Saturday, October 29, 2016


and Rachel gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife:
and Jacob went unto her
– Genesis 30:4

How wide was the way of your coming
to know? Did he feel your heels
upon his back, your nails tearing
the flesh between his shoulders?
Were his lips ever gentle between
your lips, the tang of his desire
upon your tongue? Did he stumble
unto you drunk, call you Rachel?
Was there ever a time when his eyes
shined into your eyes as his thrusts
slowed into sighs? Tell me, Bilhah,
how often was your crying out, crying out?

First appeared in Naugatuck River Review

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