Third Coast Summer   Friday, August 12, 2011


VI.6.3.




I have lived most off my life on or near what has come to be called the "Third Coast," that string of states that border on the Gulf of Mexico. My time on the coast has been on the Texas end of the string, from Brownsville and Boca Chica on the very southern tip of the United States, to Padre Island, to Matagorda Island and to Galveston Island. It's a different kind of place, a hybrid culture of folks moving in from the east coast, the west coast and everywhere in between, looking for a different kind of life, mostly made up as they go along. Today, in San Antonio and the Hill Country, I'm still only two hours from the coast and visit often, not for the beach, which I mostly hate except in winter, but for the, as they say, atmosphere.

One problem with the "atmosphere" is the weather which is hot for the biggest part of the year. And the hottest is mid-August, the worst of times the best of times: the worst of times because the weather is never as bad as it is in mid-August, skin-shriveling, back-burning, humidity-packing, drought-sucking, hell-and-brimstone-flailing like no other time of the year - the best of times because if you look close you can actually see the end of summer coming down the backstretch.

So do I console myself.

Also it helps this week to have two treats.

First, four poems by my friend Joanna M. Weston, as well as the second part of Message in a Bottle by my friend Anonymous.

Here's the line-up.


Andrew Hudgins
Two Worlds
Dead Christ
Lamentation over the Dead Christ
The Gift


Me
the point
onward and upward


Elizabeth Alexander
Stravinsky in L.A.
Manhattan Elegy


Me
the wearies

From Unsettling America
Gary Soto
The Elements of San Joaquin
Gerald Stern
The Dancing
Lyn Lifshin
I Remember Haifa Being Lovely But

Me
green pastures
flashing
ordering chicken at Popeye’s
spring storm
division of labor
algebra 1
women telling secrets


Joanna M. Weston
Achievement
Beach and Seascape
Painting on Frost
The Long Drink


Me
marketing 101

Jim Carroll
Poem

Me
Audrey Hepburn
omen
normal
doctor’s orders
that’s all there is to it
morning
raindrops in sunshine


Marilyn Hacker
Street Scenes IV
Street Scenes V
Groves of Academe


Me
mysteries of night and morning

Brenda Cardenas
Cartoon Coyote Goes Po-Mo

Me
my turn
long-haired girls
zits and zats
just like you and me
on the death of a patron and friend
six white-haired men
sunspot


Nanao Sakaki
An Axiom
Prime Numbers


Me
fog
morning slips in, almost unnoticed
themes from a triptych for the early riser
El Paso at an early hour
El Paso at an early hour, again


Luci Tapahonso
A Whispered Chant of Loneliness

Me
her lip trembles

Anonymous
Message in a Bottle - Part II

Me
lying on the beach with my lover at midnight
my love moves through the night
lying in the sun with Susan
north wind on a southern beach


Laura Kasischke
Poem Ending in Lines from Jarrell

Me
He told me to do it

Philip Levine
Coming Close
M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School


Me
moving on









I start this week with several poems by Andrew Hudgins. The poems are from his book The Never-Ending, published in 1991 by Houghton Mifflin. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1991.

Hudgins was born in Killeen, Texas, in 1951 and educated at Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama. He earned his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1983. He taught at at Baylor University and University of Cincinnati and currently teaches at Ohio State University. In 1985 he was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize and won the Poet's Prize in 1988.



Two Worlds

The bubble shuddering above my hand
mirrors, distorted on its skin, the world.
Dark pines bend inward on the sphere, and stars
bunch tightly in an arc across the curved
diminished night, lit by an oval moon.

It hits my hand,ounces, and in midbounce -
a graininess. The sphere dissolves. Thin drops
quiver in air, then fall across my palm.
The small night flies into the larger night,
where sweep from star to star seems firmly spaced,
one sun behind the next, a billion miles
from where I stand, my palm damp with the world
I held, however small and misshaped, on my hand.


Dead Christ

There seems no reason he should've died. His hands
are pierced by holes too tidy to have held,
untorn, hard muscles as the writhed on spikes.
And on the pink, scrubbed bottom of each foot
a bee-stung lip pouts daintily.
No reason he should die - and yet, and yet
Christ's eyes are swollen with it, his mouth
hangs slack with it, his belly taut with it,
his long hair lank with it, and damp;
and underneath the clinging funeral cloth
his manhood's huge and useless with it: Death.

One blood-drop trickles toward his wrist. Somehow
the grieving women missed it when they bathed,
today, the empty corpse. Most Christs return.
But this one's flesh. He isn't coming back.


Lamentation over the Dead Christ

Dismiss the body bent so awkwardly
across his mother's lap: there's no god in it.
Dismiss the saint holding the nails, the thorns.
Remember the Marys: Salome,
Cleophas,, Magdalene -
and Mary, fainted virgin, her ody huge,
distended, bulging, because she suffers more
than anyone can grieve until she loosens
her human shape, becomes impossible.
And Saint John's arm elongates eerily
because he cannot comfort her or ease
her body back to what it was.
The other Mary's, too, contort. Their muscles
twist and their bodies bend
until they're radiant with suffering.

And though she wouldn't want you to,
remember Magdalene. She's hunchbacked, wrenched
by dark, misshaping sorrow.
Her first eyes glitter with hatred, rage.
But in her brief she cried to Botticelli,
Erase my eyes! Instead he's hidden them
behind two raw, enormous hands. She'd begged,
and Botticelli, unlike God, said yes.


The Gift

They hung the lambs and cut their white throats. Blood
flowed down their chins and into earthen bowls.
Each time one filled, another bowl was placed
beneath the stream. Inside the pit, mesquite
burned down to an orange pulse, a coat of ash.

YOu asked about their myths and now, at last,
they talked as they prepared the feast. They stuffed
the carcasses with masa, then packed the hole
with four lambs, three full jars of blood. Green leaves
were tucked around the leaves and everything
was buried. The dirt included excrement.

All night you hunkered on your heels, talked, smoked,
almost forgot the buried flesh because
they offered you a legend no one outside
had ever heard. The coals burned slowly. At dawn
they dug it up: the tainted meat, the jars
of hot, gelatinous blood. Already knowing
how it would double you with cramps and heaving,
you held the rough bowl in both hands, flinched once,
then drank, from courtesy, the ruinous cup,
almost eager now that you had no choice.








Here are a couple of my poems from last week.

If you remember the Point/Counterpoint feature from the old "60 Minutes" news magazine, you might see the same approach in these two poems, written on consecutive days. Confident that I was writing the truth each day, I guess the two together just demonstrate that the truth depends on what day of the week it is.



the point

good
and getting better
every day

that’s my
response
when asked

as to the
state
of my earthly passage

and
I’ll admit if pressed
that my answer

is more
aspirational
than actual

but, hell,
if you’re not working
at getting a little

better
every day,
what’s the point?


onward and upward

onward
and upward
that’s the mantra

we learned
at out mother’s knee,
be all that you can be, we’re told

but what if we’re
as "on"
and as "up" as we want to be?

what
if we find ourselves completely
happy

being
only 73% of what we could
be?

>>>

lots of things
could change and that’d be
okay

like
I wouldn’t mind being
skinnier

but I’d be just as happy
staying just as i
am

235-240,
I can live with that -
I don’t need to be 180

like the chart says
I should be to be happy…
and I don’t mind getting older

so much,
as long as I can avoid getting
deader…

and
I figure I’m about as smart
as it’s safe for me to be -

no telling
what kind of crazy ideas
I might get

if I was smarter,
probably turn out to be one of those evil
geniuses

the superheros
fight
and almost don’t defeat

until
the last ten minutes of the
last reel,

so
I think I should just stay as smart
as I am -

(probably
best in the long run
for all of us)...

and
I’m happy with the automobile
I drive,

though
I've driven better,
I've driven a lot more worse, too,

and the house
I live in,
though a smaller place

would suit me just fine,
maybe with more land where
I could take my red chevy pick-up to the feed store

for bird seed and
squirrel feed, and post-hole diggers
and drive a small

tractor
and yodel
and have periodic rolls in the

hay,
hey, that’s an idea,
why would anyone all the time

want to be onwarding
and upwarding and being all they can
be

when what they already be
suggest possibilities
for periodic rolling in the hay

followed by yodeling
in the back
40

yodel-ay-ee-oooo
as we say
out behind the barn








Next, I have two poems by Elizabeth Alexander, from her book, Body of Life, published in 1996 by Tia Chucha Press of Chicago.

Alexander was born in New York City and grew up in Washington D.C.. She has degrees from Yale University and Boston University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. At the time the book was published, she was on the faculty of the University of Chicago.



Stravinsky in L.A.

In white pleated trousers, peering through green
sunshades, looking for the way the sun is red
noise, how locusts hiss to replicate the sun.
What is the visual equivalent
of syncopation? Rows of seared palms wrinkle
in the heat waves through green glass. Sprinklers
tick, tick, tick. the Watts Towers aim to split
the sky into chroma, spires tiled with rubble
nothing less than aspiration. I've left
minarets for sun and syncopation,
sixty-seven shades of green which I have
counted, beginning: palm leaves, front and back,
luncheon pickle, bottle glass, etcetera.
One day I will comprehend the different
grades of red. On that day I will comprehend
these people, rhythms, jazz, Simon Rodia,
Watts, Los Angeles, aspiration.


Manhattan Elegy

I left behind a mother, father,
baby brother, town-house, door bell, family-
sized gallons of two-percent milk, for
my grandmother's apartment near
the United Nations, her apartment
building with elevator, incinerator
chute, intercom with buzzer,
deliveries from Gristede's. There I had
a godfather who took me out to lunch,
great-aunts who took em to tea,
a great-uncle Charlie who took me to the Museum
of the City of New York, and a grand-
father who took me on the IRT.
I was the only child in all Manhattan.

My grandmother loved the Museum
of Modern Art, Matisse's revelers,
the red parlor with goldfish. She loved
the rough-cut oil of "Starry Night" and Monet's
lily ponds, took me after to a hotel
dining room just like "Hello, Dolly!"
where the violinist asked for my song,
and I didn't have one, and how, she said,
could an eight-year old lady not know
a serenade? She took me to Broadway
and home on the cross-town bus.








I woke up on Friday, expecting to wake up to rain. Instead, just another hot dry day.

It wore me out.



the wearies

the wearies
have me this morning

the daylight
is lit
but the sun still hangs
below
the horizon

the time
of silly-putty bones
and mish-mush brains,
all the internal clocks
stripping their gears, hung up
mid-rotation
as the moon flips its
tidal
switch
and all that came in
now goes out
leaving bare sand
and shells
of the night’s good ideas

the wearies have me
this morning
and
I may have to go home
and start over
before operating mechanical
equipment
or writing a poem
or trying to say things of any
significant
import

it’s the wearies
that have me
today








Here are three poets from Unsettling America, subtitled "An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry." The book was published by Penguin Books in 1994.



The first poem is by Gary Soto. Soto, who I have used here often, was born, raised and educated in Fresno, California. He's the author of more than 18 books and producer of two films for Spanish-speaking children. He teaches occasionally at the University of California - Berkely.


The Elements of San Joaquin

Field


The wind sprays pale dirt into my mouth
The small, almost invisible scars
On my hands.

The pores in my throat and elbows
Have taken a seed of dirt of their own.

After a day in the grape fields near Rolinda
A fine silt, washed by sweat,
Has settled into the lines
on my wrists and palms.

Already I am becoming the valley,
A soil that sprouts nothing
For any of us.


The next poem is by Gerald Stern, born in Pittsburgh of immigrant Ukrainian and Polish Jews. One grandfather owned a small cigar factory and the other was a ritual butcher and Yiddish scholar. He has published eight volumes of poetry.


The Dancing

In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture
I have never seen a post-war Philco
with the automatic eye
nor heard Ravel's "Bolero" the way I did
in 1945 in that tiny living room
on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did
then, my knives all flashing, my hair all streaming,
my mother red with laughter, my father cupping
his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance
of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum,
half fart, the world at last a meadow,
the three of us whirling and singing, the three of us
screaming and falling, as if we were dying,
as if we could never stop - in 1945 -
in Pittsburgh, beautiful filthy Pittsburgh, home
of the evil Mellons, 5,000 miles away
from the other dancing - in Poland and Germany -
oh God of mercy, oh wild God.


The last poem is by Lyn Lifshin, author of over ninety chapbooks, books, and collections.


I Remember Haifa Being Lovely But

there were snakes in the
tent, my mother was
strong, bu she never
slept, was afraid of
dreaming. In Auschwitz
there was a numbness,
lull of just staying
alive. Her two babies
gassed before her, Dr.
Mengele, you know who
he is? She kept her
young sister alive
only to have her die
in her arms the night
of liberation. My mother
is big boned, bur she
weighted under 80 lbs.
It was hot, I thought
the snakes lovely. No
drugs in Israel, no
food, I got pneumonia,
my mother knocked the
doctor to the floor
when they refused,
said I lost two in
the camp and if this
one dies I'll kill
myself in front of
you. I thought that
once you become a
mother, blue numbers
appeared mysteriously,
tattooed on your arm








Here are several of my short poems from 2007, some maybe published in one of my books, some not. I don't keep track anymore.



green pastures

cat wants
out

dog wants
in

rooster wants
the day
off
on
Thursday

isn’t anyone
ever
satisfied?


flashing

watch her walk

with each step
the rear of her foot rises
as weight shifts from her heel to her toe
while her shoe lags behind
and between the shoe
and the bottom of her foot
the soft pale flesh
of her instep flashes
like a lover’s wink
across a crowded room,
this most beautiful, unseen place,
inviting a caress,
a kiss,
flashing like a secret
across a crowded room


ordering chicken at Popeye’s

I like the
dark
meat
drumstick’s
my speciality
but you gotta
watch them
or they’ll stick
you
with a wing

get one of those
scrawny
wings
and you might as well
be eating
feet


spring storm

clouds
dark as the devil’s black eyes
behind
as we race to clear skies
ahead


division of labor

have
you noticed

when children
set out to play

little boys
pick their noses

while girls
make up the rules


algebra 1

I remember
my algebra teacher
in 1959
writing equations
on the blackboard
her back to the class

at least 40 years old,
ancient, still,
the most perfectly
beautiful
legs


women telling secrets

four
of them
at the round table

whisper
laugh

then whisper
and laugh again

oh, no,
says one

oh, yes,
says another

whisper
and laugh
at the round table
in the corner








My next several poems are by long-time friend of "Here and Now," Joanna M. Weston.

Joanna has had poetry, reviews, and short stories published in anthologies and journals for twenty-five years. Her middle-reader, Those Blue Shoes, was published by Clarity House Press; and her book of poetry, A Summer Father, by Frontenac House of Calgary.



Achievement

to come down moonrise
run the last seven miles
across a bone of light

spurred by photo-flash
and clapping cheers

success singing
through my blood
at each stride
over packed earth

this impossible-to-do-again
this particular
stretch of seconds
this marathon


Beach and Seascape

wearing a comedy hat
with attached birds

I squint and leer
round a sunlit corner

hear the strum of
of his lunatic zither

then slip into shade
before I can be caught
in his net of flying seaweed


Painting on Frost

I walk on white
catch falling leaves
hold an oak tree
in my hands

the leaves dissolve to
become tulips and roses
waltzing across crystals
in a dance of colour

the artist saw me walking
in a painted crowd


The Long Drink

she pours remnants of time
into a blue pottery jug

passes her years
of pleasure and regret
through a sieve
adds ice stirs in sugar
no need for angostura

fills her glass and drinks
one hour after another
until only a sediment
of seconds lies
within her








Sometimes it's best to avoid knowing too much.

It's been a long time since I had to put down a pet, so when I wrote this I didn't know the condolence card thing has become standard in the industry. I imagine a meeting of the Association of Animals Doctors Large and Small, featuring a marketing expert telling all the vets about this great idea.

So it's marketing bs - I like it anyway.



marketing 101

the vet
I called upon
to euthanize my cat
sent me a condolence card,
signed
by all the clinic staff

being aware
of the magic and mechanics
of marketing,
I know the card is
in base equivalence
to the plastic toy handed out
at McDonald’s with each Big Mac sold

an easy object
of ridicule,
but I don’t mind

because
like the child who holds his new toy dear
I will keep that card
and feel good about receiving it -

thinking
how much sweeter our world would be
if all our manipulations
were laced with
a similar dollops of
compassion








Next,I have a poem by Bill Carroll, from his book Void of Course. The book was published by Penguin Books in 1998.

Carroll, born in 1949, – September 11, 2009) was an author, poet, autobiographer, and punk musician best known for the hard life he lived and for his 1978 autobiographical work The Basketball Diaries, which was made into the 1995 film of the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Carroll.

He died from heart attack in 2009 when he was 60 years old.



Poem

It has been discovered by satellite
that the moon's magnetic
Pull
Slows the Earth's revolution approximately
One second per day
8 millions years ago a single day
Was barely eighteen hours long

Deadlines were a bitch

This means that by the time I die
If fate delivers my trick

a common day will consist of thirty-two hours

Deadlines will be a bitch

But many can go out dancing
Literally 24 hours a day
And still sleep the 8 hours
Recommended by the surgeon general

Unless you an insomniac
In which case odds are you will go totally insane








It worked pretty good with 2007, so here, an update, some short poems from 2008.



Audrey Hepburn

lord
she was
beautiful

but we were
adolescent boys
in a time of
mammillary
obsession
and
never
noticed


omen

been here
before

vision blurry
equals
sugar
high

I look to the
future
and hope
to
see


normal

some
will say
normal
is boring

well
still
I
say
it’s nice to get
back
to


doctor's orders

doctor’s orders

still alive

officially certified
as such
by the doc
at our regular
quarterly meeting

but

not enough
protein
in my diet
she
says

prescribes
steak

finally

something worth
the two and one half hour
wait



that’s all there is to it

Fred's
Fresh
Fried Fish

on a little spit
of sand
sticking out
into
Oso Bay

fish
anyway
you like it
as long as you like it
fried

and the beer
of your choice
as long as you choose
Lone Star or
Tecate

big
windows
on either side
suck gulf breezes
across scarred wood tables

in the kitchen
the sound of grease bubbling
at the tables
fried fish on paper plates
rings

of beer bottle dew
hot sauce
ketchup
plastic forks
and jalapenos

lots
of talk
mostly loud
mostly
profane

a place
to eat fried fish
Fred says
and that’s all
there is to it


morning

birds call
in the still-
dark

announce
the day

claim the
sun

*****

morning breeze
rustles trees

the tender
passing
of leaf
on
leaf

*****

alarm sounds

Debussy
whispers

awake awake

Mussorgsky
up
next

*****

cat
asleep on my arm
purrs

a gentle feline
snore



raindrops in sunshine

rain drops
in sunshine
gleam
like diamonds
from the sky

somewhere
there is a
rainbow









Next, I have two or three poems (I haven't decided yet) by Marilyn Hacker, from her book, Winter Numbers, published in 1994 by W W Norton.

Born in 194e, Hacker is a poet, translator and critic. Winner of numerous literary awards, she is Professor of English at the City College of New York.



Street Scenes IV

Seven-thirty and lightly the rain continues.
Yes I am one of them and also I am not
one of them: late shoppers buying what they forgot
in the morning, tired workers jostling from various venues,
kids on the loose to loaf. Waiters place menus
on outdoor tables they've optimistically set.
The Germans eat early, the young British eat late,
but not outdoors in the rain. Umbrellas in use
joust on the narrow sidewalk: the shoppers pass
the workers pass the tourists pass the waiters
stay put. I am a shopper going home
which is where I've come from work, which is where I'll later
wait on myself. I'm a stranger who'll be some-
where else when the satcheled children file back to class.


Street Scenes V

The German tour bus
pulls out of the sleepy street.
No on is sorry.

After group dinner
they sang group songs in German
under our windows.

Neighbors remember
songs in the street like that in
nineteen forty-one.

They're European
brothers and sisters now, but
they pull their curtains.

Two streets over, some
neighbors didn't come back from
the Vel d'hiv, Drancy.

They were babies in
forty-one, or not born, those
charter-bus singers.

There were babies be-
hind barbed wire at Drancy. When
should they have been born?


Groves of Academe

The hour dragged on, and I was badly needing
coffee; that encouraged my perversity.
I asked the students of Poetry Writing,
"Tell me about the poetry you're reading."
There was some hair chewing and some nail biting.
Snowdrifts piled up around the university.
"I've really gotten into science fiction."
"I don't read much - it breaks my concentration.
I wouldn't want to influence my style."
"We taped some Sound Poems for the college station."
"When I give readings, should I work on diction?"
"Is it true that no really worthwhile
contemporary poets write in rhyme?"
"Do you think it would be a waste of time
to send my poems to Vanity Fair?
I mean - could they relate to my work there?"








It was a beautiful morning on the rise.



mysteries of night and morning

it began
about nine
with thunder and lightning
and rumors of rain
which, turned out, were
only rumors
but it was a nice threat
to ponder any
way

all that fuss
had settled by four thirty
with a clear sky
and a full moon, bright
and silver on a soft black sky,
like a cushion, a night
to rest your head
on

I lay
in the blazing moon glow
like a white-bellied cat, stretching,
lazing on a dim sea shore,
shining under the moon’s ocean
of bright

my head pillowed back
I watched the moon as it slipped
toward morning - west, behind pale
passing clouds, slowly
dipping
behind the trees that line the creek

no sun yet
but you can hear the night give up
with a sigh, a rustle of birds
in the trees, dogs sensing the scent
of a new day, barking
at the moon
settling
around the curvature of the earth,
soft, like a reclining woman’s
rounded hip,
it’s night shadows
overtaking
the fading light
of the other side of the world,
the part that is not my part,
where other people live
lives as mysterious to me as
the traveling moon
itself,
ancient
and steady in its orbit,
silver side to me,
dark side unknown

my day begins
here,
now,
unknown
as to what it will be,
another dark side hidden
before its moment
arrives,
fresh
and untested,
as mysterious, I suppose
to the others
as theirs is to me







Now I have a poem by Brenda Cardenas,from her book From the Tongues of Brick and Stone. The book was published in 2005 by Momotombo Press.

Cardenas holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and teaches Creative Writing; composition; and Latin American,U.S. Latino/a, and American Literature at Wright College in Chicago.



Cartoon Coyote Goes Po-Mo

Coyote,he never learned the high concept,
He's still rapping at rave parties,
skate-boarding under deconstruction,
past computer networks
(keeps his Olivetti electric in the closet).
Everyone wonders when he'll catch up
like his sister, the computer hacking CEO
of a major pharmaceutical company.
Baby, hers are smart drugs -
performance art provocateurs
tricking the tricksters,
not the white heat Coyote shoots, snorts, swallows.
Hey honey, I can fly
through Ginsberg's naked streets at dawn.

Coyote, he don't quite get it,
applies queer theory to his reading
of Burroughs riding freight train.
In a post-structuralist world
you ride on top of he axles
underneath either end of a boxcar
and watch the sparks fly!
Don't get a cinder in your eye.
That's the cyberpunk way to get
your mojado butt from the frontera
to the fields or the service sweatshops.
Only if coyote don't find you first,
and if he does, he'll eat you alive,
crunch you down like chicharron
because he don't want no
vega dietary restrictions;
no one gonna gorge himself on your sweet meat
until he auto-deconstructs,
blows himself to bits
all up and down the Rio Grande.
And in the time it takes you to find
his plastic voodoo in your Lucky Charms,
he'll be warming a stool in the cantina
at the next border town.
How's that for signification theory?








Here's another batch of my shorter poems - these from 2009.



my turn

it is a cold
sloppy wet day

a glorious
day

a touch
of winter

finally
in mid-March

evidence

you’ll get
what you want

if you’ll just
wait long enough

meanwhile

on South Padre
beaches

all the little
bunny-bumps

are freezing
their little cherry butts

not what they wanted
but i don’t care

they’re young
and haven’t waited

long
enough


long haired girls

long-haired
girls
in sandals
and sun-
dresses,
laughing,
crimson-painted
toes
and brown shoulders
bare to the season

brief summer
reprieves



zits and zats

staring out the window

the cars
on the interstate
like the electronic
zits and zats
on bedside
monitors
on TV doctor shows

zag zag zag

they cross the monitor screen

discrete phenomena,
though each like the other,

signifying
life continues

story ends

Dr. House has left the building

how
mundane -
even for a Sunday morning
hallucination


just like you and me

traveling south
to bury a friend
in a crypt
beside the sea

like the restless, roiling waves
he came -
and then he went

just like you and me


on the death of a patron and friend

a man
in constant
motion

hard
to think of him as
still


six white-haired men

six
white-haired men
stand around the pit

watch the box
as it is lowered into the hole

think of their friend
and wonder

whose box is next


sunspot

thunder and lightning
all night
but little rain

this morning
the sun -
in a clear-sky patch
surrounded by
black clouds -

is shining on me
like a spotlight at the grand ballet

the star of the show,
that’s me,
it’s my day to
shine








Now, two poems by Nanao Sakaki, from the collection of his work, Break the Mirror, published in 1987 by North Point Press.

Sakaki, a Japanese poet, was born in 1923 and died in 2008.

After completing compulsory education to age twelve, he worked in a variety of low-skill jobs until he was drafted into the Japanese Air Force, working as a radar specialist.After his military service he continued to work in a variety of jobs, living for a time in a Tokyo underpass.

in the early 195s, he moved to the San'ya district and lived off the generosity of his neighbors, spending all his time studying English and reading. After two years there, he moved to Shinjuku, became interested in primitive art, and collaborated with a wood sculptor, visiting forests all over Japan, leading, after three years, to exhibitions combining poetry and sculpture.

Sakaki's first book, Bellyfulls, was reprinted in the United States in 1966, and starting in 1969, Sakaki made several trips to the United States, exploring the wilderness, writing, and reading poetry. He spent about ten years in the United States, primarily in San Francisco and Taos, New Mexico, but also walking widely.



An Axiom

After evening glow
Jupiter shadows the coral reef

I am part of human beings
Human beings / mammals
Mammals / animal kingdom
Animal kingdom / all creatures
All creatures / earth
Earth / solar system
Solar system / Galaxy
Galaxy / whole universe
Therefore, I am a part of the whole universe

Dark midnight
A water rail sings in a mangrove

I am equal to human beings
Human beings / mammals
Mammals / animal kingdom
Animal kingdom / all creatures
All creatures / earth
Earth / solar system
Solar system / Galaxy
Galaxy / whole universe
Therefore, I am equal to the whole universe

Before daybreak
From unknown depth
To the coral reef
Rising up spring tide
ah         Love!


Prime Numbers

At dawn
Set out to the north
      rucksack on my shoulder

            in East China sea
            on a coral, mangrove ringed isle


A brief storm
            running running running

            Breaking morning
            Breaking spring
            Breaking myth open


I plus I equals
                                    2.3.5.7.II








It's worked three times this week, so I'll do it again.

Next, more of my short poems, these from 2010.



fog

shy
curtain mist

disperses light
in crystal halos

souls alight

souls aloft
rising
to meet
low-searching
clouds


morning slips in, almost unnoticed

sunrise
through scattered fog
like golden rain

a quiet morning

birds still
sleep

no rustling
in the trees

morning slipping in
almost
unnoticed

until
the neighbor’s rooster

announces the
day


themes from a triptych for the early riser

the sharp knife
of a rooster
crow
cuts free the sun
from the black
sack
of winter night

~~~

tiny birds
flutter
behind thick branches

little twits
and tweets
exercise
coldly feathered
throats

~~~

the creek at sunrise -
running water bubbles
blue
beneath the ice


El Paso at an early hour

deep desert
blue
seeping
through the black
night sky
even before
the first peach of sunrise
shows behind
the mountains

a quiet Sunday morning

just like in the
movies


El Paso at an early hour, again

the air is desert
chill -

a pink thread
on the east horizon
suggests the coming
of a rising sun -

stench of low-grade diesel carried
by low morning
winds
crosses the border
from Cuidad Juarez,
its people,
a million strong
waking in the dark,
their yellow lights
flicker
like stars flung
across
the mountainside -

the pink thread
widens -
a shadowing light
spreads -

from the north foothills
a coyote
howls








Here's a poem by Navajo writer Lucy Tapahonso. It's from her book, Saanii Dahataat/The Women Are Singing, published by the University of Arizona Press in 1993.

Navajo was Tapahonso's first language but she learned English at home before starting school at the Navajo Methodist Mission in Farmington, New Mexico. She majored in English at the University of New Mexico, as an undergraduate and graduate student. She stayed on there as an Assistant Professor of English, Women's Studies and American Indian Studies for a few years. She has been an Associate Professor of English at the University of Kansas and is now Professor of English at the University of Arizona in Tucson where she teaches Poetry Writing and American Indian Literature.



A Whispered Chant of Loneliness

I awaken at 1:20 then sit in the dark living room.
Numbers click time on silent machines.
Everyone sleeps.
            It floats: an unseen breath through the window screen.

      My father uses a cane and each day,
      he walks outside to sit in the southern sunlight.
      He reads the National Geographic, the Daily Times,
       the Gallup Independent.
      He remembers all this and minute details of my life.
      Sometimes he tells my children smiling.

      His voice is an old rhythm of my childhood.
      He read us stories of Goldilocks and The Three Bears
      and a pig named "Greased Lightning."
      He held us close, sang throaty songs,
      and danced Yei bicheii in the kitchen.

      His voice is a steady presence in my mothering.
      Some years ago, he handed me a cup of coffee
      and told me that sometimes leaving a relationship
      was an act of abiding strength.
      He told me that my children would not be sad always.

      Tonight I want to hear him speak to me.
      He thinks I look like my mother did at 38.
      Just last week, I heard my laughter in my own.








Here's a little story, the beginning or the end, I'm not sure.



her lip trembles

her lip trembles
and I love her for her
courage

~~~

her day begins
in yellow light, like
lantern light, before
the sun, like an old woman rising
from her dark bed,
crests
the eastern mountain
ridges…

the basin
will be dark
before the sun falls
through the western notch,
the desert floor
a blaze or reds and yellow
and orange…

she stands before the colors
far below,
arms stretched
wide,
embracing the failing light…

this is the way
she wants it to end,
in a glory afire with completion

not soft and unsure, the way
it began








I used last week Part I of a poem, Message in a Bottle, sent to me by a poet friend who, in the spirit of an anonymous writer dropping a message in a bottle into an unknown sea, wishes not to be named.

This week, I have Part II. Next week, Part III. After that, I don't know. Like you, I'm reading this one part at a time.




II. Ashes, ashes. All fall down.






























Magdalena does not believe in ghosts


that invade a person’s dreams. She’s a twenty-first century
woman, a woman interested in the scent butterflies leave
after their wings flutter. She loves edges. Loves anything
that will take her down another city block, around corners,
up a façade. It’s all permanent. Traffic is harsh, air lousy
with shouts from irritated cars. It’s all breakable. With right
timing. With right fist. With beauty. Exhausted tourists walk
in circles around Times Square looking for the perfect photo
opportunity. Vendors have one eye out for police, one eye
on rows of knock off souvenirs. Cold shoulders jostle for taxis.
Her never ending stories get written off one by one: she has tea
with Don Quixote in the shadow of the Flatiron, a tall stranger
she took for granted and then took to bed. Their last fight; outside
a trattoria, then the click, click, click of six inch heels faded out
of sight and sound. Her voice is rough and in the same instant it
takes to blow a kiss, loss returns. She’s a lapsed Catholic, a sinner
with no interest in salvation unless it’s a lethal dose. Here comes
the A train. There’s always a way out. She imagines the look on
God’s face when He realizes there is nothing left to do but wait.








A little brown bird told us


Tell me a story Brother John
‘the one about how you don’t want to be
any part of any body. The one about that woman
with the, how’d you call it
, mouth made for sin.


Wish my hands were yours. Wish I could feel the blood, feel the rough stone tiles under my feet. I am the stigma but you have the stigmata. There are two dozen forms of fill-in-the-blank apology. I can’t even get your name out. Can’t believe I’m not numb yet.


We are two sheets to the wind shortcake,
nowhere to go, nowhere to fall;
pour another and another
time will lead to another
short story.














Howl


That’s what is called the domino effect, shortcake:
One bumps into another and another
and always one more
then it’s over
and you’re out.



His friends called him Ginsberg.
He was a contender.
Golden Gloves.
Did some heavy damage.
Ask his wife.
No gloves, hands taped.
His girlfriend was mixed race.
From the neighborhood.
Tricked between jobs.
Ginsberg said she had him hypnotized.
Told him stories.
Easy to swallow versions of the truth.
Hottest summer on record.
Told him she was pregnant.
Wife said: I’ll raise your bastard.
That bitch another story.
Ginsberg saw the way.
Tasted the truth.
Felt the light.



…ain’t nothin’ deader than dead, Brother John
and baby, I’ve seen dead.










Delmore Schwartz died Monday in NYC


July 11, 1966. His body lay in the morgue two days before he was identified. Today is July 11, 20__. It is 90 degrees, humidity makes it feel like 103. I wonder what she’s doing right now. I imagine the sweat beading off a tall Absolut & bitters. Imagine the catch of her breath as she sees me. Wonder if the ground ever sleeps. Wonder what happens when there is nobody left to forget. Can’t remember the day I stopped dreaming, the day I started waking to a blank slate. Would like to think there is somewhere with my name on it. Would like to think there is somewhere. Would like to think she would never know. Right now feels like forever. Right now feels cold.






















Brother John & Mary Magdalena (haiku after Bukowski)


her ass tits lips long hair
all left the room and now
my beer is warm




You know the truth Brother John,
gotta let her go baby
let her rip
and get your ass outta here.


…always easier said than done, shortcake
and when it’s all done there’s nothing left
to do but roll over.



Sure enough, sure enough, brother.
What was it she said?













Never leave the house without a (an umbrella) gun


Doesn’t look like rain but the air feels heavy with water. The leaves aren’t ready to turn but some of them can’t wait to fall. A cab honks at a jaywalker. Stop light flashes yellow. Don’t dare walk away again. Two dollar soda from a street vendor, yesterday’s newspaper and enough time to kill a good idea. Never wanted to be mistaken for a stranger but here I am. She wasn’t the first or last detour. It’s not a most serious lie. More like a petty misdemeanor. Goddamn right. If I had a gun I’d shoot the moon.























Brother John, the Washington Avenue Bridge & the Mississippi


Imagine a brownstone;
a dark haired girl skips rope on the sidewalk.
You sense the swish swish, feel
the rapid rhyme and muffled laughter:

Down by the river, down by the sea,
Johnny broke a bottle and blamed it on me.
I told ma, ma told pa,
Johnny got a spanking so ha ha ha.




















Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,
What the fuck? What the fuck?


kaleidoscope


We are all slivers of glass and sand turned to the light, walking body shadows trying to fade into the concrete. Its child’s play and when the black turns to grey and grey folds into antique white; it’s the only game in town. Set ‘em up and watch me knock them fuckers down. She slides her foot up my leg, slow enough that I feel an ache. She tells me she knows me. Slip of a bra strap, a not so shy smile. It’s not even close to last call but it’s all over. Turn as quiet as you can. Feel the grains slip around the cylinder. Shake it baby, shake it. Don’t sweat the small stuff, brother. We can always make time for another round. Watch the greens bleed to red and circles melt into squares.















It’s the rain.
Always the goddamn rain.
I felt her shortcake.
Yes I did.
Hurt like a mother.
But there you are.



Everything the air can hold



Jeans a little too worn to be trendy. Dirt under her nails. From the garden. Digging. All the way to China. Until the sensation of floating goes away. (Minus one.) Simple math. (Plus one.) Drops of rain, perfect globes. She wants to plan a full color escape. Wishes to embrace the beautiful isolation under her skin. Plants another flower. Feels the light brush of a kiss on her cheek. Remembers a time when floods came quietly. When the sun never had to beg for forgiveness. I lose my last chance. Blame the water. Try to forget that air can only hold so many memories. The scent of rain in her hair; that is what I choose to remember.




Forty days and forty nights;
God’s on a bender, brother.
Watch out.












The sound of a bird, of thunder, of wind, of music; that is what we live for.


Wish you knew me before I was broken. Back when I could name all the different shades the sky turns when it fills with birds. Before I lost my voice, before the only words I could arrange became hopelessness, despair, loss. Every place I have been is gone. Lost, misplaced or simply forgotten. You tell me each leaf is laced with rain, each drop a perfect globe, a perfect water world. I can no longer feel the difference between a call of a tanager and the low rumble of thunder. Do not bury me. I want no part of this earth. Burn my bones and scatter them. Let them live in the sound of words, let them swim in the silence between breaths.



















Magdalena, Magdalena
Sweetheart I love you, more than anything.
There’s nothin’ without you.

Not a goddamn thing.



I am a thief
a magpie
a con artist
who takes words
and plays
three card monte.





She turned off her phone, Brother John.
Gone, daddy, gone. Love is gone.













This world of granite and water looks best in silvers and grays


Let’s memorize the streets, every curve , every corner,
every bus stop, every sign. Crawl through intersections.

Run headlong into our future. Let’s get lost. Trapped
in our wanderlust. Let’s suffocate in each other’s skin.

We’ll steal a car, speed half way to nowhere, pull
over and roll into a ditch. Fuck to the sound of traffic.

Then roam this city until the fire and spark of tonight
sinks into the cool blue of silence.






















Morning after haiku


We are strands of sound;
the call of a tanager
the low cough of thunder.


























She counts syllables, like pennies, counts pauses, like moments between kisses,


It’s a short story, a love letter with typos included but I already know how it ends:
one rough edge, an unsent postcard, a lost cell number and the odd forgot-to-erase
voicemail- hey babe, it’s me- dial tone, short beeps- my batteries dead I’ll wait ‘til it’s warmer; Mailer-Daemon failure notice. Once upon a not so long time ago, my words were her skin. Now, I’m just a spot of orange, a push pin on a map.








Here's are several laid-back "third coast" poems, laid-back being, as I recall it, the mark of the third-coast lifestyle. The poems were all written 10-12 years ago, very soon after I began writing again, and just a few years after moving from the coast to the hill country.



lying with my lover on the beach at midnight

the beach was best at midnight,
when the daytrippers were at home
nursing sunburns, or at a bar,
honky-tonk dancing in gritty flip-flops

the beach was best at midnight
when its beauty was ours alone,
when the sand gleamed in white moonlight
and stars spread across the gulf sky,
a blanket of diamond lights across the bed
of soft tropic night; when the surf,
breaking in ordered rows,
was the only sound in the airy silence

the beach was best at midnight
when we lay together on a sandy towel,
drifting in the star-lit whisper
of the rising, falling waves


my lover moves through the night

pale
as sand
under a cloud-veiled moon
my lover
moves through the night
like breeze
on a summer beach

there is the murmur of the evening tide
in her voice as she nears me, singing

ai-la
ai-la

shantiyya
snantiyya

ai-la


my lover
moves through the night
singing softly
her voice like froth
on the evening tide


lying in the sun with Susan

quiet bay

no sound but the light rustle
of marsh grass in gulf breeze

she
lies on her back
legs spread
as if to thrust herself
at the summer sun

sweat glistens
on the inside of her thigh
and my tongue aches
for the taste of her


north wind on a southern beach

a north wind blows strong
against the incoming tide
and all across the bay
whitecaps flash in the sun
like handkerchiefs
fluttering across a field
of salty sea-green

a beachcomber
in a silver windbreaker
walks the beach barefoot
shoes tied by their strings
to hang around his neck

throws bread to gulls

greedy birds swooping fighting
each other and the wind
for every crumb








The next poem is by Laura Kasischke, from her book Lilies Without. The book was published in 2007 by Ausable Press.

Kasichke teaches at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and is the author of six books of poetry.



Poem Ending in Lines from Jarrell

This morning, a dead mouse
under the kitchen counter. It had

a postcard of the cosmos in its eye. I was trying,

simply to take the garbage out, but

screamed when I saw it and slammed the cupboard shut.

By noon, the light
in the living room
is irrationally bright. The candy dish is full
of small, hard pleasures. I live

in a quiet suburb. The jets

make childish sounds
in the sky. My

book on the couch is a bird in a pond
pushing itself somewhere with one bent wing...but I've

seen snapshots of my own child, wide-eyed with his

whole life before him, a pinprick

of light in his eye
like an exquisite diamond viewed
from a dizzying height.

And I've been blinded by it:

If only you knew there was something else, that
a thimbleful of what
you'd been

would continue to exist.

If only you could rise
from death
as you once rose from sleep, as a child,

and walk through the rooms at night, fingering
the things
in the deep blue light, thinking, Who
was my mother before she was my mother, my
father, the clock?
Ticking. The television off.
But

this is the imagination's light. Outside,

the trees anesthetized. And the stars
mass silently in the sky. they

said, Here are the maps";
we burned the city. The people

are punishing the people - why?









It's Wednesday, just a little goofing day.



He told me to do it

I’m thinking
I’m going to put the word out
that I talk to God and that he told me
to write my last book - and not only that,
he actually dictated a couple of the poems to me
(see pages 136 and 184), including
several I didn’t use, single-issue
pieces about honoring moms and dads
and keeping away from Melinda, Lot’s wife
next door, and inappropriate killing
and thieving and whatnot
but I decided not to use any of them,
too pushy for the market today, no one
wants to read that shalt and shalt-not stuff
anymore, prefer the more “why don’cha, huh?”
mode - do that right
and it’ll sell you some books,
I told Him…

He was really pissed
when I told him I wasn’t going to use
all His stuff, but I told him, hey, Dude-Most-High,
you told me to write a book and if I’m going to write a book
it’s going to be my book and not yours - and if you don’t like it,
Mr. Big Britches, just go write your own book…

he went away mad, but at least he went away, right, dropped
some pretty ferocious lightning and thunder storms
on His way out the door, but I don’t think He was nearly
as mad as He pretended to be since none of the lightning
struck anywhere close to me…

but that’s all back story, the main thing is that my book,
inspired by the Great-Ink-Stained-Wretch-in-the-Sky,
Himself,
is available wherever divinely-inspired books are sold, probably
over in the section where all the politicians who God told
to run for president have theirs and not too far from the Pope section
where his latest book on successful business practices, “The Kiddy-
Diddlers Who Work for You and How to Evade Executive Responsibility
for Them and the Kiddies They Diddle” - a real page-turner I’m thinking

…but, gotta go now -
he’s on the other line, wants
me to do another book, I think, still trying to sell me
on his Sinai series, probably








I wanted to do a couple of poems by our new Poet Laureate, Philip Levine, this week. Easy, I thought, since I know I have least one of his books in my library. Couldn't find it; went through every shelf book by book, and couldn't find it.

Finally gave up and went to the half-priced book store and bought this one, winner of the National Book Award, What Works Is, published in 1999 by Alfred A. Knopf.



Coming Close

Take this quiet woman, she has been
standing before a polishing wheel
for over three hours, and she lacks
twenty minutes before she can take
a lunch break. Is she a woman?
Consider the arms as they press
the long brass tube against the buffer,
they are striated along the triceps,
the three heads of which clearly show.
Consider the fine dust of dark down
above the upper lip, and the beads
of sweat that run from under the red
kerchief across the brown and are wiped
away with a blackening wrist band
in one odd motion a child might make
to say No! No! You must come closer
to find out, you must hang your tie
and jacket in one of the lockers
in favor of a black smock, you must
be prepared to spend shift after shift
hauling off the metal trays of stock,
bowing first, knees bent for a purchase,
then lifting with a gasp, the first word
of tenderness between the two of you,
then you must bring new trays of dull,
unpolished tubes. You must feed her,
as the say in the language of the place.
Make no mistake, the place has a language,
and if by some luck the power were cut,
the wheel slowed to stop so that you
suddenly saw it was not a solid object
but so many separate bristles forming
in motion a perfect circle, she would turn
to you and say "Why?" Not the old why
of why must I spend five nights a week?

Just, "Why?" Even if by some magic
you knew, you wouldn't dare speak
for fear of her laughter, which now
you have anyway as she places the five
tapering fingers of her filthy hand
on the arm of your white shirt to mark
you for you own, now and forever.


M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School
Detroit, 1942

He made a line on the blackboard,
one bold stroke from right to left
diagonally downward and stood back
to ask, looking as always at no one
in particular, "What have I done?"
From the back of the room Freddie
shouted, "You've broken a piece
of chalk. M. Degas did not smile.
"What have I done?" he repeated.
The most intellectual students
looked down to study their desks
except for Gertrude Bimmler, who raised
her hand before she spoke. "M. Degas,
you have created the hypotenuse
of an an isosceles triangle." Degas mused.
Everyone knew that Gertrude could not
be incorrect. "It is possible,"
Louis Warshowsky added precisely,
"that you have begun to represent
the roof of a barn. I remember
that it was exactly twenty minutes
past eleven, and I thought at worst
this would go on another forty
minutes. It was early April,
the snow had all but melted on
the playgrounds, the elms and maples
bordering the cracked walks shivered
in the new winds, and I believed
that before I knew it I'd e
swaggering to the candy store
for a Milky Way. M. Degas
pursed his lips, and the room
stilled until the long hand
of the clock moved to twenty one
as though in complicity with Gertrude,
who added confidently, "You've begun
to separate the dark from the dark."
I looked back for help








Here's my last poem for the week, another meditation on the moon.



moving on

the moon
again,
bright silver coin
against a cloudless,
starless sky, the clouds held back
at the coast, the stars
washed away
by Day’s lesser Goddess,
radiant in Her temporary dominance

and me again,
under the light, again,
like a great white
stranded
on a grassy beach

but not really again

for the moon is higher
tonight, more directly overhead
than last night, aimed to settle
in an hour
between, not behind, the trees

not really again
because there cannot ever be
again in a universe
where all move in a collaborative dance
of orbits and forces of push and pull

the moon never travels the same path
twice, and neither does the earth, or the sun,
or the Milky Way Galaxy
upon whose edge
we totter
and neither do we, you and I,
from whom each moment lived
is a moment of life taken,
as we dance
in our collaborative, conflicting
orbits, some days we pass, some days
we seek such passages, some days
we turn our face, some days we reach
for a hold as we pass, but never
can we grip, for our orbits are our own,
and there is never room for more than one
in each

it is the physics
of all things,
as we travel, always,
fast and light,
there cannot be two together
in a place
made for one

as such a two as you and I
can always touch no more
than a bump
in our come and going

in a universe
of constant motion
it is only the solitary and quiet
who can feel, hear its movement






That's it. Insert normal stuff here.

I'm allen itz, and you know the rest.


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Links
Loch Raven Review
Mindfire Renewed
Holy Groove Records
Tryst
Poems Niederngasse
BlazeVOX
Eclectica
Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
zafusy
The Blogging Poet
Poetsarus.Com
Wild Poetry Forum
Blueline Poetry Forum
The Writer's Block Poetry Forum
The Word Distillery Poetry Forum
Gary Blankenship
The Hiss Quarterly
Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
The Comstock Review
Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
Vienna's Gallery
Shawn Nacona Stroud
Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
Joanna M. Weston
Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
The Angry Poet