Saturday, October 22, 2016

Poems I Admire #23

South Mason Street, 1976

My mother’s first name was dammittohell.
Her middle was Pearl.
She filled afternoons with Winston 100s,
South Pacific, & Carousel,
singing the female leads to her vacuum.

My father came home from General Electric
& closed the garage door behind him
spending his evenings with chisel & saw,
cutting joints to lock wood at right angles,
setting them with the force of a vise.

I’d pedal from Bloomington Jr. High
to the pond at the end of the street,
traded cigarettes stolen from mom
for Hustler pages from Doug next door.

Dinners were quiet & short.
I cleaned the table & rinsed the plates
while he went back to his shop or Miller’s Tap,
& she sat by herself on the porch.

He kept his bench swept of sawdust,
polished his plate with a fistful of bread,
wiped his ’66 Coronet’s blue vinyl seats
clear of late night semen & sweat.

She folded my clothes in squares
& stacked them in boxes from Kroger,
filling the back of her Pinto.

One weekend a month I joined him
in his shop, building tables
to bring other families together,
beds for sleep & for love.

First appeared in San Pedro River Review

Robert Lee Kendrick is a poet and teacher in Clemson, South Carolina. He grew up in Illinois and Iowa, spending his teens and twenties playing guitar and songwriting in punk rock bands. After attending the University of Iowa, he earned an M.A. in English from Illinois State University in 1993, and a Ph.D. (18th Century British Literature) from the University of South Carolina in 1998. After coming to an end with graduate school, he returned to music, performing throughout the southeast as an Americana singer-songwriter, while holding down jobs as a grocery store worker, house painter, and line cook.

After marriage, he settled into teaching high school English. He began writing poetry late -- in his mid-forties -- when he was assigned creative writing classes at my school. Thanks to a few very skilled and generous mentors, he's been published in such journals as Tar River Poetry, Louisiana Literature, South Carolina Review, Kestrel, The James Dickey Review, San Pedro River Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and The Main Street Rag. In 2016 Main Street Rag Publishing released his chapbook, Winter Skin.

When not teaching, reading or writing, he races bicycles, still plays guitar (rather badly), and obsesses about Iowa Hawkeye basketball.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Every fifth gumball
is laced
with the thin green film
of Corporate America
and an odd fascination
for Cuban cigars.

Cadillacs cause cancer.

When read from the stratosphere,
the U.S. Interstate Highway system
spells beefsteak tomatoes in Cherokee.
(We all know what that means.)

Have you noticed
how the bugs buzz these days?
When you swat them they hover
and don’t quite die.

First appeared in Eunoia Review - August 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Poems I Admire #22

In Which I Imagine a Stray Cat as Ulysses
Sarah Freligh

He appears twice daily, around eight
a.m., later on in the blue hour after

the horizon has swallowed the sun.
Swaggers up the porch steps and waits

for me to serve him. Grunts approval,
complains when I’m late. He’s dust

whiskered, streaked with grease
from junkyard odysseys. His nose

is scarred, hard souvenir of an epic
battle for a minute’s tryst with a thin

calico. Nights he doesn’t show, I leave
the light on, sit by the window. Knit.

First appeared in Naugatuck River Review

Sarah Freligh's is the author of Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis. Other books include A Brief Natural History of an American Girl, winner of the Editor’s Choice award from Accents Publishing, and Sort of Gone, a book of poems that follows the rise and fall of a fictional pitcher named Al Stepansky. Her work has appeared in the Sun Magazine, Brevity, Rattle, Barn Owl Review, on Writer’s Almanac, and anthologized in the 2011 anthology Good Poems: American Places. Among her awards are a 2009 poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation in 2006.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Following the Reaping

(in four parts)

1. By the Very Same Sickle

I was dragged into a journey
that looked like an admission of love
for my brooding-over-steeping-tea posture.

There is more to this road than sliding.
Every time my stooped back turned,
a pointed finger jabbed my chest and I knew

the truth – heaps of empty haystacks lie
in the dirt and the sickle swings right before bed.
I was always either thirsty or very, very sad.

2. On Truth and Freedom and Being a Coward

We pay by the foot for oblivion’s dust,
knowing our journey will turn eventually
as red as spending every morning alone

reading by refrigerator light. We rely on unstoppable
go-to moves – the fire-pole slide, the running
toward one abandoned cat after another, the vague

unintentional deaths, and the folding in on ourselves.
We become bullying cowards with nothing left
but rage and a truth as scary as being set free.

Mildew draws mice and mice draw blood –
that makes love a dry throat, salty, eager for something
cold to drink – something very, very cold.

 3. Freedom Is a Liquid Thing

With just one leg in my pants, sweat begins
to drip bloodshot as a bullet wound left to fester.
Glowing against the kitchen window just above

a sinkful of dirty dishes piled high and rancid
as another unwelcome flirtation, there’s a light
as cold and blue as a morgue drawer. It interrogates

my introspection with hoarse rasps of why and fists
that never flip a finger. All freedom is a liquid thing,
up until the red runs dry – very, very dry.

4. All the Rest Is a Rapture

Lies run down my nose and off its tip
into a hot red pot of sweet-smelling meat.
My life’s gone green and needs a poultice,

needs to soak in the amber glare of a thickly
shellacked bar with shadows as dark as reaping
strokes. Knowing only the fear of never going deep

or letting my muscles bulge in the right direction,
I imagine a life as soft as a goddess-thigh and warm
as the air gods breathe. All the rest is a rapture;

a waking up cold, stiff, and a little bit blue; a waiting
to remember what it’s like to really want sleep –
to really, really want it.

From my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)

(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Now I Know

Found out about an hour ago.
No more waking up

wondering. It happened
last year, day after Christmas.
Leukemia. Your girlfriend
still cries. A girlfriend!
At 69! Way to go, Dad.

You never could stand
to be alone, could you? No.
That was for the rest of us.

First appeared in The Blotter - July 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Poems I Admire #21

Serving Time
Peter Murphy

I was raised by a wing of dragons bearing the habits
of religious sisters who smacked me when my mouth
was smart and again when it was slow to learn.

They force-fed me sweet potatoes scrambled with lard
to fatten me up, for what oven I was never sure.
I stowed myself in the belly of a coffin ship

that floated by each solstice and again when the night
and the day were the same. It drifted to an island
where the sun rises above the waves and rarely sets.

O, how I long to serve myself a slice of the syrupy evening,
to handle decoys from the permanent collection and examine
the scribbling of longitude lunatics long dead.

Instead I work the gravy shift where none of the plates
are special or blue and each diner is a narcissist with a n appetite.
At this table an ensemble of latex artists.

At this table a banker and his pen.
At this table breakout leaders from a convention of choirs
where each delegate sings only the songs of himself.

First appeared in Off the Coast

Peter E. Murphy is the author of Stubborn Child, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, and five poetry chapbooks, Thorough & Efficient, Mr. Nobody, previously published, and The Last Pub on Earth, I Thought I Was Going to be Okay. Atlantic City Lives is forthcoming in 2016. His unique writing assignments have been collected in Challenges for the Delusional. In addition to receiving six poetry writing fellowships from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, he has received awards and fellowships from The Folger Shakespeare Library, The National Endowment for the Humanities, Yaddo and the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. He has been an educational advisor to Fooling with Words with Bill Moyers and other PBS poetry programs. He is the founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University which offers programs for poets, writers and teachers in the U.S. and abroad.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Let Me Tell You What I Know

About the way a razor
slides through an entire day
of silent growing up. About
orange peels and applesauce.
Let me tell you about leaving
and being left alone one summer
while the grass was still green
and the apricots just ripe.
About missing and never being
missed. Let me tell you about
the sound of my first son’s
first wails and the way his
breaths became my breaths.
About all the ways distance
becomes permanent as memory.
Let me tell you what I know
about loss and worn out sneakers
and going to work in the dark.

First appeared in San Pedro River Review - Fall 2016

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Poems I Admire #20

The Helpful Man
Susan Rooke

One spring day he mounted your porch steps,
rang your doorbell, and as I surmise it,
backed down a step or two to seem less
threatening. We know he pointed out

the tree on your front lawn that had fallen
to its side, a tumble of gaunt ruin. Much
the way you would have appeared to the man
through the grimed mesh of your screen door.

So helpful, the man was, offering to cut the old
tree up and haul it off, a job he would accomplish
easily, for a modest sum. You would pay him half
at once, he explained, the other half the next day

when he came back to remove the tree. So very
helpful was the man that you agreed, writing
him a check, filling in the lines by long habit.
As a young woman you had to been a bank teller.

In age, you had forgotten how to use a telephone,
when to bathe and eat, forgotten you had owned
a car once the keys were taken from your purse.
But you remembered how to write a check.

As promised, the helpful man returned the next day,
not the sort to shirk his word. From within
the muddy shallows of your eyes you gazed
at him as he pointed out the fallen tree

on your front lawn, explained his helpful plan
to cut it up and haul it off if you would pay him
half that day. And so you did, and did, and did –
for days you did, the tree untouched – until

one of your sons caught the man in the act of being
helpful, which helped us know what we must do
with you, your house, and all your things, fallen:
first the cutting, and then the hauling off.

First appeared in Naugatuck RiverReview

Susan Rooke’s poems have appeared in such print and online publications as San Pedro River Review, Concho River Review, Texas Poetry Calendar, U.S. 1 Worksheets, Melancholy Hyperbole, Kentucky Review, A Year of Being Here, Folio, Naugatuck River Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and the anthologies Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems (Dos Gatos Press 2016), Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems (ed. Jonas Zdanys, Lamar University Press 2015) and Grit, Gravity and Grace: New Poems about Medicine and Healthcare (ed. Rhonda L. Soricelli, M.D. and Jack Coulehan, M.D., M.P.H.; College of Physicians of Philadelphia 2015). She has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize, once for Best of the Net, and for the 2016 Dwarf Stars Award. She lives in the country outside of Thorndale, Texas. Find out more (and read her blog) at

Tuesday, September 6, 2016