Saturday, August 27, 2016

Poems I Admire #19

On a Wet Weekend

we haul out the board games,
playing with our ten-year-old
grandson, showing a fourth
grade Capitalist how
he should manage his money.

I sit across and watch him,
a youth with innate avarice
become a Wall Street titan,
a cutthroat, ruthless landlord,
a blond Scrooge collecting
rent, fees, taxes and penalties
in a simulated life adventure,
the game called Monopoly.

Time passes in the kitchen,
hours meld into another day,
it’s marathon Monopoly
as he acquires both utilities,
buys railroads, Boardwalk,
invests in pricey Park Place,
builds houses and hotels,
a bona fide Capitalist,
a younger Donald Trump.

Landing on Park Place often,
I mortgage all, go belly-up.
Being railroaded into poverty,
content with a go-to-jail card,
I sneer at the gloating winner,
skipping around the table,
clutching his money overhead.

First published in Verse Wisconsin

John L. Campbell hasbeen practicing poetry since his retirement as a manufacturers' rep in 1995. Once a week he facilitates a writing group of seniors at the Brookfield Senior Center.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Willamette

There is a spirit here
along the banks of this sluggish
gray river, a frigid thing that floats
like fog and weeps like an eye staring
from the middle of the back of your head.

He curls his bony finger
and summons you to take his place
among the somber contemplations that haunt
these gray afternoons with moans that seep
into the mist like the sick sweet smell of decay.

This spirit is tired
of watching mumbling faces stare
at the ground in furrow-browed conversations
that walk from here to there and always, always,
always all the way back again.

First appeared in Avatar Review - Issue 18

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Poems I Admire #18

Empty Cars

You walk into the kitchen shaking the February cold
from your coat flecks of snow melt in your hair.

I stir a pot of sauce, its stream carries past Sunday
dinners at my parents’, kids playing Go Fish

in the family room. You lean against the island
and cross your arms. I am slicing cloves of garlic

when you say that empty cars, dark and idle,
in the driveway, make you sad sometimes.

I stop chopping and for the first time since the boys left,
I see you, really know you. I no longer question

what keeps a marriage together through years of northern
winters, no sun, only grey clouds, slick ice –

what moves people past the fringe into longing again.

“Empty Cars” appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of San Pedro River Review and is included in the collection, Take Something When You Go, COPYRIGHT © 2016 by Dawn Leas. Excerpt appears courtesy of Winter Goose Publishing.

Dawn Leas's work has appeared in Literary Mama, Southern Women's Review, San Pedro River Review, The Pedestal Magazine and elsewhere. Her first full-length collection, Take Something When You Go was released by Winter Goose Publishing in April 2016. Her chapbook, I Know When to Keep Quiet, was published by Finishing Line Press (2010) and is available in print and Kindle versions. A collection of her poems can be found in Everyday Escape Poems, an anthology released by SwanDive Publishing (2014). Her work won an honorable mention in the 2005 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the assistant to the president at Wilkes University and a contributing editor at Poets' Quarterly and TheThePoetry.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Fragments of Dad

Thumbs tucked into denim pockets.
Cigarette dangling between fingers.
Thinking James Dean looked like

Green tinted lenses.
Throwing-up a blue-and-yellow pill
I got spanked for swallowing.
Nasal of Bob Dylan. Sitar of Sgt. Pepper.

Grunion hunting in the dark
on Newport beach. Fishing off the pier.
Chocolate covered frozen bananas.
Abba Zabbas. Zig-Zags.

Police at the house.
Mom crying. Me trying
to convince him
Jesus loves us.

Little sister Cindy
running and jumping
into his arms,
legs tight around his waist.
Refusing to let go.

Watching him hang-up
on Mom that one time
at Grandma Rose’s house.
Hoping for more visitation.

Steering the Bug in the desert
to his goofiest laugh.
Calling my step-dad
to his face. My face,

at eight,
as I walked past the mirror
that time he left
when I thought he would stay –
it was red and wet
and didn’t look like me.

First appeared in Yellow Chair Review - Issue 7

Friday, August 5, 2016

"The Allness of Everything" Friendly Review!

The Allness of Everything” has its first review (albeit informal and albeit by a personal friend). Enjoy!

“This is the dark side for sure, and you've explored it with keen emotional knowing – the range of people's lives that you seem effortlessly/imaginatively to have emotional access to (‘One Woman’s Confession,’ ‘On Despair and No Way Out'). ‘Normal’ logic and ‘normal’ syntax have been superseded here by language that pressures us into so many new ways of understanding what we already know.”

Robin Havenick – LBCC Poetry Advisory Committee Chair

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Poems I Admire #17


As I stand in front of this painting
which seems more a witch’s world
than mine, and I like it
all the more for it’s bizarre
and blissful, I feel a tap on my shoulder.

“Excuse me,” a woman says who I wouldn’t
describe as simply beautiful, but
bountiful too in a way where she corners
all my complex “b” adjectives,
“are you Gustave Bachman, by
chance, the famous poet?”

I wither a little on the inside,
but suddenly recall what must’ve been
my inner Yogi Berra: “You are who
you are unless you’re not.”
I take one last glance at this blaze of yellow
and wonder if there’s a color for serendipity.

First appeared in Off the Coast

Jefferson Navicky’s writing has appeared in filling Station, The CafĂ© Review, Crossborder, Hobart, and Smokelong Quarterly. He works as the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection, teaches English at Southern Maine Community College, and lives in Freeport, Maine with his wife.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

On Ground Beef and Certainty

They’re delicious with onions
mixed in and ketchup baked
onto the top. Of course, killing
is required, but we don’t mind –
we don’t do the killing. We hire
that out. Well, we lack equipment
and space for draining the blood.
Besides, our stomachs easily quease.
We also pay others to do the grinding.
For a very fair price, they churn
the once live flesh into a thick goo
of squishable ooze easily molded
into a variety of delightful shapes
that look nothing like anything
that ever once breathed. We often
choose to make ours resemble a loaf
of life’s best bread. Then we bake it,
drain it, slice it, feed it to our children –
force them to eat all they are served.

First published in Avatar Review - Issue 18

Friday, July 22, 2016


We hold onto our stiff upper lips
the way Daddy does turkey legs
before the sobbing and the sucking

of hysterical air. We look like two
half-peeled bananas, soft and melted
as ice cream floating in flat root beer.

The bottoms of our church shoes grind
gummy against the sun-beat blacktop.
Melancholy is the only thing capable

of sloughing the rage off our faces
and down into the box with Mommy.
We bellow an odd sort of weeping, silver

as Daddy’s fillings, and ask him why
we have to be here listening to cabbies
cursing, passing us mercilessly, needing

a home cooked meal, like one of Mommy’s.
I want in the box, too, but you hold me back.

These days we hang from ledges
and slip on the grill, let the smoke
soak in, drink our beer bottles dry,

watch baby birds grow hungry, let
the long yellow mush turn brown.
We feast on canned sardines over

saltine crackers, crush old hymnals
like spent cigarette butts, sneer
at the future through the wavy

asphalt blur of heat, and stare.
The emotion we deny is dread.
It’s dexterous as a barber-assassin

and cools stagnation into a softness
as rare as Daddy’s fully opened arms.
All his teeth were sharp as a bee sting,

were good for fighting over directions,
rights of way, manners, and the best way
to cuss. We could have used a few biscuits

with butter and some stewed red meat. Thanks,
brother. You saved me from the me I will never be.

My legs flail like laundry in a wind
that enters lungs like the first deep
breath after serving time. Tipping

them straight and seeing the sun
through thick amber glass, I eat
a dozen corn meal muffins, brown

as Mommy’s coffin. Old memories
are a fishing line gliding into dark
I only know by tears and guilt as hot

as a smoldering and burnt-out brother.
The transparency of never seeing far
enough ahead and eyes that water

all the damn time smothers reason
like too many pillows. Mosquitoes
understand how hugs around necks

turn red and swollen into an infection
of rest in peace, brother that follows
never losing or choking on heavy pride.

There’s gravy in my beard. It’s heavily
peppered and meatless like the hot meals
you used to make me and the stuffed

mouthfuls of conversation that became
the reasons I never knew being alone.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

On Despair and No Way Out

Silver roots as pale as unclogged arteries
dig deep inside her cold flaky scalp and accent

motherhood’s worn face, worn hips, and worn-
out father buried somewhere along the long time ago.

Her squints creak like heavy decades of swinging
the A-B-C’s of hope: a hard-scrabbled scribble

memorized inside the sounds of sharp consonants
tongued between hoe and back and a stooped-over life.

There’s no way to wash off a despair as long as no way out.
Stiff and rusted as pioneer-hope, she just keeps blasting

another ramble, imagining it’s always sooner or later loss
and a failure to feel what’s different between them. It tastes

like somebody’s else’s last-ever kiss; it’s crazy, weepy,
vengeful as a need left out to dry and turn into never enough

time for the kind of love children crave. Once upon a time,
her lovers could run through her like drunken bachelors,

their stories all weather-beaten lies, translucent as folklore –
still, the names they cooed, her soft skin, the too blue sky.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Allness of Everything

It seeps deep into where it cannot flee –
like fire, the heat of loins, or an infatuation
blooming red as adolescence. It’s a thesaurus

of beautiful things that lodge the lozenge inside
our gasping for breath. It’s the sick intention
of every memory and is whiter than waking up blind.

It’s an especially fragile bubble the color of secrets.
It desires the dust of thirsty ground that soaks up love
the way children leap. It is the warmth of all things yellow

and always waits for someone else to adjust the thermostat.
It is softer than the way wind cools skin. The allness of everything
close to death, the shrill misery that, in time, becomes reason,

never really letting go, and the pleading for just one more
goodbye hug are each found inside the way it unfolds
all the way back to flat.