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Number Four • 2015


Number Four Edited by RD Armstrong

LUMMOX number four Š2015 Lummox Press All rights revert to the contributors upon publication. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the express written permission of the editor, except in the case of written reviews. ISBN 978-1-929878-52-9 Library of Congress Control Number: 2015912171 First edition

PO Box 5301 San Pedro, CA 90733

Printed in the United States of America

Acknowledgements Some of these poems have been previously published; all credits are cited at the end of each poem or poems. The Editor-in-Chief gratefully acknowledges the wisdom of all the previous editors who saw the value in these poems.


Number Four / 2015

“Poetry is important, the poet is not” Octavio Paz Editor-in-Chief

RD Armstrong Art Director

Chris Yeseta Published by

LUMMOX Press P.O. Box 5301 San Pedro, CA 90733-5301 Submission Guidelines The theme for LUMMOX 5 is ISMS. Essays on poetics, biographies, and the craft of writing, along with well written rants will also be considered, along with interviews. Articles that are topical in nature will be considered as well. Additionally, art work will be considered as long as it is conducive to a B&W format. Mostly, LUMMOX is about poetry, so send your best.

The Guidelines: Send 3 poems via email. Poems should not exceed 60 lines (including blank lines—single spaced) and should not be formatted. Previously published poetry is fine, just let us know where. Please attach a 6 line bio (bios that are a paragraph long will be edited). Reading period for the annual issue will be from April 1st to May 31st. Please send subs via in the message window (attachments will not be opened, unless I know you). If snail mail is necessary, then send to LUMMOX c/o PO Box 5301, San Pedro, CA 90733-5301 Ad Rates: • Full Page (6″x8″)—$200; • Half Page (6″x3.875″)—$150; • 1/4 Page (2.875″x3.875″)—$80; • 1/8 Page (2.875″x1.875″)—$45. • Friends of LUMMOX get 25% off all ad sizes.

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the view from down here by RD Armstrong


hroughout this process, the 5 months it takes for one or two guys to create this thing, this book you hold in your hands, people have been remarking to me, how impressive an undertaking it is. But just between you and me, every step of the way this year, it’s been a toss up as to whether it would be a disaster or not! Of course, it just occurs to me that they could be implying that it’s remarkable that I’m doing it…it might just be a walk in the park for most everybody else. But let’s face it, it is remarkable that anyone would want to do it in the first place! You don’t see Random House, Author’s House or Poets House lining up to take this on… Lummox was born out of hard times; and with each successive year, the challenges to me personally have been getting harder and harder. But each year I’ve managed to pull it out of the jaws of defeat and persevere (excuse me for being prideful but I have to give myself an “atta boy!” every so often just to make it through the week). I guess when I look at it from that perspective, it is pretty damn remarkable. This year my father passed away. He had struggled with dementia and failing health and was in a board and care facility when death finally got a clean shot at him. I’d visited him about a month before and it was pretty horrific seeing him reduced to the sad state he was in. He looked terrified (and rightfully so, in my unprofessional opinion). He was practically a vegetable! It was hard to see him this way…I had seen him in late Feb. of 2014 on my last trip up to Sacramento with Murray Thomas (we had lunch together). He was alert and able to walk and talk and, most importantly, knew who I was. But when I saw him in Dec. he didn’t seem to recognize me at all. It was about the saddest time I’d ever spent with him. A month later, he was gone.


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My dad and I weren’t very close for most of my life. I made an effort to change that after resigning myself to the idea that it wasn’t going to be an ideal relationship…I was going to have to “settle” (and really, he was going to have to settle as well because I hadn’t turned out to be the son he thought he wanted either). As it turned out, near the end, we did find a common ground and it was this – this passion of mine for poetry. Well, to be more specific, it was my passion for this that he understood because he had also known such passion in his life, though his was for lawyering. He had taken a big risk when switching careers to become a lawyer, sacrificing his duties as father and husband to study while working a job as an engineer. I think he appreciated my drive to pursue something I loved, namely poetry, in spite of the sacrifices that such a life entailed (not that he had sacrificed materially, really, for him I think it was more conceptual). Not long after my dad passed away, I had a dream about him. I was visiting his house (but it was unlike any of the houses we lived in, a sort of hodge-podge mash-up of houses, more symbolic than anything factual)…but I knew it was his house, even though I didn’t recognize it. It was night and there was a great storm raging, with winds thrashing the trees and great claps of thunder. It was scary and dark and suddenly an animal was thrust into my hands. At first I thought it was a cat but soon realized it was a rabbit, a black furred rabbit. It too was very frightened, I could feel its heart beating very fast! Just as suddenly as it had appeared in my arms, it leaped away and disappeared into the darkness. And I thought, “oh great, I couldn’t hang onto my father in life and now I’ve lost his bunny, too!” And just like that, the bunny reappeared and leapt back into my arms again… and the dream ended.

I have since come to identify this black rabbit with my father’s spirit. This might sound weird to the more cynical readers out there, but symbolic animal ‘totems’ have been a part of the human experience since the beginning of our time on this here blue ball. I have started a few poems about the black bunny, but I haven’t been happy about them so they remain unfinished. Perhaps I’m not ready to write about him in the past tense. Here’s a poem I wrote about my ‘relationship’ with the rabbit… Tracking the Rabbit At daybreak The air is cold And silent Only the crunch Of my boots Sinking into Fresh powder I am moving Slowly fearing The sound will Carry into the Woods and warn The Black Rabbit I can almost see Brother rabbit Bounding across White drifts or Pausing to sniff The air or raise An ear at the Barest twitch of Company The tracks tell this Story but nothing else Nothing about why

This rabbit is still Here and not Burrowing deep into Its winter home I want to catch him So I can ask what’s Up doc [chuckling Under my breath Which rises like A smoke signal] I hope Br’er Rabbit Isn’t part Piute Eventually the tracks Just disappear like Wind-born ash with No trace of rabbit or Sign of predator or man Now I’m sad First no explanation of why Then no understanding of What compels the beast to Disappear into the thin air On this lonely late winter Morn One thing for sure, I am afraid that I’m developing symptoms of the Vascular Dementia that contributed to my dad’s demise… principally the short term memory loss (or as I jokingly call it, CRS – Can’t Remember Shit). I have spoken to my old GP repeatedly about this and he has told me over and over that I’m “just getting older” but it keeps getting worse and I am getting more and more scared. My new GP took me off the Prevastatin (something that my old GP refused to do) and put me on a lower dose of Lovastatin, so we’ll see if that helps. Additionally, the old GP put me on a heavier dose of Actos despite my protests (it’s one of those drugs you see the class-action lawsuit

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commercials about on TV) and I gained 20 pounds in 3 months! So now, I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life! The new GP reduced the dosage by two thirds and hopefully I’ll start losing weight again…someday. In the meantime, my health has become more of an issue that must be reckoned with. Like most older poets, once you cross the threshold in your late 50s – early 60s, health becomes a real factor… health and finances. I only mention this because these are some of the distractions that have crowded in on me over the past months; making this more remarkable than “normal”…what’s normal anyway? Was it normal for the first Lummox to not even have a full name? I wasn’t sure if there’d be a Lummox 2 (I don’t think anybody knows how much paper work goes into an undertaking like this – I sure didn’t). This was because of my lack of experience in putting together a project this big. The last time I did something like this was six years ago and there have been plenty of big changes in my life since I did the precursor of LUMMOX (the Lummox Journal, a monthly digest no bigger than 56 pages). I had my health (or at least the illusion of it) and all my toes (and more of my skin). But don’t get me wrong, I’m not sayin’ woe is me because there are many suffering from worse lots than mine. But, the questionable health weighs on the mind…another loud voice inside my head (along with the critic, the anarchist, and the angry parent)…surely we’ve all dealt with some form of these voices. If not, then you are one lucky dog! I suppose I could have done a smaller version, but the name is LUMMOX. It’s slow and awkward and in this case, not agile enough to conquer the learning curve, easily. I know I’ve made some boneheaded mistakes as I’ve lumbered forward towards the end, trying to


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force my square peg into the round hole that is poetry. I think this issue is pretty free of errors (except for those errors in judgement like last year’s “cover cover-up” – I really liked the original concept). I stand by my decisions, but I have regrets too…but as a guy once said, “YOU HAVE TO OWN YOUR WORDS” meaning you can’t “unring that bell!” It’s too bad that we all can’t own up to our actions, and not just when it’s convenient. I have to give credit to my main man, Chris Yeseta, who has stuck by this lummox for almost 20 years! I don’t want to get all gushy here because it embarrasses him, but suffice to say, without him, I’d still be putting out a very primitive looking Lummox Journal. I think it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t have the reputation that I have today (as a publisher), if it weren’t for him. I totally own my reputation as a poet! IN THIS ISSUE Before I go any further, I have to thank the wonderful PATRONS who have helped make this issue possible. Some are first timers, whilst others have returned and brought others with them; I am humbled by their generosity. They are: G. Cox; ANONYMOUS times three; M. Meloan; B. Craychee; R. Vasin; Dr. T. Brod; Dr. S. Berlin; F. Kearns; A. Catlin; B. Gainer; R. Koertge and Dr. R. Smith. These fourteen people give the money that allows everyone to get a copy of this beast. Their money also helps the Poetry Prize winner get her cash reward and her chapbook! The patrons donate money even though Lummox Press is not a 501 C-3 non-profit organization. Perhaps someday that will happen (hopefully before I forget why it’s needed). The winner and runners up from the second annual poetry contest, this year, were selected from a field of 70 submissions. The

winner is H. Marie Aragon of Santa Fe, NM. The chapbook of her poetry that I’m publishing (part of her prize) is called When Desert Willows Speak and should be out this fall. The runner ups are Nancy Shiffrin and Cynthia Stewart. The poems of all three are featured in the middle of the poetry section. Congratulations to the winners! Aside from an amazing array of poetry from nearly every state in the union and five countries from around the world, dear reader, you will also find three interviews of interest (I hope): Ron Alexander (poet, teacher, Gay Rights Advocate and AIDS survivor), the late Phillip Levine (poet, teacher, U. S. Poet Laureate who died at the age of 87, 2/14/2015) – this interview courtesy of Library of Congress poetry archivist and new friend of the Lummox, Grace Cavalieri; and an oldie pulled from the Lummox Journal archives, the late Scott Wannberg (poet, unofficial Poet Laureate of Dutton’s Books of Brentwood, CA, and Lummox of the Year 1999 – and a friend of poetry, even from beyond the grave). Check out the essays: Jon Church writes about his father, poet Dave Church (whom I hope many of you will know about and if not then this essay should enlighten you); James Deahl returns with more thoughts on Canadian poetry; Diane Klammer writes about poetry as a therapeutic map (a topic near and dear to me); Frank Kearns shines a light on the poetry and arts scene in Downey, CA, revealing, perhaps, a model for the growth of small-town creativity. Norman Olson (poet and internet illustrator extraordinaire) speculates on the value of ‘fine’ art. Nancy Shiffrin reviews Rising, Falling, All of Us—New and Collected Poems by Thelma T. Reyna, while I tackle a bunch of mini reviews (I really need more reviewers – any interest?) of all the books that have been sent to me since the last issue.­­­­­­­

WHAT’S BEEN GOING ON AT LUMMOX SINCE L3 Most of the contributors and readers of the Lummox Poetry Anthology are unaware that I actually publish books in between these big issues…since 2014, Lummox Press has published Wildwood by Kyle Laws, The Liberal Media Made Me Do It edited by Robbi Nester, Corvidae by B.J. Buckley, A Tree on the Rift by Bruce Colbert, The Brentwood Anthology edited by Judith Hill, prosthesis by Ariana D. Den Bleyker, The Century of Dreaming Monsters by John Sweet (winner of the first Lummox Poetry Prize), Blood in the Mix by John Macker and Lawrence Welsh, Body and Soul by Ryan Guth, In the Shadow of the Bomb by Joseph Gardner, When Desert Willows Speak by H. Marie Aragon (winner of the second Lummox Poetry Prize), Henry River: An American Ruin by Tim Peeler, In Between the Places Where Night Falls by Joris Soeding, Last Man Standing by Alan Catlin, Unbroken Lines by James Deahl…and coming in Feb. or March of 2016: Scott Wannberg – The Lummox Years 1996 – 2006 edited by RD Armstrong. On Labor Day, 2014, I received the Joe Hill Poetry Prize for my poem Post Hole Digger, part 1 from the Port of L.A. and Dockworkers Union. This was my first award, ever…I posted the poem on my blog dawg-blog/ and was invited to send more work related poems to Cinco Hermanos Press (run by Kyle Laws) for the creation of a chapbook! The chapbook, later to be entitled Tools of the Trade…Lost, consisted of the original poetry submission made for the Joe Hill prize. This was my first chapbook/book since 2011. There isn’t much time to write or much inspiration, either, apparently. Now, on with the issue…

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poetry i Fireflies The hard light of day goes soft and long as the sun goes from Wichita, west below the curve of the earth, and other lights, few and tentative at first, not stars but starlike, appear amongst the trees of the shelter belt. And as the first true stars come out the lights, the living lights, become bolder, venturing out onto the verge of prairie fronting the highway, and others appear, as if coalescing from the thick air. It’s been many years since I last saw these brave luminous lovers that filled summer evenings, years since I left the soft breathing hills of Pennsylvania for the sun-washed bones and peaks of Colorado. They stake everything on this night, these small creatures, and my heart goes out to them, already sensing the stirring of the bats, swift and deadly amongst the trees. I think our world is no less fragile than theirs, and we are just as foolish as they to venture forth into the red reach of life. But if we choose not this boldness, never to venture forth, but to remain always hidden, have we lived at all? Come with me. I want to show you this night, force your door, kick out the jams, throw open all the windows and lead you out into this June field so that you will see all of this brave dance, this so short, impossible beautiful life. Mike Adams Heaven From an as yet unpublished manuscript, used with the permission of Claire Mearns.


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Travel Music Interstate 15, and my Jeep fights a brash wind that threads Cajon Pass. The dense odor of Peterbilt and Mack diesel burns the air. Satellite radio carries a young voice. She sings how she is only going over River Jordan. I’m only going to Barstow, on account I’ve lost or forgotten all reasons not to go. It lies yonder, on the Mojave floor, just beyond Victorville, a town a friend said years ago was dying. It’s certainly not the yonder of the woman’s hymn. Oh Lord, may my Jordan still be years and untold rivers off. Praise the verity of gravel, Heaney wrote. For though railyards, sere riverbeds, crossroads and café faces like fallen sparrows— all a heart like mine ever needed—come as numerous as angels there, Barstow’s only Barstow, all the heaven I seek for now, one more wayfarer who woke in need of one more town he has never been to. Jeffery C. Alfier Torrance, CA

Jackie Joice

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Fallowing the Avra Valley Someone far off toward the Ironwood hills has put flame to a stack of deadfall mesquite. It’s dingy smoke rises in the early spring air. Beside me the irrigation canal flows in measured course. I climb down from my tractor, feel the heat already, a challenge to energy leaking from every pore. Each house at the corner of these fields has a story; farmers who pay debts just to gather new ones. I almost left once, passed our acres to my brothers. But I’m kept here, each harvest luminous and lucky, the bright yellow of new kitchen tile and the bright red of tomatoes, canned for winter. My woman ties her apron efficiently, with big loops like the bow she wears in her hair to greet me as I wait for one more piece of farm gear, like bolts for the tired engines my whole family shares. Her ease as she gently rubs the back of my neck—her garden basket full of riches waits patiently by the table. In the fields, ribbons of mudded tracks ban any chance I have to shake this parcel of earth awaiting storms, another good crop, wind to cool our brows, float the curtains above our sleep. Tobi Alfier Torrance, CA

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Bukowski’s Heaven

Sitting at Phillipe’s with a French Dip and “Run With The Hunted”, when in walks a woman.   Long legs in a short skirt. High heels tighten every muscle under smooth tan skin. Then I remember your perversion,   your womanizing ways and now, women from your past visit  to scold you. Walking   over your grave in short skirts. And you,   you just lay there 6 feet under, smiling,  looking up into their pearly gates.  Matt Amott Beaverton, OR artwork by Raindog

Previously published in Poems-For-All #1182.

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Transistor Shadows I say that I’ve never really been in love, that I’ve found in the wake of so many beached affairs that it can’t survive the evidence of its postmortem exam I say that love requires a suspension of disbelief That yes, you can fly, and you can sew a filmy new shadow to your toes keeping the real one locked away where it won’t collide with hard won dinners making lovers strike matches against worn heels to pierce through the scrim of days with their own hard won light. I tell them I’ve never really been in love because love can’t stand up to “could ofs” and “would ofs” that drown in marshes of “you’ll never believe what happened” It can’t survive in dialogue re-writes of arguments that memory paints won in legendary Superbowl instant replays Instead of hanging in olympic ice dance re-runs that missed the podium. I think I’ve never really been in love because all my loves began with a story in which I wrote the first kiss before it happened, scripting my marks and decisions for the theatre of my rich inner life. Contriving impossible romantic carts to put before horses that turned out to be more nag than steed. I guess I’ve never really been in love because love that doesn’t last is just a heart shaped chalk mark that rubs off on your shoulder when you walk by. The dust spilling only to settle, covering a vision of youth and beauty that skipped town at the first sign of pubic hair gone grey.

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But, I know I’ve seen love I’ve seen it in the homeless couple’s argument over knots combed out of unmanaged, long grown hair. I’m sure I’ve seen love I’ve seen it outside the VA, in the Vietnam Vet with his Vietnamese bride Shading her broken man from the 4’O Clock rain. I tell you, I’ve seen love I’ve seen it in quick glances and secrets and in shared knowing smiles those shadows that lovers sew to each others toes and stick fast with slick thread and magic soap to turn tricks of light into stiff black paper silhouettes that can stand up to the grimy light of lunch on a Wednesday. Heavy, dark stock that can survive silent speech bubbles which hang, Damoclean over the heads of “If I Only” remembrances I tell you too, that I secretly believe that love still waits it’s just frozen, leaning against power line poles building its electric charge of nervous heartbeats to transmit to the next occupied transistor down the road. And I say that I really believe someday I’ll find myself leaning against the right one at last. Alisha Attella Long Beach, CA

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Riptide Lost winds caress my heart The yearning A twisted umbilical cord Wrapped around Purple, blue grasping Holding tight The sand between your toes Pulls you home Gliding gulls In flocks land On the place Where we sat Babala Long Beach, CA


In memory of Seamus Heaney

Gloved hands pull her from my belly a gloved hand slapped her to make her cry Now my daughter uses bare hands to plant flowers in her garden Do not be afraid of the earth says a poet and my own hands dig to feel the cold of damp soil my nostrils wide open eager to inhale all that lies buried even the ages past in peat bogs where waters sagged held dear all who landed within their embrace Do not be afraid I tell myself his death adds color to what will come for those of us whose feet draw nearer the edge This earth is alive in ways I cannot yet know yet I do know how it turns over to reveal a worm or the roots of some bygone plant even the tree once climbed bare hands on naked bark Bettina T. Barrett Santa Barbara, CA

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Life is Like a Crystal Ball Life is like a crystal ball. Or Hamlet’s skull. Or one of those snow globes full of liquid with a plastic cabin glued inside. Shake it twice, a winter wonderland. Things never look the same for long. From year to year, day to day, minute to minute. Lovers come & go, dogs die. You’re yanked out of one mind set & slammed down in another. You drink coffee black & then with cream & then not at all. You drink alcohol with a vengeance & think you’ll never quit but 25 years down the line you do.

In the course of a day you wake up happy & go to bed blue, feel young again & sadly old, see universal truth & stand bewildered at a crosswalk; feel tenderness for all of mankind & shut off from the world. Thru it all you’re certain that you’ll live forever & then one day you’re not so sure. John Bennett Ellensburg, WA Previously published in Drive By (Lummox Press, 2010)

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The Spare Breaths She Put Between Words --for my friend, M.Z.

I envy her the spare breaths she put between words, her thoughts that fell like water over rock. I envy her the stone we sat on after finishing our walk in the park, because we no longer sit there, and I envy her her courage in death, which I couldn’t have, like a young deer finding a lake to drink up in quiet. Her tears were for me, for her husband, for her friends, but mainly she stood up again, walking on clouds, and she can be everywhere now, the sun slanting, the surmise of flowers, even in winter. Linda Benninghoff West Huntington, NY

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Jay Blommer Long Beach, CA

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Kerouac in Florida: 1957 to 1969 It can be said That Kerouac came to Florida to die An Orlando reporter believes the contrary That Kerouac came to live Alive in Sunshine State sunsets Far away from his Massachusetts hometown Always by his mother’s side A masterful manuscript maker Content to be his mother’s caregiver. The King of the Beat Generation Took a detour off the road to nowhere With his move to Florida Where In bathtubs full of ice water In a small two room College Park cottage With his mother in the other room He wrote The Dharma Bums And then died twelve years later Hemorrhaging in a St. Petersburg hospital. A shot of Jack across the armadillo landscape On the road kill Alive In the aroma of orange blossoms In the sounds of pounding typewriter keys In the humidity of last call humiliation Returning each night To the drawing board Of a writer’s roll top desk. Chris Bodor Saint Augustine, FL

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My father was no hero he’d often boast that he was too young for W.W.2 and too old for Vietnam— a wise man, unfortunately there are more hero’s than wise men: and too much blood spilled for nothing. Brenton Booth South Penrith, AUSTRALIA

I Am Here Don’t worry, I am here. I hope you sleep well with me by your side. When your day has been coated in black paint, When your laugh becomes snort, When you’re running on whiskey and orgasms, When your neon “closed” sign lights up on your forehead, I am still here. You are not alone, You never have to feel lonely again. I have been here for months, I think you are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, Like a blossoming flower Or a unicorn galloping in a meadow. I love watching you when you sleep, or When you walk into your shoebox apartment, And chug your beer, or When you watch Netflix for seven straight hours, And then take pills for your headache, or When you drink by yourself in your bathroom, Then pass out naked on the ground. Don’t worry, I am here. Right outside your window, my view is clear. My hand drops down my pants and can’t help but stare, You startle me when you awake and I catch your glare. My logical words come out like a scat song, My heart pole-vaults out of my chest, And I run, run as fast as I can. But I shall return my love. I shall return my love… Heather Boyd Pomona, CA

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In Shanghai, I Watch a Tibetan Man Sleep My Shanghainese friends live in a longtang. Most people do here. It is a kind of opening from the street that leads to an alleyway that opens into an elaborate apartment complex with paper thin walls and the music of cooking smells blending into the the laughter and fights of people who came here to work for a year but stayed for twenty. The owner of this place hired a man from Tibet to take care of it and the hundreds of people living on top of each other in this secret China. The man sleeps in a room with enough room for a single bed and nothing else, and there is a picture window with no curtains, so we can knock on the glass if we want and get him to fix a toilet or chase off a mouse, whatever we need. When we get home, he’s dozed off in his little room, watching an old recording of John Coltrane playing “My Favorite Things” on Chinese television, and he’s dreaming of yaks living on Tibetan mountainsides, and about the food his wife will make him when he finally comes back to her, and about the wind.

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In these days, so far away from my own mountain home and my wife, I want to step into his dream and swim around in that wind blowing chill up the long aretes. They would push me around the open spaces of his thoughts. They would shrill Coltrane’s hard bop. John Brantingham Seal Beach, CA

Lynn Tait

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Calaveras Because Luis was an artist he drew The earth with a skull emerging in its center. His art teacher denied the art of the drawing. I told him I knew why he drew the skull. The Gulf War was raging And it seemed that death hung over the earth. Skulls and skeletons mean death to most of us And yet Look at the skeleton people On Dia de los Muertos. Skeleton people laughing, Playing guitars, making love, Sitting in the dentist’s chair, They crowd tabletas, Happy in their world That may look like a skull But is vibrant with their miniature lives. Luis was an artist. He recorded his mirth At the features of his friends, Exaggerating every big nose And bulging stomach. Underneath the fleshy facades of his drawings His people were bones, Skulls, Calaveras. The happy secret of the bones Is that we all look the same underneath the skin, Skeletons rattling, The framework of the time we live and the portrait Of what we will all become in the end. I don’t know where Luis is now But I think of him on Dia de los Muertos, I hope he is still drawing funny faces, Skulls and bones, Expressing the inner and outer Lives of all he sees. Lynne Bronstein Van Nuys, CA

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THOUGHTS AFTER THE CARNAGE Over the shouts of NRA enthusiasts demanding their rights, a father speaks about his dead son, their last goodbye, his promise they’d finish that gingerbread house “tonight.” One of the surviving children can’t bear the sound of the doorbell. He’d watched as his classmates went down like targets in a carnival game; is well-schooled in “taking turns;” knows he’s next. In schools everywhere teachers ask kids “Who knows their numbers?” Watch as hands shoot up, hear the rat-a-tat of children chanting: Newtown that day, the counting stopped dead. Think of a suburban woman and her assault weapons. Imagine her taking her troubled son to the gun range; teaching him to shoot. Think carefully, then list everything that’s wrong with this picture.

After the massacre, thousands send toys and flowers. After the massacre tens of thousands join the NRA. “Change will come,” a spokesperson on TV assures, “But incrementally--one catastrophe at a time.” Imagine waiting outside your child’s school, Imagine listening to an announcement telling you: “If your child is not with you he or she is probably a fatality.” One hundred and fifty four bullet casings are found. Try not to think about the way automatic gunfire eats through flesh. Try not to think about six year old bodies torn apart. “Are they with the angels now?” a surviving child asks. Tell me, how should we reply? Ronnie R. Brown Ottawa, ONT. CAN

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HOPPERS Heads in to the cornstalks chewing whole acres clearcut in the space of an evening, whole fields of alfalfa in an afternoon the housepaint our bath towels hung on the line together one creature, devouring tide

Norman J. Olson

the two-lane asphalt slick with corpses In Nippon centuries ago   a poet remembered her lithe lost child   immortality a quiet brushstroke –   Grasshopper, springtime – the meadows are green

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B. J. Buckley Power, MT

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Fruit of the Loom After having had the shit kicked out of me in a bar in Central Square I walked alone up the sidewalk bricks toward Harvard and the Charles River. The few people I met gave me a wide berth after a gawk at my face which must not have looked pretty and I reached the river bank and took my pants off then underwear which I began to wash out but thought hell with it and threw them into the swirling dark where they were later found by an oarsman rowing in a regatta speared at the end of an oar like a white fish species unknown. Wayne Burke Barre, VT Previously published in LOST COAST REVIEW

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ALMAH My first year at Bob Jones University was shortly after Emmett Till had been tortured to death by two white supremacists in the state  of which Nina Simone sang as MISSISSIPPI GODDAMN! When the mutilated, partially decomposed body of Emmett  came to Chicago, Mamie Bradley, his mother, insisted  on an open-casket funeral, so “all the world could see  what they did to my son.” But Dr. Bob Jones Sr, the founder of BJU, would not look.  The Revised Standard Version of the Bible had recently been published  but instead of translating the Hebrew word almah in Isaiah 7:14 as “virgin”  as the King James Version had, those sacrilegious scholars said  the messiah’s mother was merely a maiden or young unmarried woman. If that wasn’t bad enough, Dr. Bob was beside himself  when he heard about a “modernist” theologian who  uttered the blasphemy that the birth of Jesus could have been due to his mother being impregnated by a Roman soldier.  “Listen! Listen!” he said, cupping his right hand to his mouth. “You can’t ever get hell hot enough for apostates like this!” Hotter than the flames for the Klan killers of Emmett Till? Of course, if they would accept Jesus Christ as their lord  and savior before they die, they’d still get into heaven Whereas, if Emmet hadn’t before his fatal day,  he would have gone straight to hell.

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Soon after this, the “World’s Most Unusual University” produced  a movie about general Stonewall Jackson, a Bible-believing  Christian, who witnessed for Christ while fighting for the freedom  of Southern masters to keep their slaves.  Dr. Bob Jones Jr, founder’s son and Shakespearean actor played the role of this pious hero of plantation owners. Anyway, in the year of our Lord, 1956, a mother mourns  the loss of her only son while the founding father of  a Bible Belt fundamentalist college laments the news-Mary has lost her virginity Calokie Pasadena, CA

Blue Bonnets Sprout out Of the soil Seem tall And thin above Leafy stems But dwarfed By surrounding Big cactus paddles Each playing The game of Collecting warmth

For hours days Maybe months Even years

None of them Can see the Seers who enjoy

Wind flowing Over their Flat petals

The colors from Life given Color-filled eyes

A distant crown Of giant bushy Trees frame

Don Campbell Alhambra, CA

This bountiful Green chaparral Under wispy sky

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The Women of Troy N.Y.

It’s those little big things you can’t get away with, anymore. Like groping a man’s leg under the table or wearing that slut red slashed-to-the-thigh dress to a party. You’re no longer asked to hide in dark corners for kiss and go seek or come find the wienie. Sometimes you forget the world changed when you blinked--your heart leaps, but nobody rushes into the hush of your expanded cocoon. Your hair grows like a snow angel’s and you know you’ve begun that long unnoticed tumble into the vast static white.  Pris Campbell Lake Worth, FL Published in Main Street Rag 2009

She lights the moon she lights the moon as dusk drifts to an old chaos dressed in red silk hair on shoulders cinnamon tongue by whom the celestial bodies are troubled John Casquarelli Brooklyn, NY

after Brenda Ann Kenneally

Scores of them and their friends, in photo album montage, teenaged and pregnant, even the ones with female lovers, nestled close in hospital maternity room bed, tongue kissed and half-naked. And their moms, grandmothers in their thirties though they look so much older, concentration camp thin, all bones and fading five dollar tattoos, black lungs from chain smoking Unluckies and skin popping meth, never smiling, no front teeth, no partial plates. Who can eat in a dump like this? Dozens of children in four filthy rooms, three and four year olds still nursing, underage moms sucking thumbs, lap grinding barely-outof-his-teens- predicate felon beau in between nickel and dime falls. All these girls of Troy, none of them mourning for heroes dead in battle before the city-on-siege-walls but DOA’s from bad dope deals, gang banging the wrong neighborhoods, the wrong side of the river, wrong time and place losers, or those shot carrying a concealed, refusing to yield to the Man when cornered in poorly lit, bad neighborhood night. Their sisters, daughters, lovers own one frock and its black, already well worn and fading: most of them women, years before age of consent, all of them stamped, labeled, pigeon holed as half breeds, white trash, two bit whore, sluts; no future, no hope in a world of pain, lost for now, forever, these women of Troy. Alan Catlin Schenectady, NY

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Editor’s note: I don’t usually publish more than one poem per poet but I just couldn’t decide between these two poems…so here are…

>>TWO by Grace Cavalieri of Annapolis, MD

Bluebirds In the small grey hut of self-doubt where the ceilings are too low for you to stand, by the road where your friend would only drive you half-way home, next to the trench of holes filled with grief and wrong choices, where it’s better not to know how you should do things a different way, tulips droop from their vases, and death has never had so many faces. That’s the time to go out at dusk when even the deaf talk softly; Don’t look at the hummingbird hovering afraid of the bubbles rising in their nectar— Bluebirds know of danger, their air made of smoke– large wings of prey never far distant— Try to find the bluebirds in their church of air, star seeds of sound that crystallize then burst.

Truly a Problem of Reference     It’ll be a poem, looking at the lines that go side by side, if there resides a shadow inside, a form not too hurried, a little self important seed sleeping at the center as if it’s the only truth there is.       One day, you’ll be sitting on the edge of the poem like a couch, and all across the room is filled with eternity, all the

people you miss, and more of them than ever, and the couch is getting so     crowded, you walk across the rug and join them. This moment charms the birds as they say, out of the trees, and then you can see the shape inside, where poetry moves. The desk softens.       I warm quickly to the task Immodestly forcing happiness from everything held captive.   Grace Cavalieri Annapolis, MD This poem previously appeared in INNISFREE

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No One Can Walk Backwards into the Future Venus sees a poster that says, “No one can walk backwards into the future,” and so she ponders it and thinks she might ask Slade-this extremely masculine man she loves-if he--scented with musk and wearing a sexy shirt revealing the well-formed muscles of his tanned arms-thinks it is a sign, for she never quite got those. All she knows is that as she walks the sidewalks, drives the roads, moves towards any destination that she hopes she’s moving towards the same future Slade will be in, the same space, no matter how she misses the signs, his blue eyes so filled with passion, she suspects he wants her to be with him, too, his four poster bed always like a royal place for King Slade and Queen Venus-their loving so right. Maura Gage Cavell Crowley, LA

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Merci beaucoup I shop for the perfect bread and butter notes on the front a generic Eiffel Tower blank inside for every specificity I need to write thank you notes morning to night old fashioned relics of decorum and grace scribble every hour to the greater fates and more often to the lesser thank you for not putting soldiers and guns in front of my children thank you for providing money to always buy milk and always call doctors I have not had to steal and murder I would do anything to feed my children anything but I have been able to be a bit of gracious sort of kind sit on top of Maslow’s pyramid the destinies agreeable Patricia Cherin Long Beach, CA

I Fell In Love With a Poet I fell in love with a poet. Which, I admit, will be a problem because of my massive competitive poetic nature.   But not just because she is beautiful, which she is, but because she can write, like a hammer to an anvil.  

In fact, her words are so good that I will end up stealing them one day. Not whole poems, but a word or two, a line she says when we wake up in the hungover morning or as she reaches over me for a cocktail napkin, pen in one hand, burning cigarette in the other without spilling her drink, the coolest person in the place.

And when I am onstage, and she hears my new poems they will feel strangely familier to her, she will tell me that she loves my new stuff and I will smile, pull her close, kiss her and say that it is all because of her.  Todd Cirillo New Orleans, LA

free verse

that one poetry contest I got suckered into that time I swear was rigged to eliminate the riffraff, and I had placed some lines with a journal or two but nothing near this triolet pleiades sonnet sonsabitch feather quill me a cinquain whilst I flash my pantaloons at the Pope plucking love me or not dewy damn daisy petals   and I told those judges straight out, oh hell no   Wanda Morrow Clevenger Hettick, IL Published in Ppigpenn – November 28, 2012

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The Lamp Lady She conjures up all sorts of dreams, In 1906 she was introduced to my family through my father. In 1916 my mother was introduced to her, when she sailed across the Big Water,” hoping for a better way to live, to work, to marry, to become a wife and mother and more importantly, an American. A real American. My Mother and Father never stood by the side of the ship, wistfully, looking upon, this lovely lamp held maiden. They were below deck with others that could only afford what was commonly known as steerage. Later in life, after their marriage and the birth of their 6 children, we often discussed the lamp lady with them. My fathers accent precluded his saying “Statue”… Yes we laughed a lot at his expense. So very much was written about this “Lamp Lady”. The author of the poem, Emma Lazarus, welcomed those fortunate to come to this honeyed land . She won a small honorarium and she was one of ours. A poet. Creating so much in such a short time. An early, undeserved death, for one so very talented. I wonder what she would say if she could speak or write an additional line or two. Perhaps she would write, “Please don’t hurt the people who come here, not from distant shores, but just a hill or valley away. Across wide and sandy beaches. They are not throwaways. Their work ethic, impeccable. Their desires to raise and educate their families commendable. Allow them to breathe, allow them to flourish and we will become a greater, kinder nation endowed by our creator with Liberty and Justice for all. Mitch Cohen Seal Beach, CA 6/26/13 Previously published in Under the Yellow Umbrella, (Lummox Press, 2015)

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Forgotten Tune

He is losing way without his song,   no use humming this melody trace,   evanescent tongue-sounds   flee history but attend more   etymotic* current signals.   Toss him a line from  long since-sailed vessels   brilliance-reflected gliding through ancient clouds   Platonic caves in motion, each cinematic frame   salty with froth flicked from plumes   the ocean kicks beyond itself.

Pioneer The first to drape covering on body, the first to order symbols for writing, the first musician, the first bean counter, the first cocoa taster, we are all in their debt, those unknown pioneers of gracious living and science, and here is my gesture of appreciation: biting the earlobe of this girl who is blazing a new trail through the jungle of my brain, announcing, like a practiced guide, Feel that, and that, and that. Larry Colker Burbank, CA

Ed Coletti Santa Rosa, CA * “etymotic” = “true to the ear”

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Claudio Parentela

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Poems Are Easier Than Children Sometimes there are favorites. This is alright with poems.  No one will look down on you or call you a bad poet.  You’re free to ignore them, to leave them locked in notebooks or digital pages for months or years, until they submit to the form you’ve envisioned.  Or just delete them.  Try that with a child, and you’ll be writing poems from Sing Sing.   Children are like stubborn, talk-back poems.  When born, they contain all the words they’ll ever have.  Forget that stuff about Tabula Rasa.  You might rearrange the words, but it’s challenging, and though you may bind them between commas, you certainly can’t take words away, the child’s resistance revising the parent far more.   My son just asked if this was the poem I’ve been working on for, like, nine years.  This really happened.  He’s encouraging like that.  I started to tell him that I’ve only been writing poetry for four years, then closed my mouth and finished this poem.  It’s taken nine years to write that children and poems are both like that.

Mother’s Web of Words

Silences always separated us and words never hid the empty spaces. She would talk and I tried to listen while noticing whatever was in motion, a spider dropping on its invisible thread, leaves twirling on brittle stems against the window panes.   Even now when there are few silences and her words are disconnected, isolated, thoughts I cannot follow for their fragmentation, I still hope that somehow across the synapses of kinship along the memory traces, I will reach her, and we will talk as I think mothers and daughters talk. Blair Cooper Santa Fe, NM

Sharyl Collin Torrance, CA

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Hiker Dude Commander of the view of the curving earth the Piñon stands a-grip in a forest of boulders, jagged giants, held in place by her, a part of her, at her bidding. The lone hiker dude, grasps the piñon to haul himself up. Sweat freezing in a wicked wind. He extends his soul to the mountains beyond, to the curving sky, to the air and the feel of the sun. This is the pay-off. Ridges stud the valley below like waves on some restless sea, up to the giant peaks where the spirits live. A pair of ravens gurgle above him, from the rocks he’s yet to climb. He sighs. The rest time is finished. The spirits get put away for now. This terrain demands attention to detail, lungs and legs working together: a samba. Monstrous and preposterous. He smiles. His muscles feel good. They bend and flow willingly with the jagged land. The ravens play hopscotch ahead, rising and plummeting with the wind, mocking the strange ape below. A pair of butterflies rise and fall like drops of water in a giant fountain: flapping up plummeting down over and over. He’s been tracking some deer for a while but the soil has lost to the rocks, each one a stunning testament to entropy that has to be climbed over or wedged around (or both).

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Mounds of cactus, stands of manzanita, fallen piñon, yucca. They command our respect. They are far tougher than we. Up and up he climbs cussing the ravens circling him. Loving the company. A bit of flat. A bit of sand in the shade of the final cliff. Cat tracks molded in the damp sand. Fresh too. Must like the view here. The cliff is easy to climb and finally the top. Howling wind nearly knocks him down. So, the lone hiker dude hunkers low and recites the names of the peaks in the distance as he eats his lunch. Bill Craychee Orange, CA

Love Is the Loser Love your enemy, Jesus says. Hell, I can’t even love my friends. One died. Talked till the last six months. Never could stop her long stories. Always up to my ears in words. I blamed her life-long asthma meds. Turns out Alzheimer’s pinched her mind, stole her words one by one thousand. Her family saw her suffering, caught in all that hollow silence.

I play tennis with a few friends. I hate the bad calls and missed balls. Love to send a slice off the side. Down the line demands sweet revenge. I try to keep track of the score or indulge in deep, calming breaths but my fierce malice wins the game with nasty cracks and vicious hits. I don’t think Jesus understands: Love is the loser in tennis. Doesn’t fare well in life either. Ann Curran Pittsburgh, PA

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language is an organism: 1. bundle of information parody of brains / residue / residuals i am a survivor of language host to language seeds & social interaction we are cohorts (the final) conductors a new language of complex codes little inconsistencies heads / biologies we all don’t end up with the same language language makes us human / we all don’t end…UP language grows inside us…stimulus nice way to do things / establish an order / boring uncomplicated sentences x amount of time for x amount of crime / tapped out of self within a neutral space an inf(l)ection / special modulations / finely marked / given / received @ the end of the pointing the dialect produced the color of one’s clothing & respect for one’s shirt pushing one’s link into a neutral space / producing co-reference lin(k)ed up & shot / this is when the storm happens when the new form is formed

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stimulus – nice ways to do things - establish an order a nominal output of here-within natural se(l)ection – a missing idea how our traits are passed down / how to throw an inheritance to bury an eco-system - destroy & reproduce our learning processes inferred genes / implanted communications excised from our brains emerging / submerging / extending the GAP exposing / describing the SIGNS > the turns within the system sorting the trees along the pathway / the highway / the trail that leads to MAN who goes no WHERE / which leads NO where like > time traveling within a 3D SpAcE.. steve dalachinsky nyc, ny 2/2 14 Based “loosely” on a lecture by Ann Senghas: “Language Is An Organism”

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Death Of A Poet

Gwen Hauser, May 16, 1944 – July 24, 2012

What you remembered from the farm was the annual slaughter of steers, the screams of pigs being castrated, your father’s blood-streaked hands working the sausage machine, your own mother reduced to someone less than human. And being piss-poor, always piss-poor. Of your high school years in Medicine Hat you remembered — could never forget — the provincial mental hospital, whose doctors prescribed medications you refused to take. You fled the Prairies and that hard-scrabble farm for Toronto, running all the way, to find what? In the Big Smoke you found Bergman’s Silence, that pervasive Swedish despair. You found men who would not love you enough, and a hard-scrabble life on the streets. Poor Gwen, we sympathized, poor Gwen, but sympathy and gentle thoughts have never healed a shattered heart. And, yes, you found poetry and the courage to speak it: a strong voice, and true. Early this morning I learn of your passing and watch winter’s rain soak the fallen leaves, wondering how someone so close to me could die. You hammered out poems laced with pain — yours and the sufferings of those you loved — a poetry of survival on the margins, a poetry only death could halt. James Deahl Sarnia, ON. CAN.

After Kazimir Malevich’s White on White  

Virgineus: (unblemished white) A canvas becomes a white satin sheet. It keeps slipping from our bodies aroused & radiant with reflected & pale thoughts.   Your long legs are not prepared to run. They wrap around mine again perhaps too intensely.   We feed the passion of the white. A kiss from virgin lips. Perfume & touch drawn in long strokes.   Engaged in passion we are only one drop of white paint or a coat of clear gesso.   Fragrance of a honey candle burns the night, leaving a droplet of white Icarian wax on my breasts.   I have journeyed to a perimeter & back, breathing a moment of paper white narcissus & Spring. Diane Dehler Orinda, CA

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Do What You Have to Do In tandem two beige dragonflies flecked by morning sun alight on my thigh linger on my skin as my young friend rises from a striped divan, tiptoes forward. Our faces, two moons, we watch as he rams his spoon-like spike into her, cleans out rival sperm before he injects his own.

Still in tandem they rise. After she lays her eggs on the reed-fringed pond, he’ll disengage. Then die. Grab one of those frisky sailors in The Pub tonight, I say. Do unto others as dragonflies do: shake, bite, puncture. Change. Adapt. Survive. Liz Dolan Rehoboth Beach, DE

Alexis Rhone-Fancher

Their heart-shaped coupling mystifies us. Their bulbous eyes glow. Breeding time fleeting he thrusts and pulsates, thrusts and pulsates. Eight webbed wings tremble.

My friend snaps three photos whispers, You’ll have good luck; I haven’t had any for years.

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No One Else Will

I must write this poem for the Marshall’s, Kenneth’s, and Virgil’s of the world who grow feeling unloved but still seek it out, whose mothers leave them in bathwater as children only to become men who love their daughters fiercely. Though at times you walk in darkness searching for change, do know that the light will reach you, that you are loved thank you for sharing your truths even though most don’t want to hear them. I write this for you because no one else will, because you are my father, my cousin, my neighbor.   I must write this poem for the Jesmyn’s, Fiona’s, and Nadia’s of the world who become mothers before giving birth, who pick up where others have left off, Who scrub their siblings bodies clean, cook their meals, and simply show love whether it is deserved or not. For you know the true definition of unconditional though those around you have yet to learn it. I write this for you because no one else will, because you are my mother, my neighbor, myself.  

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I must write this for all the garage, rail road track, dirt road, alley and gutter kids of the world. Who have nowhere to go after the school bells ring and there is no more room at the Y, who find comfort in their books, music, and own minds who battle what they live through with self preservation, who apologize for their faults, who never pretend to be perfect. I write this for you because no one else will and know that you are heroes even though you don’t wish to be, because heroes are never aware of who they are while their own stories are still being written. Trista Dominqu Downey, CA

The Last of the Argonauts

On the ferry to Crete I clutch the bag of produce you gave me: carrots, potatoes, turnips, kale.   I wanted mangoes, lemons, almonds, but you thought I’d get scurvy or rickets, thought an earth-taste   would preserve me. A raw little squall of unseasonable April snow dances across the deck. The ferry’s   huge as a cruise ship. Afraid to fly after that German pilot’s suicide in the Alps, taking a hundred   and fifty people with him, I stashed my luggage in a locker, swallowed the key. The thought of lemons   bitter enough to fell cities, sweet enough to engender empires richer than Persia’s,   urged me to hike the backlands of Crete and scout the ruins for clues to antiquity’s most famous nudes.   You waved and pretended to cry as the ferry lurched out to sea, carving the Aegean blue   into a thousand random gestures. Hooting at tiny sailboats it stifled the crudest sentiments.   So goodbye to you, and thanks for the vegetables. One by one I drop them overboard, marking       

a sea-trail for you to swim when you go to Crete to learn which stones I licked for moisture            the day before I lay in state, exhausted by views too distant to focus in both of my eyes. William Doreski Peterborough, NH

steel city rope-a-dope (for mike adams)

the last time i saw you we went back and forth expelling the dreams of our father’s fathers into the streets of longmont even muhammad ali never spent the night in homestead taking in the fumes from abandoned smokestacks as they bellowed with the songs of forgotten men you counted your words carefully like stars that could still pack a punch towering above death whispering, sweat the little things because they’re still worth fighting for. John Dorsey Sheboygan, WI

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Interviews RD: Your bio reads like a classical redemption saga of Homeric proportions, Ron. Could you share a bit of it by way of introduction to the readers who haven’t heard of you?

Ron Alexander RD Armstrong: You’re one of the most community oriented poets I’ve ever interviewed, which I find very commendable, let’s see if we can work your service to your community into some of the answers. I bring this up because it goes against the common image of the poet as loner. Okay, here we go.

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RA: I don’t know if I’ve been redeemed but living with HIV/ AIDS for 30 years has been an odyssey. And growing up gay in the 60s was another. From about the age of eleven, I spent an enormous amount of energy trying not to be noticed, trying to fit in, to obey all the rules by which boys were supposed to act. Only after college, older and more sure of myself, did I come out. Or rather, blasted out. I was in grad school at the time. Within a year of admitting to myself I was queer (a word we didn’t use so freely then), I was elected president of the university’s Gay Student’s Union (much later, the LGBT Students Association) speaking to classes and other groups on and off campus about heterosexism and homophobia, about my life. It was a far cry from trying desperately not to be seen. I became a gay poster boy. I dealt with HIV/AIDS in a similar manner. Within two years of finding out I was positive, when almost everyone positive I knew was in hiding, I went public, speaking at a World AIDS Day event, December 1, 1989, here in Santa Barbara. In 1995, I discovered I had advanced to what was then called, “full-blown AIDS.” Licensed as a psychologist, I stopped work to get ready to die. But I was lucky to have been diagnosed late in the epidemic, the year new drugs and a new

approach to combating HIV came out. Death rates fell and my health began to improve. When I started looking around for something to do, since dying fast seemed off the plate, my best friend, David Bennett, suggested I write and suggested an idea for an HIV/AIDS-related plot. I had written a dissertation, but the prospect of a novel was daunting. I had written some in high school and poetry in college, but all that ended after I showed some poems to a composition professor. I cannot remember what she said, but I didn’t write another line of poetry for 25 years. Consequently, David’s suggestion was doubly intimidating. But I took a creative writing class at SBCC with Terre Ouwehand. In one semester we pounded out a portfolio of poems, a short story and a one-act play. It was a revelation for me. I found that I could write, or so I tell myself. I suggested to David that we write that novel together, and we embarked on a 7-year project. I went to writing conferences and attending all the the fiction workshops I could get first. Then I began to sneak away to the poetry workshops. RD: You keep coming back to poetry. What was it that hooked you about poetry as a form of expression? Were you inspired by a certain poet or was it a teacher who encouraged you? Tell us about your many trips to the “well”. RA: I’ve always enjoyed language and language play, the sound of words, the rhythm of speech, learning new words. I have long found myself making up lyrics to songs, the words to which I cannot remember. I loved rhyme and read voraciously as a child. Though I have not read Ogden Nash or James Thurber or listened to Tom Lehrer in decades, they influence me still; so much of my work has an appreciation of the absurd, a sensibility not uncommon in

gay men; in part, what Susan Sontag wrote about as ‘camp,’ but more. Living with AIDS has only intensified a sense living in someone else’s surreal dream. Of course, my habit of reading the LA Times every morning can be a surreal experience, too. All of this contributes to my frequently writing about a rather flexible reality. As for a teacher who inspired me. I had one, and she did greatly influence my direction. She was a biologist and encouraged my interest in natural history and the natural sciences. My work is grounded in the natural world, if an offkilter interpretation of it. If there had also been a teacher of Literature or English, who knows what might have happened. And poetry? The short form draws me to it, the intensity an economy of words affords. How a few lines can change your perspective or illuminate it. Our novel was an adventure, but I confess, I tired of it. David is the trooper. I was, at the end, a hanger on. Or maybe poetry is just the default for someone with AAA, acquired attenuated attention span. RD: You are very active in your community, both as a gay activist and as a volunteer…you’re very much ‘out’ and about. Yet you prefer to write poetry. Isn’t this a contradiction? Don’t most poets prefer to hide in a garret or behind a bottle (or both)? How does your activism influence your poetry? RA: I think my activism arises from my sense of the world as being incongruous. First, at the risk of restating the obvious, I try to reconcile our being the little gods of our planet, running it into the ground, so to speak, while on the other side of the spectrum, we are swarming around on a mote of dust speeding through the void with what? A quadrazillion other motes? What’s so special about us? On the other end, the “little gods of our planet” side of the equation, that’s where the real craziness

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This interview originally appeared in the January 1999 issue of LUMMOX Journal

RD: What is your history?

Scott Wannberg portrait by Michael Paul

Scott Wannberg (Editor’s note: Scott, a former memory in the Carma Bums—a traveling road show of poetry and performance, which toured the western US from the mid ‘80s to the mid ‘90s—is a fixture in not only the L.A. poetry

RD: Did you grow up in Santa Monica?

scene, but Dutton’s of Brentwood, as well.

SW: No. I was born there but grew up in the Valley, (ha ha) the nebulous San Fernando Valley, which was a lot less crowded than it is now; in Granada Hills, Northridge, Panorama City. I don’t know why ‘cause the old man worked over here, but maybe he liked the commute… I dunno. I pretty much lived with my mom after they broke up, until her third husband and then I moved over here with the old man and (ha ha) I’m still living with him now… no one wants to take him off my hands (ha ha). You know it’s the old story.

He has read at countless venues around L.A., was one of the original “rock poets” and is a long time and much revered friend of many of L.A.’s best poets and this editor. One of those poets, S.A. Griffin is often referred to in this interview as “SA.” He and Scott go back many years.)

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SW: I was born a Scandinavian white man in Santa Monica… not affluent but I never went hungry, I mean the old man worked as an Aerospace engineer, so that was good money. My mother was a nurse, so they both worked, it was a workin’ family. Again it was a middle class family, we lived in suburbia, until my parents broke up (I was in Elementary School). Nothing ornate. I lived in houses until they broke up, then I lived in apartments.

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RD: Didn’t you go to San Francisco State?

RD: So, Dutton’s is your life?

SW: Yeah, I went there ‘cause it was one of the few schools that I knew that was offering a degree in Creative Writing. It sounded like something I could make work. And I’d never been north, I’d heard a lot about it, I wanted to explore northern California, so I went up to SF State to get my BA and MA.

SW: When I leave this place, I do not take it home with me!

RD: So when were you up there?

RD: Well, Fred Voss, for example, has made quite a reputation writing about being a machinist at “GoodStone”. And other people use the workplace as a focal point for their writing… do you?

SW: Uh, I went up there in ‘72, got the BA in ‘74, took some time off (the MA program was very small and I missed the first go-round), and got my MA in ‘76, I believe. RD: Was that helpful? SW: (ha ha) Not necessarily… I know that I could have pursued a teaching position at one of the junior colleges, but I had no empathy for it. RD: So you came back to L.A. and did, what? SW: Well, I worked in a drive-in and as an usher in a theater (I could tell you some stories!) and I worked in an independent bookstore, and I just didn’t see the need to teach. I like books. So far, I’m doing okay here (at Dutton’s). RD: How long have you been here at Dutton’s? SW: I’ve been here since the beginning. And before it was Dutton’s, I worked for Lou Virgil starting in ‘80—Doug (Dutton) took it over in ‘84. I had a chance to work with this guy upstairs here, doing import-export for better pay, but I was totally lost. This guy’d been doing it for years and I just had no empathy for it. So I came back down because I wanted to work with the books. So here I am.

RD: Okay. When you write, does the workplace creep into your writing? SW: What do you mean?

SW:Well, I do on occasion write about working retail, but it’s very seldom. This job doesn’t intrude on my life, it’s not like I’m going to get a call in the middle of the night saying, “We’re going to need something for tomorrow’s meeting.” ‘Cause I got no meeting tomorrow! Maybe I’d have more money, but I’m doing okay. RD: It’s not the road that everybody takes, then. SW: No. But I can still do my one or two seconds worth of teaching here, if some youth comes in looking for suggestions for a book, I can make a point or two. We do get asked, on occasion, what we like (to read) here. RD: So, when did you hook up with SA Griffin? SW: It was about a year after I started at Dutton’s. I went to a reading at The Masters Club and I met Jim Burns (who edited the Shatter Sheet—a kind of poetry calendar of the time) and SA Griffin was helping him to put it out. I didn’t know anything about him or the Lost Tribe or Doug (Knott) and Mike (Molett) and Mike (Bruner). I came back a few more times, met some people

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Scott Wannberg Interview there and one thing led to another, eventually I met SA at a club called X=Art. SA had seen me at the Anti-Club doing my piece called the “Ed Meese Blues” and he liked it. I started doing stuff with SA and Mike Bruner all over, like we did a little improvisation with sheet music (where if the song was a torch song they’d do a poem like that) one night at At My Place in Santa Monica. I liked doing that kind of thing. This led to our hitting it off and that’s where it began. RD: So, had you already been writing? SW: Oh yeah, since college. But it wasn’t me, I wasn’t good at writing the form stuff, I had no empathy for rhyme or that other stuff… not that there’s anything wrong with it. If you can write a sestina, then you should do that. Me, I liked the free form. All poetry boils down to this: you can say whatever you can say, the best way you say it, in the form you say it in. RD: Had you been doing poetry readings at that point? SW: Yeah. Here and there. I did readings at places like Deja Vu (where the owner didn’t like poets and would walk out whenever they read) and other places, all gone now. In fact, by that time, I had also been in Shatter Sheet, as well. I was in an ongoing anthology called Tsunami and did various publication readings around town. RD: Was it pretty thin, reading-wise? SW: No, it was just different. Venues come and go and the cycle changes. At that time SA was doing readings at a place called The Water. And there was always Beyond Baroque (in

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Venice), I read at Gorky’s. All over. It comes and goes. But this coffeehouse thing is popular now, though I’m not a big fan of readings in coffeehouses because you have all that noise interfering with your reading. I much prefer book stores or libraries where people are there to listen. I remember Steve Goldman had a reading down in Venice, off the boardwalk and I read there along with Dennis Holt and Garret Hawkins and then he moved it over to the old Venice jail (next to where Beyond Baroque is) and I read there. RD: So, you read at Beyond Baroque at it’s original location? SW: Yes, when it was on West Washington. It was much more empathetic, like going into George’s (George Drury Smith, founder and owner of the building that first housed Beyond Baroque) old, dusty library. The readings were in the book room, surrounded by books. I liked it then. A lot of people went through that Venice Poetry Workshop, that met on Wednesdays, Tom Waits, Exene, John Doe, not to mention a few poets, too. RD: When you met SA, there was a connection between you. What was that about? SW: Yeah, I was always willing to get off paper and explore the process. I liked the blend of printed material and/or memorized material (though I hate to memorize) and the unknown… to be truly spontaneous in the moment. Yeah, I’ve always been open to that. I don’t fear it, ‘cause you can’t fear something you don’t judge. There’s nothing wrong with having a really firm floor to stand on, before you lift a leg, you need that, but then again there’s also nothing wrong with falling down! It’s not for

everyone. I’ve always believed if something don’t work, do something else! RD: How did the Carma Bums come about? SW: SA went to Colorado to shoot a movie and he met some people up there doing this spontaneous improvisation stuff and when he came back to LA, he got together with me and some of the other members of the Lost Tribe. They had been doing these workshops with Scott Kellman, using these techniques designed to help performers (not so much actors). We began to employ these techniques in our own work, though I was less familiar with these techniques. Sometimes it didn’t work out as planned. RD: When you are in the moment, what’s that like? SW: There’s a tendency to want to rush to the goal, but there is no need to. The goal is right there with you. But this is not an easy concept to get. The audience is part of the show, not some separate part. Make them part of the event. The event begins before the show starts. The event is the show. When we went on the road, the shows were really just an excuse to go on the road! RD: I can only compare what you’re saying to the shows that I do with The CasioTones. Invariably Marshall (Astor) will ask me, “how’s the show going?” And I won’t be able to tell him, I won’t know until I hear a tape of the show, ‘cause I’m in the moment, usually lost there on purpose. SW: Yes, it’s about listening. It’s why SA and I are Deadheads. It’s all about being fluid. You have to be aware that it’s not just you, but then again you have to also be aware that it can be anything and it can also be you and it can go anywhere, at anytime.

RD: So creativity is a fluid experience? SW: Yes. There were moments with the Carma Bums where I felt we were hamstrung by retreating into those things (Kellman’s “centering” exercises). I would rather have let the thing dangle. If the show had reached a moment where it was dead air or dead space or nobody was doing a piece, that was okay, and yet, we felt that we had better do something, like one of those Scott Kellman exercises. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with the dead moment, just let it dangle. It can’t be the same thing everytime. And if you want professional, slick, no-risk, guaranteed safety for each performance then you’re doing yourself and your audience an injustice; because as much as you’d like to have a professional, slick show, it can’t be the same thing everytime. You have to dance with it, you have to commit yourself to go with it, wherever it takes you. RD: Have you been typecast as a Carma Bum? And is that an obstacle? SW: I think I have been. If SA and I do some reading now, people wonder if it might be a “Bum” thing, and I have to say, “no, it’s just me and SA.” It’s a lazy way to identify you, by someone who doesn’t really know your work. It’s like saying that Bukowski was an L.A. writer, so every writer from L.A. wants to be like him. I wouldn’t say that Harry Northup wants to be like him, and he’s an L.A. writer. I’m certainly not like him and I’m an L.A. writer. Nor, for that matter is SA like him, or you, and yet, we all are big fans of his writing… it’s such a cliché to say someone is a Bukowski-wannabe, or a Frank O’Hara wannabe, or a Delmore Schwartz wannabe, I don’t know. It doesn’t tell me anything about the writer or the material. RD: There’s the Beat school and the Meat school and…

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Scott Wannberg Interview SW: But none of that tells me anything. Kerouac and Ginsberg wrote very differently. And Burroughs, it’s like reading wacky, stream-of-consciousness, Joycean, non-linear, three dimensional wow… RD: You seem to be able to free-associate without end. Is this something that you’ve always done? SW: It may have been dormant when I was a kid, everybody was pretty much here-andnow… but when I got older and found likeminded people, ‘cause you really need to be with people who are similar to find out if it will work. I started tapping into that in the ‘70s, in college and after. I used to hang out with Steve Goldman and he can do it, SA does it, Doug Knott does it to a degree. RD: Is it like shtick? SW: Naw. Shtick is having it mapped out, knowing the danger points, the ever-reliable, the accustomed-to. Shtick is what works. If you’re in the moment, you don’t know what works and you don’t know where the danger points are, because you’re just going there blankly—you may hit a wall or you may hold your nose and go the other way. There are people who are really good at it, like Cathy Brewer, she can blow! I’ve heard her do the “rap” at shows. RD: What’s that. SW: Free association and the rap, to me, are the same thing. It’s spontaneous language, spontaneous use of words, a narrative of sorts. RD: Is there a difference between the way you write a poem or prose piece and the way that you do a rap? I mean, beyond the fact that

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you write down a poem and you “speak” the rap. Is there a difference beyond that? SW: If I’m writing a piece, a poem, the energy’s definitely got to be there (the energy’s not that changeable) and, while free association can go anywhere, if I’m trying to write a poem about something, I suppose there’s going to be a theme, a reason to sit down and write in the first place. RD: Like the poem Scarecrow. SW: Yes. A poem is more of an attempt to take the energy and shape it in such a way, that it becomes something. That’s not to say that the verbal rap is not becoming something. But the attempt is more cognizant in the poem to try and shape it into some kind of accessible “end” piece; to take the theme, mood, color, and move it somewhere and, then when you’re there, to get out of it. Whereas the rap could be ongoing, or absurd, or totally non-linear. RD: Do you have a preference between writing and rapping? SW: I think they are both equally demanding and both equally rewarding. I like them both, but I think I can get away with more on the written thing. The verbal always peters out, it’s more difficult than on paper. It is, after all, about imagery. And imagery is not easy and yet we live in nothing but. RD: So true. SW: Jack Grapes once said that in writing, it’s important to keep yourself open, to keep yourself available to seeing the world differently. You don’t need to know what you are going to write, just write what you see and edit it later. I agree with this.

Earth Fell Hard Earth fell hard out of bed and the books of love implode as we grope our way through forests of angry rhythm. Lovers, though, somersault across the abyss can the music actually dissolve so well it will never show up again in the bloodstream of the moment? Sway, then, let your eyes rise toward the long and tall afternoon of tired skin and angry bone somehow ascending the fire toward some ways and means of the spirit that still can hum the radiant language of hope. Earth tore itself up and screamed Save Me and the large editors wrote small print volumes of expertise to heal Earth’s pain. Save Me, the sun wrote in its autobiography, don’t let me burn you up to much. Dear Human, can you play that sweet ongoing depot of a sound? Can

you hootenanny latitude and longitude? The torn face of hello puts its history back together and there is a music that refuses to crawl into a corner and shrivel up. Sway, then, my fellow lovers, let your eyes rise toward the long and tall glass of empathy. Save Me, the Earth screams, kicking at anyone that tries, Save Me, and you pick up your heart which is sound, and you begin to wail and row your spirit’s canoe downriver toward the ocean of love. Sway, then, to the unheard symphony. There is a yodel in every tree there is a place to land in every dream and the houses of hate suck themselves into bottomless holes and never come again to interrupt the soiree of who we are. Dear Humans, can you play that sweet ongoing sound? Can you? 9/13/01 Scott Wannberg The Great Beyond

Previously published in the Lummox Journal April 2002 and in the forthcoming collection, Scott Wannberg – The Lummox Years (Lummox Press, 2016)

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2015 poetry prize winners Second Annual LUMMOX Press Poetry Prize first place:

H. Marie Ar agÓn As a writer, I observe more acutely the people around me, relationships of all kinds, the nature of things and things in nature. My senses are heightened. Writing poetry makes the unknown visible. It clarifies memories. I write poetry to explore emotions, mine and others. I experience a sense of liberation in that writing provides an escape, yet it also grounds me in the everyday world, the ordinary. It forces me to take risks, to be open, at times vulnerable and exposed. I enjoy the struggle of recording my personal history in poetry form. It is my legacy.

* Winning Poem * The Dark and Light Side of the Moon       

  Women gather children, small worn shoes, a mason jar of coins. They search in the dark night for shelter. Española      Santa Fe      Tesuque     no roof no safety. I walk through galleries  on Canyon Road, San Francisco Street, Artist Row to see art in paint, sculpture, and wood. Women gather children,  cloth for diapers, bars of soap, a cooking pot.  They search in the dark night for foreign borders. Syria,    Guatemala,    Afghanistan     no roof no safety. Veiled women      Aphrodites in burqas     together, always together. 

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At the market they buy chickpeas for hummus, aubergine for baba ghannouj, fresh greens, and beets.                 ‘Morality Police’ flog their bruised legs with long-handled batons –                  if the women move too slowly, if they cause men to lust,  if they…if they…if they… Women are beaten because they are women.                                                     An art collector at the Santa Fe farmer’s market wears Versace sunglasses. Make-up hides her blackened eyes. I fill a straw basket with fresh squash-blossoms, hard crust bread, goat cheese, fresh sweet corn… My first grade teacher, Miss De Boise           sends me home for an absence note. I walk through the park      alone, through the small town   alone, into the countryside    alone. A man follows in the distance. I hide in deep damp furrows between rows of corn stalks.                                         He darts back and forth     searching. I crawl home on my belly, mud-stained dress     my heart a bass drum. The scent of corn forever scorched on my brain. Today, in my dreams a field of sweet corn is a safe haven. Jihadists abduct Nigerian girls from a boarding school. Western ideas     western studies     forbidden. Oh sweet St. Jude Thaddeus, apostle of lost causes, there with Jesus in the boat      on the hill     at the supper –  Bring Back Our Girls from the Boko Haram.   In schools from six to sixty. I study art, music, poetry. My soul transforms – closer to God like a whirling dervish – sounds of reed flutes, drums, cymbals. Whirl      whirl     white skirt flies     tall honey-comb hat – farewell to mind. Rumi,…what is this whirling…caught in the wind…?  In this container I call body     there is peace.     Arms open wide      I see God in every direction. Whirl, right arm up      closer to God, left arm down – I pour women’s sorrow into the ground,                                  ground where at the far end of an open field three ravens prance back and forth on a rail fence.

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first runner up:

Nancy Shiffrin

To quote Dylan Thomas, I write because “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower drives my green age”. When the force doesn’t drive me crazy, I can actually compose something.

This is the dream This is the dream I cannot fathom though my journal sits open on the table pen a loaded luger This dream has no symbols a woman runs naked in the thunder looking for the reading she is not invited to lightning ignites the book she carries It is dream of the lost daughter a baby rides by in a wheelchair a washing machine appears I insert coins The daughter puts her clothes in grabs the laundry soap

It is the grief I cannot expiate the box of ashes on top of my file cabinet the amethyst geode the carved elephant the tiny statue of a boy peeing a ten year old with burnt fingers clutches his scout handbook I imagine him in the world to come wearing tallit and kippah davening This is the dream I can’t wake up from here in the hospital lobby cross-legged on my chair sun a flaming tiara crowning the faceted waters gray sphere revolving my dearest new love on the operating table surgical tools piercing his lung It is the dream of falling backward off a ladder floating belly up into deep space a little girl in a pink voile dress pirouettes and curtsies This is the dream I can’t forgive.

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second runner up:

Cynthia Stewart

Reading has always been a large part of my life. I have three degrees in visual art and writing has become a part of my practice. It helps me organize my thinking and see the imaginary visually. I think of words as being malleable, like clay. I like the eroticism in/of words.

The Patricians Speak like a boa constrictor squeezing, till your organs are crushed, they say: we take what we want by economy and oppression by breaking your will by lying to your face by killing you overtly you are not exempt frivolously, we bind you with laws we make we smile and kill your children (we are not ISIS)

but like them… we save the worst for you, with neglect and institutional violence once thought to be for our enemies – we rage alcoholically for your last dime. (we are not China) but like them… we will not rest until we have everything when you are in your grave, we will take from your children in the gulag of their life they will die because you did not care enough to give up your iphone and other dwindling objects of materialism (we are not North Korea)

but like them… others will die because you did not choose the revolution over subsistence. did you think nothing would happen to you? nothing is impossible - either way your voice is an unlimited rainbow of truth your power is a bomb in their throats you are not exempt.

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smell of work as strong as money, but when he got there the night was over. People were going to work and back, the sidewalks were lakes no one walked on, the diners were saying time to eat so he stopped and talked to a woman who’d been up late making helmets.

Philip Levine Interview

Recorded at The Library of Congress, 2011, when Philip Levine was inaugurated as the 18th U.S. Poet Laureate. Interview by Grace Cavalieri GC: This is “The Poet and the Poem” from the Library of Congress. I’m Grace Cavalieri. We are with Philip Levine, the eighteenth Poet Laureate of the United States, and he’s here with us to give us a poem.

The Helmet All the way on the road to Gary he could see where the sky shone just out of reach and smell the rich

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There are white hands the color of steel, they have put their lives into steel, and if hands could lay down their lives these hands would be helmets. He and the woman did not lie down not because she would praise the steel helmet boarding a train for no war, not because he would find the unjewelled crown in a surplus store where hands were sold, They did not lie down face to face because of the waste of being so close and they were too tired of being each other to try to be lovers

and because they had to sit up straight so they could eat. GC: That is the voice of Philip Levine, and that poem is characteristic of people who are living and breathing. I love that one. He’s opening the literary season here at the Library today. Here is who he is. Phil Levine was born in Detroit in 1928, received degrees from Wayne State University, the University of Iowa, and in 1957 was awarded the Jones Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford. He’s written more than 20 books. We’ll be talking about those, but today he’s ours. Could we have another poem? PL: Sure. Let me read this. This has to do with my hitchhiking life. I once hitchhiked from Detroit to Birmingham, Alabama, and they let me out at a highway stop. The trip kept going. I finally, although I didn’t hitchhike there, wound up in Cuba. This is before Castro. And then spent a while there, and finally moseyed my way back to Detroit in time to finish my final year at Wayne University, now called Wayne State.

At Bessimer 19 years old and going nowhere, I got a ride to Bessemer and walked the night road toward Birmingham passing dark groups of men cursing the end of a week like every week. Out of town I found a small grove of trees, high narrow pines, and I sat back against the trunk of one as the first rains began slowly. South, the lights of Bessemer glowed as though a new sun rose there, but it was midnight and another shift tooled the rolling mills. I must have slept awhile, for someone

else was there beside me. I could see a cigarette’s soft light, and once a hand grazed mine, man or woman’s I never knew. Slowly I could feel the darkness fill my eyes and the dream that came was of a bright world where sunlight fell on the long even rows of houses and I looked down from great height at a burned world I believed I never had to enter. When the true sun rose I was stiff and wet, and there beside me was the small white proof that someone rolled and smoked and left me there unharmed, truly untouched. A hundred yards off I could hear cars on the highway. A life was calling to be lived, but how and why I had still to learn. GC: The detail of the cigarette in that poem makes that poem work. It really turns on that. And you know what? Every time you have a poem, there’s one – a shaft of sunlight fell, or the warm spring rains come in from Ohio – there’s always one element of faith or something to love in your poems. I was wondering who gave you the ability to trust yourself to do this? PL: I did. I gave myself this ability. GC: To trust yourself? PL: M’hem. It took a while, but I don’t see how it could come anywhere else but yourself. I started composing what I hoped were poems when I was about fourteen. And it became something I did, something that defined my days, and something that made the days significant, if in fact I did write something I liked. Of course most days I don’t. I mean, I write a lot, and a lot winds up in the shredder.

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Alexis Rhone-Fancher

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poetry ii THE DOWN POUR POURS LAUGHTER Drenched dill and roads rinsed   well--I drip acacia pods, turn along another lane. Search. In the cloud    cry, a garden voice amused. Who sits outside on isle-of-bench thinking    no-coat laughter west of the rainy insides of gray?  Alone in jollity    of thought, his inner spout reveling, he confesses “permissive pouring.”    Where needles pine rain straightly devout, I hear him.  He is desert over    with consensual soak, with humor lost to disclosure’s bathed afterthought.    Gowen pine and a bridal couch, his decision to sit out here is one man’s    laugh.  Myrtle, his bench-sede unprotected lover is soaked.  She faints blanketed    in streams of pine green.  I humor in free splosh of needle puddle and go    before he refuses to shut the rain. Jan See King Pasadena, CA

For Georgia O Keefe You knew the life of art straddles the edges of a knife the moment you painted a flower that grew from the edges of a canvas from the borders past to horizons present the moment you sensed the edges of dreams and reality where ideas hovered just below consciousness when your ghosts became real the edges of pleasures and pain where you traveled to escape when your mind framed the sky before its blur illuminated a building the edges of a day of jazz and art which won’t go away but hums in the head the edges of notes from the brush or a pen to the page when marks stop being marks and become meaning. Diane Klammer Boulder, CO For Georgia O Keefe was published in Heavy Bear under the name Edges.

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“Please provide a brief biographical sketch” I grew up in a tough little town. One taxi. One church. Twelve taverns. Coal miners and farmers. They hated each other and fought constantly even after a terrible day on earth or under it. First it was just lumps of coal and name-calling vs. rutabagas and name-calling. But the rutabagas invoked not alarm but laughter. Coal has that hard c sound while rutabagas…well say it out loud. You’ll see what I mean. So the next time, farmers brought bricks. “Whoa,” said the miners. “The rules are these: one fights with the spawn of his profession. You are not bricklayers, but farmers.” Frustrated, the farmers returned the bricks, getting most of their money back. They returned with clods of earth. Clod also has that hard c sound. The farmers and miners clutched their consonants as they looked at themselves and their enemies. It was hard to tell who was darker, given the rich black earth of Southern Illinois. But there was still the hatred. For the miners, it burned like that massive seam of coal still smoldering in the Cumberland and for the farmers it scalded like the lye they used to get the hair off a slaughtered hog. All they really needed was for the beautiful daughter of a miner to fall in love with the handsome son of a farmer. But life in my tough little town wasn’t a Technicolor movie that would end with a song. On Saturday night, the music from the twelve taverns was mournful and bitter. The only taxi was busy, though, carrying men too drunk to walk from one drinkery to another and taking coal and potatoes as payment. Ron Koertge S. Pasadena, CA

Speaking of Critical

No poem is good if you’re the one who wrote it your back knotted shoulders tight hours spent bending over worn notebook.   Overused verbs! Trite metaphors! says one editor while another shouts, Clichés! But the editors aren’t really editors, they are voices in your head shooting you down. And you are Sybil with multiple personalities blowing smoke through screens or screeching like an owl arms winging the air. Sometimes

blackouts block lucid thought and all you can do is ad lib words thrown on white paper in a schizophrenic rage. Months later, you deny writing the shitty poem now published in a reputable journal. It’s as if you see it for the first time and read it in a foreign tongue. You tell your critique partner not to ever let you do that again, submit something under par. Only your critique partner is just another voice in your head and you are too stubborn to listen. Laurie Kolp Beaumont, TX

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Alexis Rhone-Fancher

Taking Down the Hummingbird Feeder

Greedy like the hummers who guzzle at the sweet-water feeder you hung in our courtyard I too have plumped up on your love   Tomorrow you will rinse the glass stem with vinegar, scour each red plastic poppy with its sun-yellow sieve, box it piecemeal into darkness to ship to a new southern city where you will work for a while   As I pack my suitcase to fly back to the north where snow sleeps on my roof, the hummers steal sips, oblivious   Tomorrow they will discover the bare hook on the rafter   and hover   where the nectar once gleamed   The strongest among them will fight till they’re parched   guarding   a memory Donna Langevin Toronto, Ont. CAN

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As We Sleep History is made as we sleep oblivious to what happens around us. Before we awaken from peaceful dreams, disasters rupture lives. In the morning, I watch televized news showing disasters in other counties and cities. A water main breaks in the next county as gallons of water become a flood down the street in our drought-struck state.

Gas lines leak in several cities, causing fires or gas poisonings.

Tragedy will visit everyone in only a matter of time.

Firestorms burn the hills during endless heat waves.

Without our awareness, and never with our permission to occur down our street,

As I arise from fitful sleep, I smell smoke all around me. My neighborhood could be next. We dream peacefully while in another state, torrential rains float houses down the road.

history happens as we sleep. Laura Muñoz-Larbig Anaheim, CA

Earthquakes and tornadoes devastate somewhere else. Disasters we never feared happen elsewhere, not near us.


No one is better Than the fence is ahead That is only there because of rain The fence that opens into long ago Springs remembered Bending now with dripping buds With all cupped sounds From as far away as can be held No one is ever better   No one is dearer Than yellows are in green That you believe are warmer for the chill That you discover in the smell of clouds Or that you can trust as much as ever will And that you love like gates of newborn grass

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No one is dearer No one is ever closer Than knowing this is home Feeling that you will be here after all A hillside And that to come this near for now Is somehow as important as early evening May -   No one comes closer Hiram Larew Upper Marlboro, MD

Cape May-Lewis Ferry, First Voyage, 1964, 2007 First time I left the shore was 1964, inaugural voyage of a ferry to Lewes, DE. There had been a ferry before to Lewes, to Philadelphia. The Atlantus, concrete ship from the first world war was to be a dock, but she sunk not far from the whalers’ first shacks on the bluff above the bay. The sea where bay and ocean meet, the currents, have their way with men, with women, with ships, with the lighthouse, that beacon that rounds, reflects off the low clouds at dusk and dawn as it illuminates the fox in the dunes, the owl in the tall cedars. This is what I am afraid to leave even though I’m booked on the return. Mother did not cross with us. She had to work that day.

She never wanted to leave by ferry after that. Not while she was alive. More than forty years go by. I would like to say we scatter her, but in actuality we toss her from the back where cars settle in, mufflers silent, but still the scent of gasoline as gulls caw, the ones they tell us not to feed. My brother, experienced in burials at sea, he says, a merchant marine, tosses the black garbage-like bag of ashes over in one sling. I want to unloosen the tie as soon as it is gone, so that somehow she can drift closer to the shore neither one of us ever wanted to leave. Kyle Laws Pueblo, CO

Wheels on the Bus It’s the moment the crazy bitch pulls out an aerosol bottle of pine scent and sprays it around her seat and under her bulbous feet that the cord within all of us snaps. While she speaks in tongues and points her index finger toward the general direction of dawn, we sit in appalled silence as our noses and eyes weep in reaction to an acidic scent Mother Nature would never claim as her own. As one, we wonder why none of us have the courage to rise up from our seats and beat to death this remnant who marks her territory like a cat in heat. Public transpo is the great equalizer, and so, we are left with the satisfying shared fantasy of her body being crushed under the wheels on the bus that go round and round... round and round... round and round... Marie Lecrivain Los Angeles, CA

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She Stops she stops the woman in the white coat she stops at the hardware to purchase a small bag of green bags and one claw hammer for her boyfriend, the ghoul the ogre, the fiend, the monster who bruised the little girl’s body who broke the bone of her skull what is it that the thin radio waves sing from space from the starry drum-beat of dying pulsars or what the weird melancholia of lost whales deep notes peeping under water where the sharp ‘clack, clack’ of struck-together rocks might startle a silver school of minnow shoaling away in murky swirls of milting and gill-breathed water a quickening galaxy of ugly gulps

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I have also heard the static buzz from mayfly swarms smouldering above the alders of summer and over the lithe-waist poplars and thick-trunk beech like the low hum of nightfall burning into darkness all of these ephemeral blue and woeful songs of grace gather into one profoundly sorrowful ulularum a singular lamentation for the last Neanderthal the last Beotuk the last Tarino Arwak toiling in the silver mines of Hispaniola listening for a greater grief than this in the soft-hearted suffering  of each new dawn I hear the voice of God and whisper back who stops the woman in the white coat the one with the red hammer in her hand who stops her ... John B. Lee Port Dover, CAN This poem is taken from the ms. The Full Measure (Black Moss Press 2015)

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The Girls From Hell Come to Collect listen hard and you’ll hear the raw of motorcycles in their voices see them riding on the back of a harley flying high above lives nobody owns, watch them jump off, run up four flights of an east village walkup to smell the urine in the hall way see the claw footed tub in the kitchen, hear a baby crying, keep listening past a standing room crowds’ applause and you’ll hear a voice banging against the wall see a guy going thru their bags for money their dedicated kids forced off the page into clinics & welfare lines by mothers who’ll do whatever it takes, always in mourning: it’s one man or another shrouding the truth...If you still don’t believe what you see in their voices feel the cold bars of a night’s lockup in every word they read, and when it’s over the years abridged to a half hour punk girls grown plump middle aged looking like somebody’s flatbush mother standing before you, books to sell surely an optical trick a mistake of lighting except for the marks on their arms uncoding in your brain  Linda Lerner Brooklyn, NY Previously published in Yes, the Ducks Were Real (NYQ Books, 2015)

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I’m at the end of my rope and I’m Swingin’

straight-backed prairie dog guards tire-flattened lover

Donald Lev High Falls, NY

Bernice Lever Bowen Island, BC CAN Previously published in “Blessings” (Black Moss Press, 2000)

Steve Dalchinsk y

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Why I Meet You at Midnight I’m not afraid of broken promisescar windows, or jaws. I’m not scared of all night arguments, blow out fights, restraining orders, that end in promisesmade to break.

Even listening to a heart broken and a heartbreaker sharing stories of their ex’swith an unrelatable lack of empathy would be better than hearing the tapping of fake text messages, pregnant awkward moments, way past their due date, as two wordless warriors surrender to the silence.

I don’t look over at you, hoping you’ll never rip my heart in twoI don’t pray you won’t leave it black and blue.

Waving their hand for the check before dessert. Like white flagsaccepting their defeat.

When I see that fury filled couple in the late night streetsspitting insults on cracked pavement, both claiming the other is too drunk. Her, cursing his flirty eye, Him, blaming it on her sky high heels, saying they would both be happier, if she was more… comfortable.

It’s why I meet you at midnight, after my third drink to join you for the fourth.

They don’t scare me. Because, nothing’s worse than an empty date. not even a bad one.

Not caring what you say as long as you’re saying it. I pray, we never fall silentunder dim mood lighting, over salmon and salad, and an adult glass of wine. So meet me at midnightin the back of the bar, with a bottle of bourbon. And kiss me in the morning, on my way out the door. Madeline Levy New Orleans, LA

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Haven’t you wanted, sometimes, to walk into some painting, start a new life? The quiet blues of Monet would soothe but I don’t know how long I’d want to stay there. Today I’m in the mood for something more lively, say Lautrec’s Demimonde. I want that glitter, heavy sequin nights. You take the yellow sunshine. I want the club scene that takes you out all night. Come on, wouldn’t you, just for an evening or two? Gaslights and absinthe, even the queasy night after dawn. Wouldn’t you like to walk into Montmartre where everything you did or imagined doing was de rigueur, pre-Aids with the drinkers and artists and whores? Don’t be so P.C., so righteous you’d tell me you haven’t imagined this? Give me the Circus Fernando, streets where getting stoned was easy and dancing girls kick high. It’s just the other side of the canvas, the thug life, a little lust. It was good enough for Van Gogh and Lautrec, Picasso. Can’t you hear Satie on the piano? You won’t be able to miss Toulouse, bulbous lips, drool. Could you turn down a night where glee and strangeness is wide open? Think of Bob Dylan leaving Hibbing.  A little decadence can’t hurt. I want the swirl of cloth under changing colored lights, nothing square, nothing safe, want to can can thru Paris, parting animal nights, knees you can’t wait to taste flashing

Springtime of ‘84 He went smiling roped with his compatriots wearing a religious slogan on his headband an inscribed message from his Ayatolla on his khaki jacket giving him permission to enter heaven (plastic key around his neck to ensure entry) He went smiling to the border of Iraq sent on a holy mission to purify Iran A human mine detector twelve years old Even on colour TV his mother’s face seemed only black & white her head tight-shawled thin lips compressed until they opened like a razor slit My one regret she said is that I have no more children to give Norma West Linder Sarnia On. CAN.

Lyn Lifshin Vienna, VA

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Jackie Joice

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A Taste of Alchemy Fifteen, coming home with my date from a dance, we open the front door into the living room––my father looking crazed, his hands gripping my brother’s throat,            banging his head against the hard edge of the coffee table.                  Mother sitting frozen on the green silk sofa. The polished coffee table gleams, solid and square.  On top, a sterling silver wine set—a tray, jug and cups studded with silent turquoise and garnets.     What would have happened had we not walked in, broken the trance?   Decades later, the coffee table remains the center of this tableau; my father, still, is choking my brother and bashing his head, my mother paralyzed on the couch. Behind, at the periphery, my father’s desk faces out into the room, the encyclopedia cabinet, the unabridged Webster, the antique Chinese table against the wall by the stairs.   Circling those are the dining room, staircase, hall, and library. Ringing those, in concentric circles, are the upstairs and downstairs bedrooms and baths, the kitchen, basement, front and back porches,  the yard, flowers, bushes and trees. Surrounding those   are the streets—Queen Anne, Prince George, and the Snyders’ estate.  Spiraling those are the homes and roads of Windsor Hills.  Around those are Baltimore City and Maryland, the whole East Coast and the USA. Around those are other countries, continents, oceans, planets, atmosphere, the galaxy, the eighteen thousand universes, the Source, whose center is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere.   From here,  I forgive my parents. Jane Lipman Tesuque, NM

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Other Americas (in a Haibun) The two hours early that would have been stolen by airport security sway nooselike in the draft over the train depot. Part of the $39 fare. I take on the job with x-ray vision aimed at passengers who wait on wooden benches. A man with potato skin sprouting whiskers pulls up his stained pant leg. Scratches a scab. No baggage big enough to hold a bomb. The woman sitting beside me with missing teeth spreads like warm honey over the bench. Says I ain’t givin’ up nothin. Unzips her over-stuffed bag as though she senses suspicion. Points at each item to prove its necessity to her Eddie-Murphy-talking teenagers. A kid with enough bottled water to blow up San Jose avoids eye contact through squint eyes. When he gives his seat to an old man in a walker, I ease out of national red alert and into local colors. Grab a cup of coffee percolated the old way. Drift along in the current of community. A whistle crooks its sound waves toward the tracks to seats that could hold 300 pounds of honey. To a glass domed observation car where I step into the middle of America. A silent film surrounding a low buzz of reverence from the audience. Seats that face both sides of the panorama.

Patchwork of grassland vineyards, barns, horses, dirt roads An eagle circles

Hands champ at the glass bit that bars them from running fingers through fertile soil. America the Beautiful plays in the private rhythm of heartbeats. When a loudspeaker spills Meals served in the dining car over the air, no one wants to leave the nourishment of this car.

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The umbilical pulse of metal pounding metal. Embryos in a rocking chair of stop and go, switch of tracks. Of passengers unaware of a south slant until the birth of sunset over the Pacific.

A round of orange pours into blue through the glass frame Froth splashes the sand

Whistle, clang and squeal interrupt the reverie to announce Santa Barbara. I walk off and into a postcard picture.

Palms, flowers, sunshine and harbor where mountains meet sea Shadows of mission

Boutiques flaunt and exotic eateries flavor State Street. In Starbucks a woman wearing a multi-carat diamond orders a Venti Cinnamon Dolce Latte with sugar free syrup no whip. Says to her Clark Gable-like companion, We’ll take a bottle of ‘63 Rothschild to dinner. A pre-schooler at the next table plays on her IPOD while the mother reads Architectural Digest. Out front, a bronzed and buff teenager with a surfboard bleeps an alarm on a new Porsche with a U of Santa Barbara sticker. People who could pay the $365 airfare to San Jose.

Armor of x-ray seat belts, clouds, distance, silence A chill in the air Ellaraine Lockie Sunnyvale, CA Previously published in Aquillrelle.

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A Commercial For Die-Hard Batteries this famous serial killer used to drink beer with us at the gold rush tavern. i mean, he wasn’t actually famous yet, and i’m not even sure he had commenced his serial killings, but after he was arrested with his sixty-ninth victim in the passenger seat, we all remembered his having been there afternoons after work, just like the rest of us at the horseshoe end at the bar. i don’t remember him well at all. he was a nondescript sort of guy. i don’t remember him as appearing dangerous, certainly not in comparison with the rest of the clientele. i think i remember him being part of a couple of large and long-lasting games of liar’s poker, but maybe i’m inventing that to insinuate myself closer to celebrity. i guess he killed mostly males between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five, a lot of them were marines, a lot of them were hitchhikers. he would drug them, then tie them up and have his cruel way with them. his victims tended to end up with a mouthful of their own sexual parts. i guess there are very few good ways to die, but there certainly must be better ways. i was in my early twenties at the time and probably not his type. still, i’m glad i never had to bum a ride home with him. Gerald Locklin Long Beach, CA Previously published in The Iceberg Theory & Other Poems (Lummox Press, 2000)

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Mirrors Are Sleeping Winds Mirrors are Sleeping winds In this glass room Its window Dreams into frost Hour after hour passes I sit before it Death Swinging slowly In her pleated black skirt The night, black As patent leather shoes It is palpable, the sounds Of the newly dead Grinding their teeth In a grin of relief Too soon to be ghosts Too soon to speak As I, neither fully dead Nor fully alive Sit with them Upon their marble lakes I do not feel Their marble kisses Upon the poems Steaming on My marble lips Philomene Long Heaven Previously published in The Queen of Bohemia (Lummox Press, 2001, LRB 34)

The day after a fight I love you, she texted. Sounds like you’re coming around, I texted back. Fuck you. Jeffrey Charles Longo Irvine, CA

Alphabet of Poetry It means little to me If odes or sonnets I write Villanelles and haikus matter not I care about spilling the truth Of my Czech parents and grandparents Who lived under Hitler and Stalin Who fought with both mind and heart Ink and bullet Who are now heroes in their Homeland after 45 years of war And occupation I see this victory of the soul In the simplest of terms Through the clearest of vistas Because simplicity does not Mean stupidity or Resistance futility Radomir Vojtech Luza N. Hollywood, CA

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“Say your name to the rocks. The wind will blow your voice away.” -for Kell Robertson

on the cool, kindling morning I got the news, maybe you stared into the fire called desperation for the last time, you once wrote: “I am no coyote. I am a man”. The coyote believed you and you weren’t Pretty Boy Floyd but you got his Choctaw last words down in that last breath cornfield middle America where the earth and the wind chill bless all the pretty bones.

You asked the universe, does the blood of that Indian, dead 150 years, dead as Pretty Boy’s last words flow here? In these veins? Poems, like barstool blues in sun-stunned border towns of the mind where all cowboys with words to spare, rhythms and women, pouring like lava out of their brittle shadows, begin each Juarez whorehouse litany of love with: things drop out of our hearts you could kill a herd of Buffalo with

Alexis Rhone-Fancher

Your later life in New Mexico a hermitage of rumor or legend, scorpions and Maria’s full of grace deified in your verse, the lyricism of empty saddle and barebones motel was your range. You wired your fate to this territory earth, you wore the coyote death mask, you told the world, officer sir, all of my means of support are invisible. John Macker Santa Fe, NM

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(For Alan Horvath and Kent Taylor)

the poems were too strong the words too eager to float away to join the world three types of glue wouldn’t  hold them in place only rubber cement was tough enough but the stench too potent so the words sat on drying pages  in the park as kids and pets played and the sun shone and they waited  until they could be free then they were gone now  they are near so near can you not hear them? Adrian Manning Liecester, ENG First published on Facebook.

Passing of her ex

In her kitchen she lights a candle, pretends God’s handmaids are really there in the hamburg noodle casseroles, the wet laundry in the dryer.   The flame reminds her of his kitchen:  full on suffocation with its hoarded up bits, the times she wanted to smother him with open air, make him ride on fumes   So he wouldn’t have to stop for gas the night he died, after annual hunting trip she hated when they were married. Not her problem anymore.   She can now tether him to a cloud, cumulus enough to store all his stuff; With the strains of amazing grace, performed for his transgressions.   Now, they can have a proper memorial, with flesh and blood photographs so they can utter a thousand, memorable words for all the right and proper reasons.   She imagines herself running off the stress: Maintaining her pace, suffering the disquiet. Rhonda Melanson Sarnia, ONT. CAN.

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VARIG My mother drove slowly along Pershing Drive until she reached a tiny abandoned street in Playa Del Rey. It snaked up a large hillside, and at the crest she killed the engine and turned off the lights. The area was once a residential neighborhood, but the houses had been razed by the city to make way for the north runway at LAX. Only cracked and weathered blacktop remained, with the curbs still intact. Tall parched weeds grew from where the houses had once stood. From this vantage point, she could gaze down on the entire airport. The night was crystal clear and unseasonably warm. A constellation of distant jets seemed to hover in the flat black sky; the furthest tiny landing lights were probably 25 miles to the east. She unwrapped a package of Benson and Hedges 100s and pulled out a cigarette. Suddenly realizing she didn’t have a match, she ducked back into the car to use the lighter. She hadn’t smoked a cigarette in 10 years. As she took a deep drag, a 747 was on final rollout. It lifted off like a giant lumbering beast of burden. Then it thundered into the air with frightening power. She took another puff as she watched it come straight toward her. The sound was deafening as it shrieked directly overhead. It was so close, she could see the sooty filth on the underside, the intense rotating red beacon, and the massive landing gear clusters. As she turned her head, the jet continued climbing out over the ocean, and started a slow sweeping turn toward the south. She noticed the markings, illuminated by the plane’s onboard strobes--VARIG, Brazilian. Suddenly she imagined being on it—en route to Rio, never to return. No contact with her old life again. Just paint, drink in cafes, and listen to wonderful music. But this time, without a man. This time, only for herself. Michael Meloan Los Angeles, CA

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Something Incidental

Floating on the low water in the rain barrel,         the odd, somehow fragile, shape is not a leaf, no, too symmetrical for that, but dark, compact. I can make out a rolled tendril on either side.   It may be a bat.  

Vainly searching for a sieve, I mourn to think the same thirst that drew him to the well caused him to drench his wings. I imagine the burial and the things to tell. I scoop him with my hand and lay him down in a hollow where a pine branch guards the ground. Basia Miller Santa Fe, NM

After a Dark Day in the Chemo Center Between two empty chairs is a window. Outside the shadows of leaves wave on the sidewalk. In the ward, silence is cushioned by the squeak of plastic wheels on linoleum. While the pump machines hum, the nurses avoid the two chairs as they walk and talk like people who are calm about it all. After I return home, the image of two empty chairs arrives and tells a story about mourning. I listen to an Irish guitarist and feel the dampness in the tin sounding notes. The music quiets me like a walk through sea fog. Thinking that I’m a sentimentalist to reflect on the two chairs that followed me home like ghosts, I sit in my Lazy Boy. I consider the calming effect of the ocean’s fog and the restful sound of the guitar, whose music travels like grief through my heart. Joseph D. Milosch Poway, CA

ray charles sings lonely avenue

and the blues drape over your shoulder like a blanket of dreams that control the weather the dance is a vague shuffle of irregular rhythm back where time had turned to an energy unearthed by the drama of spontaneous language and there were no cameras to capture the enigmatic travelers waiting at your door it was a time where enemies became best friends in order to hold the mysteries close in order to stalk the game of opposites to be amazed that you were just the same growing together until that eventful day when you became enemies again no, not really enemies, but no longer friends the sky at dusk haunting you with its iridescence as if something had died and was alive again Tony Moffeit Pueblo, CO

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A Neighborhood I loop a labyrinth of no parking left at 2 a.m. Another fourteen hour day awaits its pittance of recompense and not to be denied, here it is: a random opening just big enough to back into, and better yet, my rolled down window lets me savor a mockingbird’s fretful, joyous oscillations. What a pleasure to be too tired to move, and so wait out the man who just now roused himself out of a car a niche ahead, and tottered into mid-street to piss and stumble through his own glazed sparkle. Walking home, cutting through an alley, a man yells out the window, stay out of our neighborhood. I wish I could. Bill Mohr Long Beach, CA

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SONG OF THE GARDEN If you created Earth’s abundant gardens planted infinite stars and set the universe into wondrous motion would you care for a weary heart’s dreams or the tears of a sorrowful child? If you traversed across time and space beyond boundaries we perceive with eternity’s rose in your hand would your awareness encompass every heartbeat, count each breath measure the grains of sand? Knowing all of the hand spun strands of this great universal design together weave this vast cosmic dream the strands are the tapestry as the tapestry is the strands. Each blade of grass to a star is aligned holds the melody of Mother Earth echoes the legend of Father Sky. Deborah Morrison Hamilton, Ont. CAN

Not a Slow Poet I am not a slow plodding poet. I cannot stand the drift of language into sodden lines of tepid prose that repeats and repeats the color of grass and straw, or sneaks in clever talking hay in a silo as if that is something to nurse like a baby at a teat. I am not a slow poet propping my pen up between vowels or the roof of some dead poet’s mouth. I am fast. I am thwacking my way through forests of words and gutters of tears, through undersea grottos of glottals that team with writhing sea urchins and star-sparkled sibilant sting rays. I am not a slow poet not a village resident rolled up on a bench under a parasol, but a wild woman with fireworks tearing a hole in my gut.

A slow poet romanticizes the dust balls under her dresser drawers, compares them to the ten dollar bill hiding in her jewelry drawer, but not me, I’m cutting a huge river of blood across my skull shedding all dawns shredding yesterday’s twilight into a skyfall of lunatic moons. I am not a slow poet. Linda Neal Redondo Beach, CA

Every Night You sneak into That brown bottle Drop down the slim neck Plop into the slow brown burn Of Canadian Mist And I am left out On the cold linoleum Rubbing the glass Trying to make You Materialize Sheryl L. Nelms Clyde, TX

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The Long Run

Animal Husbandry The ape house at the Philadelphia Zoo once offered places to abide, but not to live. The gorillas were sullen and angry, watching the fights and soap operas on tiny black and white TVs, suspended in one corner of their cells. Belligerant as drunks, they bellowed, shook the bars, and whenever possible, heaved manure at whomever happened to pass by. Then someone planted trees and grass in the outdoor enclosure, let them see the sky. The gorillas forgot to be angry, watching the birds and the rain, feeling the sun on their backs, rolling in the grass. The first winter, the Silverback pinched snow between two digits, placed it on his tongue, closing his eyes like a gourmand, the better to taste the world. Robbi Nester Lake Forest, CA

I find myself saying “in the long run...” These days. A way to justify the present, The choices I don’t like making, All the shit that will make things better “in the long run.”   Always a sprinter me and now Everything in life is a marathon. I’m lazy in the long run. I’m undisciplined in the long run. The long run is a bore.   My father wasn’t up for the marathon either. Forty-five years being enough, I guess. Maybe He should’ve been unencumbered, Without our needs tugging at his shirttails. He liked the word gambol: To skip about in play.   On your mark. Get set. Bang! A girl would say, on East Side Drive, Pointing her finger up like a gun And I’d fly down the city block, The fastest kid in kindergarten.   I’m dad’s age now, and I get it. Because after on your mark, get set, go, Who the fuck cares? Let’s go lie in the grass for a while, Let the others run circles around us.   But, oh, how I wish he’d had a little more Run in him. Sometimes, it’s just about putting One foot in front and then the other. It’s about putting down the gun And picking up my hand instead. Liz Tynes Netto Los Angeles, CA

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mangled during the correspondence period

He showed up with his forearm/wrist in a cast, compliments of a drugged and drunken boating accident, something involving a Yeti cooler, an Evinrude outboard and compromised depth perception.   Being his low-residency MFA drinking buddy, I got this, the truth, while they got the pre-rehearsed spiel about being a prolific demon, hitting those keys with awesome frequency and force and fury, literally writing himself into the operating room—   “Severe carpal tunnel syndrome,” he said, holding his cast aloft, “with a blood clot; they had to do emergency surgery . . .”   The workshop swallowed this as I leaned back, highly impressed with his fiction, a pretty damn good story, I thought, not bad at all, certainly better than mine.

Norman J. Olson

Ben Newell Jackson, MS

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“great bones of my knees lifting me hillward” – Frank O’Hara

appraisal at sunset at sunset i read the old poets how they attempted life at the end of a cane, their frailness & their failures their alienation broken only by a sudden rain or the senses rekindled by the smell of wild fruit or the lullaby of blossoms from dead trees. washing my clothing in a tub of fresh moonlight, i scrub off the filth of being a man; of conquering & being conquered of departing & arriving old suitcases & crumbled castles blindness & transparencies.

at night, alone i rub my joints with pain killing salve. faith flogs itself in my mirror; life’s parable is impalpable as the ground beneath my feet as if life has taught me nothing more, it is that all man’s blood is isolated in one song & if life has taught me anything at all, it is to love myself less & love you endlessly more. scraggy mice scatter before me they ask for mercy my moon shadow falls faceless upon them; like any other god looking for a home. dec/2014 normal Saugerties, NY

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  I wake to the sound of traffic through my small window. I do not complain. I drink my first cup of coffee. Today it will rain. I shower and towel off. I am naked again. But I will not walk out the door until after dusk. I walk into the darkness and I am alone. I walk into the darkness and I am still alone. Terrance Oberst Lincoln, NE Previously published in Transcendencies (AurthorHouse--2013).

Jackie Joice

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That Kind Of Girl She was the kind of girl who took her own pulse all the time, three digits on her artery, fingering the frets on her neck like a violin. When others were around, she pretended she was brushing aside a strand of hair. She was the kind of girl who couldn’t say the words tit-mouse or ball-cock or matriculate. She couldn’t say breasts either, but said blossoms. She was the kind of girl who was buttoned all the way up. She only ate fish that swam wild, were never caught in nets. She underlined with a ruler. Yet at midnight, she removed her clothes and climbed the ladder to the rooftop, where she sat eating saltines. Then she danced like she was cardboard coming unglued, and she sang Serbian folk ballads to the stars. You’ve heard the old saying about the still pond that is deep and full of vitamins? Or the one about the bushel basket that hides rumors and kisses? Well, she was that kind of girl. Suzanne O’Connell Los Angeles, CA

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Corpse Pose

down boy

Faculty meeting: I lock my door, turn out the light, and close my eyes on the floor.   There was a colleague who used to nap during her planning period. She was old and tired. I kept an eye on the clock for her, making sure that she was up five minutes before the bell.  She said, she needed “recomposed before she decomposed.”

this hot northwest day a man and his dog secluded section of the park clearing overlooking the pond surrounded by bushes and reeds just off the well-used path

Students start to swarm the hallways; one rattles my doorknob. I wonder if my feet are visible, sticking out from under my desk like a body under a dumpster. Will the school nurse burst into the room with the Resource Officer? How do I explain this yoga corpse during a faculty meeting? But no one comes, and that in itself is a lonely thought. I unlock the classroom door, high five the first students through. Al Ortolani Lenexa, KS

glancing down at ole bob him whining at the arriving long legs of a sleek long haired trophy breed leash in hand of a magazine model also long legs under her white marilyn monroe dress sunglasses both ignoring us two stunned males staring imaginations running wild as her show dog takes interest in ole bob allowing him a good look and a sniff her mistress looks down smiles looks at me moves closer grants me the same thrill for less than a heartbeat then leave us there breathless sharing the same thought what a pair of bitches Carl “Papa” Palmer University Place, WA

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Saturday at the dermatologist’s

strange creatures of locomotion Saturday at the dermatologist’s these patients     they emerge a giraffe in blue polyester   stiff-legged a marabou stork who stutter-steps determined to keep her balance another   a rhino   lets himself down beside me with an audible of rush of air from the cushions   they’re all elderly of course their greatness eroded with craters that need to be stitched wearing bandages that have to be changed

skin cancer is a time bomb which you don’t develop when you’re young that’s the nature of this particular beast one by one these prize specimens the one-time pride of the savannah   limp in in all their grace and beauty the males’ jeans sag and hang from their belts baggy as elephant skin old men shrivel when they age but they won’t buy new pants women take better care of the fit of their clothes as their bodies change that’s the female of this particular species     they drag themselves up to the counter   these contenders blotched and marked they have every intention to keep on living   the lioness crouches she would have taken them with one leap but she is getting older too Lorine Parks Downey, CA

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Untitled Word Can Poem #82

peasant minds deplore the majesty of spider’s webs at dawn, geometry draped with rosaries of dew   some might even release a trademark clutching of blow-torches to switch their groove to water (the pyromaniac’s anathema)   mother put her cigarette down once, took a pressure nozzled hose to destroy twelve hours worth of gorgeous arachnid architecture   such short-sightedness didn’t realize the relentless imperative of little mrs. eight legs, whose infinite spinneret would dictate fumbling all night long, next night   to build a clothesline for next morning’s litany of beads Michael Curtis Paul Garden Valley, CA

Henry River 1 He knew in his gut they were disturbing the ghosts, Stomping around on broken porches, Building a set in the company store, Slowing the local traffic, and now There were rumors they would blow up one Of the houses. He thought about Erastus Rudisill Designing the dam, the first bridge, Laying out the mill and all those lives Of labor, back breaking hours Still better than drought-stricken farms Till the mill burned thirty-five years ago, And houses that never had running water Became emptied tombs, and now A stage for post-apocalyptic Movie scenes, and he sensed the disturbance As if his own nerves lined Plank walls, open skull windows, Outhouses and pump handles, A Mystic Vine Doors swung wide open forever. Tim Peeler Hickory, NC Previously published in Henry River: An American Ruin (Lummox Press, 2015)

Fools fall in love because there is no other way to go about it. All the bending and twisting and angling that must occur is a fool’s errand at best. In a decade or two they will each wonder who was the greater fool to end up in this ridiculous state. But they will have been fooled again. Love is not static. Love is not refined. Love is a mystic vine bending, twisting, angling redefining itself every long day ensnaring even old fools because love is willing to live in the absurd even if it lives just a little. Richard King Perkins II Crystal Lake, IL

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Reviews Rising, Falling, All of Us -

New and Collected Poems by Thelma T. Reyna Golden Foothills Press, $12.95 reviewed by

Nancy Shiffrin


helma Reyna’s poems come from “wounds not sealed; they swim in dreams; they slip soundless from the womb and toddle to daylight”. In “About Poems”, Reyna refutes the roaring rocketry of Charles Bukowski and his followers and offers a more sensitive aesthetic. Her range is exceptional with themes including, eroticism, culture, childhood, old age, poverty, work, war, nature and natural disaster, suicide, grief. Reyna’s poems tell us she grew up poor. “Quilts” describes sleeping with siblings,

cockroaches, urinating on the pile of patchwork quilts the family had to sleep on. “Hunger” shows the distance this poet has traveled, from a grumbling stomach, to a life where her children have more than enough. I love best the work that arises out of motherhood, that most basic of all human relationships. In poems addressed to a daughter and a son, Reyna laments the sense of loss that arises as the child separates from the parent, a process which of course begins with birth, but becomes more evident as each year passes. We are indeed “On Loan” to each other in this volatile world. So live, connect, cherish the moment, engage, write poems. Such is the unspoken message here and it’s the right one.

* * *

A gaggle of poesy

reviewed/commented on by

Disassembled Badlands

Loving & Hating Charles Bukowski– A True Story by Linda King

by John Macker Turkey Buzzard Press, 2014

Wild Ocean Press, 2014



must confess that I really like the poetry of John Macker, which makes it very hard to be detached from his writing when writing a critique…so I’m going to quote from the Foreword by Tony Moffeit: “Reading Macker puts one in a different state of mind. You are hypnotized by the language, fascinated by his Southwest landscapes, and thrown into a consciousness that is usually reserved for the works of a jazz musician or bluesman. He changes the way you think. He changes the way you feel.” If that’s not enough to pique your interest, then I just don’t know what else to do.

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his is a big book, nearly 300 pages long, but it is chock full of the stuff that complements the Bukowski legend. Linda King had a 5 year, on-again, off-again relationship with the Buk that rivals any of the other biographies written about this iconic figure in modern American Literature. In fact, I’d even go further in suggesting that this one should be placed in a special category because it is written by one of Buk’s paramours. This is a first among the ten or so bios of Bukowski that reveals a feminine perspective, written by an accomplished writer and artist, Linda King. If you are a fan of Bukowski, I’d recommend getting this book…it’s a smooth read and provides some jaw-dropping insights to the man, the myth and the legend!

On the backs of seahorses eyes by Don Cauble Dancing Moon Press, 2013


nother big collection, 1962 to 2012, of poesy and short ‘tales’ by poet Don Cauble. This book is one of those Razor’s Edge types: Poet seeks to understand self through a poetic examination of his life experiences. Well, yeah, I think we all engage in this quest, especially if we are of that generation that spent years and many dollars examining our selves. There’s nothing wrong with that…in fact I wish the current generation would do a bit more navel gazing. But, there’s nothing wrong with this book that a little editing couldn’t fix. Still, after all is said and done, this book is a fascinating look into the “soul becoming”. I recommend it!

New York Nadir

by Radomir Vojtech Luza Author House, 2014


he cover of this short collection of poetry features a photograph of a stone wall. Somehow it strikes me as an excellent metaphor for this collection. The wall is made up of a variety of stone shapes, mostly what I would call irregular. Not the kind of stones that you would think would be easy to work with (the fact that these all fit together is a credit to the mason’s skill), but yet, somehow it works. The same applies to the poems in this collection, some fit seamlessly while others just don’t seem to fit in at all and you wonder how the “wall” stays up! Luza’s style of writing sometimes reads as if it is an “aside”…as if the poem is background to a hidden theme and as such the poems don’t always flow into each other easily. So, like the wall metaphor, a little tweaking might be helpful. Perhaps an editor could have helped. * * * I’ve got to say right now that I was never

a big fan of editing until recently. My limited experience with editors had not been helpful, but I had made an assumption that all editors were alike…which they aren’t. I have since found some very good editors which I work with more regularly now. So trust me, I don’t use the word, editing or editor, lightly. And I must also thank the person who got me started down this new road by pointing out what a crummy job I was doing without the benefit of some editing. I’m sorry that it took me so long to see the error of my ways. You made a valid point. So, thank you, Eric Morago.

Big Hammer 17

edited by Dave Roskos (2014)

Street Value 2

edited by Dave Roskos (2014)


avid Roskos puts out these “old school” poetry anthologies (I happen to know quite a lot of the people in both of these). Anyway, by old school I mean there are cut and paste graphics, mostly scantily clad women (what is this, the 70s?), all very pre-computer. I think Dave learned it one way and that’s what he likes to do…the old way. Anyway, Big Hammer has been around for quite some time, while Street Value is still in its infancy. Look at either online at


by James Taylor III, Phil Woods, and Michael Adams (Longhand Press, 2007)


by J. Taylor III, P. Woods, and M. Adams (Turkey Buzzard Press, 2009)


had the privilege of publishing Mike Adams’ book Steel Valley back in 2010 I believe, but

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The Life and Times of DAVE CHURCH by Jonathon Church


rom the age of 18 to the hour after midnight when he parked his cab outside the hotel where he died of a heart attack, Dave Church had lived his life day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. In youth and middle age, he crafted 5-year plans to map out his future but soon forgot about them, and these were the few occasions when the future was ever a concern for him. He was invariably too reckless with the present to have any sustained regard for what the future might bring. Addiction kept him wedded to beer, liquor, wine, marijuana, heroin, LSD, meth, Valium, or whatever happened to be available to warp the senses away from the prosaic concerns of a mundane existence. The demands of survival did not enlighten him to the convenience of longterm strategic planning but instead kept him rooted in the short-term tactical achievements of immediate necessities – shoplifting, panhandling, a night of lovemaking with a nurse he courted on a train when he was in search of a place to stay for the night, or dropping a bicycle in the middle of Broadway in Pawtucket with a 6-pack of beer under his arm to turn in and crawl into bed with his sister-in-law. Family kept him rooted in responsibilities which made manifest the intractable compromise between his desire to be a father, husband, lover – and his desire to be a writer. This last conundrum was the burden that would make our Atlas bend, or sometimes simply shrug. His paternal instincts were deeprooted, born on the day he broke his father’s nose and left home at the age of 18, and yet he remained loyal to the written word. It was his destiny to write, the only long-term awareness he might ever be said to have had.

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So in order to live, he wrote, and in order to write, he lived. In his travels through life, he charmed, betrayed, and inflamed the passions of love and hate in the men and women who came to know him. There was the woman with whom he shared fatal attractions and years of literary conversations, a woman who equaled him in volatility of mood and one night in the heat of an argument pushed the razor sharp tip of a chef’s knife into his sternum, missing his heart by a mere centimeter. Then there was the mother with two children who left behind $80 in his cab, which he returned to the mother because, as he said, it was a mother with two kids. There was the black poet who lectured at Brown University and who welcomed the artistic kinship between his own race-conscious poetry and the incendiary street-laced words of this white poet incorrigibly nestled in the confines of his own professed madness. It was this black poet who would forever serve affectionately in Dave’s own memory as de facto mentor from his days of slam poetry and drunken, cerebral conversations that spanned whole nights in taverns during the 1970s and thus to whom Dave felt an indelible gratitude and respect for the remaining years of his life. But there was also the Indian novelist 20 years later who wanted to write a novel about Dave and promised to be the executor of his writings when he died until hearsay and rumor and perhaps her own gullibility led her to believe, though not perhaps inaccurately, that he had roguishly suggested to an editor she would work for free because she was his sleeping partner and drinking partner. She gave up on him because he had no redeeming qualities. This

was the woman he once said he should have married so he could sire another child and be able to stop working for a living, as she was the type to support him as a stay-at-home dad. But it never happened, so he claimed, because of the vasectomy he got in deference to a request by his third wife, a decision to which he gave little consideration until he realized, as he once told me, That’s how your mother fucked me. As he charmed his way through life, Dave Church saw old age in the future and felt afraid, and then a 6-pack of beer, a few drags on a doobie, or simply the call of the wild from dark recesses of the ravenous night would assuage his loneliness and nostalgia fostered by direct encounters in the haunted shadows of consciousness with the knowledge of impending death. Only when the children, the wives, and the vagabond soul mates of his youth and middle age had moved away or died were his poetry and his correspondence his only remaining companionship. But the epistolary life was as much a virtual reality as the Internet which he despised and maligned. He was alone in his garret with only his imagination, his regrets, and his moods. The handsome features of his youth had dissolved and only his prickly, moody personality remained. It was not all for naught. When he died, the small press poetry community received news of his death and reacted with a warm outpouring of tributes and eulogies that was genuine and widespread.  In a seal of fate he never could have conceived during his lifetime, the New York Quarterly ran his last published poem and

included a memorial upon news of his death to accompany memorials for W.D. Snodgrass and John Updike. But Dave Church only knew the last gasps before the sudden plunge, when much of everyday society saw him only as a taxi driver, and his family saw him as an eccentric, irascible, and anachronistic man teeming with moral contradictions and hypocritical rightwing political views.  If it is not our fate to see how life will remember us, we must nevertheless live the life that will be remembered. And the life Dave Church lived might be remembered with great fondness and great bitterness, but it was a damn nigh curse to live it. Dave Church lived it, and left a record of it in poems and letters and other writings. The record wormed its way out from the many layers and contradictions of his character and the history that shaped it. Dave Church carried daybooks to record thoughts and observations.  A random flip through the pages would turn up the day he wrote about a man named Ed, who said he could not forgive Dave for what he did, to which Dave said better to forget than forgive – since then all is forgotten.  Ed said better to forgive than forget – since then nothing is forgotten. Yes, Dave Church painted his life with a charming philosophical flourish.  He liked to think he was deep, but not that deep, because, as he said, the deeper you are the deader you are!  So he had forgotten much of the philosophy he had read in his youth, and had replaced the intellectual rectitude with an elastic moral and Delphic fiber consisting of a frankness, humor,

number Four / 2015 •


Number Four • 2015 In This Issue… Mike Adams, Ron Alexander, Jeffrey Alfier, Tobi Alfier, Matt Amott, H. Marie Aragón, RD Armstrong, Alisha Attella, Babala, Bettina Barrett, John Bennett, Linda Benninghoff, Jay Blommer, Chris Bodor, Brenton Booth, Heather Boyd, John Brantingham, Lynne Bronstein, Ronnie R. Brown, B. J. Buckley, Wayne Burke, Calokie, Don Kingfisher Campbell, Pris Campbell, John Casquarelli, Alan Catlin, Grace Cavalieri, Maura Cavell, Patricia Cherin, John Church, Todd Cirillo, Wanda Clevenger, Mitch Cohen, Ed Coletti, Larry Colker. Sharyl Collin, Blair Cooper, Bill Craychee, Ann Curran, Steve Dalachinsky, James Deahl, Diane Dehler, Liz Dolan, Trista Dominqu, William Doreski, John Dorsey, Doug Draime, Inna Dulchevsky, Gail S. Eisen, Michael Enevoldsen, Alexis Rhone Fancher, Joseph Farley, Joseph Farnia, Venera Fazio, Jennifer Foster, Bill Gainer, Jerry Garcia, Joe Gardner, John

Gardiner, Nancy Gauquier, Katherine L. Gordon, Richard Grove, Steven Gulvezan, Ryan Guth, Sam Hamill, Katherine Hamilton, Clarinda Harriss, Mark Hartenbach, David Haskins, Dianna Henning, Debbie Okun Hill, M. J. Iuppa, Ellen S. Jaffe, Larry Jaffe, Ed Jamieson, Jr., George Q. Johnson Jr., Jackie Joice, Frank Kearns, Lalo Kikiriki, Jan King, Diane Klammer, Ronald Koertge, Laurie Kolp, Laura Munoz-Larbig, Donna Langevin, Hiram Larew, Kyle Laws, Marie Lecrivain, John B. Lee, Linda Lerner, Donald Lev, Bernice Lever, Philip Levine, Madeline Levy, Lyn Lifshin, Jane Lipman, Norma West Linder, Ellaraine Lockie, Gerald Locklin, Philomene Long, Jeffrey Longo, Radomir Luza, John Macker, Adrian Manning, Rhonda Melanson, Michael Meloan, Basia Miller, Joe Milosch, Tony Moffeit, Bill Mohr, Deborah Morrison, Linda Neal, Sheryl L. Nelms, Robbi Nester, Liz Netto, Ben Newell,

normal, Terrance Oberst, Suzanne O’Connell, Norman Olson, Al Ortolani, Carl “Papa” Palmer, Lorine Parks, Michael Paul, Tim Peeler, Richard King Perkins II, Jeannine Pitas, Valli Poole, David Proskauer, Ester Prudlo, Cynthia Quevedo, Amelia Raymond, Judith R. Robinson, Justin Rogers, Dave Roskos, Mary Kay Rummel, C.C. Russell, Patricia L. Scruggs, Eric Paul Shaffer, Nancy Shiffrin, Linda Singer, Arnold Skemer, Judith Skillman, Jerry Smaldone, Rick Smith, Mike Sonksen, Gregory Spencer, Ken Stange, Winnie Star, Roseanne Sterne, Cynthia Stewart, Kevin Patrick Sullivan, Patti Sullivan, Paul Suntup, John Sweet, Phil Taggert, Lynne Tait, H. Lamar Thomas, John Thomas, Jeri Thompson, Tim Tipton, Judith Toler, Julie Valin, Rolland Vasin (Vachine), Alisa Velaj, Scott Wannberg, Charles Webb, Lawrence Welsh, Charles Wilkinson, Scott Wozniak, Kit Zak.

This is only a sample of LUMMOX #4. To order the complete 224-page anthology, please visit our website:


Number 4 in the series...another cross-section of free verse world poetry - 8 countries, including Canada + 46 states from the U.S.A., 168...