Friday, November 17, 2017

Aphrodite/Athena


One was a ball-buster; a lusty see-through blouse
firmly nippled and slightly off-white, knotted
just above her pierced tan midriff exposed so low
it might have been hard to see the way her red skirt
led straight to the flesh of her thighs – except they
were her thighs, and she was a goddess.

The other was a head full of wit and the wry, dry
vocabulary of one dismissive glance after another;
a reading-glasses-on-a-chain-wearing emasculation
who kept a black and well-oiled Saturday night special
tucked in the way down deep of her soft leather handbag,
stripped from the hides of every man she’d ever tanned.

They were two ends of the very same sisterhood,
a spectral pretending that day after day neither one
cared that she knew everything there was to know
about living all alone.


First appeared in Chiron Review - Issue 108

Friday, November 10, 2017

Poems I Admire #43

Lunch on the Way Home from Children’s  
Don Colburn

When our charburgers didn’t come,  
Becca set the book of matches down exactly  
for kickoff and taught me the waiting game.
Finger off thumb, one flick, and the matchbook
slid spinning across the dark shellac
into my lap. I sent it skidding back,
dared it to hang off the edge just short
of plunging over. Isn’t that the goal
even when you’re not sixteen?
If any part of the matchbook stuck out
past the rim – touchdown, six points.
Sometimes she’d shake salt
to slicken the field, make things more
dicey. No matter where my shot landed,
Becca laughed as if she could forget
the MRI and what was growing.
Losing 12 to 6, I plucked
an ice cube from my glass
and flicked and she cried “Whoa-ho!”
as it sailed unstoppable over the edge.
I still see the love of mischief
in those eyes, so close to happy.


From As if Gravity Were a Theory

Don Colburn is a poet and retired newspaper reporter in Portland, Oregon. He has published four poetry collections, most recently a chapbook called Tomorrow Too: The Brenda Monologues. His poems have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, and won the Discovery/The Nation Award, the Finishing Line Press Prize and the Cider Press Review Book Award. During his newspaper career, he was a reporter for The Washington Post and The Oregonian, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing.

Friday, November 3, 2017

But Billy Loves Betsy


If Billy’d pulled just one more C instead of learning to endure
the odor fatigue of citrus degreaser or the rattling of torque wrenches

and air-compressors, maybe he and Betsy would have figured out
how to pretend cactus flowers and hoot owls are fancy. Some men

and many terrified wives end their despair with spoonfuls of fate
that always come out wrong, disfigured as a train-tracked penny –

thinned and spent as the rest us. Tears, biting lips, sharing the rut
in the middle of their king sized bed, addictions to strong coffee,

and letting others know all about their spooning into deep sleep –
despite the scratches on their backs – are all artifacts, the remains

of something civilized, a twisted and warped ruin that stays as lovely,
somehow, as anyone willing to name whatever shape that may be.


Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)
(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Poems I Admire #42


Mrs. God
Connie Wanek

Someone had to do the dirty work,
spading the garden, moving mountains,
keeping the darkness out of the light,
and she took every imperfection personally.

Mr. Big Ideas, sure,
but someone had to run the numbers.
Then talk about babies: he never imagined
so many.

That was part of his charm, of course,
his frank amazement at consequences,
the pretty songs he gave the finches:
those spoke to his

innocence, his ability to regard
every moment as fresh. “Let’s give them
free will and see what happens,”
he said, ever the optimist.

First appeared in upstreet


Connie Wanek has been writing since her hand could hold a pencil. She is the author of four books of poetry, including Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems (University of Nebraska Press). It's the second book in the Ted Kooser Contemporary Poetry Series. She is also the author of a book of prose called Summer Cars, published in 2014 by Will o' the Wisp Books.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sir Loin

I fed him every morning before school
and knew from the start how it’d all end,
hence the name – insurance against love.

I’d shake the feed can at the barn
and the rough scrape of grain against metal
would produce a charge along the path,

a snorting, and the kind of drool that falls
to the ground in viscous threads of greed.
Every day this, until the sudden last day

with its usual bucket-and-grain shake
followed by his everyday rush. This time, though,
he was not only met with a bucketful sweet oats –

there was also a gun,
a bullet to the head,
the thud of dead weight.

It’s been a lifetime since then, and, still, I see it – 
the hard packed path, the charge, the drool, the head wag.
I hear the crack of the rifle fire. Watch the total collapse.

Not long after, I met that one girl with the blue eyes –
the way she smiled with them.


First appeared in Chiron Review - Issue 108

Friday, September 8, 2017

Poems I Admire #41

Air Brakes
Michael Istvan

Soon he will climb the steps of the school bus
and be thinking nothing of me. So young,
and hooked to me as he is now, though, even
when my son is mad at me or just moody
that morning, he is sure to take a window seat
where I can see him in profile from the doorstep.
And from under his hiding hoodie his eyes,
barely perceptible through the tint, will cut
toward mine at the lunging hiss of the air brakes.


First appeared in THAT Literary Review

M. A. ISTVAN JR., PhD, whose life is to his poetry what Caravaggio’s life is to his painting, has been a university instructor for a decade. His susceptibility to complete abandon in the classroom, which enables him to confess even deep secrets to his students.

You can also contact the good doctor here...

Friday, September 1, 2017

On Depression and Mind-Altering Drugs


Man-made chemical reactions fire at neurons
like it’s target practice and carnie-calls before falling
into a dunk tank and being swept neatly out of Kansas

to somewhere north of Oz near a dark and Aliceless wonderland.
They climb into bed with you, warm you like bread crumbs leading
to a rusty gas pump where, for pennies on the paper dollar, they fix

the broken window in the hay loft and every chip in every china bowl.
You read books until dreams slip off and the sun goes down deep inside
the wet core of your red and white lace. The sleeping is as good

as sleeping ever gets, but the waking part is hard – it’s oven-roasted
tomatoes under a hard bed of garlic neglect that turns your ease
into rattlesnake fang. There’s a fuzzy buzzing humming in the center

of your whisky-flask brain, now emptied of inebriation and sass.
There’s a buzzing fuzz inside the coke bottle glasses of your bloodshot eyes.
There’s knowing there’s nothing, and there’s knowing no one else knows.


Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)
(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Poems I Admire #40

The Velvet Peaches of August
Penelope Schambly Schott

When stars rise over the mountain,
fruit gleams in the half-picked orchard.

As I wait for you among velvet peaches,
I stand in darkness on their bruised flesh.

Sweetness. Sweetness gathers like bees
at the mouth of juice. I meant to want you,

yes, but never this much.


From “May the Generations Die in the Right Order.”

Penelope Scambly Schott’s two new books are Bailing the River, a collection about what can and can’t be done, and Serpent Love: A Mother-Daughter Epic, poems about a difficult period in her relationship with her adult daughter and the daughter’s essay in response. Penelope lives in Portland and Dufur, Oregon where she teaches an annual poetry workshop.

Friday, August 18, 2017

On Hatred and a Sister’s Glare

I saw her green eyes glare.
Cindy’s eyes. My little sister. My Irish twin.
Not little now.

Grown and glaring with a glare that hurt
for the hurt it craved. A jaded rage
lush with a need

for gnawing gristle while glaring
the way hatred turns into something matter-like,
an emerald beam of heat and slicing.

She’d assumed that man had died, but
he lived – lacking legs, a working bladder,
memory. Nevertheless, alive.

So she glared at me, her Irish twin,
for being unaware
that this was such bad, bad news.


First appeared in The Main Street Rag

Friday, August 11, 2017

Poems I Admire #39

Dear Mom

My old body shuffles absently
through these cluttered rooms.
I’m older than you when you died.

Owl murmur weaves through
a shaky, dark wind tonight.
There is so much unsaid.

Your muted love was never
enough to fill jagged wounds,
turned now to lovely scars.

I am exiled to a frozen land,
but the winter sun lightens
my scars, rekindles my love

& I am a smiling child again.
This is no convenient copout
& not a classical suppression.

Dear Mom, the sun is afire
like the place I suspect we will
meet up at. I love you still. 


First appeared in San Pedro River Review

Adrian C. Louis grew in northern Nevada and is an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe. From 1984-97, Louis taught at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He recently retired as Professor of English at Minnesota State University in Marshall. His most recent book of poems is Random Exorcisms (Pleiades Press, 2016). More info at Adrian-C-Louis.com

Thursday, August 3, 2017

All the Heat I Have

Watching the crush of a sick yellow foam
from a sandy blanket whose grit we ignore,
we spin inside daytime dreams like the eerie

twirl of twilight as it dares to climb all the way
to the top just to watch us sink. We drift, oblivious

to better names, to warmth, to a history lacking
fables in which we feign regret. We acquiesce, always,
like half-opened parachutes finding their way

to the top of the ocean’s bottom, like tuxedoed escorts
wearing plaster smiles, like the rattling deep inside

that we can never let admit your love of cigarettes –
the taste, the red tip, the red-stained end, the blood-black tar
that sticks me to you and lets you take all the heat I have.

Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)
(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Poems I Admire #38


Ceiling Fresco, Andrea Mantegna, 1474


















Camera degli Sposi (The Bridal Chamber)

Afterwards, we lie on the bed,
limbs flung wide, my kirtle, his doppieto
on the floor, tangled with the wedding
silks, our sweaty bodies far apart,

breathing hard, but not in unison.
The ceiling above me is a painted balustrade
around a painted hole, a painted sky
strewn with painted clouds.

It’s like being at the bottom of a well.
Outside, it could be raining—
lightning, thunder, stars darkening,
but in this room the sky is always blue.

What a crowd up there around the edge—
all those merry cherubs, a dark man in a turban,
several women staring, even a bird.
I feel like I should cover up.

The cherubs have fat, creased thighs,
stubby little penises. The man cocks
his head. The bird gazes at the clouds,
as if overtaken by yearning.

Below, on rumpled sheets
of fine-woven linen, I touch his shoulder.
That bird, I ask, is it a pheasant?
He looks, rolls away from me.

Idiota, he says, it’s a peacock.
I want to stroke the soft hair
curling at the back of his neck
but I don’t dare. Instead I look up.

On the balustrade
between two women, is a heavy tub
filled with greenery, balanced
on the very edge.

From her collection entitled Fugitive Pigments (Future Cycle Press)

A Southern Californian through and through, Ruth Bavetta writes at a messy desk overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod, Tar River Review, North American Review and many other journals. She is the author of Fugitive Pigments (FutureCycle Press, 2013) Embers on the Stairs (Moontide Press, 2014) and Flour Water Salt (FutureCycle Press 2016.) She likes the light on November afternoons, the music of Stravinsky, the smell of the ocean, she hates pretense, fundamentalism and sauerkraut. http://www.ruthbavetta.com

Friday, July 21, 2017

Subtracting Forty-Seven

while reading the obituary page, February 23

Mr. Anderson, 93.
Jackson would be 46,
Alisha would be 76.
The grandkids, unborn
now, grown by then,
won’t miss my phlegmy
coughing, my spots, wrinkles,
nursing home smell.
Maybe those grandkids will love
their Nana Isha enough
to mow the lawn, trim
the tall trees we planted
just last year. It says
Mr. Anderson had a smile
when they found him.

Mr. Gibbs, 53.
Jackson would be six,
young enough to love
a different Daddy.
Would he run to the window
smiling and watch him walk in
from work? Would Alisha
join him there? What if
they’re not smiling?
Son of a bitch!
Mr. Gibbs chose cremation.

Mrs. Morgan, 83.
Church deacon, bridge club,
investment club. In lieu of flowers,
donate to the Humane Society.
Jackson would be 36 -
wife, kids, getting along.
The grands still young enough
to love baking cookies with Alisha.
Mrs. Morgan’s husband died
20-years ago.

Mr. Gregg, 63.
My greatest fear.
Jackson would be 16
and hard on Alisha.
Her weeping
would be all for him.
Mr. Gregg ran marathons.

Andrew, 3.
I was wrong
about my greatest fear.


First appeared in Clear Poetry

Friday, July 14, 2017

Poems I Admire #37

The Glare of the Sun on the Water
Dylan Scott

Mom doesn't afford us a babysitter,
but in the summer she buys
us a pass to O'Connor's Pool.
She is nice. I hold Cody's hand
when we cross Washington and Ninth
and Huntington. He barks 
at the chained-up dogs. 
I tell him it's mean. 

We change, then meet outside
the snackbar and find a place
to put our towels.

The water is warm and alive. 
With your head under, you can hear
the kicking and splashing. 
I can't open my eyes underwater.
It burns. But Cody does, 
and he tells me what the world
looks like from the bottom 
of the pool. He does cannonballs, too.
The water swallows him.

Cody got in a fight with Russel
today. They used to be friends, 
but aren't any more. The lifeguard
sent us home.

Cody didn't bark at the dogs. 
He was nice. I held his hand 
across Huntington and Ninth 
and Washington, and down
the sidewalks.

Irving was home. He was 
smoking, and watching TV. 
Cody tried to tell him what happened,
and I said it wasn't his fault.
It didn't matter.

I snuck in his room that night. 
I whispered that everything would
be fine – that I wouldn't let
Irving or Russel near him, 
that I would watch his
cannonballs, and that we
would split a Coke tomorrow. 
He was quiet, like he
couldn't hear me. 

The next morning 
we couldn't go to the pool.
They said something happened,
but wouldn't tell me what it was.
The lady, Mrs. Caston, said
we had to go. We drove down
Washington, and Ninth, then
Columbia, then Lincoln, then
a whole bunch of streets
I didn't know. I tried to tell her
that the car was big, and there
was room for Cody. She didn't
say much, but I think she 
was nice. I think she wanted
to say something.

The ride was quiet and long.
I thought of the water,
and the anxious hands
breaking the still.


Dylan Scott is my friend and the best poet no one's heard of. Here's hoping a positive response to this poem will encourage him to continue writing and, maybe, throw together a submission every now and again.

Friday, July 7, 2017

One Woman’s Confession

We drank wine stomped wet by the holy feet
of men who knew they’d eventually confess
to your drinking between greedy lips that nibbled

mine red, gently, as my tongue tasted the sharpness
of your teeth. This was more than wanting your breath
to take mine all the way away, collapsing both lungs

like oranges squeezed into juice. My not knowing how
to climb cleanly into the space where young skin sticks
to vinyl covered cushions became a shot across the bow

as we pretended the overly salivated meshing of mouths
on metal was a sensual thing, though leading to lips chapped
dry as the tailpipe fumes the night you taught me everything.

There exists no metaphor hungry enough to overcome
the softness of cliché or the sentimentality of school girls
grown to love the sound of moon rhymes in their freshly pierced

ears – the core of where I heard your smooth lines float like spooks
from early innocence to deepest regrets to near silent echoes
that I later learned may never turn silent at all.

Yes, later learned.
My hair no longer falls easily over my shoulders, warm
as any confession of what really happened that night in that space.

Confession is such a dirty word –
dirty as never letting any other love help me forget.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Poems I Admire #36

The Wilderness

On the verge of the lake, he stands alone
without speaking or moving,
his emaciated frame lost amid gorse bushes,
their needles tipped with yellow buds,
spines hooking onto his baggy brown coat.
The landscape recedes, each mountain
like the stony back of a sea monster
in hibernation. Ashen clouds slide over
the weakening sun, their shadows
dancing across the rock face.
A Westerly wind sweeps the skin of water
and licks his ruddy face, forcing him to shut both eyes.
As sudden raindrops ping off his coat
he slowly backtracks home, following dirt tracks
flanked with overgrown heather
to the cabin, log fire, beer, bong, banjo,
faded olive couch with deer hide blankets,
and a loaded shotgun propped up beside the door.



The following is the bio of poet Naomi Hamilton found at her musical website.

Jealous of the Birds is the solo project of hotly tipped Irish songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Naomi Hamilton. Her debut album Parma Violets, due out in April, matches introspective indie-folk with fiery post-punk. Beautifully crafted songs have been given contrasting arrangements, veering from stripped-down acoustic guitar to full-band indie-rock anthems, all overlaid by Naomi’s compelling layered vocals. Equal parts light and shade, the songs are poignant and vulnerable, bursting with honesty and raw passion.
Hailing from County Armagh in Northern Ireland, Jealous of the Birds emerged from the vibrant suburban folk scene, alongside acts such as Ciaran Lavery and No Oil Paintings. Naomi quietly unleashed her debut EP Capricorn in March 2015, where her wonderfully understated bedroom indie-folk won her an ever-growing legion of support. The entire EP is a stunning lo-fi collection of tunes recalling Girlpool, Karen Dalton, Cat Power, Laura Marling and even The Moldy Peaches at times.  Describing her music she has said; “My only hope is that the songs sound like a real friend talking.”

Monday, June 26, 2017

Barely Platonic

They head straight for the highest point,
run up the stairs, floor after floor, 

until they reach the top, spin around
on the flat black roof, enjoy the dizzy rush

of height. They hold hands and pull
each other this way, then that. Their eyes

wide open, they take everything in 
and laugh at each other’s laughter.

Eventually, things get serious. 
Their grip gets tight, they head for the edge.

They look down, look at each other, 
leap. The ground closes-in, hearts thump. 

Their hands slide apart, fingertips cling,
release. Chutes pop and drag.


First appeared in Clear Poetry

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poems I Admire #35

Lot’s Wife
Mike James

The marriage was never good. Lot lived and lectured within the dull walls of his piety. Never sipped water or ate a crust of bread without giving thanks so all might hear. In Sodom, his eyes watched the ground. When women stood in doorways and called and called he did not answer. Instead, he scurried down the one path to home. At night his sand coarse hands touched his wife: the same spots in the same order. He knew only one way to enter the house of her body… quickly, while shuddering thanks. Beneath him, she dreamed of another’s salt. Her whole life, a backward glance.


First appeared in Main Street Rag

Mike James has been published in over a 100 magazines across the United States. His work has appeared in such places as Negative Capability, Soundings East, Chiron Review, and Birmingham Poetry Review. Among his nine poetry collections are Peddler’s Blues, The Year We Let The House Fall Down, Elegy In Reverse, and Past Due Notices. A new book of prose poems, My Favorite Houseguest, will be published in the summer of 2017 by FutureCycle Press. He has previously served as an associate editor of The Kentucky Review, as an associate editor of Autumn House Press, as the publisher of Yellow Pepper Press, and as the Visiting Writer In Residence at the University of Maine, Fort Kent.

Friday, June 9, 2017

On Macramé and Excuses


They’re in the way you wind your steps
into a tightly twisted macramé – except
that they change the way things change,

the way others wonder why your’re never
where you want to be and why they wind
their way – step by step, like a macramé –

into their own threads, laced easily
into the vague theory that things bleed
and scream like the every part of everyday

lives lived in purple origami twisted
into something birdish and crinkled,
a useless paper macramé, small and bent.

They’re in the flatness to your plain way
of walking back and forth from kitchen
to bedroom in the dim nightlight light

of one midnight snack after another. They’re
there when you wind around the furniture
in twisted socks and toe holes, tripping

over macramé like you’re still wearing bellbottoms
and your juted fascinations all panned out somehow.
They’re in the way you’ve always tied slip knots loose

and lazy, more interested in the slip than the knot
twisting slack as the jaw of a disinterested kiss
and of tongues that will never know macramé.