, Genevieve hunkers down, concentrates, rises; wobbles to her feet, steps forward for the ﬁrst time into this world where we forget the amazement of standing up, of lifting a foot, pushing off, falling toward earth and catching ourselves over and over again.
Grant Loveys lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, a small city clinging to Canada’s eastern edge. In 2009, his work appeared in over a dozen literary publications in Canada, the US, and Europe. Additionally, his poem “The Distance” was nominated for the 2009 Best of the Net Award. In 2010, his work will appear in mudluscious, Controlled Burn, Big Lucks, and Fractured West.
Robin Chapman is author of six poetry collections, most recently Abundance, winner of the Cider Press Review Editors’ Award. Her poems have appeared recently in 5 AM, The Dalhousie Review, Poetry East, and Poemeleon. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin (USA).
Patricia Byrne, Ferry at Passage East 10
Pain Drives by the Delivery Room at Wayside Hospital
That night my aunts, all three in black serge, crowded me up the attic stairs like a silent choir to my great grandmother’s attic bedroom. Ana Penyak, the Kind Grandma from Slovakia, the one who gave me toothless kisses, lay on a cot under a sloped ceiling. Wrapped in a green blanket, she was a caterpillar, her head on a pillow–a baked apple with hair. Ana stared, her eyes like crinkled cellophane. She sucked on a butterscotch lollipop clutched between bone of thumb and index. There was a whole box of Russell Stover’s on the nightstand, but it wasn’t the right time to ask for one. Aunt Camilla nudged me– Kiss her goodnight, and I obeyed, brushing my lips against Ana’s forehead. On the way downstairs, my aunts clucked their tongues about Ana only wanting sweets. At daybreak, sun leaked under the roll-down shade as the aunts called me from sleep– the Kind Grandma had turned her face to the wall, decided not to wake up. I hoped the taste of butterscotch lasted till morning.
Propped up on a bed, knees open like books, my heels braced, the doctor slides a tool like a knitting needle into my cervix– pain shifts into second gear, a churning engine at the base of my spine that revs from my throat in a plume of exhaust.
Between Loads of Laundry Oh! This basket of towels at my feet, the same beige towels from last week I fold and stack in the linen closet. Against the terrycloth nap I run my ﬁngers, forget what I’m doing, remember the Parade of Twins– we drank chilled wine at a sidewalk café, the sky a veil of warmth. Parents pushed matching daisies in strollers, double blonds rode high in Cadillacs, and pairs of Mayme Eisenhowers danced to The Time Warp, marking the beat with metal walkers. Like glossy stallions two hearses rolled by, and then a gossamer Holy Spirit, who ﬂoated among us on stilts. After the parade we two-stepped in the street with ﬁre-eaters, jugglers, contortionists. As I shut the closet door a whoosh of air carries the scent of fabric-softener lilac. Through the ﬂoorboards I hear the mufﬂed timer buzzing in the basement.
Pain is Rudolph Valentino in a silent movie, he won’t take no for an answer. He hooks an arm around my middle and drags me down a highway that knifes across a blue-moon desert–– wolves echo between cliffs. We surge around an S-curve, pain commanding me to push, siphoning my baby’s crown toward concrete. I lift my head–a metallic odor. Someone wipes blood from my thighs. Pain rolls to a stop, drops me off. As I stumble alongside the road toward home, oncoming headlights burn a halo across my vision, gravel digs into my bare feet. A dry wind ﬂaps the hospital gown against the back of my legs– Leaning forward on the bed, I take hold of you. Afterbirth streaks your head. Your eyes, two pools of black water. Pain idles in the breakdown lane.
Christine Swint lives in metro Atlanta with her husband, two sons, and her dog Duffy. A former associate editor at ouroboros review, she now attends the New South Writers Workshop at Georgia State University.
Kelli Russell Agodon & January Gill O’Neil
Kelli Russell Agodon & January Gill O’Neil by Jill Crammond-Wickham Kelli Russell Agodon and January Gill O’Neil are two of our favorite writers. Both poets and mothers, they are dynamos when it comes to writing, publishing and reaching the goals they set out for themselves. January’s ﬁrst collection, Underlife, was recently released by CavenCary Publishing, and Kelli’s third book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, will be released in October from White Pine Press. We thought it would be inspiring to have them both in the same room talking about the writing life. However, with Jan on the East Coast in Boston, Massachusetts, and Kelli way over in Washington State, the next best thing was what we like to call a “talking interview,” where each poet responds to the same set of questions and follows up on the responses of the other.
This journal/index card process works for me. I like paper and seeing my poem titles on cards so I can read through them and shufﬂe them around.
You are both proliﬁc writers, with many publications in both print and online journals. How often do you send poems out to magazines and journals? What is your process?
Jan: I have a Word ﬁle that I use semi-regularly to track submissions. I’m not that organized when it comes to submitting.
Kelli: I do not submit my work as much as I advise others to submit work. While I love to have poems published, I dislike the act of sending them out to journals. So far in 2010, I’ve submitted to two journals so sadly, that puts me at about one submission every six weeks.
Kelli, you have published a chapbook, Geography, and a full-length book, Small Knots (2004), and have a new book, Letters From the Emily Dickinson Room, coming out this fall from White Pine Press. January, your ﬁrst collection, Underlife was recently published by CavanKerry Press. Let’s talk about the process of taking a collection of poems from manuscript to ﬁnished product. Do you recall when you knew your poems were not just a folder full of poems, but a ﬁnished manuscript, ready to be sent out into the world in search of a publisher?
Jan: I don’t submit that much, either. I think I’ve sent out twice as many submissions as Kelli in 2010 Actually, Kelli, you were a big help in motivating me to submit my work last year. We privately tag-teamed with a few other writers to submit, and it really helped. Kelli: When I’m being my best poet-self, I submit to a journal each Friday. When I submit, I have to resist the temptation to revise my poems or I’ll end up being in my ofﬁce all day and submitting nothing.
Kelli: It’s always hard to know when your manuscript is complete. After I decided to break it down into three sections, I knew I was close. Many of the poems had been published, and I believed I was telling the story I wanted to tell. Also, there was one incredible day when I went to revise it and I thought, “There’s nothing more I can revise. I’m done.” That rarely happens for me, but I deﬁnitely had the sense at the end that there was no more I wanted to do to it.
I keep index cards with titles of my poems on each card. I write the journal and date I submit to under the title and ﬁle it in a box alphabetically by the title of the poem. I also jot down a note in my journal of the journal, date, and what poems I sent so I can glance at that, as well. It’s a little bit redundant, but it works for me. I gave up keeping a spreadsheet several years ago when I realized I never updated it. 14
Kelli: For me, it was getting a little hard because before White Pine Press selected Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, it had been a ﬁnalist in a few places. A press would email and say my manuscript was one of 20 that was being sent to the ﬁnal judge. I would feel hopeful—one of 20 is pretty good odds. Then I’d move to feeling a bit worried when I would think—I can’t even win a one in 10 scratch ticket!
However, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t start sending this manuscript out a little too early. I think I did. I was excited about what I had done, and while I knew it wasn’t *exactly* what I wanted, I thought that it was pretty good. I think I could have saved a lot of time and postage if I waited past “pretty good” into “very good” or “excellent” before submitting it. But I’m human, I get excited about what I’ve done and want to run to the ball in my tiara and muddy boots. I’m not thinking that if I took a bit more time, it might be better. What I’m thinking is, “I want to dance!”
I was thankful with White Pine Press in that I never knew I was ﬁnalist. When I received the phone call from the editor Dennis Maloney, it was with only with the good news that the judge, Carl Dennis, had chosen my manuscript.
Jan: Underlife was easier to put together than what I’m attempting to do now. The poems in the ﬁrst book had a chance to marinate, to get to know one another a little better. This time, I’m writing a long poem, which I hope will be the centerpiece of the new collection. My poems are typically shorter, so this is a challenge: to sustain an image over several stanzas. I’m enjoying [it]—hope I can pull it off. Hope I get that “I’m done” feeling when it’s ﬁnished. On the other hand, I don’t feel the need to rush.
Can you describe your reaction when you ﬁrst learned that your manuscript was going to be published? Kelli: Overjoyed and speechless. I had to tell the editor how happy I was by email because I was so nervous, overwhelmed and excited, I hardly said a word on the phone.
How did you choose where to send your manuscript(s)?
Jan: Giddy. I thought it was a mistake. No one takes a manuscript on the ﬁrst pass. These things just don’t happen ... but it happened to me. Go ﬁgure.
Kelli: I only send my books to publishers I love and places I’d be proud to have my book published by, that’s always my rationale when submitting. Jan: I chose four places: two were contests and two had open submission periods. One publisher asked to see more but eventually passed. The other, CavanKerry Press, took it right away. I have always enjoyed their books, and I appreciate how they encourage their authors to reach out to underserved communities and groups through poetry.
What was it like holding the ﬁnished product in your hands? Kelli: With my very ﬁrst book, it felt very unreal. It was a chapbook that had the most incredible artwork, and I loved having something so beautiful that held my poems. This new book will be published in October, and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands. Jan: It was a be-careful-what-you-wish-for moment. I worked really hard with Graphic Designer Eric Stich to come up with cover art that worked. I wanted an intriguing cover so if you knew nothing about me, you might recognize the cover—or, at least, be interested enough to take it off
What was the waiting like? Jan: Getting the acceptance letter was ﬁne, but the time between acceptance and publication was tortuous. Things don’t move as quickly sometimes as you would like, but it all works out in the end. 15
Kelli Russell Agodon & January Gill O’Neil a bookstore shelf. The look and feel was very important to me. CavanKerry makes excellent books.
I think we all need our space to explore our passions. My shed has a space heater, electricity, lights, three windows, two small bookcases, many poetry books, a reading chair, and an old secretary desk I write at. It’s 10’x12’ and when I walk into it, it immediately relaxes me and puts me in a creative space. It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself as a writer and I don’t think I would have if my husband hadn’t suggested it. Then for my birthday, he bought me a book called Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways: Big Ideas for Small Backyard Destinations, which inspired me that a writing studio was something we could do.
I saved the ﬁrst ﬁve copies from the ﬁrst box I opened. Copy No. 1 is my reading copy. The second is by the nightstand. And the third I had guests sign at my launch party as a remembrance of this time in my life.
On The Writing Life Kelli, you have a writing shed. January, you delight us frequently with the simple Facebook status: “Starbucking.” It’s solid evidence you’ve both made writing a priority. When did you begin making writing a priority? And how did people respond when you began creating a physical space for your writing? How does it feel to insist: “This is what I do”?
It feels good to insist that this is what I do. The people in my life support me as I try to surround myself with only the best people. As I’ve become older, I realize that I don’t have the time and/or energy for people who don’t support me. So I guess I no longer insist “this is what I do,” people just know. Jan: I guess I have always made writing a priority because I write and edit for a living, but it became more important to make time to write once I started having children.
Kelli: Back when I was 26, I was working a terribly stressful corporate job where I worked 60-70 hours a week. I realized how much of my writing was being lost due to my choices for employment, as well as where I lived, so I moved from the Seattle suburbs to a small, rural seaside community of less than 3,000 people. Because you had to take a ferry to get here, houses and living expenses were a lot less than the Seattle area, so I simpliﬁed my life and promised myself I would live an artistic life no matter what it took.
Ah, Starbucks ... my home away from home! Buying a few hot chocolates every now and then is cheaper than paying rent for a private space. Besides, I like the community atmosphere there. It is my “third place”—a place beyond work and home. I use Starbucks as ofﬁce space, but if I’m on my way home from work and only have 20 minutes before I become “mom” again, I go there to center myself. I may write in my journal for a few minutes before completely immersing myself in home life.
It wasn’t easy at ﬁrst. My friends thought I might have lost my mind, and I worried that while it intuitively felt right, [I might be] making the worst decision of my life by quitting my job and moving away. It was the ﬁrst time I really made writing my priority. Now, it’s just part of who I am, and no one questions it.
I don’t think it was a big deal for me to stay up late to write or go out to Starbucks for some “me” time. I grew up as an only child, so I have always spent long periods alone. The people around me know I need a little space now and then. And, in return, I can give more of myself to them.
It was my husband who came up with the idea to build a writing shed for me when I felt I needed a quieter space of my own to write. Everyone who sees it loves it and thinks of a reason (yoga, painting, meditation, reading room, etc.) of why they would want a personal shed in their yard.
Kelli Russell Agodon & January Gill O’Neil You both seem very adept at making time for writing, both alone and with others. Kelli, you recently took part in a Do-It-Yourself writing workshop with a few other women writers. Can you share a bit about that?
feedback and camaraderie. There is a special energy when you are working with other, as Kelli says. I try to take advantage of it every chance I get.
Kelli: Yes, I’d be happy to share about our at-home writing retreat as it was an incredible day.
Do you have a group of writers that you meet with on a regular basis? Have you ever been on a writing retreat? What are your feelings on getting away from it all to write vs. writing in community?
Since we are all writers who also have busy lives, we knew we wanted to go on a retreat together to spend time writing, but this year we were having trouble making our schedules work. We decided to choose a Saturday from 9-5. We had to go three months in advance to ﬁnd a Saturday we could all attend, but we did.
January: I meet with a writers group in Salem, MA, the next town over from where I live. The group ranges from local college students to community members to published authors. It meets every two weeks and has been a touchstone for me during the past four years.
The three most important things to us at a writing retreat is time, creativity, and good food. So we organized a retreat based on those three things. We all arrived at my friend Annette’s house with our laptops, blankets, comfortable clothes, our favorite foods to share, and writing exercises.
Many moons ago, I attend the second and fourth Cave Canem writers retreats. It was a thrilling experience, being away with a large group of up and coming writers studying with some of the best poets in the world. That was B.C. (before kids). Now, as my children get a little older, I’m looking to spend longer stretches away from them so I can devote solid days of time to my craft. I may take my ﬁrst long weekend this summer, and it may not be tied to a workshop.
The day was spent doing writing exercises, snacking, and going for a beach walk to wind down the day. We ﬁnished with one ﬁnal writing exercise. Afterwards, we looked at what we had done. We were amazed at the many starts to poems we had and all that we had done.
Kelli: I also have a group of writers I meet with in my community. We help each other with our poems and sometimes meet on Friday mornings to write together. One Saturday, we planned a day long retreat at one of our homes where we wrote, snacked and walked. We have also been on a larger, overnight retreat where we caravanned down to the Oregon coast and stayed in a funky hotel where each room was decorated for an author. This was where I wrote many of the poems for my next book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson.
There is a special energy that happens when you’re writing with others. I’m not sure I can name it, but I know the poems I started that day would not have come on my own and in such a short time. It’s an incredible way to focus on your writing in a busy world: dedicate one day where you just write with friends, one exercise after another. I was pretty surprised at what came out of this day and very happy that we did it.
For me, I think as long as one is writing, it doesn’t matter where. I do believe solitude and an individual retreat can help pull one out of regular routines and the “noise” of life. But I also believe writing together is another way to generate work and work off the energy of the group. For me, both ways are invaluable.
Jan: Very cool, Kelli. I’m trying to do something similar on the East Coast. It’s tough to ﬁnd the time to write, but I do. As a working mother, it’s important to take time out for myself. That’s what making time to write is for me. I take full advantage of my local workshop for
Kelli Russell Agodon & January Gill O’Neil How involved are you in your local poetry communites? Do you take part in readings?
believe that being a poet offers me a richness I can’t achieve in any other way. And maybe that’s what inspires me on a daily basis, writing is away to keep my life rich in ways I do not always ﬁnd in other areas of my life.
January: Since community is very important to me, I’m extremely active on a local level. I read locally and am very comfortable organizing and supporting events. Many of the Salem Writers Group members are involved in collaborations with each other working in different genres. So visual artists and playwrights team up with the local poets and writers for events and festivals. And by supporting each other, we’re all having some measure of success in our writing careers.
Can you share with us your top ﬁve tips for being organized AND creative at the same time? January: Top ﬁve tips. Hmmm ...
Kelli: I am also active on a local level. As one of the editors of the literary journal Crab Creek Review, I help organize two local readings. I also try to help out the community when needed, such as judging local poetry contests, teaching poetry sessions at my daughter’s school, or donating books to fundraising events in the Seattle area. I think part of being a writer, editor, and poet is giving back to the community around me. I think it’s a win/win for everyone.
What inspires you on a daily basis to keep writing? January: I don’t write poetry on a daily basis, which is more liberating than inspiring. I stay limber by blogging and journal writing. As for poetry, I really have to work to get into the mind-set to start and ﬁnish a poem. But when I’m creating, it is the best feeling in the world—and that’s what keeps me motivated.
Be open to writing anywhere, and carry pen and paper with you at all times.
Take time for yourself. I call that “me time.”
As a way of prioritizing, if you’re making a to-do list, do fun stuff ﬁrst. The boring stuff will get done at some point. I think you need little victories to propel you through your to-do’s.
Make time to read, read, read!
Stay connected with your local writing community.
Kelli: I agree with everything on January’s list! If I had to add my part to it, I would highlight—
Kelli: Oh, if I could bottle what inspires me and send it out to writers, I would, but to be honest, I’m not sure I could name or hold onto it. There is something inside me that doesn’t allow me to stop writing. If I look back on my life, it is the one thing that has been constant since I can remember.
Schedule time to write on your calendar and keep that date with yourself.
Set goals for yourself either in writing and submitting your work. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Even if you had a good reason for not writing or submitting, we are each given the same 24 hours in life and it is your choice how you use it—so use some of that time to write.
I knew in second grade that I wanted to be a writer. My family even has a questionnaire I ﬁlled out when I was eight that said, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I answered “Rich and a poet.” While one might say, “One out of two isn’t bad,” I tend to 18
Don’t ever believe you are going to remember that great line or great idea. As January suggested, keep pen and paper with you at all times. Write it down! (I speak from experience here. I have lost one too many good ideas, so I write everything down now.)
Kelli Russell Agodon & January Gill O’Neil 4.
I keep two folders in MS Word: one is “New Work” and the other is “Completed Poems.” I save all new poems in the New Work folder, and after many revisions, they are moved over and saved in the Completed Poems ﬁle. This helps me know what I have ﬁnished and what needs revising without a lot of paper on my desk.
Keep a To-Do list on your desk where you can write down things as they come to you. I like January’s suggestion about doing the fun stuff ﬁrst. I refuse to do chores when my family is not home because that is prime writing time for me. There will always be laundry to fold, so I put writing ﬁrst on that list, as well as the things that have to do with my artistic life.
And I actually think that by having less time to write, I write more. When I had fewer commitments, I could easily waste away a day without writing because I knew there’d be another free day around the corner (and another and another!). Now if I have writing time scheduled, I use it to the best of my ability. I do not ﬂitter away the hours because I have learned that my writing time is precious, and I’m not ever sure when I will get the time to write again.
How do you prioritize your duties as a mother and a writer? January: Kids ﬁrst. Writing a close second. I write when they’re asleep. I also use a babysitter who works cheap! Kelli: I told myself I would say yes to the things that had to with “family” and “poetry.” I say no a lot to things that sound good, but are not really how I want to use my time. I’m very particular about who I spend time with and what I do with my free time. By making sure I’m saying no to the things that aren’t a priority to me, I ﬁnd my family and writing stay a priority to me.
On Motherhood Not only are you successful, proliﬁc poets, you are both mothers with children still at home. How do you feel motherhood has shaped your writing? January: I’m not sure about Kelli, but my kids have given me enough material to last a lifetime! Yet, they remind me that everyday experiences can be honored and raised to the level of poetry. They also help arrange my priorities. When I’m with them, I am with them and not writing. Sometimes the kids need me more, and they’re relentless until they have my full attention. So creating space for me is the most necessary thing I can do as a writer and as a parent.
* * ** * *
Kelli: Yes, I agree, having a child provides a whole array of new writing material! As for how it’s shaped my writing, I’m not sure how it has except in when I write. Before I had a daughter, I could write anytime I felt like it. Now I have someone who relies on me, so I cannot be the free-spirited writer who has no obligations and can schedule her writing time whenever she likes.
Kelli Russell Agodon
January Gill O’Neil
Selected Love Letters I’m Still Trying to Write
Sex and Pizza
When Dylan wrote to Cat, he misspelled Indiana and I misspell when I’m in love, misspell men for me, misspell room for roam. My letters tell another story, they cry of a slow hang and not a slow hand. When I translate sex as a string of ﬁrecrackers, there is always one position I can’t pronounce. Sometimes I dot my i’s with mascara. Sometimes I don’t see myself as y’s. I am the handwriting of a car crash, bent metal and adrenalin-ﬁlled. I walk away from the accident, say: We could have been. A buzzard circles the freeway and his call is similar to a cat’s. The bird writes love letters to the injured driver in the other car. When I insist on walking home, the letters I write are my footprints, the ﬁg leaves I tear from the tree.
Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize judged by Carl Dennis. She is also the author of Small Knots (2004) and the chapbook, Geography (2003).
There’s an empty envelope outside my home, a broken pen on the doorstep. I’m not in love with the mail carrier, I’m in love with what he holds.
Born and raised in Seattle, Kelli is educated in the many names for rain. She is the co-editor of the literary journal, Crab Creek Review. You can visit her website at: www.agodon.com or her blog, Book of Kells at: www.ofkells.blogspot.com.
Once I wrote a letter to a lover in black widow bites: My bug, sometimes venom is only words.
Once a classmate told me Sex is like pizza: no matter how bad it is, it’s still pizza. Strange, coming from one of the unsexiest people I knew. Didn’t believe him until my early 20s when all I wanted was hard, kinked-out, unexplainable sex. 9 1/2 Weeks sex. Blue Velvet sex. The small town of my body sent me outward to a friend as local as my ﬁngertips. His body, beautifully taut, and I was happy hour poured into a mini-skirt. Before we knew it, the quick blows of our bodies struck together like rocks catching spark. Ass up, head down, no stroking, no kissing, just clumsy, fractional fucking that was over before it began. I remember walking into the unfamiliar daylight, sleep deprived and scorched like a house gutted by ﬁre. Years later, I think my classmate was right. How else can I explain the lip-biting, sloppy goodness of exploration, of bodies seeking those ﬁne mistakes and digressions, the cock and the pussy, the world dividing into hemispheres, sliced into its imperfect selves.
January Gill O’Neil is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press, December 2009). Her poems and articles have appeared in North American Review, The MOM Egg, Crab Creek Review, Ouroboros Review, Drunken Boat, Crab Orchard Review, Callaloo, Literary Mama, Field, Seattle Review, and Cave Canem anthologies II and IV, among others. Underlife was a ﬁnalist for ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award and the 2010 Paterson Poetry Prize. In 2009, January was awarded a Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant. She was featured in Poets & Writers magazine’s January/February 2010 Inspiration issue as one of its 12 debut poets. A Cave Canem fellow, she is a senior writer/editor at Babson College, runs a popular blog called Poet Mom (http://poetmom. blogspot.com), and lives with her two children in Beverly, Massachusetts.
from Underlife (CavanKerry Press, 2009); reprinted with permission from the publisher.
from Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press, 2010); reprinted with permission from the publisher.
“Meet me where the stars tremble, south side of the house, framed by the dilapidated fence, north of the willow tree.”
I pulled her from the drywall nail. The one, who sails matchsticks in puddles, sits by paint-chipped windowsills in summer dresses, who smiles prodigal over glass vases.
~ I found a pencil at her desk where she pays bills, bite marks towards the eraser end.
Who folds my shirts in the dark, cleans cat hair from the vents, assumes rigor mortis on the dirty couch.
I tried to match the indentations with my teeth.
“Show me where to touch those hands of yours”
No match. No matter.
Who shucks the husks sterile, yellow and white?
“Rest your head on that down pillow so I can count the feathers in the air.”
“Drop the stylus of your memory and tell me how your mother’s mother stopped her menstrual ﬂow with torn corduroy and ﬂannel.”
Uncurls toes with chipped polish.
Clutches rosary beads as lightly as robin’s nests.
~ Water damaged baseball cards caught in tricycle spokes.
Makes several attempts to speak.
Soldered eyes as mechanical as nut and bolt.
A child on a tire swing drags her feet, digging a rut deeper with her black and white saddle shoes. “Close my eyes”
Her teeth ﬂoat in her mouth like ice cubes in water. Opens the drawers slowly, one at a time, counts the steps to the exit.
And the reﬂective moonlight ricocheting off glass windows.
I watch the breeze catch her dress, a maelstrom of cotton around her thick calves.
~ At the train depot with night hard at work. Avoids canned lights blaring all their watts, walks the platform with shined shoes, whistles to the cadence of my step. A woman with scars and chapped lips. ~ The ocean holds you continuously like ﬂoating linen. Hourless and wobbling like a bent gyroscope. “Remember to breathe” ~ 22
Our Father May 2009
Sicilian Blood Oranges The laundry lines stretched between ﬁre escapes could have been a suspension bridge─ the Sunday dress called: touch-me-not adrift in a boat cut from its mooring between banks; the starboard pitch, the col legno of broken bones against oar. Have you forgotten: the runway of rooftops seen by the stars? the tramontana ﬂutter tonguing air-raid sirens through alleys the song we slow danced to on the shoulder of the freeway? We keep kissing the broken places under porch lights, thumbing through our immunization records for proof we keep dusting ourselves with bells─
Brandon Courtney spent four years in the United States Navy. His poetry is forthcoming or appears in Best New Poets 2009, Writers’ Bloc, tinfoildresses, and Fogged Clarity. When not writing, he obsessively collects records from the early nineties. He is currently pursuing a BA in Writing from Drake University in Des Moines, IA, where he is ﬁnishing his manuscript titled When the Ocean is an Autoclave.
We’ve seen the breasts of every wet-nurse harden Some like black ﬁgs on a bed of mint leaves; Some like blood oranges wrapped in blotting paper.
Amorak Huey Mabel Ann Leaves, Leon Turns to Drink They heard it a half-mile down Happy Hollow Road, a sound like a giant beer can crushed under a giant steel-toed boot, and they drifted from their houses to admire the shiny white pickup spitting radiator steam around the sweetgum tree folded into its hood. Pabst Blue Ribbon cans quivered and giggled on the ﬂoorboard, half-ashamed of the emptiness inside. Gossip dripped from the hissing engine block, oil-slick and coating the neighbors’ feet. He loved that goddamn truck. Someone found Leon at home in his socks, leaking blood into his eyes and waiting for Wheel of Fortune. Mabel Ann came back in the spring and the neighbor kids played in the bed of the truck and dogs slept in its shade until the kudzu swallowed it, leaving only the shape of a truck that grew smaller each year until only the memory of a truck lived in the cool clay beneath the purple blossoms.
Amorak Huey recently left the newspaper business after 15 years as a editor and reporter, and he now teaches writing to college students. His poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Subtropics, Nimrod, Gargoyle, Poet Lore, The Summerset Review, and other journals.
1. A man stands with his back to a stone wall at Achill’s Deserted Village and reads his father’s hallowed words. Heinrich Böll described this place as a skeleton habitation that looked like the set of a ghost ﬁlm. A black-headed lamb looks on from a bunch of rushes as René Böll weeps for the thousands of words from his father’s pen now buried in Cologne in the rubble of a collapsed Archive building. 2. Manuela Riedo’s father places angels on a Swiss grave - too late to deliver his daughter from the evil that descended hours after she texted a ﬁnal image from Galway’s Nun’s Island. He is unable to forgive the one who trespassed against her. For years to come he will rise each morning and open the door into an empty bedroom. 3. A neighbour starts a vegetable garden to ease the gloom of recession and falling stocks, ﬁnds comfort in the feel of the crumbling earth. His granddaughter walks beside him with her watering can on a May afternoon when a pair of magpies clatter in the sycamore tree. He looks down at the rhubarb plant – an off-shoot from his father’s garden three hours drive away.
Patricia Byrne, Shadow on Leaves
4. A May wind spatters cherry-blossom petals across our lawn as palm trees sway like drunken waltzers. I recall a man a half century ago who leans his bike against a pebble-dashed wall, walks unsteadily into a yellow house, places a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Whole Nut chocolate next to her freshly baked daily bread. His peace offering. 5. Our father asks for his pipe for a last smoke, tastes the tobacco on dry lips, unable to inhale.
Patricia Byrne is a Limerick writer whose debut poetry collection, Unstable Time, was published by Lapwing Press in 2009. Her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in numerous journals and magazines including Southword, The SHOp, The Stony Thursday Book, Abridged, Swarthmore Literary Review, Revival, Ulla’s Nib, and First Edition. She holds an MA in Writing from NUI Galway.
Rob A. Mackenzie
Across the scratched line of MacFleck’s vision pink tricycles creak, vivid and painful,
I should not feel so guilty about this, but I do. There you are suddenly half the man you always said you were, legs like herons, grey-boned, without cartilage or ﬂesh. No longer your ballroom dancer’s ﬂow, instead you skate from here to there without bending, a body in real crisis. Now that this country’s Health Service has all but disappeared I am, without warning, passed the mantle of your care. It’s as if I were not your child but you were mine.
a pink procession of clockwork tricycles, riderless and whirring, primitive horns squawking for attention like rival cousins let loose in the chicken coop, and all this
under skies of scrambled egg, chicken despair, pink pedals turning like a mind
Everyone took turns to light ﬁreworks and blacken onion on the griddle despite threats of snow, the effort to be sociable offset by promises of Mr Mountain’s reconstituted cheesecake.
turning inside out; MacFleck looks up to heaven and the tricycles are there too.
Even MacFleck felt the stir of desire somewhere in the haze, which dropped suddenly from the garden’s grille of sky and hung itself from washing-lines,
inhabiting D-cups and ancient Y-fronts with aplomb, dousing the brittle bodies below, hungry once more, and in the mood to celebrate what might never happen.
in winterlight a silhouette of fox becomes a bird becomes our memory of silent hammering of beak to blade under low sun the tall grass becomes unreliable depth we distrust the drop through and upturned beetles pound their legs become oars we bump across the turf becomes a boat riddled with rain the leaky ﬁbreglass our blindness in the bird’s bad eye its clarifying hunger becomes
Rob A. Mackenzie lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. His pamphlet, The Clown of Natural Sorrow, was published by HappenStance Press in 2005. A full collection, The Opposite of Cabbage, was published in 2009 by Salt. He blogs at Surroundings (http://robmack. blogspot.com).
the fox which sheds its shadow in becoming and erases us another certainty
It’s as if I were not your child but you were mine. I am, without warning, passed the mantle of your care now that this country’s Health Service has all but disappeared from here to there without bending, a body in real crisis. No longer your ballroom dancer’s ﬂow, instead you skate, legs like herons, grey-boned, without cartilage or ﬂesh, suddenly half the man you always said you were. I should not feel so guilty about this, but I do. There you are.
Migrants Four swans wind through the greeny mudﬂats, and I am reminded of my three siblings and me coming for the ﬁrst time to this tidal river, the Castletown, summer ‘75. That irrefutable smell: air over mud and waterfowl, not quite as salty as the air by the Irish sea but weedy; the same now as then, the smell of home – though at the time we lived closer to the Thames. We are ﬁshing and listening to our cousins’ whirlpool stories: ‘See down there, when he was ten your Uncle Gerry drowned in the middle of that saving some other wee boy’s life.’ These swans must know that full-on reek up from the riverbed, palpable as the ghost of a water-snatched child.
Jaki McCarrick is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. She has published poetry in Poetry Ireland Review, Revival, Boyne Berries, Cathach, Word on the Street, Southword, Pedestal Magazine, and Stylus (Australia). Her ﬁrst play, The Mushroom Pickers, won the 2005 Scottish Drama Association’s National Playwriting Competition and premiered at the Southwark Playhouse in London in May 2006 and in New York in February 2009. Her most recent play, Leopoldville, was shortlisted for the 2009 Kings Cross Award for New Writing. She was selected for the 2009 Poetry Ireland Introduction series of emerging poets.
My father calls it the Bible of Disease. I play hide and seek with the black and white plates, memorize where the harelip and cleft palate boys are.
They slick the market sky with wings, feathers rifﬂing air like ﬁngers at a pack of cards. Their open maws are the insides of a plum but the legs wilt like dying stems.
Breakage Cricket plays on mute. Stick ﬁgures spring & fall, uncork mouths in silent roars.
How clever they are to detract from these. I look at you to say this, but with your bags plump with cabbages, free ﬁngers clutching bunches of daisies, you’re quickening. Sellers shrill around us, the light is packed with dust and it’s all too much for you.
Your wife & I play our own game, skirting the edges of talk, ice skaters on the same rink and if you’re fragile, liable to give way any moment, you act like you don’t know it.
I want to unknot your hands from bag mouth, tell you to relax— a chokehold can kill.
I enter my cove of forget and blur, erase with drink, rinse and repeat.
But you may buckle if I swoop at your certainties.
Did you know Bonobos share their lovers? I ask,
So I turn my face up to the screech that ﬁlls this patch of sky like chalk pulled across slate. These brown wheels of rough hunger will whirl to a stop soon, glide to rest on rooftops.
hurtling into the room from some great height. No ice cracks. But she laughs, says ‘I have to pee’ and heaving up, knocks my glass off the table.
And later, much later, they will bathe in the rain.
It jags to bits, sprays our toes with bitter mist. You bite a cigarette between your lips. I get a cloth to clean the mess.
Anindita Sengupta’s book of poems City of Water was published by Sahitya Akademi in February 2010. Her work has previously been published in several journals and anthologies. In 2010, she was the Charles Wallace Fellow at the University of Kent, England. Sengupta is a freelance writer and journalist and founder-editor of Ultra Violet, a site for contemporary feminism in India. She lives and works in Bangalore. Her website is http://aninditasengupta.com.
The people have blocked-out eyes. Some are my own age, with lobster hands and spindle legs. Father says he’s seen a worm crawl from the white of one eye to the other. I can feel that: A worm leaving a tunnel under my skin, my brothers thinking it was cool. And here’s the boy who died an old man at thirteen. Progeria, my father says. The kid is bald, limping on arthritic hands and knees. I rub each nail and limb, hold my breath to hear my heart beat inside my head. My father takes the book away: It’s always like this.
Kate Peper is a watercolorist and freelance designer living in Northern California. Her poems have appeared in such publications as Rattle, MARGIE, The Christian Science Monitor, California Quarterly, Great River Review, and more.
I’ll come back again to take a look at death crouched in her dark room stitching a dress for me. One day, I’ll grow into it.
The room shivers along its fault lines.
Patricia Byrne, Sunset at Fenit, County Kerry 28
Closed for Renovations Keats House, Hampstead
1. Say the hummingbird’s a home wrecker Spider-cropped or furious
The Great American Interchange
How else to account for The missing orbs
The woman in the leopard print dress Wants you to believe
The white ﬁelds of porches
It’s all natural
Heather ﬁlling the salvage yard
The American lion much larger 13,000 years ago
My landlord is dying
Long legs parting
The man in love with the idea of being loved
The American Serengeti Great gods of evolution!
Is building an igloo
Sewing morning glory into the seams
I loitered by the gate until a man from the Heath Library came up and mentioned the gap in the wrought iron fence: But you didn’t hear that from me, he winked as I slipped through in a misty drizzle
Sylvia Plath and the Daffodils I like to imagine their one spring in the Devon countryside: daffodils by the thousands in their yard among the apple trees, a Wordsworthian dream for real--Sylvia enshrined with her children among blooms (bunches cut to sell at Market, and still abundance remains)--lemon yellow, primrose, canary waving and resplendent in the gentle air. And Ted on his knees with the camera. I like to change the ending of this story--as if the daffodils could seed within her, the true yellow could crowd out the bitter wintering, could carry her through.
to the other side where Keats sat enthroned in a May evening, among the grass, the thicket and the fruit-tree wild. All week the nightingale called him to come out with his pen, his loose scraps of paper. Darkling I listen he told it, beside the plum tree long replaced by another, the mulberry still melodious with green, winding past the near meadows, over the still-stream, his absence around me as clear as presence, a notion he would have nodded to.
In Bronte World After the roped-off rooms, the mahoghany stairwell clock Papa wound nightly at 9 p.m.; after the bonnets, pattens, spectacles and letters seen through glass,
In extinction 3.
In the futility of calling God good in the particular
The City of God segues into The half-life of urban decay
(or of calling)
100,000 years out from the homeland
In the wireless clicking of the centipede
We’re still dreaming Of a mother tongue or a passport Something personal
Charmi Keranen holds a BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. She works in Northern Indiana as a freelance writer and proofreader of court transcripts. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Salt River Review, JMWW, Stirring, blossombones, elimae, The Dirty Napkin, and Passages North.
To touch against our skin
I found my way to the front yard, stood among hundreds of slabs, lichened-stained stones leaning from the weight of years and rain. So this, I thought, is what the sisters saw
Andrea Potos lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and daughter. Her poetry collections are Yaya’s Cloth (Iris Press) and The Perfect Day (Parallel Press). Her poems appear widely in journals and anthologies, including Women’s Review of Books, Calyx Journal, Ars Medica, Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Southern Poetry Review, Beloved on the Earth (Holy Cow! Press), and Claiming the Spirit Within (Beacon Press). Poetry collections forthcoming are Abundance to Share With the Birds (Finishing Line Press) and We Lit the Lamps Ourselves (Salmon Poetry).
while bringing Papa his tea, while warming their feet on the ﬁreplace fender, bending over their deskboxes, wrapping their thick manuscripts in readiness for the long journey through the post. Here is the truth of what they knew: crows complaining in the mist, graves and more graves, and then, the wild vastness beyond them. 31
It’s an Alfred Hitchcock sort of night. Birds lurk treacherously on tree limbs. Clouds bandage a bruised sky. The crazy man next door yells at ghosts dressed in lavender and pink. I could swear the clock said 2 a.m. hours ago, but what do I know? My pillow is a rock. I can’t catch my breath.
The top of my head slid open and grandfather shot out, muttering threats, grasping hands barely missing my breasts. A stranger stared, wide-eyed, back from the mirror. Visions of dark water rushed me and I was swallowed by Jonah’s whale. It was the evening of my ﬁrst drink; my rite of passage into dubious adulthood.
I pretend I’m running barefoot through the woods. Wind lifts my hair and you grab me. We roll in the fallen leaves.
Mary Hillier, Trembling
I had no idea I would lose you, lose nearly everyone I’ve loved in this lifetime, would be captured by illness, watch my body become mother’s.
Among other poetry journals and anthologies, Pris Campbell’s poetry has appeared in Chiron Review, Mainstreet Rag, OCHO, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, and The Dead Mule Journal of Southern Literature. Recently, she was featured poet in From East to West, In the Fray, and Empowerment4Women.
I turn my mind to the south, set the clock back, race headlong into my future all over again, the sky still trembling with possibilities
You led me onto that Manhattan ﬁre escape where smog pockmarked the stars, held me. You didn’t say it would be okay, offer platitudes, didn’t reach into the whale’s belly to save me from memories ﬂooding my body. I had to work my own way out, leave the Four Horsemen behind, smash tablets scrawled with survival lies. Who did I used to be? I later asked old friends. Tell me who I was.
Her third book, Hesitant Commitments, part of the Little Red Book series is available from Lummox Press (www.lummoxpress.com), as is her recently released full length book, Sea Trails. She was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize in 2009 and once in 2008. A former Clinical Psychologist, she was sidelined by CFIDS (also known as ME/CFS) in 1990. She currently lives in the greater West Palm Beach, Florida, with her husband.
Mary Hillier, Rebirth
Tasia M. Hane-Devore
Giving thanks gave me this
scar, one holiday’s sidedoor entry and Aunt Rachel slipping adjectives: my mother, the neighbor a question of when and no use for a dirty dog. Close palates burn, ladies setting places
You ﬂy through the lattice and under my porch, sing, Tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea. I love your white eyebrow stripe and your nests like little domes, made of grasses, rootlets, mosses, feathers, a bit of molted snakeskin, and my gray hairs, love the brown spotted eggs, you tend together. I love the way you ﬂit from rosebush to lilac and disappear right under me, adore your erect little tail, and imitation calls. Sweetheart, sweetheart. Which jailer, which jailer, which? Thank you for eating cotton-boll weevils, stink bugs, chinch bugs, roach eggs. You can thank me for not letting the exterminator spray under my porch. Thank me for telling my dog to scare off stray cats and hawks. And here is an old apron I pin inside the lattice with roomy pockets for your future broods. Your buzzy songs jerk me awake, make me jealous of your knack to carry on. Even when woods turn cold, you stay coupled.
John Grey Poetry Reading She reads new poetry in old settings, antique store turned coffee house, in black sweater, skirt and stockings, perched on the edge of a table, a belated, lazy lotus sipping coffee between words, priming an internal state with Kona roast and a dark brew from the highlands of New Guinea.
while my father works the tablecloth—magic— and slurs to the couch after every glass breaks, waits for an order to deny. Not long after dessert he voices the edge, teeth closed and eyes dim slits terrible, terrible to do a thing like that.
So little ﬂesh clings to her bones, she has declared war on it, and color too, all save her art school black, in honor of Leroi Jones or the starless night, she does not say.
It’s all we can say. Someone whispers garlic is a cure for anything
She is not some cocoon, she insists, that our listening can make butterﬂy. She will give us no trinkets, no sweet things. If we applaud, that’s our own business,
Tasia M. Hane-Devore is currently completing a PhD at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where she lives with her wife and their two children. Her writing has appeared in Tar River Poetry, New York Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Six Little Things, and many other journals.
Australian born poet and US resident since the late 1970s), John Grey works as a ﬁnancial systems analyst. He has recently published in Connecticut Review, Georgetown Review, and Illuminations with work upcoming in Poetry East, Cape Rock, and the Pinch.
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, certiﬁed sex therapist, writing coach, and seminar leader. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam 1998), and her work has appeared in Potomac Review, Möbius, Permafrost, Slipstream, Timber Creek Review, Writer’s Digest, The Fourth River, the minnesota review, Personal Journaling, and Playgirl. She writes poetry, photographs wildlife, and bakes bread in rural central Virginia. Her website is www.JoanMazza.com.
Unpacked Box I look in my desk and jewelry box for safety pins, remember them in the middle drawer of the sewing cabinet left behind in the last house. No sewing room in this one— a cardboard box, jumbled contents of those drawers. Spools of silk thread, pastel ribbons for a project never started, packets of needles folded in black paper from Mother’s millinery days. “I wish she could see me here,” I say aloud, habit of long solitude. Mother is dead twenty years. A roll of lace, hand-tatted, but by whom? “I didn’t make that,” Mother says, snatches it from my hands. “Someone spent hours of her life on this.” I leap backward, ready to run. Mother says, “Can’t you make me a little coffee? Oh, put some lipstick on. You look like you’re dead.”
Sound Beach, 1960 They’re in front of the old bungalow posing in this photo, at the summer home— proof of their achievement. They’re not low class, even with a fence picket missing like a tooth. At twelve, the family archivist composing, as the instructions said, behind me— sunlight, like a comforting hand on my shoulder. My parents are in the middle of an old ﬁght about my grandma’s surprise visits, always at dinnertime. I pause to the frame the shot. No baby-sitting money here, I’m careful not to waste ﬁlm. Both yell, “Take it!” They squint, force smiles, white teeth gleam. Look how happy they both seem.
Tonic I. You will also, on occasion– leave off where you ﬁrst began. Like a watch’s weaker hand, we illustrate uncertainty... II. Whether storming, or escaping, any home we know not how to address: a vacant museum, the cusp of an hourglass III. An unspoken natural law: Only in censored footage do we note silence, do we note polarity. (The color of musing. IV. The chroma of hurry.) On the ﬁfth and seventh ﬂoor: the tenants: pouring into boxes possessions they don’t want V. To be remembered for. If one is just as protective of his compass as the other, his knife: we say the two harmonize. VI. At any given crisis: any given prophet may unknowingly discard the ability to reconsider... “Often, before the ﬁrst VII. Raindrops explode into hypnotic clockwork; after love has been made, and made, and couldn’t hold itself together–”
Where water slurs around the edge of a delta’s mouth— and celestial North is not ‘something else’ but a continuation of the river: calf & thigh spooning the shoreline like a boulder has the softest skin in the world—you will question yourself. Think back to a time when everything we touched could turn us into a palace, like Midas, only it was you who became the glistening walls for a world of subjects to meander, maybe admire, maybe lose themselves in the ambrosial architecture Of your body. A time metamorphosis was the direct response to a warm wrist, a curious glance, the ﬁrst hint of human suffering—and how somewhere down the gold-coloured line that bounds uninhibited from ‘this mystical garden’ to ‘that Dark creature, lurking in the corner’ and back to you; a stunning lightshow—mythology lost its meaning. Admiration became demeaning. A collection of mason jars ﬁlled with the Missouri means: I don’t want to lose you, but still can’t trust you To stay. Inside me, where a body of water, & sky, is disjointed: you are a boulder I can’t encompass. If we believed in myths, and I were a palace, you’d walk through me—maybe burn your place in the celestial array of invaders, & leavers, and I’d go to the river, a streak of suffering light—and empty the jars at the knees of an unbroken world.
I. The narrator whispered, I forget which key you said never to use. An estimated eighty letters were lost in the move...
Amanda Silbernagel’s poems have been published in several print and online publications, including Red Weather, Lovechild, Hamilton Stone Review, 21 Stars, Zone, and 27 Rue de ﬂeures.
Kevin Dickinson, Bridge
I want to punch the nearest sofa. I lean toward a pill bottle, a pistol, a bomb.
He’s in the phone book—we looked him up, there he was between Clowns and Costumes. An hour into the party and he’s pulled out his best trick, coiling his spine to kiss
I speak and I sprout tusks and whiskers. I speak unmiked inside a hockey arena, empty save for six tourists who’ve run in from the rain.
his own ass. Under the new chandelier the glistening, picked-over smoked salmon, a round knife jabbed into the goat cheese. Five past eight, the contortionist
The nearest sofa is in Timbuktu. The tourists will be in town all week, pointing their hot pretzels at the sky. I was an idiot not to follow that girl to Pennsylvania.
burst through the door with a tri-colored cape in one hand, his cell in the other, barking about contracts. Now at least he’s meek, sequestered in the breakfast nook.
Following the compass has landed me in a cave with my high school history teacher, who holds the same no-nukes coffee mug and mutters, “This is all.”
But Ricky and Wink have long since descended to the basement, and Natalie and her fans have gone to the square to hear the zydeco. I check the washtub:
The Pennsylvania I cling to is a mist, a sheen, a wet dream.
two beer bottles labels-up in an ice-water grave. Half-purple corks on the counter. A moth jailed in the lampshade. Thank God it’s not yet the end,
The nearest sofa has been traded for a wooden crate. In my squinting out the kitchen window at three p.m. I am most like my father. There’s that hairshirt I’ve been looking for! Someday I’ll have no choice but to die, and some jerk will close my eyes. Watch out for the squirrels, they’re cagier than dice. My eyes close. I see a cloud tied to a tree, a high concrete wall in the middle of the yard. The tool shed is but half-built, the roaches only thwarted. The chicken burns in the skillet, and the spatula has been hurled to the ﬂoor.
Michael Diebert teaches writing and literature at Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta, and his poems have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Crab Creek Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. He also serves as an associate editor for Futurecycle, an online and print poetry journal, and he is presently working on a book-length poetry manuscript.
when Sharon claws the wall and bemoans men, when Rich and Laura simulate sex on the ﬂoor. The contortionist comes out of a pose. Weak claps: Greg, Allison, Anastasia, dressed as usual for board games and bourbon, and Allison’s short boyfriend, whose sleepy eyes look out the window at the road. The screen door squeaks and bangs. A punch line sneaks inside. Greg proffers a deck of cards. The contortionist smiles—apparently he’d smile even if his throat were being slit.
Afternoon digs its long monkey ﬁngers into the house.
Jeff Calhoun Circumference A soldier at the door, face painted alabaster. A metaldipped heart in a velvet box.
Two Sightings I. Ha’Negev, Israel
A practical use for your Christmas present
Five years prior, riptide, your son’s arms thrashed small tsunamis. You waded in, mouth an oval, wrists at right angles with his ribs.
It’s too late to see her, skirts ﬂying over her head and crown angled awkwardly. I trace my ﬁngers over her slippered feet, and necklace of jewels. I wish I could ask her, what made her choose: to sell her daughter for so high a price.
Embrace the geometry of a circle, the circumference of arriving somewhere you have been before.
II. Boston, MA
Metastasis. You expect smoke. A lit cigar or a volcano of ash. But there is only a sick globe of tissue in his liver. And a landslide, new tumors in his bone like weeds in spring. Look in the mirror, pantomime your father cradling a cigarette. Then, playtime. Cover him with dirt from a toy truck.
Languid, staring out at a summer rain
It’s too early to see her, ﬂoating as she is mid-air. She appears to be smiling across the sky at her king. Her daughter still stands in chains beside her, and the young man ready to ﬁght.
Bullets from heaven’s cannon crack against pavement. These are little wounds, insubstantial injuries. They froth a web of white, a bit of foam. There is cauterization, healing in the moment before the next strike. I’m too young to remember the sky was crystalline, a series of clean glass spheres. Along the road, a man with elastic neon skin clenches his ﬁsts, survives the liquid meteors. He is already in orbit, his skin pocked with craters. He runs, but still there’s iodine in his thyroid.
Stefanie Maclin’s poetry and short ﬁction previously appeared in Abyss&Apex, Kaliedotrope, The Maynard, Doorknobs&Bodypaint, Underground Voices, Conversation Poetry Quarterly, Vagabondage Press’ Battered Suitcase, Poetica Magazine, Nine Arches’ Press, Under the Radar, Divine Dirt Quarterly, Astropoetica, and Poetic Diversity. Her work has also appeared in Venture Literary Magazine, Shalhevet, and Poetica Publishing’s Mizmor L’David Anthology: The Shoah. She has work forthcoming in Illumen, Star*Line, and Vagabondage Press’ Battered Suitcase. She lives in Boston, MA, where she currently works as a librarian/archivist.
Melora Walters, Compassion
A day of civil disobedience A cloud of birds on power lines. Something hums the electric slide. The radio plays the merengue. There is a little salsa in your step, a rhythm you’d forgotten was in your blood.
Outside, strip malls open for business. My palms are open. There is nothing sacred I cannot touch.
Jeff Calhoun is a graduate student at the University of Michigan. His writing credits include Mannequin Envy, Mimesis, iota, ouroboros, Stirring, and Eclectica. His second digital chapbook was joint-winner of the 2008 Mimesis Chapbook Initiative.
About the visual artists
That scarf you knitted for me from the threads of dresses worn by women on their wedding day dark brides on a far continent red & blue & purple silk from saris wrapped around their perfumed skin new wives waiting for the ﬁrst touch in desire of their new husbands
Just Sparklers After camping alone for a week, I load up the van and head home through the Santa Cruz Mountains. I want to tell you again that I love the dry gold before me, as I did last year as we headed across the Martinez Bridge to watch ﬁreworks in Winters, where the center of town is a square with a gazebo in need of paint and a dusty pick up truck parks behind every farmhouse.
the silk skein spun thru your hands, your ﬁngers knitting for me until stopped stopped
until the needles clicking
Anna Dickie is a photographer based in East Lothian, Scotland. In the last three years she’s won or been short-listed in a number of competitions, including having a shot hung in the Scottish Parliament as part of a touring exhibition on the theme of coastal erosion. She also writes poetry and has had two chapbooks published: Peeling Onions, a series poem about coming through a cancer diagnosis, and Heart Notes, published by Calder Wood Press. She blogs at My (Elastic) Gap Year (http://mygapyearat50.blogspot.com/). Kevin Dickinson was born and raised in New Jersey, where he attends Rutgers University. He is the founding editor of the lit journal Writers’ Bloc and has stories forthcoming in Bartleby-Snopes and Foundling Review. He spends his spare time wondering whether the world is, indeed, a ﬂat plate supported on the back of a giant turtle, but feels he needs more evidence.
There the Buckhorn served sourdough bread, butter pats melted beneath it, and ribs, the barbecue sauce dripping down our bare arms. We drove through crowds lined up to buy ﬁreworks from wooden huts on every corner. At an empty dirt lot by the high school, we spread ourselves on the car hood while the world exploded into dripping sparks one color at a time and we inhaled gunpowder.
until you said
“stop” . No explanation
James Brush lives in Austin, TX, with his wife, cat, and two greyhounds. He teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility. His poems have appeared most recently at Carcinogenic Poetry, Four and Twenty, qarrtsiluni, and on scraps of paper around his house. He published his ﬁrst novel, A Place Without a Postcard, in 2003. He can be found online at (http://coyotemercury.com).
no accusations, no missed dates, no pointed ﬁngers just silence
You drift through every few months, just when I’ve gotten use to my own cold feet in bed. Next time you stop by I’ll have forgotten how I love dry, gold hills and winter rain will have begun to turn the world green again-- when nothing catches ﬁre as easily.
like the closing of a trunk like shredded saris on a tiled ﬂoor. Yet still I wear your scarf against the cold I can feel the expectant warmth of bodies those far away women in heat, those brides who put on, then took off, forever those blue & red & purple silk saris in darkened rooms laid those sweat-soaked saris on a chair a bed the ﬂoor for the last time for their ﬁrst time for other times for now as I wrap your scarf warmly around my neck.
Visual artist, poet and short story writer, Mary Hillier lives in Lafayette, Louisiana. Anticipating a day when she will be known for her art as well as her writing, she often engages with other artists in collaborations. Her online presence can be found at maryhillier.org.
Melora Walters, Mary IV
Trina Gaynon currently resides in Southern California. In addition to volunteering for WriteGirl, an organization providing workshops and mentors for young women in high school who are interested in writing, she volunteers for an Orange County family literary program. Recent publications have included Reed Magazine and Birmingham Arts Journal.
Dan Wilcox is the host of the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany, NY, and is a member of the poetry performance group “3 Guys from Albany.” As a photographer, he claims to have the world’s largest collection of photos of unknown poets.
Melora Walters was born in Saudi Arabia and was raised there, as well as Holland and the United States. Currently she lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband and two children. Her ﬁrst chapbook Sonnets and Failures (Finishing Line Press) includes some of her prints. She has exhibited as an artist at John Nichols Gallery in New York, Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Berlin, the Jan Baum Gallery in Los Angeles, Self Help Graphics “Dia de Los Muertos” exhibit in East Los Angeles, and Gallery Brown in Los Angeles. You can view more of her art at her website: melorawaltersvendler-art.com.
ouroboros review http://www.ouroborosreview.com
Where water slurs around the edge of a delta’s mouth— and celestial North is not ‘something else’ but a continuation of the river: calf & thigh spooning the shoreline like a boulder has the softest skin in the world—you will question yourself. Think back to a time when everything we touched could turn us into a palace, like Midas, only it was you who became the glistening walls for a world of subjects to meander, maybe admire, maybe lose themselves in the ambrosial architecture Of your body. –Amanda Silbernagel
When you died, we had you shrunk down to postage stamp size and stuck on a prayer card. I carried you in my pocket for weeks like a worry stone. I rubbed my ﬁngers raw. –Liz Kay
magazine of poetry and art