Xavier Review 40: 1 & 2

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R XAVIEREVIEW 40.1-2, Spring-Fall 2020






Xavier Review, a journal of literature and culture, is published twice a year. © Xavier University of Louisiana. Ralph Adamo Editor Katheryn Laborde Managing Editor Thomas Bonner, Jr. Editor Emeritus Jason Todd Associate Editor Thomas Bonner, Jr., Biljana Obradovic, James Shade, Oliver Hennessey Robin Vander, Mark Whitaker, Nicole Pepinster Greene Contributing Editors Bill Lavender Graphic Design Editors, Xavier University Studies, 1961-1971 Rainulf A. Stelzman, Hamilton P. Avegno, Leon Baisier Editors, Xavier Review Charles Fort, 1980-1982 Thomas Bonner, Jr., 1982-2002 Richard Collins, 2000-2007 Nicole Pepinster Greene, 2007-2011 Managing Editor Robert Skinner, 1989-2010

Unsolicited manuscripts may be submitted in typescript or by email attachment with a brief letter of submission and a self-addressed envelope for reply to the Editors, Xavier Review, Box 89, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA 70125. Essays should conform to the MLA Handbook for Writers with parenthetical citations and a list of Works Cited. Manuscripts accepted for publication will be requested as electronic files. Subscriptions are $20 for individuals, $25 for institutions. Editorial inquiries may be addressed to Ralph Adamo at radamo@xula.edu. All other inquiries may be addressed to Katheryn Laborde at klaborde@xula.edu. Xavier Review is indexed in the MLA International Bibliography and the Index of American Periodical Verse, as well as other indices. Xavier Review is supported by the Xavier University Endowment for the Humanities. www.xavierreview.com www.xula.edu/review ISSN 0887-6681

Editor’s Note


his double issue presents so many talented writers that I resist the impulse to single out why you should be grateful to be reading their work. Well, and delighted. And, I believe, moved. The work speaks for itself with clarity, beauty, eloquence, and grit. I do want to say how pleased I am to have a story by one of my favorite writers and oldest friends among writers, the novelist Steve Stern, whose work I have been trying to solicit since my time editing New Orleans Review in the 1990s. Stern is an absolute original, as you will see. Our interview this issue is one that fiction writer (and songwriter) Tom Andes conducted with novelist Moira Crone, who has for years now been a painter as well, one whose work has gained some serious critical attention. Her activity and identity as a painter is at the heart of this interview, and, of course, an example of her work graces our cover. Many new books have been published just as this virus took center stage, some by well-known poets like Carolyn Forche, her first in nearly two decades, others by poets who ought to be better known, like our own Bill Lavender (My ID) and Dylan Krieger (Metamortuary), Gina Ferrara (The Weight of the Ripened), Kelly Harris DeBerry (Freedom Knows My Name, published by Xavier Review Press) and Julie Kane, whose book is reviewed in this issue. No doubt I am forgetting to mention others worthy of note. This has been a difficult time for so many reasons, but for authors of books that arrived in the time of Covid, little joy. Writer/photographer Kevin Rabalais, whose black & white photographs have been documenting life in Louisiana for the past few years, has found images that speak to the continuation of life during the pandemic, sometimes astonishing, always worthy of mediation and celebration. Xavier Review congratulates Contributing Editor Biljana Obradovic on the publication of Heavenly Muse: Essays on Poetry by Philip Dacey, which she edited, as well as Sleepwalkers on a Picnic, prose poems by Zvonko Karanović, which she translated into English. Special thanks to Nicole Pepinster Greene for her generous assistance in the production of this issue.


Xavier Review 40.1-2, Spring-Fall 2020 Editor’s Note — iv Tom Andes An Interview with Moira Crone — 9 Steve Stern Shadow Play — 19 Allison Campbell Five Poems — 26 Geoff Munsterman Two Poems — 33 Ryan Burgess Six Poems — 39 Skye Jackson Four Poems — 42 Carmin Wong Two Poems — 49 James Sallis Four Pieces — 54 Anthony Hagen The Gold Standard — 60 Al Maginnes Counting Stock — 61 Kevin Rabalais A Grammar of Photography — 63 Photos — 67 D.S. Maolalaí In a City Without Streetlamps — 76


Anum Sattar White Trash — 78 Bonnie Naradzay Three Poems — 79 Bill Lavender Two Poems from COVID Voices — 82 Ace Boggess Old Man — 90 Laurinda Lind Two Poems — 95 Milton Ehrlich Two Poems — 97 Richard Krohn From slavery — 99 Harry Moore That’s Not All — 100 Autumn Hayes Two Poems — 101 Kathleen McCann The Light of Home — 105 Gerry Sloan Two Poems — 106 Bonnie Noonan Back in Time (Fried Bologna) — 108 Yun Wang Five Poems by Li Bai (701-762AD), translated by Yun Wang — 113 Ronald Dorris The Whisper of Something Mysterious: Review of Shadows of the Omuroi by Sim Shattuck — 116


Swiss McCall Review of “I”: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte — 124 Jeremy Tuman Those Basin Street Blues: Review of C.W. Cannon’s Sleepytime Down South — 127 Thomas Bonner, Jr. Review of Navigate Your Stars by Jesmyn Ward. Illustrations by Gina Triplett. — 132 Nicole Pepinster Greene Review of Mothers of Ireland: Poems, by Julie Kane — 135 Stephen Vincent Estopinal Review of Sandy Rosenthal’s Words Whispered in Water; Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina — 139 Alena Cover Review of Love Behind Bars: The True Story of an American Prisoner’s Wife​ by Jodie Sinclair — 141 Contributors — 144


Moira Crone: “Inside and Out” diptych, each 24” x 36” mixed media collage on canvas (grayscale version).


Tom Andes

An Interview with Moira Crone

Since her first book, The Winnebago Mysteries, was published in 1982,

followed by a debut novel, A Period of Confinement in 1985, Moira Crone has established herself as one of the great contemporary Southern writers. Two subsequent collections, Dream State and What Gets Into Us, chronicle the lives of people in Crone’s adopted home of South Louisiana and her native North Carolina, respectively. In 2012, she published the science fiction novel The Not Yet, about a partially submerged New Orleans 100 years in the future. Written and revised over a period of time before and after Hurricane Katrina, the novel proved eerily prescient about the fragile ecology of New Orleans and the problems the city still faces. It was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. In 2014, Crone published The Ice Garden, a coming-of-age story set in a small, Southern town. Recently, while still writing—she has completed a new novel with the working title Maddie Duell—Crone has been exhibiting her paintings, both expressionist oils and mixed media on canvas. Like her writing, her visual art vividly and powerfully evokes a sense of place. The mixed media paintings in a recent collaborative show with artist Leona Strassberg Steiner, Alchemy of Night, depict night-scenes in the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods of New Orleans. Employing images of both well- and lesser-known cultural icons, architecture, and street scenes, the pieces explore the interlocking layers of history and myth that are part of the city’s landscape. In 2014, I interviewed Crone for the now-defunct website Bookslut. For this new interview—which we conducted by email with the city of New Orleans under a stay-at-home order because of the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States—I wanted to talk to her about her paintings. I also wanted to revisit some of the issues we’d discussed six years ago about how human beings interact with the natural environment, issues that seem all the more pressing with the current novel coronavirus outbreak. Crone was born and raised in North Carolina. Besides being a finalist for


the Philip K. Dick Award, she has been the recipient of an Individual Artist’s Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship at the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College at Harvard, an ATLAS Grant from the State of Louisiana, the Robert Penn Warren Award in Fiction from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and has won the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society Short Story Prize and the Faulkner/Wisdom Award for Novella. For many years, she taught creative writing at LSU, serving as director of the program from 1997 to 2002. I’ll start with what might be the obvious question, namely, after making a career as a writer and teacher of fiction, what has recently caused you to bring visual art to the front of your creative practice? Well, I have been working on the same novel for some years, like six or seven. I recently completed it. It has benefitted from the slow way I have worked on it, taking long breaks, and it is my best novel, I believe. Since the 90’s I have always painted during breaks from writing. With The Not Yet, during that lag before it was published, I started taking my painting seriously. I entered some juried shows. These were expressionistic oils. Then for a while I worked on The Ice Garden and the new novel, which has the working title Maddie Duell. Then, there was my health. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in late 2017 after a series of very mysterious symptoms. This is an autoimmune disorder that can be bad or not so bad; it flares up unexpectedly and can do a job on you sooner or later. I decided I needed to recharge and do what I love doing with the time I had. In my experience, since I was a young child, I have found that painting, with its tactile materials and its immediate “product” is essentially healing. This is unlike writing, where the time between conception and first draft, and completed published work can be years. I feel healed when I paint. Great joy, coming from color, shape, and immersion. It gives me happiness. Working, I don’t feel aches and pains. The very afternoon before my husband and I were flying to Paris for a month’s vacation, in September 2017, I heard from my doctor about this. I was sad. I decided to immerse myself in art in Paris, going to museums everyday 10

and paint and sketch at night. Visual delight would get me through. I started to feel immediately better. Then when I got home I put some works up in an exercise studio where there is sort of a revolving gallery. Lots of folks, including collectors, bought pieces. This was energizing. One day in 2018, I sold two large paintings in the same afternoon, one to a collector and one at the Lemieux Gallery on Julia Street. I turned our shed in the backyard into a studio. I started working a lot in the breaks while my new novel was being read by friends or potential agents, and so forth. Now it is 2020, I have been in three shows since 2018, and sold several paintings. At your recent show with Leona Strassberg Steiner, Alchemy of Night, I was struck by how many of the images you’d made repurpose mythic images of New Orleans and made me see familiar places—Vaughn’s Bar, for instance—in new ways, evoking the layers of history and cultural memory embedded in those places. Could you talk about how mixed media in particular has helped to achieve the effects you’ve achieved in those pieces? For the pieces in Alchemy of Night, a collaborative show, Leona and I started out by making ground rules: we would use nocturnal images of this neighborhood, the Bywater. Leona often uses glass reflections and other photographic forms of overlay, image imposed upon image. I took a cue from her. I started with images of common and iconic buildings in the Marigny and Bywater. These I drew. Then I worked with overlay. I collected digital photographs that I took of places in the 9th Ward, Upper and Lower, and of street art, and of people important to the locale, or grabbed images online of Dr. John and others. Vaughn’s, the Who Dat café, certain imposing houses along Dauphine and Burgundy, were among the foundational architectures. Then I used collage with the images I took so I was not dependent as collagists often are upon images taken from magazines or newspapers. This made it possible for me to tell a story of a specific past underlying the present. This mimics the way in New Orleans there are layers underneath telling history—old painted signs on the sides of buildings with new posters plastered on top, new street 11

art over old decrepit or newer commercial structures, giving common stores as well as abandoned places an idiosyncratic and unique visual quality. Overall, the way the streets look in my neighborhood had a lot to do with how I did those paintings. When Leona started taking pictures of the trains, I started using images I took of the graffiti on the cars. Long ago a character in one of my stories said, “Everything in New Orleans is chronic, nothing is fatal.” Total erasure of any feature, good or bad, is not, as we all know, characteristic of New Orleanian culture. And yet, the city is constantly evolving and has changed radically in the time I have lived here. In the pieces in Alchemy of Night, as well as in your abstract expressionist oils, I find there’s a dreamlike quality to the representation. Rightly or not, I connect this to your fiction: your wonderful book of stories about life in South Louisiana, for instance, Dream State, and your prescient science fiction novel about a partially submerged New Orleans, The Not Yet, which began as a series of dreams. Could you talk about how important dreams are, especially to the way you create that sense of place in your work? Well, I think it is more like this: when I am working on the collages with mixed media, and the oils, I often wash the piece down or otherwise half-obliterate it, and then stare at it for a while. When I start to see things in what is left, the debris, I work on what I see, and enhance it. This is rather like the reverse of dreaming, in that when looking at something incoherent, the unconscious mind starts to form images. Think of what happens when you are tired and you look at a ceiling with cracks or the clouds and all of a sudden you see or impose imagery upon what is inchoate. A face, a sheep, the map of Cuba. This is rather like pulling things up out of the dreaming mind or the primary imagination, to form images that might have meaning or feeling imbedded in them, especially for you. Like dreams, images that appear are certainly not what your everyday mind or ego would impose or invent. As far as dreams go, sometimes a character in a dream will show me a painting and I see it clearly, and I get up and paint it. What I paint has the 12

freshness and energy of something direct from the unconscious, and I don’t necessarily evaluate the pieces as I would others, I see them as something I had to bring forth, and I just do it. This recently happened with the painting Un Temps de Réclusion, which was directly from a dream. It is darker and more austere and has less depth than the paintings I have been doing lately. When I saw it in the dream, I thought of it as a visual “counting of the days” of the confinement, the quarantine we are in at the moment. Or a counting of the corpses, the coffins. It is full of images of shrines in Pére Lachaise, the cemetery in Paris. I chose the title because that is the title of the French translation of my novel, Period of Confinement, which came out in the late eighties. Since the images are from French sources, this seemed appropriate. We were in Paris during the beginning of the outbreak. That sense of place is one connection I would make between your written and your visual work. Your visual work also seems concerned with history and myth: Mother Catherine Seals, for instance, who ran a temple in the Lower Ninth Ward where she ministered to both black and white people at the height of Jim Crow, yet who remains a mysterious historical figure, at least in my understanding. What drew you to her as a subject? I was drawn to her for several reasons. My current novel—working title, Maddie Duell—is set in North Carolina and New Orleans in the late 1960’s. Two old women in the book are haunted by the fact that one of their sisters who died was involved with Mother Catherine Seals and her spiritualist compound on the corner of Flood and Charbonnet in the Lower Ninth Ward. While I was researching Mother Catherine—there are newspaper accounts, as well as mention of her in the works of Zora Neale Hurston—I was moved to her. Conversations with author and friend Jason Berry who has documented so much of the city’s history including works on Spiritualist movements, also helped. He interviewed people who were still alive in the 1990’s who were raised in the orphanage Mother Catherine set up, the Manger. I used copies of existing photographs of the compound and of Mother Catherine in 13

several of the pieces in the Alchemy of Night show. On my walks around the neighborhood I have also observed several intriguing religious institutions. There are buildings with odd occult symbols on the outside if you look closely, and one-of-a-kind churches. There are well-known and not so well-known voodoo shops and temples. In the show I was definitely inspired by the many layers of current and historic “hidden” religious practice here. The works of Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick, brilliant photographers, document the consistency of unique religious practices in this part of New Orleans, particularly the Lower Nine. These rituals, being unorthodox and informed by African and Caribbean religions, were suppressed, even persecuted during certain periods, such as the twenties, by local and Federal authorities. So they went and remain underground. Below the over-lay. Do you feel like similar issues of myth and history are at stake in your last novel, The Ice Garden, which is a coming-of-age story set in a small Southern town? Maybe in certain parts. The book certainly has a lot to say about the role of the Southern White Woman in certain upper middle-class circumstances in the fifties. The anachronistic hysteria of the role, essentially. That idealized “persona” had been outlined, or was a copy of one that was mythologized, from a previous era—the post-Civil war romanticizing of the “delicate flower of Southern Womanhood.” White women of the middle and upper middle class were supposed to embody some version of that romanticized plantation-matron-virgin character, who never existed. The fact is that many African Americans were still in servile relationships to white people in small Southern towns, Jim Crow was fully operational, and the new prosperity after WWII created an opportunity for some white people to try to “live out” that Gone with The Wind myth. It did not go well. Part of that is in the novel, that effort, its failure. Years ago, when we talked about The Not Yet, you referred to Louisiana as a “canary in the coalmine” for the ecological disasters we 14

were heading for as a species because of the ways in which humans impact the natural environment. I wondered if you could talk about coronavirus and whether you see this as a development of the same problems you identified in the premise of that novel. Do you see what we are experiencing now as likewise being the result of a broken relationship with the natural world (which is to say nothing of the botched federal response to both Katrina and this virus)? I think what we are going through now is both a result of the broken relationship and a potential beginning of a lesson on how to heal it. What I am saddest about, though, is that we are living in a failed national state, one that doesn’t even reliably understand its responsibilities to help its people. In the case of Katrina, when the Federal state failed, after a few missteps—such as questions in Congress about why anyone would want to rebuild New Orleans—eventually, it was generally recognized by the population that the Federal government had a big role to play. At first with COVID-19, there was nothing from our government, then there was a rush to help, and now—late April 2020—a backing off. And the story of uneven distribution of resources to the wealthy and to the red states will be told eventually. Also, with COVID-19, an undermining of decent scientific advice and best practices is ongoing, and grave. Granted, the problem is bigger, it is vast, and strange: Katrina was localized. It so happens that while I was not working on the current novel I just finished, I was drafting a new one in the last year, with the working title Burden’s Travels, which involves climate change, the failure of the United States to remain a sovereign nation, and a virus. No joke. In the story, starting in the 2030’s, the US has been successfully invaded, with gratitude from much of the populace, by an Allied European Union and Chinese force over its failure to follow treaties around international carbon standards. This was sort of the way we invaded Iraq. The inciting story line in the novel involves a virus, about to spread. A character gets a syringe and doesn’t know whether it is a vaccine or the disease. I published the first chapter of this in January, in an online magazine, South Writ Large. I will have to redraft the outline, 15

for sure, as the resonance with the current situation would undermine my plot! I had the same issue with The Not Yet, as I had written and published a lot of it, including scenes of New Orleans underwater, with the title “Elysian Nights,” in The New Orleans Review, six or seven years before Katrina, thanks to Ralph Adamo. People thought I was writing about Katrina. But I wrote a draft of the book before the storm. Events changed the way the material I had imagined would be perceived, so I had to revise, to address that. In the new book, there are long flashbacks to Katrina days; it is the “first round,” I guess, of what the characters in the 2030’s are going through. It’s about a New Orleans family. All of the storylines converge around climate change and new ways of relating to the natural world. The protagonist, a former oil industry engineer, now in a forced labor camp as an “extraction criminal,” escapes to find his daughter, a scientist who has disappeared. He looks for her in camps and outposts, discovers enclaves of people with a new ethos seeking new forms of relating to resources and nature. I believe the current quarantine is a kind of experiential gift. We are living suddenly in a world where it is difficult to spend much money and to travel. These are two things that manage to distract humans from the baseline, the lack of sustainability of how we lead life in the developed world. We are convinced the Gross National Product is the measure of success. The Gross National Product is made of stuff, finally, natural resources extracted, and services that are paid for—though not all the unpaid work that is so essential. If we keep making the extraction of resources without their replenishment the measure of our success on this planet, we are going to succeed ourselves into extinction. Things we took for granted entirely, such as supply chains and food sources, are now iffier. Travel, eating out, are out. Because of income insecurity, buying non-essential items has become so rare we may no longer have malls when this is over. We are left with far fewer things to do and get. We are left with our souls, with making do. Living a quieter, simpler way. This could be a dry run, as I see it. Concentrating on the well-being of people who keep things maintained and essential life sustained, on creativity, the inner life, cultivation of the local, in food and culture—we’re all experiencing that now. Keeping some of these new habits as lessons could be a way to 16

change so we could alter our value system enough that we can tackle climate change. Some visionary politicians are saying this already. It requires a great deal of transformation, though, and I don’t think it will happen without a widely shared new ethos. First, I think there will be a long, spotty, darkish age. Thousands of dystopian novels have speculated on the nature of this inbetween era. Keep your head down, I think. New Orleans might be a good place, though. It is on the fringes of the crumbling empire. The only concern I have about being here is that we are surrounded by Red strongholds. I don’t think it’s impossible we would experience something akin to civil war or at least skirmishes that feel like a civil war in our lifetimes. I wondered if you could talk about the impact you see the pandemic potentially having on creative communities in New Orleans. Like no place I’ve lived, New Orleans has taught me how art comes from popular, street-level culture, and from our communities. How do you see creative communities surviving when we suddenly (and obviously, for good reason) cannot gather and use public space, which is so important to life here? The other day I passed by the Who Dat café, a local cultural hotspot, and saw that street pop artist Josh Wingerter was making big and little stencils on plywood to sell so that everyone could pay the Who Dat folks to prepare meals to give away to locals in need. There were tons of people out there to buy his art, which had made a sensation on Frenchman—in a Banksy sort of vein. This is New Orleans art. “Making a way out of no way,” which is a long-standing African American saying that is often repeated when discussing the invention of any number of cultural practices in this city. Jazz being one, but there are many. When African Americans who used to be involved in any number of professions were pushed out of them during Jim Crow and before, they made a way out of no way, inventing a new music. A friend of mine who comes from a family that has been in New Orleans for hundreds of years—one of her ancestors was a governor—told me, “Poverty has always saved New Orleans culturally.” What she meant was, the lack of funds to reboot everything and start over, the kind of “urban renewal” that other cities experienced, did not 17

happen in New Orleans. It didn’t have the money. It couldn’t get to “Modern.” It stopped somewhere on the way. It didn’t lose its past. So, the impoverishment we may experience caused by the lack of tourism may not be a bad thing. It will require more innovation to make music and street celebrations in the near future, though, until the virus has run through the community and some spread has diminished. The huge crowd buying the art on the street were masked, and mostly, far enough apart—yet they were enthusiastic about supporting their neighborhood musicians, café, and artists, and strangely, because it is an awful time, commemorating this moment. Making something beautiful from it, a relic. One thing I have always found remarkable about New Orleans—and I think this is from French culture, because you see it there too—is a way that artists are valued, seen as precious. When I first came here and NOCCA was in its early years my daughter wrote some poems, and a young composer in her class who wasn’t even 17 yet, but was already viewed as a valued talent, wrote some music to accompany her poems. Members of the New Orleans Symphony played this music in a concert. Lots of people came. Artistic endeavor is nurtured here, not found suspect or dangerous. Like really, supported. So, I think New Orleans will make a way out of no way. And when the way is clear, we will be good.


Steve Stern

Shadow Play

“Of course you heard that Ottoline served her guests gamy peacock at

her last Friday’s house party,” Virginia went on, growing dangerously animated in the telling, “after which the lot of them—Augustus, the Huxleys, husbands, wives, and lovers—retired one and all to the garden to participate in an orgy of regurgitation. The famous Garsington roses and dahlias nodded under a blanket of vomitus, the boughs of the ilex hung with egesta…” Her audience was in stitches, she was scintillating; it was important for her to scintillate. Lytton laughed his nasal heehaw and Saxon overcame his taciturnity to honk like a goose. Thus encouraged, Virginia continued, transitioning seamlessly from the cultural elite to take aim at a less auspicious target, her next-door neighbors. “The Darlings I call them,” she submitted. “Behold them, the family impeccable of a Sunday morning, processing as in a regatta on their way to high church: Father in his best Savile Rowing costume arm-in-arm with his damson-cheeked lady of valor—they appear to have just stepped down from atop a three-tiered wedding cake, where, the years having swiftly overtaken them, they’re trailed by children. Their issue march single file in descending order: the vestal daughter in crinoline, her menses like clover honey,” a groan was heard from her husband, “the mincing spit and image of her mama, followed by the first son fresh from nocturnal emission, a miniature man in his Eton top hat endeavoring to outdo his father’s complacency; after whom the tyke,” allowing herself a stagey sigh, “still sleep-walking, his little brain yet marinated in dreams the flavor of melting toffee; he brings up the rear but one, nudged from behind by, wait for it, the dog like a haymow on coasters with blackcurrant eyes.” She pursued them in her narrative even to the vestibule of the church, where they’re received by their loin-clothed Savior Himself, to whom Mr. Darling, on hail-fellow terms, proudly introduces his brood. “Stop!” pleaded Clive, the tears streaming down his porcine cheeks.


“Quite,” agreed Lytton, his long legs entwined like a caduceus, hotcross crumbs in his beard. “Enough of your flashes of merriment, we were discussing the Jews.” A favorite topic of late: how the Marx, Freud, and Einstein trinity had hijacked the human enterprise after a fashion that the Bloomsberries disapproved of on principle. There was perhaps a suspicion that Virginia had subverted their clubby anti-Semitism for her Leonard’s sake, though when did she not take every occasion to subvert their seriousness in favor of an ungovernable whimsy? “I think our Virginia doth protest too much,” volunteered Duncan, who was seldom critical, which made his observation the more annoying for all its banality. Lytton concurred, his legs uncrossing—serpents untwining. “It’s envy that brings out the minx in her.” The remark was catty, as what remark of Lytton’s wasn’t? It was also, thought Virginia, a left-handed instance of the unconditional admiration she was accustomed to. Still, it was unusual for the languid bugger, who enjoyed skewering every sacred cow, to attribute ulterior motives to his hostess. Hadn’t he observed only the other day, upon seeing a stain on Nessa’s muslin dress, “Semen?” The uneasy sniggering his perception provoked was later recognized as the last gasp of the Victorian sensibility, since human nature had changed forever, as Virginia’d deduced, on a given day during December last. So she was stung by Lytton’s presumption, and when she was stung, she recoiled. “I’m sure I live more gallons to the minute walking once round Brunswick Square than all the stockbrokers in London caught in the act of fornication.” Then she was embarrassed at having shown herself to be so thin-skinned. The Thursday At-Home was as usual gathered in the ground floor drawing room, its tall windows reflecting lamplight, the guests reposed in their basket chairs sipping cocoa “put on its feet” with brandy, and nibbling buns. A sprig of lilac in a vase was put to shame by the brilliant flowers in Vanessa’s paintings of domestic interiors, one of which repeated the very interior they occupied. It was a jolly room, festooned in blue cheroot and pipe smoke, and they were a charmed circle aware of a formidability on its way to becoming notorious. Virginia so enjoyed playing the part of queen bee, persistently 20

spoiling their expectations of what such a role entailed. But all of them, in their praise of cubism and Diaghilev and sodomy, liked purveying the new iconoclasm; so Virginia’s forays into libelous gossip and indecent aperçus were generally applauded, and she resented that Lytton should try to unseat her from her current hobby horse. Though the Darlings in their caricature embodiment of your garden-variety philistine had gotten under her skin more than she liked to admit. For a brief few moments she felt that all eyes were upon her; the cleverness bled out of her, she sat exposed once again as Leslie Stephen’s desultory daughter, her knickers having fallen down around her ankles in Kensington Gardens. This, incidentally, while scanning a ring of trees for the baby that Mr. James Barrie had hung from a weeping beech. The self-consciousness however soon passed, dispelled by the evening’s highjinks. Respect was duly paid to Cezanne and epistemological monism, while Arnold Bennett, H.G. Wells, and Lloyd George were laughed to scorn; but then, the evening’s intellectual ballast having been jettisoned, Lytton recited a scurrilous version of “The Owl and the Pussycat” and Clive performed an incongruous hornpipe to the Negro blues that Leonard cranked up on the Victrola with its tiger lily speaker. But later on after the guests had departed, Virginia swallowed sufficient pride to seek solace from Leonard on the subject of her unease. “Show me where is this struck nerve,” said her husband with mockgallantry, “that I may kiss it and make it well.” “And suck out the poison while you’re at it before it spreads,” replied his wife, placing a hand over the bodice of her nightdress, which both indicated the source of the pain and prevented the kiss. The gesture prompted a shared shudder between them before Leonard bussed her cheek and they retired to their separate beds. Though not before Virginia had stood a while taking the soft air at her open window, gazing over the narrow passage to the townhouse in which the Darlings resided as in a humidor. She was ashamed of her voyeurism, though shame she could live with. Besides, the spying was harmless enough, reduced as she was to watching their dumb show largely in silhouette behind drawn 21

curtains. In silhouette she had viewed the mother and father’s formal embrace exchanged in the master bedroom, and imagined, while trying not to, their subsequent pneumatic coitus. On the floor above, however, the one directly adjacent Virginia’s own window, the nursery curtains remained parted, and she could make out the children sleeping in the amber glow of their night light and hearth. Only the youngest was still of a fit age for the nursery, though the other two continued to keep him company in that commodious room, safe from the incursions of history. They’d long since been tucked in and sung to by their seraphic mother—Virginia was convinced she sang to them—though tonight there was a restless stirring: the little one in his blanket sleepers, perhaps awakened by an ogre in a dream, had begun to alert his big brother to his distress by pummeling him with a pillow. He persisted in his onslaught until the older unfolded from slumber to rise shakily in his nightshirt and retaliate. Then the yawning sister, her gown showing the incipient contours of her sylph-like anatomy, was forced to leave her bed and intervene. In the ensuing fray their shadows were dilated by the night light to mythic dimensions about the walls. But one shadow, a renegade, appeared to have disengaged itself from the skirmish of others, and begun to dart and flit about the room. Virginia shut her eyes, opened and shut them again, then groped her way to her bed where, absurdly, she pulled the covers over her head. “I am a ferociously modern woman of original substance and parts, beloved of my husband,” she insisted to herself, repeating the incantation to try and summon sleep; though she was aware that the very act of insisting was an acknowledgement of the nervous fragility that had once more infected her soul. But in the morning, despite having slept poorly, she awoke with some residual sparkle from the previous evening’s scintillation. At the breakfast table, sunshine and tidbits from the world tossed by Leonard over the edge of his raised journal: an ocean liner might have struck an iceberg, a suffragette hurled herself under the ponies at the King’s Derby, Scott written in his diary, “My right foot is gone, nearly all the toes…”; voices might be prophesying war. There was, once Leonard’s journal was lowered, the post-mortem of last night’s salon—an analysis of Lytton’s rabid Francophilia, of Duncan’s 22

willful naïveté and baggy plus-fours. Then there were the servants (there was only one) to chastise, and the cook with whom to discuss the evening meal—which, despite her ambition to compete with sister Nessa’s elaborate board, always turned out to be meat and two veg. Nevertheless, though her domestic skills were mostly imaginary, Virginia delighted in playing house; she prided herself on a knack for kneading dough and her tasteful arrangement of the bowls of ruddy fruit and striped humbugs on the Omega dining table. Indeed, she adored objects, her current favorite the greasy old Albion handpress that Leonard had lugged into the basement. From experimenting with setting the type and inking its rollers, she’d left indigo fingerprints on every surface, like a crime scene; she pulled the lever with the aplomb of a barmaid drawing a pint, causing the machine to give up its demi-octavo page with a satisfying cough. It was the very expedience of the exercise that thrilled her, as did removing the leftover chicken leg from the zinc-lined icebox or pulling the chain on the high-tanked toilet or lifting the domed lid of the Noah’s Ark trunk to tuck camphor balls among the folds of the bobbin-lace teagown she might never wear again. She was in love with ordinary things, alarmed when, without warning, Leonard’s celluloid collars or his enameled souvenir of Gibraltar cigarette case, the underlinen flapping on the line, assumed a numinous aura. When the centerpiece epergne containing the purple Michaelmas daisies suddenly offered itself in a votary gale of feeling. Then the object became somehow its own metaphor, compelling you there and then to learn its language and speak it with perfect clarity. That’s when she would be driven to her writing desk. There were objects there as well—the same inkstand, blotter, and box of writing implements she’d been given for her tenth birthday. But they had long since forfeited their consecrated status in exchange for plain utility. They were the journeyman’s tools she took up after first stripping herself of her outward show, of her snobbishness and even her cruel sense of irony, of her anticipation of Neo-Pagans and Thursday Clubs—the whole heady brew of Bloomsbury along with Leonard checked at the door. Then she stood at the secretary desk—always she stood in her smock as did Vanessa at her easel—and put pen to paper. After that she was launched into places where 23

you and I may not follow; though I have it on good authority (her own) that she surrendered to a depth of happiness in which even what is most painful and gloomy is not opposite but rather necessary, the writing more necessary than anything else on earth. She experienced a rapture whose tremendous tension might discharge itself in a flood of tears. Then she was as far from Brunswick Square as if her pen were a broomstick upon which she had ridden to attend a witch’s sabbath. Far away while at the same time at home amid the chintz wingchairs and embossed wallpaper in a continuous present; and that was the wonder: the impossibility that she should be there at all, the feeling of the purest ecstasy anyone could conceive. Standing still, she buzzed, hummed, soared, roared, darted, and dived like a shadow escaped from its host, until, exhausted, she stumbled head foremost into stygian mud. Then her emptiness was as total as her bliss had been complete. But not yet, not today. Today she wrote on indefatigably past tea-time, assuring Leonard when he called through the door that “I’m just bringing the universe to order, done in two shakes.” At length it was dusk, the time when one of her characters heard birds singing in Greek and another recalled a friend running naked down a corridor to fetch her sponge bag. But these were fanciful events and she did not like to trade in fancy; flagrant sensation was for those who never grew up. Leave the murders at the Hippodrome and the assignations in the Cremorne Gardens to the benighted; she preferred to shock with a look or a laugh or the way a young woman runs up the steps of an omnibus. Again her husband knocked gently and was told, “The spider is spinning her web, beware!” Leonard laughed and departed. The nerve that controlled the pen was wound about every fiber of her being; it threaded her heart and pierced her liver; she spent herself of a thousand capacities, stuffing the shriveled skin of the ordinary with meaning, becoming only slowly aware that she was writing in the dark. But when she paused to light the lamp, she was further distracted by the barking of the dog next door. It barked and barked, the hellhound, a raucous high-pitched sound that might shatter glass, and fracture her concentration to shards. “And there I was about to surpass literature altogether,” she thought, still on the margins of anguish, “if only I knew what I meant.” Curiosity momentarily forestalling 24

outrage, she went to the window and pulled aside the brocade curtain to see what the ruction was about. She saw first her reflection in the pane before raising the sash, the startled eyes which could startle others to paralysis, the sharp beak with its greedy nostrils; then she saw the ridiculous thatched dog chained beneath a streetlamp to the iron railing, bouncing like a jumping jack with each hysterical bark. Now along comes the walking anachronism of the triple-chinned beadle, who halts in his rounds to inquire of the beast (she could read his lips), “What’s all this then?” After which, gripping his piped lapels, he looks from the dog to the object of its distress: for jammed into the upstairs window of their narrow house, elbowing one another to gain the ledge, are the three children still in their nightclothes. They’re accompanied by a fourth clad in what appears to be skeleton leaves and crowned with an incandescent bulb, who appears to be poised for the leap. “For God’s sake, no!” cries Virginia, just as the children take flight. Seeing them floodlit against the moon, kicking a bit till they learned to trust the currents, she is for an instant lighter-than-air herself; she’s at the point of breaking free of the atmosphere, when, a weary-winged Lady Icarus with a burden of mortal fear, she plunges, conscious of falling into the madness that is upon her again.


Allison Campbell

Five Poems Stendhal Syndrome Ever wanted to make love to a work of art— Die in the obscene smear of paint or a written passage Where the protagonist stands on a Sears Tower diving board But then climbs down, ever mirrored a manikin and felt You were falling into its apparel, the fabric swimming you, Sometimes listened to music with the back of your head Or took a moment in the bath to observe the water in opposition With your hair, had a pop song puncture to nerve by amplifying something hidden, finding a stranger knew your feelings exactly, But more so, decided nature is wonderful, but alive, you needed acrylic, oil, the page, a breathing note, or a warm drink in a white cafe designed by someone rich from drawing children in animal suits? It’s not that you can not go on living without these things, it’s that without them you have questioned the point.


Flying Evangelists Because two Mormons are returning from mission work in El Salvador— they talk to the passengers beside them. One asks his row-mate about her beliefs, whether she’s ever asked God if He’s there and waited for an answer. Instead of reading my book, I imagine turning to the nice woman beside me—so good she’s traveling to a conference on compassion with end of life care— I think of turning and saying, “Have you ever asked Poetry if it is there? It’s a knock-and-the-door-will-open type of deal. But you must be ready to hear it.” I remember a painting of St. John the Evangelist, an eagle hovering over his right shoulder, and in the bird’s beak, one of its own feathers. The saint looks up through the animal toward the heavens, his hands rest on a scroll sprawled out, but empty, across the filled pages of a book. Now, the missionary leans closer to the girl— “Has anyone you’ve known ever died?” he asks, “What do you think happens?” I go back to the imaginary conversation with my neighbor, now reading an inflight article on meditation. I could say,


“You know the people you care for before they pass, I believe they turn into poetry, they all turn into poetry.”


Wilderness of Character It’s useful to ask— What would the buffalo do? By buffalo, I mean American Bison, with their half-curled horns and seed burying hoolves. It’s good to feel heavy, and sure footed. If lacking confidence watch film footage of a baby bison, pre-horned head down, charging a wolf. What would a bison do in this situation - Here with their watered down heart and the cooling weather. I mean, when the bison no longer loves? Bison don’t get drunk! In afternoon, they wallow, in early morning, eat. Let everything sink down into the stomach. Pull it up and chew it over, ruminatively digest. Use all four bellies, this is what a bison would do. Bisontinism may be the best way to survive when fields are ice and instead of seeing nourishment, one has to dig and push with faith in


finding something below the layers of snow pack.


Poetry Chores I load poetry into the washer, but what temperature to run it? I scrape steel wool against the glass of poetry, parts of ideas mix with flakes of old skin. This is how poetry and I shine, how we become transparent. I pick up all the phrases around the house, for poetry. And dust particles of poetry off the shelves, to make room for more poetry. I’m so damn domestic, or poetic. If I don’t take out the garbage, maggots coat the underside of the can. Narrow white shapes wiggling into letters, how I imagine my brain; all squirming, and slow.


As Much As I’d Like To Orgasm On The Moon I can’t help but think of the frozen bodies on Everest, the litter of their empty tanks. Decades of human waste have made Mount Everest a ‘fecal time bomb,’ says The Washington Post. That’s one regular-sized spasm for a woman, one giant orgasmo for womankind. But climbers use some of the over two-hundred dead bodies as landmarks, people aren’t returned. And the moon has almost 400,000 pounds of man-made stuff. Crash landings are NASA’s fin de projet. Likely, our trash will reach extraterrestrial life before Voyager; bits of debris instead of Chuck Berry, garbological artifacts colliding with spacecraft like inadvertent confetti, Surprise! from our civilization to yours. Yet I like to dream, lunularly, about orgasms out of this world.


Geoff Munsterman

Two Poems Glossolalia Sadness is a bed I’m always welcome in… is that my kink? Predictive text says my kink is going back in my mind. So, ya know, ghost stories: the slicked-back blonde who’d ripped my stuffed bear to confetti & made my brother’s pool of friends laugh & laugh. The bone white girl in black lipstick who’d rather flirt with death than let moonlight pledge allegiance to the solemn cause of her joy. Paddle slapping water as boat motors rev past, not yet knowing lactic burning from exhausted muscles means never catching up to say hello. Now ghosts come impatient, say Tell it pretty in my place. They burble up from potholes, bringing friends who can’t respect the distancing meant to keep us safe, say Tell them how it happened, tell them what it meant, tell them why it matters now. Do myself the favor of saying their stories instead of my own means something decent to the nature of my character & not just running from the loud pool filled with ripped comfort or a girl with moonless eyes flicking struck matches at a mud hole she’ll one day call groom. What world makes a poet numb? One of endless demand that never sticks


around to watch you fail. Those who let me crawl up to their wound’s edges & barely flinch—will I always call them goddess? Living with the women men have dulled their knives on means a death by degrees & zero brownie points. What can I tell you you don’t already know. For years, I’ve thought about you when it rained. Desire for you is like a sorrow in the heart—a shiver we carry beneath our skin like a past whose scars are all too willing to wake deranged & wield the ancient blades that birthed them. Through gauzed eyes, we grasp toward a dawn no one we believe in ever promised us. When I touch your body, I feel the sunlight in it, awed by the anguishing, stunned with all it has survived to now be held in my hands, gripped as I pull myself into it. Provide me nothing. Promise me nothing. We both know up in smoke—like in my long nightmare, this our old friendship now falls victim to the grisly transmogrification by which I unfailingly turn everything I touch to ghost story. I tell myself: poems aren’t oxygen. Drowning can be torture or ecstasy. Your body fluent in I saved myself from drowning to keep the people in my life alive. It’s the mermaids’ secret: they don’t live hidden in oceans but the oceans live hidden within them. Yours is a wet I can only make wetter by coaxing the ocean in you to release. I don’t know about true 34

love but believe I know true, love. In all the places where I’d need to feel your kiss you kiss me, a feather of smoke rising in the darkness like a candle blowing out. Sadness remains a bed I’m always welcome in, but any bed we share is infinity pool where moaning pleasures breach the waves & consecrate us with their ash. Your mouth is a magic weaver. What can I tell you you don’t already know? My mouth embroiders. Its stitches are uneven with revisioning. Our tongues wrap each other & we, through their alchemy, perfect a tapestry of glossolalia— speaking tongues in ecstasy, in tease. Never torture. If awakening your undertow means I’m dragged under, I’ll evolve the gills we’ll need to keep living in New Orleans, be the dragged under deeper, to safety. Legs shaking, let your passion tsunami into me—go on & make a goddamn mess. Empty your self against the shore of me & let my rocky coastline knead the aquatic essence of you back into you like balm on sunburnt skin. I still think of you when it rains, but now the thoughts are more arousing: the light drizzle of fingernails as they drip from shoulder blade to lower back; the flash flood when you drive them into me, consecrate silvered skin with vermillion ripples. Nothing stirs more fear in poets than not knowing which word come next. Our story newly voltaed isn’t at envoy & your eyes drain me of speech. For no one else, I instead think—Yes, please, more of that.


Sticky I burned through my twenties an obsessive student wrapped in the capital ‘A’ apocalypse, but as of late I’m lucky to find my nose buried in the book of you. Damned if you don’t know my adoration for books— with you, each ecstatic re-read a revelation: new lines to cherish, new passages elaborating as they sear my memory. For wetting my fingers at each page turn, offering your self-wet fingers to the awed library of my open mouth, I am thankful. Reserve judgement. Times I’ve missed a study session, I’d condemned myself to the eschatological infernos of an anxious mind where no pages from my lovers flutter. All hope abandoned & turbulent worrying endless as the end times sermonizing of southern baptist ministers, I must grind down all nine circles before the blush of your lustful & loving memory can call me back—flash of eyes wide, fixated, closed & rolling back into your pillows. You take me into your arms when I can’t hear you & I think: I could live here for eternity. Released, I’m anxious. Apocalyptic thinking recedes, it never vanishes. How do we ignore anything, let alone a doomsday? How do we escape anything? We don’t. Maybe the twelve in 2012 was reversed—as in really twenty-one, as in: is it alarmist thinking to think alarms are sounding & most folks don’t blink, smithereens the melody in your… how long? last decade? I binged Mandela Effect & now these


last six months like a bad hangover have me asking how we got here. Maybe it’s anxiety over a world not ending but mid-flux—a tunnel, lacking light. The same six months: a dervish of touch & tongues as we pause from nourishing the starved parts of each other to ask how we didn’t get here sooner. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of the world. I mean…it’s not the end of the world. A world ending is easy to find—present in each unshakeable depression, scene of willful ignorance, emboldened imbecile or cruel & unjust act. Silly as it sounds with my having known you for years, you were hard to find. And finding you wasn’t near as hard as what came after: self-worth salvaged. High priestess of presence & passion, of thoughtful & though-provoking compassion, righteous joy born from the warmth of your smiling kisses & considered touches—slow drags & teeth leaving marks—you are storm clouds in their lifting revealing horizons. Loving you has felt like the never-once-promised reward for attempting a life with intention. In a word: Blessed. It’s capital ‘C’ creation, a Prince song in fishnets. If the future is people & people are messy, your words & wits embroider a future I can taste. Lover, I don’t play games, I read. You are my favorite book. You are the honey sucked clean from full & writhing hips—the pure, raw, & unfiltered roux of wildflower pollen fanned cool until it thickens into bronze. Because you have walked in your boots for decades ain’t never once been ended, because some moments call us to leave things 37

cleaner than we found them while others command our making a fucking mess, my tongue in gratitude will trace you to your beginnings, dizzied. Dip your fingers in the sticky, lover. Offer another taste.


Ryan Burgess

Six Poems Being a parent is being a blanket thrown over a lamp Every second you look over your shoulder for evidence of the fire starting. Sometimes it sounds pleasing: the whole apartment burning. Every item inside puffing up into shapeless handfuls of near-matter. Like how you clean and clean and clean the floors. How you’ve seen everything possible drop from someone’s hand. Stopping to look after picking up tiny pieces of dried play-do under the couch, you notice your hands are speckled like rocks found at the mouth of the stream in a rainbow dream. You sing, m ​ y hands are rocks,​and two tiny creatures poke their heads out from their midday blankets. But nothing is getting clean no matter how many rocks or fires.

Being a parent is being a vacant ruin When my mother was an infant she had a fever she passed down to me. I, like light, received her heat & it filled me. I, like a socket, received her milk & it filled me. I received her eggs. I received her tuft of blackbrown pubes. This is not what happened. We did not step into the great pit of bones the archeologists had left abandoned. We did not make a game out of busting the ancient fossils open with Prada heels. We did not talk in New Jersey accents, drunk, requesting a bigger hotel room in the hotel of tiny rooms. We did not stop and look at each other and laugh and say I​ just haven’t had a bite all day!


Being a parent is being cursed at loudly Ten years ago I had a dream that I was an adult and when I woke up my sheets were covered in blood. My father walked into the room and said, Who is cooking? This is what fathers do all the time, ask who is cooking when there is actually just so much blood. With red eyes I cried at my father and shook my fists, ​You have no idea! When I’m an adult & the sky falls & there are no more rooftops & no more shattered bottles at the base of the carport & you no longer find banana peels in your pillowcase you will cry hot tears! ​It was the best curse I knew but I still felt undone. That night the president was on TV and he didn’t stumble over a single word.

Being a parent is being the mom now We are all touching our mothers through the plateglass of their iris or the cheesecloth of their skin trying not to become them. She leaves the house to us for the weekend. Returns to her son who left her paints out. She said I am going to need those soon, put the caps back on. I smell her perfume it smells good like my saddest memories. Idk. Let’s let this one fall to the floor in a heap of linens so she can float past and say, pick them up. Let’s let this one sit out on the stove hissing so she can whistle by reminding, your tea. Let’s let this encircle us like blankets on those many and sometimes honestly sick days. Let’s let ourselves be touched with the comb in the morning. Before twilight when we return home hungry. Before the song to bath to bed. Before we must move our garden with the plow inside her dresser drawer.


Being a parent is being a real boy Our first son climbs our bed and calls it a jungle gym. His body is the color of roses before they are born. His lips were painted by an artist who dragged his heart on the ground for centuries before becoming an angel. His feet at night stick your back like daggers and his enormous cranium molds a gap between my shoulders. ​This love story has a hopeless ending,​I think. But the very next night on the couch a comedian spews closed caption riddles into our living room and we make love to the sound of neighbors sneezing. ​Who sneezes like that,​you say, ​so rhythmically. I​n the morning our son stands tall on the bed and gazes into the mirror. He touches his knees. He touches his elbows. He gently pats his cheeks. ​Look at the size I am, h​e calls to us, l​ ook.

Being a parent is looking at the wrong sun There was a girl I knew one time. She doesn’t recognize me. She in her musk, her dusklight. She behind her curtain of bleached eyerolls, teetering on a whiskey-by-default. She on her roof. She with her underwear loosely loosed about her neck & just laughing. She writing her heart murmurs into pages of silt so they slough off into her sink with the rest of the spit. She in her one big room in front of the one big mirror. She-mirror. I think about this girl & all her pain, duh. All her plans. I want to hold her now, as she musters an egg-and-tomato sandwich into her mouth that one Sunday, about to quit. I want to smack her ass and show her a picture of what it looks like when you get your face out of the face of the wrong sun.


Skye Jackson

Four Poems #medusa was black y’all perseus, hold my dead lips up close to your ear. let me tell you a secret with my split tongues. once, long ago, poseidon held a fistful of my black locs just like this. on the floor of the temple, fingers pulling at my scalp, he inhaled me; my body soft from lavender and holy oil. my robes, cast off and torn, spilled down over the altar and even the candles dimmed in respect of my shame; my brown skin somehow paled in the fading light. the last thing i remember before the snakes came, before my body was lost both to the sea and to knowledge: a reflection of myself,


in the eyes of that cruel god. the imprint of his hands, hot and red as the sea on my neck. the chill of them first touching my face – the press and dead fish stink of that salty mouth, lips rough and cold as the jagged rocks of the deep against my collarbone. picture a girl built pretty and open like a temple, only to be destroyed. be kind: you are looking at ruins further ruined. what i mean to say is that the swift kiss of your sword on my neck is not unfamiliar, perseus. i have tasted the sharp, quick pain of a man before.


currency in paris everything feels like a movie even the violence is cinematic devolving in hot summer shoes fly through the sticky air tables launched like rockets blood spattered shirts scream witness this revolution and as i watch in horror 4 men project themselves at one another the blood on their teeth glistening in the midday sun. a rush of black skin against black skin in the most physical way i’ve ever seen – up close, that is. and all this at the entrance of the train i think wow this is just like new orleans and my boyfriend laughs says, yeah except there they’d all have guns & right now the news would spread how at least 8 or more are dead. and out of instinct i duck and rush trying to escape bullets that won’t ever come and then suddenly all the tickets on the train are free and we pass through the station with only our lives as currency. i think of a twilight zone episode when an alien said: people are the same everywhere and i agree


because in paris & new orleans violence packs its bags but never takes a vacation so perhaps that episode was right the defenseless are still defenseless no matter where you go


white girls the night i arrived in berlin i took one of your books to bed with me, white girls, a subject i know almost everything and nothing about and though i’m here alone i hear them downstairs clinking glasses in the kitchen laughing high-pitched and free talking about jason his parents up state the proposal and that job at the start up – i don’t give a fuck what anybody says, the blonde one croons to a flute of champagne, i know it’s wrong but i wanna be a lady who lunches. and i listen from far away still, brown and shadowy upstairs, wondering and wanting a world beyond this one


an imitation of life: in memoriam of those who have passed i wonder what happened to sarah jane johnson. did she find a white husband to reflect her own skin? what did she feel on her wedding night, lifting up the ivory slip of her dress? did she lay in fear the day her first child left her white body and black womb to enter the world? would his skin carry his grandmother’s tint? would his nose be too broad? would his hair be too coarse? just how brown would the sun turn his cheeks in the summer? how would she explain his blackness away? how had she looked into the mirror and out at the world and done it before? in having to choose between water fountains and restrooms and restaurants that would not serve colored people, did she take her business elsewhere? or did she sit in a black booth with her blue-eyed child and sip a milkshake that would not have been served to her mother? this morning, the huffington post reported that carol channing died at 97. the obits say that at 16 her mama sat her down and told her: your beloved father was a colored man although not outwardly colored at all. later, she’d tell larry king that her daddy got it from his mama. she said, larry, i wish i had a picture of him to show you – 47

but believe me when i say he looked like me. carol carried his light skin and his full lips curving into red eternity like a certain torch. the peroxide hair, though, that was all her idea. she burned out blonde and blonde, then black, suddenly. did carol ask herself, can i be black now that i’ve made it? that with my white skin and black womb, i’ve proven what they’ve always said is true: gentlemen do in fact prefer blondes. and i ask myself, in 2019, just shy of 1958, do i post on my facebook timeline, rest easy, carol channing, an AFRICAN american legend? a BLACK Broadway star? what would sarah jane call her? what would sarah jane call herself?


Carmin Wong

Two Poems why i can’t cook mummy used to mek me homemade seasoning grinding peppers with a wood-stool grater sitting between she legs mixing spices with bare hands mummy would mek me a big big jar label its content with she handwriting i miss the smell of achar sensing what love tastes like now my home smells like lavender scented Air Wick and my chicken all taste the same


In the Village of Hamamat Baby lips wrapped around areola Suckling breast His hips wrapped around her one side Mother twirls the right Kneading raw butter Rests her limbs weary Her hand Thick and moist Thick and moist Thick and soft and never tired She is Savior Shaman of drying bodies ashing away Skin that cracks outside the womb She is healer and prophet And Mother Earth Whose born of village hands Restorer Sucking milk Baby’s head hangs off a nip Same as a child Devouring a small mango seed After a school day’s play Sun-out Mother holds him in the left She circles again her right hand Every go round Body rocking Breast slipping In and out Mouth wide


In and out Mouth wider Open and thirsting Until he is fed She will nurse This world just for him Restore life for someone else Breed civilization like breasts hold bodies Mother is a figure Round-a-bout Back and forth motion Slow still but never steady Sun-out Hands churn Thick thick Butter Mixing and mashing Mushing and making A mark A scented stamp So seamless It seems It seems So seamless A scented stamp A mark Mushing and making Mixing and mashing Butter Thick thick Hands churn Sun-out 51

Slow still but never steady Back and forth motion Round-a-bout Mother is a figure Breed civilization like breasts hold bodies Restore life for someone else This world just for him She will nurse Until he is fed Open and thirsting Mouth wider In and out Mouth wide In and out Breast slipping Body rocking Every go round She circles again her right hand Mother holds him in the left Sun-out After a school day’s play Devouring a small mango seed Same as a child Baby’s head hangs off a nip Sucking milk Restorer Whose born of village hands And Mother Earth She is healer and prophet Skin that cracks outside the womb Shaman of drying bodies ashing away 52

She is Savior Thick and soft and never tired Thick and moist Thick and moist Her hand Rests her limbs weary Kneading raw butter Mother twirls the right His hips wrapped around her one side Suckling breast Baby lips wrapped around areola In the Village of Hamamat

Poem inspired by the women in Hamamat African Village, in Ghana, where native women specialize in making raw, organic Shea Butter.


James Sallis

Four Pieces The Surrealist Imagines Death When the dead come to visit, they will bring me along.

I carry their bags, remind them when it’s time to leave, that they have other appointments.

They forget they were once like you.

Then sometimes they ask about their own families, if I know their husband’s name, what their son

liked best for dinner, how a sister dressed. What it feels like to eat – because they can’t remember.

Their luggage gets lighter and lighter. Who will tell me if I’m doing a good job?


Freedoms Bored with holding still, stairs pull loose of their landings and stalk away. A few ragged boards fall free.

The sky looks down, and shrugs. None of its business. Work to do.

A jaybird flies home to the nest with new stories to tell its children.

The live oak in our front yard questions if it’s all worth the bother, just to go on for another hundred years.


Afternoon Naps Natural History That thing we learn from the honeybee: surrender, even of life itself, as attack. Or like those Russians in the great war throwing themselves under the treads of German tanks. We’re killing the honeybees. The Russians despise us.

Walk-on The great setting-things-right paces in the wings wearing an old stained T-shirt, rehearsing its line.


Happy Meal In the Surrealist’s dream an egg longs to be a souffle but can’t wake from others’ realness of scramble, boil and fry.

Real World From across the room, from within the closed book, I can hear the words still whispering among themselves.


Billy Deliver’s Next Twelve Novels The dogs took him down a few miles outside Topeka. # When he came to from a forty-year coma, his favorite show from back when he was a kid was on the TV hung by two struts from the ceiling. Space Rangers. The screws of one strut had pulled partially loose. Threads were visible; the whole structure canted starboard. # It’s always a kick to go visit Berr. He’s got these cardboard cutouts of his parents and sister that he moves around the house, from bed to bathroom to breakfast table to living room. Tonight we’re sitting at the table with them finishing off a ten-dollar pizza. # I’ve not spoken to the person who lives in my garage. She slipped in there one evening a month or so back when, in a hurry to get to work and already late, I failed to close the automatic door. # Just now I walked up to the office and asked where this was. Nothing in the room offered a clue: no information sheets, emergency card, notepad, old newspaper. No relevant signs outside, a service station across the street down a block or so with ancient pumps that look like gumball machines. The sign painted on the office window says Motel. The guy who came out of the back had skin flaking like the paint on the sign. # He’d just bought a box of memories marked down half-price at GoMart and settled in to enjoy them when the phone rang. He froze the DreamBox on a slow-moving tropical beach complete with seagulls the size of mastiffs, and punched in the phone. # The day we sold Dad for parts, we celebrated by going out for a big breakfast at Griddles, the place we met 25 years ago. Damn miracle it still


existed. Damn miracle that we did too, of course – as a pair, I mean. # She smells the smoke on me and senses, beyond that, subtler betrayals. She doesn’t say anything, though, just hands me the glass of wine she’s already poured, one she says has legs, not balls mind you, but legs. # The toaster said “No.” “Why not?” “That’s not how you like it. Buttered, lightly toasted.” “I long to try something new. Take the plunge. Live wild.” “You won’t like it.” That’s how the day began. # One bright morning Charlie fired up his computer to find himself, much to his surprise, for sale on Ebay. The bids were appallingly low. # The alien sat in the bare room across from him. It looked exactly like Sanderson’s fifth-grade teacher. Somehow a fly had got in the room. Sanderson noted that the fly avoided the part of the room where the alien was. # In the last moments, they say, William Blake jumped up from his death bed and began to sing.


Anthony Hagen

The Gold Standard I was at lunch with a friend whom I see only once or twice a month. We ordered a Caprese salad and picked at it with three-pronged miniature forks. “They’ve seized the estate,” she said. Our waiter came by and offered us fresh pepper. “He’s withdrawing from the university,” she said. “The academic pressure is insurmountable.” Our entrees were decorated with a fancy parsnip garnish that I found quite pleasing. The food was a bit dry for my taste. I rifled through my enormous sheaf of coupons, looking for BUY TWO ADULT ENTREES GET HALF OFF AN APPETIZER AND DESSERT (MAX NINE DOLLARS AND SIXTY-FIVE CENTS). We were too full for dessert. “I’m too full for dessert,” she said. Our waiter told us that dessert was a necessary element of the coupon. We did not want dessert. “I’m afraid I don’t want any dessert,” she said. Our waiter told us that he could not accept the coupon if we did not order dessert. My friend was rather indignant. “These coupons are nothing but a big show,” she said. The manager came by. We didn’t want to make a commotion, so we paid and went our separate ways. I opened my front door to a man carrying a compact vacuum cleaner. “You’d probably think that a vacuum isn’t too exciting,” he said. “That’s where you’d be wrong.” He pulled out a plastic blue tube and showed it to me. “See this?” he said. “You’re looking at the gold standard of filtration technology. You don’t even know how dirty your house is until you see what this baby can pick up.” He displayed a notebook full of diagrams and blueprints. “It’s extremely scientific,” he said. “Nothing like this has ever been built before.” I told him that, unfortunately, I was not in the market for a vacuum cleaner. He scowled. “You don’t know what you’re turning down here,” he said. “You can balk at the future, if you want. You can pretend like the world isn’t moving forward. The rest of us will be laughing at you while you wallow in your dinosaur past.” He departed from my porch. I locked my front door.


Al Maginnes

Counting Stock I knew how to count, so it looked like an easy day’s work taking inventory in a store owned by the family of friend, one of the six or seven they owned in a string of small towns, stores where you could find shoelaces, shotgun shells, dishes and headache powders, all nestled in a few well-planned aisles. All we had to do was count what sat on the shelves. We knew the numbers we wrote down were impermanent as the rain sliding down the plate glass windows: tomorrow, winter hats would sell, new supplies of cereal and T shirts would be sorted on the shelves. Two-thirds of a life since then, and if you had asked what I thought I’d be doing today, I could not have mapped any of the steps that made the boy I was then, the one volunteering to take the trash out so he could smoke a bowl, into whoever I am tonight. In a swamp two hours from where that store stood,


scientists have discovered a band of swamp cypress older than Jesus. Some items resist inventory. Christmas had just slipped by, and December’s dusk dropped quick and silent as the rain that wrapped us each time we stepped outside, making the matches in my pocket so hard to strike I considered buying a lighter from the store. Our hours translated into cash, erasing every number I’d written down, but that night I could not stop counting whatever came before me. Today it’s hard to count or even separate the clouds scooting low and dark over the treeline, choked with their deliveries of rain. I have watched more afternoons of rain than I will ever count, spent too many hours believing I might reach some plateau of knowledge described by poets and priests. Now, I only want to mark one more slash on some imaginary slate where some unseen scorekeeper keeps tracks of what counts in this life. One more mark. And then another one. Even after the counting stops. One more.


Kevin Rabalais

A Grammar of Photography i. One late spring morning in Barcelona, I saw Etsuro Sotoo, master stone cutter at Sagrada Família, walking toward Gaudí’s unfinished basilica. The moment seemed akin to glimpsing a Beatle on his way to Abbey Road Studios. The night before, I had watched a documentary in which Sotoo discusses his work. He spoke of asking permission from the stone before he sculpts it. ii. Inside a gigantic crater crawl thousands of figures covered in mud. They climb rickety ladders, one behind the other, many with small sacks thrown over shoulders. They work with ancient tools in this tableau. At once claustrophobic and colossal, it appears unaltered from an age before Christ. Sebastião Salgado went to Brazil’s Serra Pelada gold mine in 1986. For several weeks, he lived among the miners, earning their trust in order to document their work. The mine closed that same year, but Salgado’s photographs remain. They offer, in the grammar of photography, an eternal moment. iii. One evening at the American Library in Paris, I listened to Peter Turnley present a version of his photography exhibit “Moments of the Human Condition.” Turnley showed work from the frontlines of international conflicts and touchstone events of the past three decades. Alongside this reportage, he works in the humanist tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis and those photographers who took their cameras into the streets to document and—even more importantly, in the wake of the atrocities of World War II—to celebrate everyday life.


Several mornings after the talk, I saw Turnley walking alone in the Marais. We were two Americans in the heart of postcard Paris. The day, New Year’s, was bright and crisp, immaculate. I took it as a sign. We exchanged details and agreed to meet later in the week. Some photographers spout brand names, numbers and formulas in ways that can make them sound like statisticians. Others lay their faith in photography as a means of slowing down to examine the world more closely in order to share their discoveries. The definition of the latter, Turnley spoke of his friendship with some of those legendary humanists, among them Édouard Boubat, who once offered him this advice: “If you keep your heart and your eyes open, there is a gift waiting for you at the corner of every street.” iv. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” writes Annie Dillard. “What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” I saw a photograph one day, and my whole life changed. If it happened that way, it is only true because Salgado encouraged me to study the art—one ever-vanishing in the whiplash of contemporary life—of noticing. Along with this came the desire to record, or what the photographer Stuart Franklin calls “the documentary impulse.” It has been with us from the moment our ancestors first painted on cave walls. We witness its echo each time we upload details from our lives onto social media. v. The camera is my passport. Over the years, it has granted passage to places that I never could have traveled on my own. Without it, I would remain on the fringes, too shy, too superfluous to request permission to board a shrimp boat on which I slept for five nights beneath the open air of the Gulf of Mexico while belowdecks snored the Cajun captain, beside him the deckhand with half a century of stories from the sea; 64

with a crawfisherman and his twelve-year-old son as they navigated the otherworldly waterscape of the Atchafalaya Basin; sharing watermelon with migrant farmers in Plaquemines Parish as we squeezed onto a trailer that took us to the next field; eating oysters (“I think of it as quality control,” said the fourth generation oysterman) while circling the beds of Adams Bay; above the chute at the Angola Prison Rodeo as inmates who had never touched an animal larger than a dog prayed before mounting the bull; on the front porches of houses in Acadia Parish where masked Mardi Gras revelers begged for gumbo ingredients and then danced with the homeowners, danced with women and children, danced, finally, with one another before the ceremony moved onward, down a dirt road in the kind of place Melville surely had in mind when he wrote, “It is not down in any map; true places never are.” vi. After my encounter with Salgado’s photograph, I started walking my camera every day. Months became years, a vintage era when the camera gave me the courage to approach many of the people whose paths I crossed, to ask about their travels, their work. They offered stories. They led me into their lives. They did so, many of them, because the camera declared interest and empathy. It urged me to be always astonished at what awaits behind this corner, and the next. vii. In 2017, after living overseas for more than a decade, I returned home to Louisiana and started to document our rituals, the various ways we work and play. I’ve set out to explore what makes us who we are in the place that I came to think of, during my absence, as part of America (perhaps) but also a separate place, a small and beautiful country on the Gulf of Mexico. This work has taken me across much of the state. There will always be more. I’ve stood waist-deep in murky water and walked fully soaked through the streets of New Orleans as brass bands lead the unadulterated emotion of Sunday second-lines. 65

Much of that work, like much of all work, paused with the onset of Covid-19. Early on, Turnley took his camera into the streets of New York. After a lifetime of covering international conflicts, he spoke of this period as his first world war. When I finally mustered the bravery to step outside, I ventured into the French Quarter. I found a boardedup landscape through which lone masked figures passed in permanent deep focus. Streets where people from around the world converge to dance and delight resembled the ravaged settings of Tarkovsky films. Then came the brutal murder of George Floyd. The scab of a different pandemic, ripped off during those eight minutes and forty-six seconds in which Floyd pleaded for his life, propelled many of those previously lone masked figures to gather in protest. They came from all races, all creeds. (Behold the absolute beauty of American impurity.) They gave me remarkable hope in the future, these protestors, and also the denizens of New Orleans who banded, some providing food and shelter and others, respite, as Jonas Chartock and his six-year-old son, Mosiah (a.k.a. Trombone Mosi), afforded with their regular afternoon porch performances in the Irish Channel. As before, I turned to my camera. I turned to it so that I could have the strength to look and, in the process, hope that I could encourage others to do the same. I turned to it because the camera renders this testament: we become fully human when we desire to understand those whose lives differ from our own. viii. Every photograph seeks permission from the light. Every photograph seeks to preserve a gesture from the fleeting world. Every photograph reminds us that we are not alone.



Stanley and John Kimble, the Atchafalaya Basin


Courir de Mardi Gras, LeJeune Cove


Kanaval, Congo Square, New Orleans


Ladies of Unity 2020


Raymond Landry III


Watermelon Harvest, Plaquemines Parish


New Orleans, June 2020


Louis Armstrong Park, New Orleans, June 2020


Jonas and Mosiah Chartock, New Orleans


D.S. Maolalaí

In a City Without Streetlamps I remember - and we must have been nineteen, or at least she was, and I’d have just turned twenty. yes, that’s it; in my second year at college, and she in her last year at school. and it was the christmas break, snowing down lumps like wet tissue paper which stuck on your body and made black coats look like skies shining in a city without streetlamps. we’d been kissing at this party thrown by my friend, her friend’s brother, and now 76

I was walking home with her and trying some more to touch her but it was too cold, and both of us were slipping; difficult to get purchase but still magic that night, holding our gloved hands and strolling forward. like stepping off an airplane and pushing into clouds, like cold sheep who don’t smell musty, the air that burned crunching electric of snow fresh on the ground and falling.


Anum Sattar

White Trash Barrett Gunner, my host mom, Charity’s nephew, patted my head as he walked in, apologizing that it was not his intention to treat me like a dog. Charity kissed his little girl, Marigold, but smooched Gunner all over to behave. Gunner was in a bad mood today. He was unhappy that his wife divorced him. He rolled up a New Yorker and lightly hit Mee-maw on the head. And then chastised Charity’s husband for not repairing her rusty, two-tone Chevy Beretta. Charity agreed she deserved a BMW. Bless her five-year-old heart, Marigold tired of Gunner’s ranting made a fuss to draw everyone’s attention back to her. She was eventually put to a corner and her fanny slapped for such an offense. Gunner expected us to finish our supper while he disciplined his howling daughter. I imagined Gunner squeezing my boobies. Scenes from the xHamster porn I binge watched on my iPhone —uncles raping their nieces and aging bosses spanking their vulnerable female assistants — flashed before my eyes. “You should stand up for your child rather than humiliate them!” I snapped at the ogre. Gunner yelled at me to fuck off for mooching off his kind family. He gave me the middle finger and moved his balls through his ripped jeans. My host family let me stay if I took responsibility for the unfortunate situation. Otherwise they would be left with no choice, but to call the local sheriff. Not wanting to create more fuss, I politely asked Charity to drop me at the college. Campus Security accused me of trespassing and kicked me out. I graduated a few weeks ago and could only visit for three nights and six days. Now, I live in my gay friend’s Chevrolet blazer that has black tinted windows.


Bonnie Naradzay

Three Poems Filling Our Lives Do not wander from your path any longer, for you are not likely to read your notebooks or your deeds of ancient Rome and Greece or your extracts from their writings, which you had laid up against old age. —Marcus Aurelius

The future comes in the guise of spring rising all around us after the rain ends and you’ve planted new bulbs in the ground. Toss out last year’s odds and ends. The life you dreamed about is here. Think of veering completely off the rails or even back out the wrong way, like those disciples on the way to Emmaus, because you will meet a stranger on your journey, as they must, and invite the stranger to a feast, which is where you need to be. Aurelius died near the Danube, far from Rome, and here you are, perplexed by how to free yourself from possessions and notebooks. Jesus beckons to a tax collector to come with him. Matthew looks surprised, points to himself and asks, “Who, me?” Then he rises, follows him to the banquet. When we are empty, we fill our lives.


Holy Cross Abbey, Early November The tall, elderly monk who puts out the candles, the last to leave, pauses and stands blinking before us as if surprised before he turns to go. In the far pasture where black cows graze, a lone apple tree still holds its leaves, which are green, not burnished or brown. Yellow apples, bold neon ornaments, crown the highest branches. Grass, washed in sunlight, covers the mown fields – not yet the dull thatch of winter. Is this all a trick of the eye? Nothing has changed. I have brought my heart to be cracked open yet I am riveted only by the cows moving single-file down the field, as if they are summoned by an unheard call. Clouds part to reveal the mountain ridge beyond the Shenandoah. At the altar, darkness and the torn veil. When I broke the Chinese bowl, my son made it whole, gluing the shards. If I had it now, I’d fill the lines with gold.


Soup Kitchen Poetry in a Church Basement It’s time to rise and go, before the doors are closed. When I ask what they’d like to read next time, Tony, who sleeps on the steps of St. Paul’s and quotes the Psalms, wants more from Yeats. After reading “The Coat” today, they asked why he would turn away from mythologies, if they kept him warm. Small passing facts: Carl sleeps under the M Street Bridge unless the weather’s really bad. He likes Eliot, especially that one about Prufrock. Tarik hides clothes near the library. Loves Rumi. Robert, slowly rising from the table, wants poems about the arrival of spring despite the snow that fell last night and froze the daffodils. Last week, after we read poems by Franz Wright, Sheila wrote about walking to Martha’s Vineyard when the tide was low. She asks for love poems, like ‘How Do I Love Thee,’ which she once knew by heart. Leaning on his cane, Mo says poetry makes him forget about his troubles and his pain. We are nearing the threshold of both worlds. Outside, we climb stairs into the light-filled morning.


Bill Lavender

Two Poems from COVID Voices 1 well all i can say is if you own a toyota don’t lose the key cause here i am three weeks and a hundred and eighty dollars later and i can at least open the trunk again jeez i mean wouldn’t you think they could come up with a better system three weeks i can’t even drive it and i’m thinking shit what am i going to do if i get a call cause you know i work on movies bit parts and extras and stuff and nobody’s making movies right now i mean if it isn’t the virus it’s that tax credit stuff that has the industry all but stopped so there’s hardly any work out there so if i do by some off chance actually get a call i’m for sure gonna jump on it i mean i have to right so this past three weeks i’m like completely nervous about not having the car and worrying about it every day i mean it turned out i didn’t get any calls anyway


but still it was just to have that worry on top of everything else that’s why you know i was trying like everything to get it working oh man i got a new battery and my friend was tightening the belts and all yeah i know it was a bit of a scene i’m sorry about all the commotion that day he’s really ok he’s sort of my ex i guess and he knows a lot about cars and all but he gets kind of excited sometimes but he means no harm i mean we’re still friends and all he’s kind of an ex and we talk a lot and help each other out when we can but anyway you know i guess we did get kind of loud that afternoon and out in the street and all but it really is all cool like i say he’s a good friend he used to be my boyfriend so i say he’s kind of like an ex but since we’re still friends i just don’t like calling him my ex because that sounds like we might hate each other or something and we really don’t sorry i didn’t mean to bend your ear this long i’ll let you get back to your garden just had to get it off my chest about toyota i mean what a stupid 83

system right and then stranded all that time not knowing if i was going to get a call or not i mean it still won’t start but i’m pretty sure that’s just the battery like if it just kind of clicks when you turn the key that’s just the battery right so i guess i’ll just take that one out and take it back to autozone and tell them they sold me a bad battery i mean i’m not getting any calls anyway what’s another afternoon i mean i guess i can get the battery out i should be able to get the battery out right then i just have to figure out how to get it down to autozone but all that stuff’s easy now that i have the key i can work it out one way or another so i’ll let you get back to your garden have a good afternoon it’s gonna be ok yeah it’s gonna be fine


2 it was like the bell rang out of the blue and when i open the door he’s backing down off the porch saying bill will you come outside and sit with me for a minute i have something i need to tell you it won’t take long and i promise you it will be worth your time is nancy here could you ask her to come out too so i go in to get nanc but she’s on some zoom conference like she always is these days so i just get my mask and come out and lean against the cypress tree while he sits on the bench and he says thanks for talking to me bill thanks for your time and i say sure and he says have you seen laura lately and i say no we’ve been wondering if she’s ok i don’t think we’ve seen her since the lockdown and he says laura passed away


an hour and a half ago and i say what and he says from complications related to lung cancer and i’m standing there with my mouth open then saying but how long we didn’t know a thing and he says no one knew a thing but her brother and me that’s the way she wanted it she said people are going to ask tell them i’m not feeling well but don’t tell them i have cancer she was hospitalized the first time back in march had an operation and they thought they had it under control she was home and seemed to be doing well then suddenly just last saturday she got really bad and we took her in and they told us they could do another painful and invasive surgery but they didn’t recommend it as chances of a good outcome were extremely low and would only have a very short term effect in the best contingency so she and we for she was lucid right up until she went into 86

coma yesterday agreed to forgo the surgery and like i said yesterday she went into coma and her brother and i were sitting on either side of her each holding a hand and her hand was so cold and we were talking to her right up until the end and even though she didn’t respond i know i just had the feeling she was hearing us at least at some subconscious level but hey let me ask you would you by any chance have any use for a couple of poorly trained pit bulls because she did write down a will a few days ago and she wrote two sentences about her house and money and stuff and then two pages about the dogs and she made us swear we would find a real home for the dogs and i tell him i’m sorry but we just can’t handle two dogs of that size and he nods his head and says oh i understand 87

like i can’t take them and i say but i will ask around and at this point he finally breaks down and cries a little bit not much before he gets control of himself and settles down again and i say please let me know if there’s anything i can do if you need any help with the house or anything and he says i don’t think so the sisters are coming down from chicago and between them and her brother and me we’ll get the house in order some kind of way and then i don’t know if there will be some kind of service or something i don’t know and she didn’t say anything about that so i guess we’ll figure that out when they get here but didn’t i hear that you’ve been going to mississippi a lot lately over to the bay you know i went to school at saint stanislaus and i say no shit that must have been cool going to high school on the beach and he says 88

i loved it my parents sent me there i know the place’s reputation of course and yeah my parents sent me there because i was out of control i was a bad-ass always in trouble and fighting with my old man and they sent me there because of the discipline and i thought i would hate it but i met guys from all over the world there and you know what their discipline was strict but it was fair and i fell in love with the structure with the structured life it saved my life i’ll always have fond memories of that place and then nanc comes out onto the porch saying hey i’m sorry i was on the phone and he told the story all over again nanc standing there crying mouth agape just like me and then he had to go for there were yet more of her friends he had to visit and to tell


Ace Boggess

Old Man

The old man had credit for two bodies, but he only claimed the one.

The second, down in Florida, he swore was a frame-up. He’d been a nickeland-dime gangster back in the seventies and eighties. Did a little time in a lot of states. Minor stuff: assault and battery, brandishing, possession with intent. He took the long ride for killing a man here in West Virginia. Bar fight. He lost, got beat up pretty bad, so he waited outside in his ocean-blue Oldsmobile station wagon and, when the guy came out, he ran him over twice. He took a plea deal that earned life with mercy, figuring he could see the Parole Board in fifteen years. That was thirty years ago, twenty-eight since his brief extradition to Florida where the State found him guilty of a straight-up shooting which he proclaimed loudly and often that he didn’t do. He’d been fighting the conviction ever since, filing appeals and motions of various sorts in both Florida and federal courts. Until he cleared his name on that charge, he said, he’d never go before the Parole Board here, knowing parole here meant he’d be processed on the detainer and shipped down south, and, as he put it, “Florida prison’s ten times the ugly and only half the fun.” Alfred Barlow looked somewhat shark-like with his silver hair slicked back and his inward-sloping face. The cheeks were taut, surprising for a man of seventy-one. Those cheeks smelled of whatever cologne he could rub on his skin from insert cards in magazines like Maxim or GQ—anything he could get his hands on. His body hunched forward from all the wear and tear of prison life, his khaki shirt always billowing in front as if he were hiding a kitten inside. Even so, the only parts of him that showed his age were his hands. The fingers were long, twisted twigs, knotty and arthritic. But that was deceptive. Those hands could do incredible things. “Mr. Barlow,” the first C.O. said, while the second patted the old man down. Inmates were checked for contraband every time they entered or exited the music room. “Jeffers,” the old man said. “How’s the wife?”


“At home, thank God.” “I hear you.” The old man smirked and snorted. “You have fun, now. We’ll be listening over the box.” “Maybe I’ll play you a song.” “Long as it’s not ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’” said C.O. Johnson, who’d moved on to patting down me and the other two men. “Oh, Johnson, for you I’d have to play ‘Soft Touch’ by George Harrison.” “Funny, Mr. Barlow.” C.O. Jeffers said, “All right, in you go.” He spoke a few words into his walkie and the door buzzed open. The music room was barely bigger than a six-man cell. Its white-painted cinderblock walls put off a chill that started our bodies shivering as if ready to dance or jam or preach. Closed off most of the time, the place smelled of rust and bleach—overpowering. Its furnishings included half a dozen hard-backed blue plastic chairs, a round table on which folders of pages lay scattered—each containing chord charts printed off the internet—and a steel cabinet in which the instruments were stored. There were four of us that went to the music room every Tuesday, our POD’s night: the old man, Jack, Clarksburg, and me. We shared two beat-up amber Martin acoustics, one of which had a broken peg—the B—and wouldn’t stay in tune. For the most part, three of us passed around the busted guitar, noodling or pretending while Al performed a two-hour solo concert on the good one. The old man could play, and we welcomed the brief escape from our lives to listen. He made that guitar do whatever he wanted. Clapton, check. Jimmy Page, check. Eddie Van Halen, yawning check. Anything the three of us threw at him, Al could do, his wizened fingers slipping along the frets like crickets bouncing around so fast we didn’t see where they went before they were gone again. If one of us suggested something the old man hadn’t heard, a CD would be secretly handed off against the prison rules, and Al would listen to it for a few days before music night when he’d pull the song out of the air like a magic trick. Piano songs? He transcribed them in his head. One of us jokingly suggested a rap that had no discernible guitar part, and he came in the next week ready to rock the bass riff. 91

The guards loved his music so much that they didn’t hassle the rest of us for not really playing. They’d listen over the speaker box, and sometimes we’d hear the metallic sound of clapping. The guards rarely made requests, though. Once a sarcastic C.O. shouted over the box, “Play ‘Free Bird!’” and was left speechless after the old man did. “What’s it to be tonight?” Al asked us. “Anything you want to hear?” Clarksburg said, “I’m in the mood for country-western.” Jack and I groaned. “Aren’t you always?” I said. “Well, what do you want to hear, Potts? Mozart?” That was a common misconception about me. I was in for embezzlement, so the other cons thought I must have been a higher class of criminal. They didn’t understand that the money I stole came from the Pizza Palace where I worked as a driver, and all of it went to buy Oxycontins and Lortabs. I made a poor example of a white-collar criminal, and besides, I preferred classic rock. “Do that one you always do, the one you love so much,” I said. “I feel that one when you play it.” Al nodded. He knew which one I meant. He had two favorite songs, one of which was Neil Young’s “Old Man.” The old man could play “Old Man” as if it were the younger him singing to his current self, filled with soul and hurt and sadness like the blues, except written by a Canadian. He fretted and plucked, danced on the strings, and fell to pieces, his eyes fighting back tears that sometimes found their way out. It was a beautiful rendition, better than the Neil Young version in the same way Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” surpassed the original by Nine Inch Nails. “I can do that,” the old man said, warming up his fingers with a couple practice runs. Jack said, “Good tune, man.” “Clarksburg added, “Let Jack sing it, though. Good as you are, you can’t sing for shit.” He said it with a grin—a playful jab. Likewise, the old man smiled as he added, “You realize I know how to make a shiv out of a toothbrush, right?” He did, too. Al had a lot of time under his belt. He could make a shank 92

from a tightly-folded piece of paper or any kind of scrap metal he found. He said he even learned how to make a zip gun out of a pen with a spring in it—he never had, but he could if the need arose. He also knew less violent convict things like how to light a cigarette with batteries and razorblades, how to make fishing line with string and a shoe to trade goods between locked cells at night, and how to craft suckers from Jolly Ranchers, Tootsie Rolls, and Q-tips, using boiling water and the fingers of purloined latex gloves. His threats were light-hearted, but genuine. Better for everyone that he could take some good-natured ribbing. A lot of cons couldn’t. Fights broke out often over a little slick wit, a game of cards, an inmate watching the wrong thing on TV or talking too long on the phone while others were waiting. The old man had seen it all: stabbings, hammerings with socks full of soap or batteries, even a guy getting his face melted off with boiling water and hair grease. It had been a long thirty years for Al. He started off at the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville until it closed back in the nineties. The rest of us, he said, were lucky we never experienced that place. From there, he went to Mount Olive, Huttonsville, and St. Marys, before ending up at Boone Country Correctional. Medium Security. He considered that a slight as if he weren’t dangerous at his age. I hoped he’d never have to prove that notion wrong. The DOC sent him here as the last stop on his journey. There was no farther down in the system he could go, his murder conviction and detainer from Florida preventing him from being shipped to a minimum-security facility or work-release center. He stayed out of trouble here. Nobody bothered him, and his biggest stress was going to medical every night to get his sugar checked, with the occasional insulin shot. He worked in the kitchen and was permitted to play guitar once a week. The nurses in medical always pricked the fingers of his right hand to draw a drop of blood for sugar tests, his left being too difficult because of all the callouses. Al played with true ferocity tonight. The songs flowed from his fingers like static, skipping and arcing, shocking and making the hair on his arms stand up. He ran through “Cocaine,” “Helter Skelter,” “Shine On You Crazy 93

Diamond,” and “Superstitious.” Jack said, “Play Parliament,” so he brought the funk acoustic-style with “Flashlight.” He gave Clarksburg his countrywestern, bellowing along with the chords to “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” for which his weary, crackling voice seemed to add another layer. He even played “Paint It Black” for me because he knew I loved it and would join in. When a C.O. came over the box and gave us the five-minute warning, we groaned, but also started to cry a little, anxiously wiping our eyes with our sleeves, hoping the others wouldn’t notice. We knew what song the old man would finish with: “I’ll Fly Away,” traditional. It was a hopeful song filled with religious joy and talk of escaping prison bars, but also a song about death. We associated it with funerals where all three of us had heard it played for lost family members as if a prophecy we doubted would come true. Al picked it every time to end the night. It was his other favorite, the one that carried him back to silence. He understood what the future held for him. He’d never beat his case in Florida, so he’d never take parole here. That meant he wasn’t leaving this building unless the Governor granted him clemency, and with no family left on the outside to ask for it, Al felt pretty safe in the realization that he would die here. Maybe it would be old age, or maybe the diabetes would get him because of all the sodas and candy bars he bought from the commissary. Either way, he’d play his last song in here, and he wanted it to be this one. It said all that needed said while he awaited his day of freedom with no more cold, iron shackles on his feet.


Laurinda Lind

Two Poems New Rites One old rite rigged to blow off like a burglar alarm was when you were betrayed out in daylight, your clear collapse spelled in signs still hard to see under the sun yet soluble as aspirin, as if suspended in sudden rye. But in the new rite though you don’t swallow it, you’ll still be a priest who kneels alone in the cold where any moon might fill you, leave you healed, if emptyhanded.


Lacking the Knack Pardon me when I’m with you cows walk out of my mouth giant throatstones stand in for the things I say or trouble them like inside-out tongues excuse me I see you’re okay until I come out like sloths in my sleep or I am dense as if pushing potatoes through the ducts in my eyes during droughts where all roots fail though they keep reaching into nice people like you like a few dozen natural disasters.


Milton Ehrlich

Two Poems The Return of the Inquisition A teen-age boy and his parents attend a Farmer’s Market. The boy’s arms are tightly bound in a homemade straightjacket adorned with the label AUTISM. Only the twitching fingers of his hands protrude. He stands alone on a corner— talking to himself, waiting like a dog tied up in a leash in an agitated state waiting for his parents to finish shopping. He comforts himself with Torquemada-like fantasies of revenge.


The Apple of His Eye When her husband throws his wedding ring across their bedroom floor, she knows the marriage is over. She returns to school and goes apple picking in October with a friendly classmate. When she falls from the tree and breaks her right arm. he knows she will be his. He takes care of her like an army medic until an ambulance arrives. Love blooms in a plaster cast. He becomes her right arm. When fully healed she envelops him with love.


Richard Krohn

From slavery you first get sea, human layers, months of rave, mouths of slaver, then sale after they vary the levy. You see early how to save yourself, hide sly glare, be all ears, seal lips, have very little to say that’s real except “ya suh” as you toil in leas and vales to slay his veal and serve him ales. Yet you refuse to unravel, instead rely on rays of faith that you relay, praying to salve the skin these years still cut and sear.


Harry Moore

That’s Not All < IE base *al-, *ol-, beyond, exceeding

We think we know all, four chairs at the breakfast table, nine dead in the mining accident, twelve apostles, some 7.5 billion souls on earth, seven days in a week, gleeful laughter in a child’s voice. But we are only coloring within lines, playing in our own yard or the neighbor’s. There’s always more than we can say, never all, beyond which there is nothing. How many stars? galaxies? universes? How many light-years to the edge? How many days before our sun is wispy ash? How much pain can we endure, how many times be forgiven? All always exceeds itself—another mile, one more chair at the table, another stroke that shocks our frame, one more kiss, joy past all we hoped for. Last, after all, is merely latest.


Autumn Hayes

Two Poems what freedom, or if not pterodactyls near the shallow west facing vestibule where james earl ray or someone who touched him swaddled his guns his scopes his sights if there is a difference in an old rough blanket and left us to find them way down low like that infant murderer turned liberator to be moses a berry of a blackgirl strange sugared with neon green lace bra the only guard between heartbeat and wind flexible wires dippering under ripe hope and raisined damns to give out for the world and electric fuschia pants poses with her high

round ass


toward some manstrange blank eyed camera glares over her just so firm vaseline polished right shoulder so her glistening tracks spiral like a staircase made of freshly waxed ropes to hell isnt this what freedom looks like trying to balance the bodys beams and walls to freeze

them attractively against each other so someone will let you be a model a living statue for all the blackgirls who never see anything but eyes the color of new dollars paper bagcolored skin electrifying the bluessoaked corners 102

of the worlds we stand in and still dare to dream we can change who hasnt held or killed a dream tiptoed down a well pedicured hill toward a well preserved and infamous motel in lime green plastic heels that make us place carefully toes and balls of feet and angle decidedly modern torsos forward elbows out into the jagged memphis blow so we resemble nothing if not pterodactyls carefully feeling with the oncesoft pads of our feet for just the right run way to take flight


broken across the white space and frazzled wire less air, i come like a good dark girl, dangerously close to being transformed into a paradigm or a pun. what rhymes with no one has ever loved you but you think means no one will ever love you like they’d remember to love someone a little more or less whatever you are. this is not a riddle. this is a life someone lives in the indentation before you begin to speak


Kathleen McCann

The Light of Home —for the people of Syria

Each year the vast migrations of birds make their way across the perilous skies. Odysseus, like clockwork spring and fall, returns to new students, Argos, old faithful; Penelope, as well to her bright beads, the hours. To make it home…Everything. Daily crossings, thresholds to the familiar: an alleyway, cat on a stoop, cattails in the reeds, a gull on the wind.


Gerry Sloan

Two Poems Squatters Carpenter bees are back reconnoitering my deck, bare 2X4s irresistible. Already I find two thumb-sized holes workers have bored to castle their queen. I keep an aerosol can of WD-40 on hand to dissuade them, not without a twinge of guilt for interfering with their life cycle, a squatter here myself on this suburban hillside, aware increasingly that all things made are kissed by entropy.


A Sense of Place Seven Hills another name for Fayetteville, christened for French general Lafayette who freed us from the net of British rule– a landscape falling away in all directions, touching the cusp of the Great Plains in this place where I chose to remain for half a century. Why here, you ask, why the hardscrabble truck-farming supplemented by hunting and fishing instead of the luxurious plantation life of the Delta? Maybe for healing springs or to escape summer heat and malaria. Ridgerunners, we were labeled in the past, neither the first ones here, nor the last.


Bonnie Noonan

Back in Time (Fried Bologna)

In my apartment, I have a large, green and gold overstuffed chair I’ve

lugged around from one place to the next for fourteen, maybe fifteen years. I found it at a Goodwill store after someone must have gotten tired of it, which I haven’t yet, maybe won’t ever, even though my cat’s ripped up the front and the sides of it—well, most of it actually—to shreds. I have a beige Danish modern type sofa that an old lover—actually she was rather young—spilled a whole cup of coffee on the morning after we’d slept together for the very first time. We had a good laugh about that, still do, since the sofa was the newest piece of furniture I had in the house. .




I have a lot of photographs tacked up here and there, one of which is of my little cat Steven when she was just a kitten and another is a faded color shot of me and a special friend from my childhood playing in a large, red and yellow cardboard store my parents had bought me for my birthday. In the photo, my friend—his name was Greg—must be, what, seven? And I’m eight? Ten? Greg is tiny, plump, and cute standing outside the store in his stiff, straight-legged blue jeans cuffed almost halfway up to his knees, his turquoise and black striped long-sleeved T-shirt, and his short, almost shaved little haircut. I look more awkward, gangly, in a plaid flannel shirt, my hair pulled back in a ponytail, and my straight, short bangs quite a bit longer on the right than on the left. I look like I could have grown up to be pretty (I didn’t). I’m wearing dark blue jeans like Greg’s, but mine, of course, zip up the side, and have a blue and red plaid flannel lining that only shows where you roll up the cuffs and on the edges of the little slanted side pockets, none of which you can actually see in the photograph, however, because I am sitting down inside of the store, but I imagine that’s what I am wearing because I particularly


remember that soft flannel lining. I suppose it is my mother who has taken the picture, and in a sense Greg and I have posed for her, looking as children as if we already know how to act like adults. I am acting as the proprietor, selling Greg an empty box of raisins and one of the cans of soup or beans or spinach or tomato sauce which my mother emptied out from the bottom and scrubbed clean so I could stack them right side up on the red cardboard shelves lining the inside of the store. Greg peruses the can with concern while I sit looking serious, staring straight at the camera. Behind us, I see my mother’s beautiful rosebush leaning up against the side of our house. Not blooming yet, its green strands wind and twine up the intricate white wooden trellis my father made for her in his workshop out in the garage. . . . . Our house was in a wonderful neighborhood. The whole street was bordered on the left by a large wilderness area called the Parkway Commission. In the front of the Parkway Commission—which was actually just a very large garden where the city grew all of its trees—was a huge duck pond with a mysterious island at the center and bushes and reeds and trees all around it. On either side of the winding road that led from the duck pond back to our houses, were clumps and clumps of cattail bushes—twenty or thirty of them maybe—their white feathery crests perpetually waving over lush circles of green stalks. At the end of the winding road of cattail clumps was a graveyard that ran along the backyards of the houses along the right side of the street. This graveyard was a nice enough graveyard during the day, but pretty scary at night before my mother learned how to drive and my father was working out of town pulling up tree stumps or out drinking Gin Rickeys, or maybe we didn’t know where he was and she and I had to get home from wherever we’d gone. Maybe we had gone to the movies and he was supposed to pick us up, but he hadn’t, and we would take the long walk home down the dark, winding road with the cattail clumps. 109

Sometimes instead we would take the short cut down the narrow shell road that ran through the graveyard, hoping that the old wooden gate at the other end wouldn’t be padlocked when we got there, not that that ever worried me. I knew I could tear over the muddy graves, climb the rickety wooden fence that separated the graveyard from the rest of the neighborhood, and drop into our backyard like I did all the time during the day, but I knew that my mother wouldn’t be able to do that. “You have more to fear from the live ones than you do from the dead ones,” she would insist, and we would take hold of each other’s hands and step out into the lifeless darkness. .




I didn’t think I could survive without my mother, but sometimes I felt like running away. Where I wanted to run was deep inside the Parkway Commission that ran along the left side of the wonderful neighborhood I grew up in. How could anyone not want to run away to a garden that had a mountain of dead leaves so huge you could climb to the top of it and make soaring, spread-eagled swan dives into a mound of soft leaves down below? How could anyone not be enticed by a sprawling, undulating heap of glittering gray rocks, stretching out in a glorious vista that culminated in an island of palm trees clustered so tightly together that they seemed to have one colossal, fringed, swaying top? How could you not succumb to the bewitching lure of row after row of young, budding trees as far as the eye could see, grown to plant on neutral grounds or in parks or in any other public place in the city where you see full grown trees, their leaves the brightest, most luminous green they ever would be, trees so thin and planted in such uniform rows that from the right angle, the whole field of them could seem almost transparent? Even after my mother told me about the girls, I still thought about running away. One girl was dead, my mother (surprisingly) disclosed. She’d been murdered, her bloated, beaten body dredged out of the murky, swirling drainage canal that marked the end of the Parkway Commission. Searchers located the other girl not too far away from the canal. Face down she had


lain in the tall, untended grass right across from my glorious, glittering rock pile. Her skirt had been pushed up around her waist. Blood oozed through holes in the back of her blouse. She had been stabbed in the spine and would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. My mother showed me pictures of both of the girls—probably their junior high school photos—that had been printed on the front page of the daily newspaper. “See?” she said. Or is that my own photo I’m remembering? One Saturday morning I packed up my Gilbert Chemistry Set—not the Gilbert Lab Technician Set for Girls, but a real, full-fledged chemistry set with which hundreds of experiments were possible—and ran across the street to my little friend Greg’s house so we could test out a scale model of the rocketship we were building to take us to Mars. Suddenly Greg suggested (rather nonchalantly, I must say) that we spend the rest of the day back in the Parkway Commission. While he packed white bread and bologna into an army green knapsack, I raced home to grab my Girl Scout mess kit and sneak back to his house before my mother found out what I was doing, but I wondered, while he and I stood in his kitchen stirring scoopfuls of sugar into a pitcher of ice-cold strawberry Kool Aid, hadn’t anyone told him about the girls? Greg’s knapsack looped to his back, my mess kit belted around my waist, the two of us jumped the long, shallow ditch that ran behind his back yard, scrambled up the bank on the other side, and disappeared into rows and rows of slender, willowy saplings. Greg stretched his arms out wide. I stared upward as we zigged and zagged through the trees, peering through translucent leaves into the crisp, clear blue of the sky, and then Greg says—I’ve never forgotten this—Greg says, “I love you.” Greg didn’t look back when he said it; he just tromped on like he was having the greatest day of his life. He must have been waiting for me to say something, and I knew I was supposed to say something, but how does one respond to a statement like that? The two of us continued on silently (self-consciously?) past the mountain of dead leaves, over the palm tree island, and finally got to the rock pile and decided to fix lunch.


We navigated our way into the centermost part of the rock pile, and Greg dug a pit about a foot in diameter, filled it with dry branches and twigs, started a fire with a match he pulled out of his pocket, and asked me to hand him the frying pan from my mess kit. While he held the pan over the pit, I pulled a thin round slab of bologna out of the knapsack. Crouched at Greg’s side, I stared with great concentration as one flat slab of bologna then another metamorphosed into a huge bubble at the center of the hot pan, then curled up and crisped brown around the edges before we carefully placed them between soft slices of white bread. My first taste of sizzling hot bologna fried on a rock pile by a carefree little friend who has just said he loved me is immediately, stunningly delicious, I remember, as I sit here in the dusky light of a fall evening in my tattered green and gold overstuffed chair, savoring a long-ago sandwich and tasting the memory of sweet, cold strawberry Kool-Aid I once sipped from a tiny tin cup. Suddenly, I feel afraid. I feel afraid to dart over graves where people have been buried right in the ground. I feel afraid to make swan dives off a huge mountain of dead leaves even though I know the mounds of leaves down below are quite soft. I feel afraid to disappear into quiet, still rows of mysterious trees, where bad people can hide and do terrible things, so I position myself in an open area of grass right across from the rock pile where I feel more secure and can see myself and my little friend Greg much more clearly. Still tiny, plump and cute, Greg huddles over our campfire, prodding it with a stick. I catch just a glimpse of the blue and red plaid flannel lining on the edges of the slanted side pockets of my girl jeans as I crouch down in the tall grass and lean forward. “You’re going to be okay,” I reassure this ten-year-old girl walking such a delicate line between saplings and corpses, but she looks at me warily now as I lurk here in the untended grass by the side of a drainage canal, gazing over a glittering rock pile, peering into an island of palm trees, savoring the taste of hot fried bologna, preparing to leap off a mountain of leaves. “We can live here forever,” I tell her, as our eyes open in wonder. 112

Yun Wang

Five Poems by Li Bai (701-762AD), translated by Yun Wang Visiting the Taoist in Daitian Mountain Without Finding Him A dog barks through water sounds Peach blossoms glow with dew The forest deepens with an occasional deer A noon stream sparkles no sound of temple bells Wild bamboo penetrates blue haze A waterfall hangs on a jade peak No one knows where the Taoist has gone I could only lean on two or three pines

Li Bai wrote this poem before 720 AD, when he secluded in the Daitian Moumtain in Sichuan Province. He was eighteen or nineteen years old.


Farewell at the Port Beyond Thistle Gate Mountain At a remote port beyond the Thistle Gate A traveler wanders the ancient Kingdom of Chu Mountains vanish suddenly an open field The river plunges into a vast wilderness The moon casts a celestial mirror in the water Clouds rise weave mirages of oceanic terraces Tugging on me are the currents from home Journeyed ten thousand li to see off my boat

Li Bai wrote this around 724 A.D., when he left his home to travel extensively for the first time by sailing east down the Yangtze River. The Thistle Gate Mountain divides the Kingdom of Shu (Sichuan Province) and the Kingdom of Chu (Hubei Province). The “currents from home” refer to the Yangtze River water from Sichuan, where Li Bai’s hometown was.

Sighting Heaven’s Gate Mountain The Chu River smashed open Heaven’s Gate Eastbound jade water rushes here to bend into vortexes Two blue ridges rise from two shores to face each other A lone sail approaches from the edge of the sun

Li Bai wrote this poem in 725 A.D., during his first long journey away from home. Heaven’s Gate Mountain is in Dangtu in Anhui Province. Chu River is the Yangtze in the domain of the ancient Kingdom of Chu, including Dangtu.


Watching the Waterfall in the Lu Mountains The sun kindles purple smoke on Incense Burner Peak A distant waterfall hangs a river on the cliff face The stream plummets three thousand feet in flight Has the Milky Way fallen through the nine heavens

Li Bai wrote this poem in 725 AD. Incense Burner is a peak in the Lu Mountains. The ancient Chinese believed that the sky is divided into nine layers, the nine heavens.

Climbing Yueyang Tower with Xia Twelve The tower’s view spans all of Yueyang The river journeys to boundless Dongting Geese have guided away gloom The mountain’s mouth holds a perfect moon I can make my bed here among clouds Receive the wine cup passed from Heaven Already drunk as a cold wind begins Blows my sleeves into a swirling dance

Li Bai wrote this poem in 759 AD, after he was released from exile and traveled to Yueyang near the Dongting Lake. Xia Twelve was a friend of Li Bai’s.


Ronald Dorris

The Whisper of Something Mysterious: Review of Shadows of the Omuroi by Sim Shattuck SarmBooks, 2017

Written by Sim Shattuck, Shadows of the Omuroi is a novel published

by SarmBooks in 2017. Given ingenuity and variety in design of the work, Shattuck’s presentation can be examined relative to a frame story, a literary technique that serves as a companion feature to a story and/or stories within a story. Relative to this design, an introductory or main narrative sets the stage either for additional narratives, or for a set of shorter stories. The frame story in Omuroi spotlights the principal character Grigori as protagonist who miraculously is saved from World War II by both abduction and salvation. Three narratives add fuel to the frame story: the wraiths; Gregori’s family; and Gregori’s relocation to the USA as his adopted home once the war ends. There are writers who contend that between the opening line and the closing line of a work lies the substance of what is delivered, whether intentional or non-intentional. The opening line of Omuroi declares, “A wind whispered something mysterious through my window” (1). The closing line evokes, “Do I have to live with this mystery for the rest of my life?” (252). Given Shattuck’s novel is framed between the opening and closing line, it is speculative if a reader or audience may be able to shed the mystery. Although billed as a novel, Omuroi does not adhere to conventional chapters that frame a narrative, but to sketches. Unlike chapters, no sketch is numbered, and nearly all titles bear the name of a character, event, place, year, and adheres to autobiography and biography. None of the continual sketches are subdivided into sections, and nearly all are short. The opening sketch in Omuroi is titled Grigori, 1942. The protagonist is presented in the realm of the living, given the knock on his door by his mother


who says to him, “Time to rise and shine!” (1). This 4-page sketch spotlights Grigori helping his mother in the garden. His father is dead, but the son has modest employment of some importance to the government. Later in the park today, he briefly runs into Mariya Fedorovna, a childhood schoolmate. The following morning, as Grigori and his mother sit in the kitchen for breakfast, “A stunned sounding radio announcer claims that German Nazi troops were gathering near the line that separated German Poland from Russian Poland, and suddenly our world seemed to be turned upside down….All joy ended on June 22, 1941. Hitler invaded the rest of Poland and Russia” (4). The next sketch in Shattuck’s book—Gregori, 20 May, 1970, Chicago, Illinois—is a twenty-nine year leap that shifts to confessional autobiography. The opening line in this accelerated detour informs, “I must start this confession with its most potent admission: I failed to carry out the task my captors wanted me to complete….In writing now, I show at least some personal honor by admitting my failure, my lack of judgment” (5). There are those writers and critics who contend that the confessional memoir is disreputable. They tend to dismiss this form of writing as the equivalent to taking one’s own portrait, a see-me-seeing-myself snapshot, ego-trip upholding self-glorification. At this moment in the novel, Shattuck reorients design to sell the reader and audience on Gregori as protagonist honestly buying into telling and sharing his own story. Gregori implores, “Fantastical though my story seems, I must ask you to credit it even in the absence of hard evidence, though I feel that one day my claims will be borne out. Until that day you have only my word to sustain your credence and interest.” (5). Now we are confronted with taking the protagonist at face value, or his creator at face value. Gregori as protagonist will need to present more than a confession to sell us on blindly buying into Omuroi. Otherwise, we may not have any foundation on which to stand to engage Shattuck’s work. In the Chicago sketch, the protagonist begins to frame himself in the context of his own life. “My name is Grigori Petrovich Damirov….I was born just in time to fight in the bloodiest, cruelest war ever fought. The war between Hitler and Stalin…two powerful psychopaths and the insanity of their governments…. On a personal level, every boy and man in my regiment that I know is long 117

dead. Many did not live long enough to have sex, get drunk, get married or have children” (6). At this juncture in the novel, Shattuck inserts World War II as antagonist that generates a crisis for Gregori as protagonist. The war plucked children from the playing fields to the killing fields minus any clear explanation about international annihilation other than wholesale slaughter for innocents to demonstrate the abstract ideal of patriotism as well as love for their country. Grigori has been sent by Russia to fight against Germany where immediately two of his age-set fallen comrades “were left to rot in the cowyards and farms of the west bank of the Volga River” (6). Kolya was the first not to return from a reconnaissance and, with an empty vodka bottle in his hand, Mitya was found frozen under a broken ash tree. In his dreams, Gregori’s comrades ask why he is still alive. He informs: “I try to tell them, I didn’t desert you. I was abducted!… I was at the moment of dying when I was saved, almost miraculously. It was both an abduction and a salvation” (7). Here Shattuck’s protagonist embraces that which is reflexive. As confessor aligned against the intensity of the war as antagonist, he begins to see others seeing him; see himself seeing others see him; and to see himself. His inroad relative to confessional autobiography moves him to acknowledge his own failure and lack of judgment. On the threshold of death in a cold cave after his two age-set comrades do not return, Grigori is abducted by two men and one woman—Seth, Ambrose, and Filena. He is cleaned up and allowed to rest for several days. When he opens his eyes, the woman speaks to him. “We are nightwraiths. We were once as human as you, and then we were bitten…We became upiri….We were vampires….No one knows about wraiths….We became nightwraiths, as all vampires do, if they survive for a thousand years. Few do. It’s a shock, but we stop feeding on blood and kill only in self-defense” (13). Two weeks later, ready to transport Grigori to another realm, the wraiths lift him in a cage of rope and hoist him into the air with their flying bodies. They journey toward Namibia, their place of inhabitance along the shore of Southwest Africa. Given no one knows about wraiths, and that they have been dead for thousands of years, Shattuck’s novel lifts Grigori for further transport from 118

one point of origin to the next by non-time travelers who can only maneuver through darkness or they will burn up in sunlight. This transport of Grigori as a conventional character is now overshadowed and enveloped by and within the world of the dead. Of course, given that he is a fictional character in a literary work, and that Grigori already has tried to convince us that he is telling a real story, progression in Shattuck’s novel proceeds because dead non-characters are able to speak to a fictional character and vice versa. The wraiths need help from Grigori but, to get it, he will have to learn to guide and to lead himself. Set, Ambrose, and Filena each live in their own obelisk. Grigori asks Set why they cannot build something to shield their obelisks in which they live from being seen, or fortify their machines from burning up and themselves in the process. To weigh participation in the help they need from him, Grigori proposes the key question to see if the wraiths will inform about his principal assignment: “Ugh, there is something I want to know. Ambrose mentioned a fourth obelisk. I’m an observant man, Mistress Filena. If this fourth obelisk exists, it has something to do with me.’” Suddenly I had created a subtle power shift. I knew something they did not want me to know, and I could see it in their body language” (100). In this one powerful key question, the script that is Omuroi is flipped. Gregori escapes the shadow and control of the world of the dead by reinstating himself as a conventional character in the world of the living, and to continue telling his own story. Likewise, Shattuck demonstrates that he retains design and command of his frame story in his own novel. The dead do not have body language. Both Gregori and Shattuck have now brought the wraiths to life. If they want to go forward, they will have to operate equally in the world of the living. Set breaks the concealed barrier of silence among the three wraiths and speaks. “The fourth obelisk still lies beneath the ocean’s waters. We can retrieve it at any time. Mechanically it is a marvel of engineering….In essence…the fourth obelisk is an earth-escaping device designed to leave this planet….Our fuel is of our own design, but we failed to see a problem. The fuel can be used to power space flight and we have enough to go where we please. The problem is that it must be mixed in the presence of sunlight, a 119

commodity that shows itself impossible for us to expose ourselves to. You, Grigori, must mix it and then put it into the fuel tanks of the fourth obelisk” (101). Shattuck inserts clues throughout the novel. Such clues spark the imagination of the reader to understand homework at hand for those interested in launching their respective project with the aim to penetrate mystery. Grigori’s reinstatment of self as a conventional character who continues to tell his own story in the world of the living as he confronts death reasserts international war as the antagonist in Omuroi. So much of what has seemed a mystery up to this point in Shattuck’s novel now begins to move full course ahead with clarity. During World War II, use of plutonium and uranium would give rise to weaponry Earth had never seen before. On the USA side of the Atlantic Ocean, the Manhattan project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons on planet Earth. The program began in 1937 and grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly two billion dollars (23 billion in 1918 dollars). Research and production took place at more than 30 sites across the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Now the reader is able to see further intensity of the ongoing war as intensity against which Grigori begins to analyze. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the Wehrmart was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935-1943, consisting of the Herr (army), the Kriegmarine (navy), and Luftwaffe (air force). The Wehrmacht replaced the previously used term Reichwehr, and was manifestation of the Nazi regime’s efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted. Given Wehrmacht in the forefront of research and weaponry production, Germany launched from Peunemunde the first manmade rocket to cross what was defined as the Karman line—leaving the orbit of planet Earth. Pennemunde is a municipality on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom in the Varpommerern Greifswald district in Mecklenburg—Varpommern, GERMANY, and is part of the Amt of Usedom-Nord. Pennemunde Army Research Centre was found here in 1937 as one of five military proving grounds. On 20 June 1944, the vertical test launch—V-2 Rocket (MW 18014) 120

that took place at Peunemunde Army Research Center crossed the Karman line as the first spaceflight in history by attaining an apogee of 176 kilometers (62 miles above mean sea level). The wraiths magically have transported Gregori to Southwest Africa to Namibia, a place rich with gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, and base metals. In Namibia, “The elders shuddered and called the wraiths the Omuroi, the legendary desert witches who flew by night on their secret and terrible tasks. Everyone believed in them but few had seen them” (140). Now seated in discourse with Grigori in their presence are Set, Ambrose, and Filena, simultaneously immersed in discourse as the living and the dead. Revelation of research among the three wraiths and connected to Namibia is uttered by Set. “When we tested it, I could stand almost below zero Fahrenheit with no lasting effects. The both of you could do it, too” (74), The discourse Filena earlier had exchanged with Gregori now comes full circle. “But here is what you do not know: in time, nothing matters. Within 120 years, no one but historians will remember this war, and its terrors and triumphs will mean no more to the living than does Seth’s pharaoh. You think that great human effort can achieve miracles, and in a way it can. But your existence compared with ours is that of a flea to a tortoise [permanence is change; change is permanence], or even shorter. You cannot see the whole perspective of the world and your place in it. And there is a reason for that,” she said (60). At this moment in the novel the dead had given Grigori an inroad to see himself and whether or not he would develop his own character. Grigori had begged Filena to tell him the reason why he could not see the whole perspective, but she had refused. “Her words scalded my ears. To feel so tiny, so worthless in the scheme of all things! But in a sense, didn’t I know that already” (61), Grigori further had implored. “If I am so small and worth nothing in the scheme of things, why did you save me? Why did you take me from my people, my way, and my death? Tell me Mistress Filena. I am tired of waiting. Tell me.” (62) Ambrose had responded: “No transcendent reason exists for anything, Grigori. Things just happen, and we must all rummage through the hands we’ve been dealt” (63) Eventually learning that it is he who had been dead to himself, Gregori 121

learns to give himself something for which to live by adding choice to his development as a human being. He could have refused to help the wraiths who had helped him, eventually leaving them to fend for themselves as they someday could be destroyed by heat/light on Earth. They had studied other worlds, and felt that their chance for a new beginning was to leave Earth. Grigori reflects: I pondered my situation as I descended through darkness of the obelisk’s interior. I could go home, but most of my family had to be dead. They almost certainly would be dead, but even if they were not, how would I explain my disappearance without getting a court martial? I’d be shot by Chuikov or SMERSH, Stalin’s secret service, immediately” (104). Gregori is rewarded for his service to life in the face of death. When the war is over, he relocates to the United States of America as his new home. He brings back with him a gift from each of the wraiths. Seth: “Here is a vial of blood. If you choose to live and never die, all you need to do is drink it. All of it. You would be smart, then, never to touch or drink it. Eternal human life is like a dragged weight when one is walking through a desert. It is more of a burden than a privilege—but once you walk beyond that act, you can never go back” (223). Filena: “We will depend upon you to see us off shortly before dawn and settle the affairs of Seth’s monolith. And here is something from me and Ambrose,” Filene added. “They come from the volcano buried beneath the desert. It is, I believe a fortune in diamonds. You can use them for the last obelisk, or you can take them with you to the land that will let you immigrate. That is no small feat now, I’m given to understand” (223). “And here,” Ambrose said while putting a book in my hand “is a manual that contains all of our cures that we’ve discovered through the centuries. Use them judiciously, if at all. The world won’t care how they work; they’ll insist that the book be turned over. Don’t give it to anyone. You’ll discover why later. It’s crucial that no one but you reads this book.” Despite his circuitous literary journey, Shattuck’s mastery of trajectory eventually shows his delivery of a conventional character in the face of life and death as protagonist in a frame story surrounded by several narratives. Similar to the space rocket having been set up for the launch with the help of 122

Grigori for the wraiths, the frame story of Omuroi comes full circle toward the end of the novel. Not having lived by being thrust as a teenager into international war, it is Grigori who internally had died. Being abducted and saved by three wraiths as the living dead, this trinity lays out a course that propels him toward action and life. During his course of instruction, Grigori asked Filena if she slept. “She said yes, that anything that walks on earth must dream, even if that anything is dead” (79). Sim Shattuck hears and engages that question in the face of so much death in the face of social construction that can impede life on planet Earth. Omuroi shows a mind at work, involved and operative on multiple levels to bequeath to humankind the blood source, diamonds and cures that can propel and help us on our journey with all that can sustain us in the Everlasting Present. For if we say we were, we are not now. And if we say we will be, we have yet to become. Let us continue to live in the power of the Everlasting Present as we face the rising sun. In the force that is Omuroi, Sim Shattuck has the last word. Let us not cheat him of it.


Swiss McCall

Review of “I”: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019. 294 pages

Toi Derricotte’s highly-anticipated sixth collection of poetry, “I”: New

and Selected Poems, will engage new readers as well as those who have long enjoyed her work. The book’s dust jacket design, primarily monochrome and grayscale, seems a witty nod to Derricotte’s refusal to see anything as black or white. The cover features a headshot of the poet, and the “‘i’” of the book’s title is lowercased, italicized, bolded, and in quotes to resemble a thought bubble to the right of Derricotte’s head, while she wears new and selected poems on her right sleeve and her name, Toi Derricotte, just above her heart. These visual clues give the reader a sense of this project: a re-envisioning of the self through language. “I”: New and Selected Poems presents the complicated truth of the power and pain in claiming one’s voice, one’s story, one’s song. Derricotte’s poems are as transformative for the readers as they so clearly were for the author. The collection includes one hundred and thirty seven poems and six sections, which are conventionally organized with the newest poems presented first and selections from previous collections following chronologically. The poems are primarily free verse; her exquisite “Pantoum for the Broken” is a notable exception. Natural Birth and The Undertaker’s Daughter feature prose poetry. Writing primarily in first-person, Derricotte addresses the traumas she has endured, holding both contempt for the abuse and love for the abuser, embracing duality and complexity, and combatting silence expected in abusive relationships. Derricotte’s poetry considers familial trauma inflicted by her father and her grandmother, familial and societal colorism, racism, exclusion, identity, gender roles, and sexuality. Though new and older poems feature personal experiences, the newer


poems critically yet delicately treat the experiences of others as observed by Derricotte. She expresses her wonder at the human experience through personal lyrics that address polarizing topics in a way that doesn’t exclude or admonish. The book’s poem, “Speculations about ‘I,’” figuratively and syntactically reimagines “I” through a sort of mise en abyme. The first forty poems focus on the “gifts from the dead,” lessons she’s gathered from relationships with her writing, her family, and her literary influences. She calls on lessons she’s learned from the great ancestors Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde, and Naomi Long Madgett, to name a few. Derricotte’s homage to these preeminent Black poets that came before her is a necessary read for every Black poet because there is no transformation of self without a knowledge of self. These poets, Derricotte included, are integral to the selfhood of Black poets and American poetry. The first section opens with the poem “After all those years of fear and raging in my poems” and ends with “‘What are you?’” Both critically examine the author’s transformation in her writing and in her selfhood. Her natural imagery gives readers “the self / breaking like a pod…to pull up the details / of cruelties that were so quickly / buried” (6). In “‘What are you?’” she explores this insensitive question and how at times she has chosen to “avoid conversations that would take / A lifetime” (52). Throughout the collection, we come to know a voice that has been allowed to change, a voice that evolves as the author does, a voice that counters yet sympathizes with those “who face the truth the first time, / but, when that truth changes, can’t do it again” (11). We read new poems like “Watching a roach give birth on YouTube, I think of Lucille Clifton meeting God,” and remember the deliberate exclusion of Black and brown voices from the canon, an exclusion that persists today. We read poems like “delivery” and others from Natural Birth in light of current anti-abortion legislation, and know that, soon again, women will be forced to have babies when they do not wish to. This collection encourages and, for many, will cause transformation both of the self and of the collective by urging readers to own every facet of their stories, expressing the trauma endured and the trauma inflicted. “I”: New and Selected Poems brings attention to 125

the singularity of Toi Derricotte’s work and reminds us of why Derricotte has been a prominent voice in poetry for over four decades.


Jeremy Tuman

Those Basin Street Blues: Review of C.W. Cannon’s Sleepytime Down South Livingston Press, 2017

What drives the strong and enduring appeal of Black American music?

Is it simply the aesthetic qualities of the music? The depth, richness, and emotion? The gutterral pull of a syncopated rhythm? The down beat? The blue note? Or is it something else, something more in the context, in the history, in a fascination with the imagined, mythologized lives of the players? Or is it something more wholly subjective, more purely projected? A draw to an art form that can only be known tangentially, in glimpses? And if so, if the appeal is solely internal, from within the listener, then what surreal, inverted truths lay within the listener’s heart? These are the questions explored by C.W. Cannon in his novel Sleepytime Down South (2017, Livingston Press) through his main character, the noted, aging jazz musician Maz Mazewski, kookie Mazooki, as he’s known to at least one peer, a vocalist named Berta Bredeaux. Even that difference, his name to a white audience from his name to a black one, is emblematic of the two worlds of black and white musicians, a theme of the novel. Maz begins his journey from a fairly stable place, that of a respected (at least formerly) white jazz musician. Within the world of jazz, where white cats who can play have always been accepted, to the extent the genre allows, is about as close as a white artist can get to black American culture. The trombonist and vocalist Jack Teagarden appears in reference at several points in the book, held up as the epitome of this proximity. Maz enjoys a comfort, a privilege, from this position (although never as close as Teagarden’s, as he laments) that lets him hold fast to his entrenched aesthetic observations, and judgements. He may not have had an artistic or commercial success in some time, his career having cooled off since its 1960s heyday, but the artistry


that had put him on the map remains intact, as does his sense of what’s cool and what’s not. On this topic, Maz offers some biting commentary in several passages throughout the book. “But the art was in the cool,” he notes. “The hot was really just a form of folk music … the raw stuff had to be taken in hand, had to be disciplined, to attain the level of art.” Thus, the arc of the story can be seen as Maz’s attempt, and ultimate failure, to do just that, to tame the hot stuff. His grounding aesthetic position contributes do his undoing. But not that his view is without merit, and along the way he dazzles with poetic readings on sounds and players he encounters. When he first hears a brass band on the street, he’s wise, knowing what regular tourists don’t, in particular noticing a young trumpet player: “The sounds were as effortless as his gait. The boy had grace. The four-note melody came out like everyday conversation. Something like, ‘Did you catch the game last night?’… The scale was almost sloppy, lazy, yet clear. Fluid. Like those wordless expressions he’d heard New Orleans people use with such precision, the ‘mmmmm’s’ and the ‘aahh’s.’” But this firm sense of how things should be, in art and in life, soon gets challenged in the heady disorienting locale of New Orleans, a place built almost entirely on myth, conflicting, contradictory, confusing, and consistently generated by its inhabitants and visitors. By the end, all Maz knows as real and truthful is upended, and he’s left as clueless about the nature of jazz as an aloha-shirted and flip-flopped tourist from Iowa, trying (and failing) to clap along with a brass band on a French Quarter corner. Along the way his art symbolically disappears, first as his horn is stolen, then as he embarrassingly delves into drunken camp and parody on stage as a vocalist. Maz’s steadily deteriorating grasp on reality doesn’t just affect his artistic sense. As the gap widens between what he knows and what he thinks he knows, he becomes more and more in danger. And the city that held the promise of an artistic kick start at the beginning of the novel, by the end threatens at every turn to devour him whole and leave no trace. But before New Orleans is done with Maz, he manages to note the beauty, power, and despair of the place in some very nice passages that indicate the author’s familiarity with, and love of, the locale. After first entering the city, 128

recalling his past visits, Maz notes that “New Orleans looked more beat up than he’d ever seen it. Charred frames of houses, fronts of houses with no backs. People lounging on brick steps that led to nowhere. So-called streets with holes and gashes in them, invalid cars, unable to drive, on four flat tires, windows all smashed out.” The juxtaposition of exquisite beauty with base poverty is familiar to anyone who has spent time in New Orleans, and Maz captures it as well when he notes a French Quarter garden through a peephole, itself “a thing of high craftsmanship, a face-sized arabesque of frilly iron, painted an ethereal powder blue.” Within, “great urns supported a range of plant life: lemon trees, ornamental pears, white and purple hibiscus, miniature azaleas. A giant rusty cistern was overgrown with some kind of lotus. Thin blades of swamp iris fanned across the border between patio and house.” Later, he riffs on the French Quarter more generally: “the Quarter had always been that way, scrunched against itself, close, breathy, but snakey, weaselly, too. You were always right next to everything but could wander all day looking for a specific point and never find it.” Also on the Quarter: “Ornate galleries brimming with plants and billowing colored fabrics. Hand-holding lovers everywhere. The waiters and kitchen staffs smoking on the narrow sidewalks, made even narrower by the trucks unloading boxes of produce, or antiques, or cases, cases, cases of beer.” Of course some of the other neighborhoods have their charms as well: “Set back from the trees, but not by far, were the lovely houses, resting high on their elevated pillars. Dressed for a ball. Frilly fascia and brackets, tall windows shuttered in purple, pink, azure, mango. A gingerbread village for hip elves. Such care for frivolity, as if naked function would be dispiriting.” But nothing about New Orleans can remain entirely positive, or even neutral, for long. And when events turn south for Maz, the setting follows: “How could New Orleanians deal with the constant obstacles? Everywhere you stepped was a turtle or a slug or a roach or a snake. A town out of control, an affront to any and all citizens who stupidly make an effort to give a damn.” The sentence-craft throughout the novel is tight and forcefull, which helps pull maximum impact from the novel’s taut 142 pages. Whether in 129

service of vivid description, of often surreal action, or of the loopy, shifting, and ultimately crumbling thoughts of the main character, Cannon’s prose feels consistently pointed, carefully considered, and rewarding. Each piece of the narrative puzzle is so well rendered that by the end, details that had seemed minor return to the reader’s mind in new light, an effect due in no small part to how singularly the details are situated within the prose, that is without unneeded verbal baggage. The elements of Maz’s fall from knowing to unknowing are all there from the start, but can only be seen as such once the final destination is reached. A second reading would reveal the sturdiness of such a structure. But this structure is no gimmick, no cheap surprise reveal, rather only a steady descent into a maelstrom. A question remains at the end of the degree to which this storm is an objective reality, whether or not it is entirely a mental projection (construction?) of Maz. But the joy for the reader is there in the journey, the steady and unavoidable unfolding, as the sections of the book move, like a record, from “Side A” to “Side B.” Within each “side” are two “tracks,” the chapters, making a total of four, thus aligning the novel’s structure with that of an old EP, or “extended play” record, a release that was more music than a two-sided single, but less than a on “long play” or LP. Four tracks were also common on even older, 78 RPM records. Thus, the structure is familiar to those who grew up purchasing and consuming music before the digital age. The chapters also share titles with jazz standards, but in this case the title isn’t just the name of a song, but a specific performance, an interpretation by a well-known artist captured on live recording, cementing the notion that of jazz as an organic, evolving, and interpretive form. It’s not just “What Is This Thing Called Love,” but also “as sung by Anita O’Day, April 19, 1958, at The Famous Door, New Orleans.” Songs aren’t just songs, singers not just singers, but rather moments, touchstones, flashpoints, which are noted, referred to, beloved, and in the end, clung to. This device introduces a key stylistic features of the novel: the use of song lyrics, mostly jazz standards culled from the classic American Songbook, within the prose. Many writers use song lyrics within their prose, but Cannon applies a fresh device. Here the lyrics form parts of the sentences, usually the ends, so that the narration slides between Maz’s thoughts and often-familiar 130

lyrics, indicated in print by italics. For example: “Everybody seemed happy. And that’s what Maz felt—happy. How unassuming and deceptively easy the mood was. It just came to one love makes me treat you the way that I do.” Sometimes the insertions are grammatical and sometimes they aren’t, which suggests the nature of Maz’s cool, constructed from years of immersion in, and performance of, widely known and adored songs. Sometimes this cool makes sense, more often intuition and not logic is the guide. Maz’s reality unfolds to the reader as at least in part imagined, maybe dreamed, similar to the main character of canon’s preceding novel, French Quarter Beautification Project. No scene is completely stable in the worlds of these characters, as mental dissolution reflects on the page as dream-like sequences of shifting locales and situations. Dark and taboo fantasies manifest, as Maz is led toward his demise by a mysterious character named Leggit, first encountered at the beginning, on the train ride down, who seems to command the ins and outs of New Orleans nightlife, and who brings to mind several well-known, larger-than-life New Orleans personalities of past and present. In the end, after music has failed Maz, language itself slips from his grasp as a useful tool with which to navigate the world. Maz’s last words in the book are two attempts at a phrase, two iterations of an idea that perhaps should never have been thought, much less spoken. Neither version lands. Neither can make a difference. Thus, the novel’s extended metaphor is resolved. Words attempt to capture a thing that perhaps cannot be held by words. But that truth is also a challenge and an opportunity, one the Cannon steps boldly into, and the reader is richly rewarded by his efforts.


Thomas Bonner, Jr.

Review of Navigate Your Stars by Jesmyn Ward. Illustrations by Gina Triplett. Scribner, 2020.

Jesmyn Ward’s Navigate Your Stars joins a list of small nonfiction books

by influential writers, including Virginia Woolf with A Room of One’s Own, John Steinbeck with On Writing, Aldous Huxley with The Doors of Perception, J.K Rowling with Very Good Lives (her speech at Harvard University), and Stephen King with Guns. Like Rowling’s book, Ward’s is a speech, which she delivered at Tulane University’s commencement in May 2018. Unlike her talk and book signing with her first novel Where the Line Bleeds in 2009, when only a handful of people came, Ward subsequently has had standingroom-only crowds for signings, readings, and talks across the United States. Two of her novels have earned National Book Awards. This little gem of a book of sixty-four unnumbered pages draws on her experiences and those that she embedded in her novels and memoir. On first looking at Ward’s book, one notices the beautifully drawn and painted cover by Gina Triplett, who renders visibly the nautical metaphor that Ward uses for her title and her narrative. Like many fine books for young readers, Triplett’s art joins the text almost equally in importance page after page as she follows the development of Ward’s essay. Of particular note are the leaves suggesting Ward’s Mississippi town and Hurricane Katrina. Readers will find that as the author makes discoveries about herself and decisions about her life, the pages explode with memorable images. Ward begins by invoking her grandmother Dorothy, “the first storyteller of my life,” whose hard life did not deter her dreams. In this warm gesture, she joins other women writers, like Kate Chopin, who benefitted from the stories and guidance of elder women family members. Ward then addresses her audience and readers, “Good morning, y’all. I want to tell you a story.” It


is a narrative rooted in the lives of her forbears, how their dreams and realities interrupted each other, and how she emerged into the person and writer she is. Education is a significant factor in the lives of her family. Her great grandfather built a one room school for her grandmother, who determined to see her own children have an education, which she hoped would free them from a life of menial jobs. Ward saw these adults, her mother’s brothers and sisters, have difficulties when they made the decision to leave school, often a choice determined by limited circumstances and racial history in the South. Ward came to realize in her adolescence that better decisions then would make a positive difference later on. The major decision was to continue her education in college. She describes her being able to go to college as “an outrageous gift.” Like her grandmother, she had the dream that college would free her from being “poor, Black, and Southern.” Ward records her efforts in college as being less effective than in high school: “the relationship between studious effort and success blurred,” but there she discovered her attraction to literature and creative writing as well as a “love for words.” In the aftermath of college, jobs were hard to find and writing presented its own difficulties. She moved home. Her brother’s death in a car crash brought her an awareness of life being hard without reason as she took the kinds of menial jobs that her family had been doing. With the encouragement of friends, she pushed on, going to New York City and then deciding to enter an M.F.A. program, realizing that “education was a lifetime undertaking” and that one had to be patient with oneself. Subsequently, her writing met rejections, but after experiencing the destruction of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast and its effects on her family, Ward responded to an inner voice, “Don’t give up.” She did not, and the rest we all know. Throughout her narrative, she emphasizes to her readers the necessity for disciplined work, passion for substance, and searching for the person who will open the door to a successful future. Ward sees life as a “tumultuous sea” that people can navigate with what they are given. In reading Navigate Your Stars, characters and events in her novels and memoir come to mind: Joshua and Christophe searching relentlessly for menial jobs in Where the Line Bleeds, the vulnerable young woman Esch in 133

Salvage the Bones, the author’s strong grandmother in Men We Reaped, and Jojo trying to be a man in Sing, Unburied, Sing. In the introduction to The Fire This Time, Ward, accordingly, ponders the future of her unborn child in the context of Trayvon Martin’s killing. The “tumultuous sea” continues in 2020 for Ward, when her husband Brandon R. Miller dies from Covid-19 as the country is wracked by the pandemic and the killing of Black men by police. In the face of all these losses, just as she endured those examined in her memoir, she presses on by writing “A Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by a Pandemic,” published in Vanity Fair (September 2020). With this small but powerful volume, Navigate Your Stars, Ward encourages others, as she has written of herself, to hope despite the burn.


Nicole Pepinster Greene

Review of Mothers of Ireland: Poems, by Julie Kane LSU Press, 2020

Julie Kane, Louisiana Poet Laureate, 2011-13,

introduces her 2020 collection of poems Mothers of Ireland with a poem written in 1973 when she was a young woman of twenty-one, a year before graduating from Cornell University. In “The Good Women,” she distances herself from the three generations of Irish American women who have preceded her, already referring to herself as the “betrayer of my race,” a theme implied throughout the collection. But Kane is far from a “betrayer,” for in this youthful poem and in this collection, published almost fifty years later, she courageously exposes the joyless moral rigor of Irish Catholicism which dominated her own life and those of her family. Yet despite this burden, she confronts her family history, dogged by the pain of emigration, poverty, repression, abuse, meanness, and abandonment, with irony, sometimes with humor, so characteristic of the writers of her “race.” A wry humor persists even in the later confessional poems, as she struggles with alcohol, promiscuity, and loss, using her favorite form, the villanelle, to stress the repetition of these demons in her life. “How habits shape of lives a villanelle, / The repetitions turned to poetry.” The poems of first section, “Ireland, Mother Ireland” invoke her ancestors, in approximate chronological order. Beginning in mid-nineteenth-century Ireland, the first two poems, villanelles both, present images of arson and eviction, famine and emigration, but they already focus on the relationship between parent and child, a theme which continues throughout the work. There’s a rueful humor in the sonnet “The One Over,” a reference to a grandmother’s alcoholic husband and the “shame” of being Irish in America. Kane uses irony in “Second Time Around” in the portrait of Minnie McCarthy


who refuses to marry a boring farmer then emigrates to America, “He followed her over on her knees / scrubbing Protestant toilets for a couple bucks a week / and proposed to her again with no resistance met.” More tragic is the fate of other emigrants, Kate and Gregory Browne, who died of the 1878 yellow fever in New Orleans; Kane searches in vain for their burial place and wonders: “What drew them of this fever-ridden port, / Far away from any relative, / Doubly displaced from Galway and the North? / I had the excuse of marrying a native.” Again with irony she reminisces on a cousin who with her family had fought for Irish independence in the 1920s. Kane contrasts their experience with her own youthful and ignorant naivete: “To think she was still alive, past ninety, when I backpacked through Ireland at twenty, / Believing that no one over thirty knew a thing about the fight for country.” In a poem about her grandparents, “Act Two: the Lynch-Spillanes,” which is among a group of four entitled “Family Dramas,” she humorously describes her grandmother’s room: “Mary on the wall… /With a holy palm frond behind the frame / Looked like a hussy with an ostrich plume.” Her grandparents have separate rooms, common practice in Ireland before birth control became widely available in 1979. Now it is her grandmother who becomes the “hussy” when Kane’s mother finds “them in the living room, / Her mother and the priest, like a bride and groom.” The second section, “A Mother’s Love, A Blessing,” ironically titles poems that explore Kane’s painful, often abusive, relationship with her mother. The poignant villanelle, “I Dreamed of Being Mothered by a Cat,” says it all. The last line of the first tercet “I’d never known a happiness like that” is repeated in the third and sixth tercet and again in the third line of the quatrain; the last line: “And something healed inside me after that.” The third section “The Cruel Mother” refers to Kane herself, and the epigram from a “Traditional Murder Ballad” is equally ominous. The first poem “Whore” has the five tercets and final quatrain of a villanelle, but there are no repeated lines, only the repetition of the title “whore.” Although the poem recounts the poet’s love affair, marriage, and divorce, it is her mother’s attitude “small-town priggish to the core” that dominates the poem. The villanelle concludes almost wittily: “Once you have heard your mother call you “whore,” / you might as well 136

be, if you weren’t before.” Other poems in this section have a poignant tone. One is addressed to the poet’s unborn child, another to a lover, and then the poet and the reader are “At the Women’s Clinic.” The following sonnet, “His Dream,” describes her lover’s dream the night before he drives her to that clinic: “he dreamed about a mouse / Clinging to a vacuum cleaner wand.” These confessional poems are sometimes carefully understated adding to the deep sadness and tangible pain of the experience. In “Coupled,” Kane meets her former lover; “a sort of family,” they are “Bound by a red silk thread to be parents of nothing forever.” The fourth and last section is titled “The Parting Glass.” Both the title and the epigram are from a very popular Irish ballad, sung at a wake, to departing emigrants, or simply at the end of a night’s revelry when the mood mellows. A rueful song, it is most effective when sung acapella. Kane omits a couplet from that ballad which might well refer to herself: “And all the harm I’ve ever done / It was alas to none but me.” The first poem, “Mornings, My Grandmother” begins innocently enough but quickly moves from her grandmother in bed, reading scripture, to the poet in bed, the morning after a night of alcohol and sex, reflecting on the absence of belief in her life. The language here is sometimes colloquial. Elsewhere, she associates herself with her alcoholic great-aunt Grace “carried out on a stretcher drunk… I carry her disease as I carry her middle name.” In “Giving Away the Liquor Bottles,” Kane returns not to an aunt or cousin but to her younger self giving away her dolls: “The hardest dolls to lose were glass, / That carton of outworn friends.” Her last confessional villanelle, “The Scream” is perhaps the most striking, with its reference to Edvard Munch, but for this reader, the poem echoes W. B Yeats’s poem, “The Coat.” In this expiation, Kane, like Yeats, has thrown off all pretense, stripped herself to the core, and is “walking naked.” She begins, “I used to have a scream stuck in my throat / No matter what I did to jam it down.” With specific detail and colloquialisms, she enumerates the ways she quelled that scream, the familiar ways of “desperation”: alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity, “Until I spoke my truth and did not choke.” In the opening poem, Kane portrays herself as the “betrayer of her race.” That was long ago, and I hope that estimation of herself has finally changed. 137

In these poems, I find not betrayal but tremendous courage. Julie Kane dedicates her volume to “the strong women before me.” Certainly, having published this testament to her life, she can be counted among their number.


Stephen Vincent Estopinal

Review of Sandy Rosenthal’s Words Whispered in Water; Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina Mango Publishing, 2020

Rosenthal’s is a not a technical book, but rather, it’s a fast-paced

documentary about a dedicated person’s journey after the greatest engineering failure in history. It is also a book that every engineer should read because within the pages is a revelation, an indictment of a blundering bureaucracy. Rosenthal describes how the United States Army Corps of Engineers failed to professionally design or test the canal flood walls that collapsed under less-than design loads during Hurricane Katrina. Through meticulous investigation, she then exposed how the Corps used its powerful public relations tools to hide its failures and shift the blame to others. As a result, the Corps learned nothing to improve their processes and continues to perform projects in the absence of meaningful review. Rosenthal attended board meetings of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East during the construction of the new flood postKatrina protection system. She observed firsthand how design comments provided by the experts on the board were routinely ignored. I––a past commissioner of the Authority East––can confirm that the many public comment and review meetings that the Corps hosted during the construction of the new system were simply for show. Major decisions were made and locked in stone before anyone outside of the Corps’ sphere of influence could contribute. The new Metropolitan New Orleans Risk Reduction System is huge, expensive, complex and has delivered a greatly increased level of protection. This was not the result of engineering innovation; it was the result of an unlimited budget. Decisions made during design and construction valued


expediency over all other considerations. Someday the system will fail. Words Whispered in Water is a must read for those engineers who have advanced to top managerial positions. It is a tutorial in the fundamentals of “why” effective oversight and peer review of major projects is vitally important. It is an indictment of the concept that big organizations are always competent and can be relied upon to provide their own quality assessment and control.


Alena Cover

Review of Love Behind Bars: The True Story of an American Prisoner’s Wife​ by Jodie Sinclair Arcade, 2020

In 1981, a reporter for WAFB Channel 9 in Baton Rouge was sent to

the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for a five-part series on the death penalty. Inside the prison, a man stood next to the electric chair in blue jeans and a denim jacket, confident and calm, and she weakened at the sight of him. A year later, they were married. Jodie Sinclair’s new memoir ​Love Behind Bars: The True Story of an American Prisoner’s Wife ​details her marriage to Billy Sinclair, and the 25 years she spent trying to get him freed. Billy received a death sentence in 1966 after killing a store clerk during an attempted robbery. He grew up in rural northeast Louisiana and was twenty years old at the time of his conviction. With no education past the ninth grade, he became a journalist while imprisoned at Angola, co-editing the ​Angolite, a m​agazine that won seven national journalism awards under his direction. His death sentence was amended to a life sentence in 1972 when the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily abolished executions. In her telling of it, Jodie grows up in Texas in a family with oil money, marries young, and fantasizes about covering news like the women she watches on her TV set while she makes dinner each night. Eventually she goes back to school to study journalism, leading her to the reporting job which leads her to Billy. For decades, they subsist on limited visits, letters and phone calls. They aren’t allowed to have sex, and the capricious temper of the prison guards means Billy risks disciplinary measures as severe as solitary confinement if he and Jodie kiss for too long. Unwarranted punishments doled out on a


whim are a recurring theme. Sinclair recounts the devastating process of going up for parole only to be denied, then having to wait years for another chance, over and over. Hearing the first parole board decision leaves her “​breathing in shallow gasps, hunched over, trying to absorb the shock” after the board increases Billy’s time cut recommendation from forty-five to sixty years. T ​ he family and friends of her husband’s victim have influence in Louisiana politics, making his chances of being released slimmer despite his record of good behavior in prison. When the couple teams up to expose corrupt practices at Angola, it angers prison and government officials and other inmates alike, putting Billy at worse risk. Sinclair precisely describes the details of her husband’s crime, the long process working to free him, and the shifting politics inside the prison, and she describes her emotional interior with similar precision. She shows us her last morning at home with her first husband, and a night huddled alone in her apartment after she has lost her job with Channel 9. After waking up in her house on Camp Street in New Orleans for the last time, she finds Tom in his study and asks, “One last thing. How will I know when to buy new tires?” He takes off his glasses and looks at her, and tells her to push a penny into the tread and check if she can see Lincoln’s head on the other side. Sinclair continues, “He made no move towards me. Silently, I closed the door and stepped into the hall. I was sixteen when we met, and he was eighteen. The pain was paralyzing.” Later, when her boss finds out about her relationship with a prisoner, he has to let her go to protect the reputation of the news channel because it’s a conflict of interest. The night after her last day of work, she’s at home when two friends from the station show up at her door to check on her, and hold her while she cries on her couch. After months of trying to hide her stress and pain at work and put up a front for her coworkers, it’s a relief to be able to let go. This book is an intimate account, not a broad study, and it does less than it could to acknowledge racial injustice within the prison system, a conspicuous omission in a book that is largely set in Angola. The inmate population is almost entirely made up of people of color, and the site itself is a former plantation. 142

Sometimes Sinclair writes like she’s aiming to settle a score, but she lays bare for the reader her struggle to show empathy for the people she feels wronged by, and her anger is understandable. After yet another loss before the parole board, she goes to Sunday Mass for the first time in almost forty years and confesses a hatred that threatens to overwhelm her, “love gone wrong, twisting in on itself.” In 2006, after bracing for another denial in front of the parole board, Jodie’s husband is released, she takes him home, and they are able to share a meal at the dinner table, share a bed, and wake up next to each other for the first time. ​The memoir is a valuable document for Louisiana social and political history, and it preserves the memory of an extraordinary love.


Contributors Tom Andes’ writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2012, Shotgun Honey, TOUGH: Crime Stories, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and many other places. He won the 2019 Gold Medal for Best Novel-in-Progress from the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society. He lives in New Orleans, where he works as a freelance writer and editor; teaches for the New Orleans Writers Workshop, which he co-founded; and moonlights as a country singer. You can find more at the sporadically updated tomandes.com. Ace Boggess is author of the novels States of Mercy (Alien Buddha Press, 2019) and A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea, 2016), as well as four books of poetry, most recently I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018). His recent fiction appears in Notre Dame Review, The Laurel Review, Superstition Review, and Psaltery & Lyre. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. Thomas Bonner, Jr. Professor Emeritus of English at Xavier University of Louisiana and co-founder of Xavier Review and its press, has most recently guest co-edited the special edition of Xavier Review on Jesmyn Ward. His most recent book is Parterre: New and Collected Poetry and Prose. Ryan Burgess has recent poems in New Orleans Review, Yes Poetry, Wreck Park, Heron Tree, and Cannibal, among others. Her essay “Ashley and I” was listed as a notable essay in Ariel Levy’s Best American Essays: 2015. She works as a doula in Virginia Allison Campbell is the author of the prose poetry collection Encyclopédie of the Common & Encompassing (Kore Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in such places as Copper Nickel, The Cincinnati Review, Tampa Review, Witness, and Rattle. She lives in New Orleans, where she teaches creative writing at Lusher School.


Alena Cover is a writer living in New Orleans. She has a B.A. in literature from Loyola University. Ronald Dorris is Alum Class ’58 Professor XI-Liberal Arts in African American Diaspora Studies & English at Xavier University of Louisiana. He is a lifelong resident of Garyville, LA, a small sugar cane town 35 miles west of New Orleans. He has traveled to Africa, Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean. His creative works are published in Quarterly West, Western Humanities Review, Cave Canem, Griot, Black Poets Lean South, Obsidian II, and American Poetry Anthology. Milton P. Ehrlich Ph.D. is an 88-year-old psychologist and a veteran of the Korean War. He has published poems in The Antigonish Review. Stephen Estopinal, a civil engineer, is an 8-year veteran of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East and was President when his tenure ended. Mr. Estopinal is also a writer of historical fiction novels set in Louisiana in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Former editor of Xavier Review and Xavier Review Press, Nicole Pepinster Greene, Professor Emerita of English at Xavier University of Louisiana, earned her undergraduate degree from University College Dublin, Ireland. Her work on Irish writers Somerville and Ross has been published internationally, and she co-edited a history of basic writing. Greene served for five years as chair of the English Department at Xavier University. She recently became a certified Master Naturalist. Anthony Hagen holds an MFA from Hollins University. His writing appears in for is forthcoming from Sharkpack Annual, Flock, Two Hawks Quarterly, Landfill (Ursus Americanus Press), Caliban, Boston Accent Lit, Clarion, Bird’s Thumb, The Hollins Critic, and DenimSkin. Autumn Hayes is a freelance writer, educator, and poet; her poetry and prose have appeared in Storm Cellar, The Washington Spectator, 3:AM, African American Review, The Seattle Review, and the micro-fiction anthology 140 and


Counting, among others. Her choreopoem, Δεν ‘Ηχω (Then Echo), is available on YouTube. She holds an MFA in poetry from Texas State University and teaches in her hometown of Houston. Skye Jackson was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. She holds an English degree from LSU and a JD from Mississippi College School of Law. She is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop where she serves as Associate Poetry Editor of Bayou Magazine. She also served as co-editor of The Portable Boog Reader, an instant anthology of poetry based in New York City with a focus on New Orleans writers. Her work has appeared in the Delta Literary Journal and Thought Catalog. She was recently a featured author in Rigorous: a journal for people of color and has work forthcoming from Xavier Review. Her prize-winning chapbook, A Faster Grave, was published in May 2019 by Antenna Press. Richard Krohn has spent most of his life near the East Coast, north and south, but has also lived for extended periods in Central America. His work has appeared in Poet Lore, Southern Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, Tar River, and Rattle, among many others. He teaches economics and Spanish at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. Bill Lavender has published 12 books of poetry, most recently My ID (BlazeVOX 2019). His trilogy of novellas, Three Letters, is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil in 2021. He is the publisher at Lavender Ink/Diálogos (lavenderink.org) and co-founder of the New Orleans Poetry Festival. Laurinda Lind lives in New York’s North Country. Some publications/ acceptances are in Blue Earth Review, Fifth Estate, New American Writing, Radius, and Spillway; also anthologies Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press) and AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss and Grief (Radix Media). In 2018, she won first place in both the Keats-Shelley Prize for adult poetry and the New York State Fair poetry competition.


Al Maginnes is the author of eight collections, including The Next Place (Iris Press, 2017) and Sleeping Through the Graveyard Shift (Third Lung Press, forthcoming), and four chapbooks of poetry. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Plume, Lake Effect, ucity and many others. He lives in Raleigh NC where he teaches at Wake Technical Community College. D.S. Maolalai has been nominated three times for Best of the Net and twice for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016) and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019) Swiss McCall has been writing poetry since age eight. After two years in corporate work following college, she decided to pursue her passion for writing and performing full time. She is pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry. She won an NAACP award in the category of original oratory, and has also performed her spoken word several times at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, NY. She aspires to teach literature and creative writing on a collegiate level, tour as an artist and motivational speaker, and to create as many literary works as her imagination will allow. Kate McCann lives in Weymouth, MA, near the sea. She has new poems forthcoming in New American Writing and Poetry Ireland Review. Harry Moore has published three poetry chapbooks and, most recently, a collection, Bearing the Farm Away (Kelsay Books). His poems have appeared in Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, South Carolina Review, Alabama Literary Review, POEM, Avocet, Cape Rock, Anglican Theological Review, and other journals. In 2014, he won the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers. Geoff Munsterman is a poet, editor, & book artist from Plaquemines Parish who now lives in New Orleans’ Holy Cross neighborhood. He is author of the full-length collection Because the Stars Shine Through It [Lavender Ink, 2013], and several chapbooks including Abandon, a chapbook of writings 147

performed with the New Orleans original erotica reading series Esoterotica. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, he (alongside Shadow Angelina Starkey & Aimé SansSavant) has co-produced Esoterotica’s online shows while awaiting The AllWays Lounge’s reopening. Bonnie Naradzay has led poetry workshops at a day shelter for homeless people and also at a retirement community, Ingleside, in Washington DC. Her poems have appeared recently in New Letters (Pushcart nomination), RHINO, Tar River Poetry, EPOCH, Tampa Review, Poet Lore, Anglican Theological Review, Seminary Ridge Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Split This Rock, and others. In 2010, she was awarded the University of New Orleans MFA Program’s Poetry Prize: a month’s stay in the castle of Ezra Pound’s daughter, Mary, in northern Italy. Bonnie Noonan published Red Beans & Rice: Recipes for Lesbian Health and Wisdom (Crossing Press Feminist Series, 1986) using the penname Bode Noonan. Women Scientists in Fifties Science Fiction Films (2005) and Gender in Science Fiction Films, 1964-1979: A Critical Study (2015) were published by McFarland under her professional name Bonnie Noonan. Bonnie Noonan is currently under contract, again with McFarland, for a volume on science fiction films of the Eighties (the Reagan years). Currently, she is working on a second series of personal essays titled Out to Lunch (Home for Dinner), again as Bode Noonan. “Back in Time (Fried Bologna)” is one of these essays. Noonan has recently retired from Xavier University of Louisiana as Associate Professor of English. Kevin Rabalais’s writing and photography have appeared in Brick, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, Australian Book Review, the New Zealand Listener and elsewhere. He is the author of a novel, The Landscape of Desire, and teaches in the Department of English at Loyola University New Orleans. James Sallis’ latest novel is Sarah Jane, out last fall along with new editions of the six Lew Griffin novels and a fifth poetry collection, Ain’t Long ‘Fore Day. Other books include the critical work Difficult Lives/Hitching Rides


and a translation of Raymond Queneau’s novel Saint Glinglin. He lives in a house with fifty-odd guitars, banjos, mandolins and the like, and eighteen or so cats—most of the cats live outside. Anum Sattar’s poems have been published in numerous magazines. She won the first Grace Prize in Poetry and third Vonna Hicks Award at the College of Wooster, where she is a student. She has read her work at Brooklyn Poets, Spoonbill and Sugartown Bookstore, Forest Hills Library in New York City, among other places, and was recently interviewed at Radio Free Brooklyn. Gerry Sloan is a retired music professor living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He has published four chapbooks (one translated into Mandarin) and two poetry collections: Paper Lanterns (2011) and Crossings: A Memoir in Verse (2017). His work has appeared in many literary magazines, and he received the WORDS Award for Poetry in 1990 from the Arkansas Literary Society. Recently he has been featured poet in Elder Mountain: Journal of Ozarks Studies. He can be reached at gsloan@uark.edu. Steve Stern has published a wealth of novels and story collections, thirteen so far, most recently The Pinch: A History (Graywolf), of which the New York Times reviewer noted: “Above all, Stern is so funny. In one set piece, a group of Jews come upon a parade against ‘the mongrel element’ by the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The Jews can’t help admiring the Klansmen’s robes; tailors all, the Jews sold them the fabric, and proceed to argue about whose looks the finest.” Among Stern’s earlier works are the award-winning story collections, Lazar Malkin Enters Heaven, and The Wedding Jester. Born in Memphis, he lives in upstate New York Jeremy Tuman teaches English at Xavier University of Louisiana. His debut novel, Stereo Killer, is available from Amazon in paperback, His writing has appeared in New Orleans Review, the Rumpus, and Antenna’s Room 220. He plays and sings in the rock ‘n’ roll band The Great Twenty-Eights. Yun Wang is the author of The Book of Mirrors (White Pine Press, 2021), The Book of Totality (Salmon Poetry Press, 2015), The Book of Jade (Story 149

Line Press, 2002), and Dreaming of Fallen Blossoms: Tune Poems of Su Dong-Po (White Pine Press, 2019). Carmin Wong is a Guyanese-born poet and playwright raised in Queens, New York, and an MFA graduate from the University of New Orleans, where she served as the Associate Poetry Editor of Bayou Magazine’s issue 73. Wong has competed in poetry slams and readings in venues including the Lincoln Center, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Scholastic Auditorium, and for companies like the Shakespeare Theater Company. Her playwriting stage-debut occurred in 2018, where she was featured in the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.


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The Shy Mirror by Gordon Robert Sabatier 978-1-883275-26-6 • 2016 • $15.00 There is no singular delight in coming into the world of Gordon Robert Sabatier who is both a natural poet and a learned one too…. Here is a poet who does what all art asks us to do: to blur the lines between what is human and not human, the lines between pain and ecstasy, between being fully immersed in the physical and the spiritual in the moment of the poem. Here is a poet who uses formalisms we use to harness the fierce and wild. —Darrell Bourque, author of Megan’s Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie




















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