Category Archives: Poetry

What Went Down With the Ship: Bruce McRae

Illustration of the Madonna breastfeeding.

A cute little bladder infection. Ectoplasm.

Burnished magnesium. Elongated fatwas.

A book of screams in a little red room.

Trigonometry for mummies. Hoe-downs.

A knife balanced on a knife-blade.

Walls of ghost-breaths. Mystic sensibilities.

Pillow-books and phatic salutations.

Swordplay behind the School of Dance.

The desert of the real. Light’s threshold.

The first and last of polyester newspapers.

An entire set of ant-dreams in polished amber.

The sudden realization of a universal truth.

A kiss on fire. The meaning of cancer.

Shadow-shadows, once cloistered in attics.

A series of teeth crying out for a head.

Miserable buttons. The breasts of Atlantis.

A rebel yell with toothache. Indelible bunnies.

The diaphanous domain of melancholia.

Spare savant-whistles. Pennies that sweat.

Throttled soldiers’ breaths. Bone booties.

Birthmarks, and a comic’s monologue.

Trophies for bowling. Torn spectrographs.

Thirteen bullets and world’s smallest glum.

The skull-music of handgun logic.

Thermodynamic miracles. Stygian gloom.

Aural karma. A warm impermanence.

Chaotic streetwear. Vials of oxen-blood.

Trade winds captured in a blue bottle.

One monosyllable, in Santa Claus mode.

A recipe for tears. Electromagnetic slippers.

Shot glasses in love with toxic empathy.

Dinosaurian scarf and mittens. Wing-nuts.

Brutal thunderclouds. Seasick serpents.

Essence of Runnymede. Broken cattle.

User-friendly totalitarian regimes. Pixels.

The dim recall of every passing breath.

Some old skin sloughed from this very hand.

The darkeyed junco and varied thrush.

A burning shortlist, as if a stone candle.

me black and whiteOriginally from Niagara Falls Ontario, Pushcart-nominee Bruce McRae is a musician who has spent much of his life in London and British Columbia. He has been published in hundreds of periodicals and anthologies. His first book, The So-Called Sonnets is available from the Silenced Press website or via Amazon books. To hear his music and view more poems visit his website: www.bpmcrae.com.

A Shudder, To Think: Michael Pagan

Her cupped palm over
my mouth, then over hers,
again, as if swallowing
my spirit whole.

She asked if I believed in ghosts.
I responded: “Some,” my voice
a raspy set of scissors: “What are you?”

“What are you good at?”

I am—despite being on the side
of angels—not one of them.

I dress like a grocery store manager,
like an abandoned refrigerator
and we will carry on this feud
forever, she in her evening

dress, “Just look at it,” she says.
The floatable dusk marking the half hour,
and here was one empty room, there, the other—
that was the extent of our transgressions.

It was the history of light.

But, there are tides in the body. And once
you stumble, love transforms
into movable furniture or plastered over
grimaces, gazing out of a passing train’s
window, at the loose atmosphere

behind the pane of glass.

And she had felt glad
she’d done it: swallowed, down,
then thrown the last inches
away, then wiped her fingers, her
thick fingers, then finally said:

“I don’t pity myself.”

photo (1)Born and raised in Miami, FL, Michael J Pagán spent four years (1999-2003) in the United States Navy before (hastily) running back to college during the spring of 2004. He currently resides in Deerfield Beach, FL with his wife and daughter where he continues to work on his poetry, short fiction, and his first stage play. He is a contributor to his alma mater’s blog, The MFA at FAU, as well as his own, The Elevator Room Company.

Springtime: Kristen Steenbeeke

Spring is dizzy; it salivates. You know how this has gone,
will go. The mulch, the acrid honeysuckle, the girls and boys

daubed with pheromones. Even the nose hairs flinch
in excitement. But a sweet joy comes when I eat an avocado

alone in the kitchen, and the breeze blows past me through the open
window, a sheet passing softly across an arm. We’re all being

reupholstered. You with me. Me with this sheen
of hot sweat. I’m munching on the fruits of your labor, the neurons

in my head. The lakes are full now, robust. The trees fill in
like hair. Your intentions are wide like arms, or roots, or

bad ideas. I hold the corona of the sun in my mouth. As I write this,
May arrives. And yes, come to think of it, everything is wide:

the silence that hangs around the lone metal chime.

pacificaphotoKristen Steenbeeke is an alumna of the University of Washington creative writing program, where she was runner-up for the Charlotte Paul Reese prize for fiction. Her work is forthcoming in Mare Nostrum. She currently works at the Richard Hugo House, a literary arts center in Seattle, and has a cat named David whose name is an amalgamation of all great writers named David.

292: Owen Lucas

Marie Derrien Lagadu, 1890

She sits in a fauteuil of light wood
Backed in mauve, with embroidered
Flowers. Behind her, a side table on
Which rests a large canvas of green
And brown foliage, a cotton napkin,
A table knife with an ivory handle,
A formal glass of a clear blue. Fruit
Seem to balance on the edge of the
Napkin : a russet apple, a guava, an
Innocuous and overripe avocado. It is
As if each object had been stationed in
A condition of absolute independence,
No relation seeming to subsist between
One facet and another. Our lady wears
A long skirt and a flamboyantly violet
Jacket pulled in softly at the waist by
A ceinture buckled in silver. A bloom
Of white extends across her awkward
Chest, and her hand lies passively at
Her side, three of its fingers joined by
A kind of preoccupied tension. The
Same shows in her homely visage,
Where overlarge ears ride alongside a
Face constructed as if to give the sense
Of a constant slight irritation. Madame
Wears her lips as if longing to be rid
Of them. If there is a soul of maladroit,
It lives in the frail casing of her skull.

And yet she is tender : there is a certain
Florid beauty to her. Love overcomes,
Wherever there is a body to command.

Owen LucasOwen Lucas is a British poet living in Norwalk, Connecticut. He grew up in rural Cambridgeshire, and began writing as a student at the University of London. His work has featured in Petrichor Machine, The MacGuffin, Psychic Meatloaf, Lines & Stars, Clinic, You Stumble Into a Room Full of Poets, and Third Wednesday, with poems soon to appear in The James Dickey Review, Electric Windmill Press, Clarion, 94 Creations, and Vector Press. His first chapbook, containing twenty-five poems inspired by the paintings of Daumier, Serusier, Gauguin and others, will be published in 2013 by Mountain Tales Press. Photo: Kathleen Telesco 2011

Typewriter: Olga Vilkotskaya

A beautiful machine
in the act of inking. The squid
accomplishes more
but with less precision. (Still,
our human feat is grand.) Animals
are all trial
and trial again. The human kind
just has a way with error. Consider
thought: beside intention,
it will disagree. Ink intent,
it falls flat
into place. The squid likes
his own dimension.

Photo 76Olga Vilkotskaya is a graduate of the University of Washington, where she published in Bricolage, the on-campus literary arts journal. She’s the recipient of the Arthur Oberg Prize for Poetry and the Innis Arden Friends of the Arts Scholarship. She lives and works in Seattle.

Life on Mars + Devil’s Racetrack

Life on Mars

10.
July, 2012. If we look to the west shortly after sundown, we can see Mars from our front porch, a faint red glow in the twilight. The astronomy website earthsky.org tells us that “Because Earth in its orbit is traveling away from slower-moving Mars and Saturn, these planets will fade in brightness and will sink lower in the evening sky. Even so, these planets will still shine as brightly as first-magnitude stars…” Mars will disappear from view in about a month—right about the time that I have to leave you.

9.
Barsoom–Abbot and Costello went there; Ice Cube fought ghosts there; it’s where Dr. Manhattan exiled himself; Yvonne Craig was one of its needed women; its natives grafted Sarah Jessica Parker’s head onto her Chihuahua’s body; Santa Claus conquered its inhabitants.

8.
I wasn’t much of a David Bowie fan, before I met you. Like everyone else, I knew he was a rock and roll legend, and I appreciated the fact that he produced Lou Reed’s best albums. But I didn’t really appreciate him until that first time we danced together, at that club’s “Retro 80s Night.” The song was “Modern Love.” We were only friends at the time, just getting to know each other, but you said, “It’s Bowie—I have to dance.” So we put our drinks down and went to the dance floor. That was when things began for us, a decade ago.

7.
In October of 2010, The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story about two researchers—Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Arizona State University and Paul Davies of Washington State University—who proposed sending two humans to Mars on a one-way trip. These hypothetical explorers would go to the red planet and begin construction of a habitat that would, one day, house 150 people, decades after the explorers’ own deaths. At the time, we were frustrated at our jobs and with small-minded, small-town living. “So let’s go to Mars,” I suggested, joking, but also secretly longing to get away from work, away from people, away from the stress of writing and teaching and worrying about tenure and the mortgage and student loans and getting old and realizing I hadn’t done anything significant. “They probably wouldn’t let us take the cats,” you replied, knowing that would cause me to lose interest. You’re sensible like that.
Continue reading

Arse Poetica: Leena Joshi

My mother and father are apoetic so I think all of these words
must have manifested inside me like a bacterial spread. The first time I heard
Our Father Who Art In Heaven I thought, my father does not Art in Heaven,
unless you count starting up computer software companies as creative. Also
he’s alive and also, screw heaven. Art in Heaven won’t mean anything
because surely, we can’t carry over contention.

On afterlife, as long as we’re pretending, I’ll say hell I believe in.
Late at night when I think about what I’m doing with my self
and my bacterial word infection and I have friends with jobs
at some big company – which I would like to take the time now to say
I’m smart enough and could do that too and better, probably –
all I feel in the dark is a chattering of grins and teeth, and I try to laugh
back at them, like a homeless insolvent would laugh at me.

Isn’t poetry just like peeing on everything so our smell hangs around later,
acrid and deeply felt? Right here I’d rather scupper the thoughts and turn over,
saying fuck the poem, there never was a poem here, just some lost sounds
that jump you like the fall before stage one sleep. I’ve felt bad about pretending
not to have my sanity, like that one time I dressed as a punk for Halloween
and a wall-leaner yelled that’s just my life, man as I passed him on the street.

Let me keep bringing my best until all that’s left behind is the worst,
just the fats and sugars to distill into this verse. I will praise platitudes.
Life is sweet. It oscillates from young light to opaque weight and in the mix,
we are still gifted burning glances and kitchen mornings and deep sleep.
More or less, there is a fear of death, which begets a fear of being forgotten,
which is why we do anything, unless it’s for sex. I wish someone would believe me
when I say I don’t do anything for sex – just for credibility.

Leena Joshi completed the University of Washington’s undergraduate Creative Writing program, where she was a recipient of the Joan Grayston Prize in poetry. Her work has been featured before in the Red Cedar Review. An Oregon native currently living in Seattle, Washington, she likes the rain but for all she knows, it could be because it’s all she knows.

An Act of Justice: William Doreski

You drove the car up the brush pile
and left it with headlights on
and engine off. You rolled the metal
roof from the house and sold it
to dishonest contractors cheating
our neighbor who raises Pekinese.
You rerouted water from the well
to flood the street and ice over
and trigger a dozen collisions.
You invested your retirement fund
in ship-breakers on the furthest shore
of the Indian Ocean. You sold
your dog to a Chinese restaurant,
which enslaved him as a bus boy.
Finally you tipped the bed and spilled me
into a heap of dirty laundry
and tried to stuff me in the washer
where I’d go round and round forever.
I escaped and dashed outdoors and called
on the heavens for help. The weak
amber headlights pinned me against
a starless and ignoble sky.
The neighbor who raises Pekinese
phoned the police, who responded
with sighs of boredom. Their car
towed yours off the brush pile.
They arrested the contractors
and called Public Works to sand
the slippery road. They rescued
your dog from the restaurant where
he’d made a hundred dollars in tips.
They couldn’t recover your funds
from the ship breakers, but maybe
that was a sound investment. Lastly,
they arrested me for knowing you,
an act of justice so abject
the stars broke through cloud cover
and wept a trillion ions of joy.

William Doreski teaches at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent books of poetry are City of Palms and June Snow Dance, both 2012. He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Atlanta Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Worcester Review, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, and Natural Bridge.

Los Angeles Shoals: Will Camponovo

Aurora. Cockrow. Day-peep.
Rifles whirligig down the line.
Each nozzle endows the next.

The centrifugal hands of the cadets
Harmonize. Like dressage.
To think of weaponry as dressage.

Motion associates involuntarily.
Also, light. To simply say:
Morning did warm things with light

And their guns, indistinguishing
The piaffe. Similar discipline.
A man scrapes barnacles

From the Newport Beach pier.
Early. So no one’s watching.
The line divides delicacy

And demean. To mean
This as a part of speech: the verb.
The long stretch of morning where

Man begs the piers to give
At risk of probing, buffaloed eyes.
At home, safe as the long-remembered

Delicacy they are. Before day, grace.
Clumsy owns the light. And how.
So long owns the land. And now.

William Camponovo studied poetry at The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington and has contributed poems to Iron Horse Literary Review, The Seattle Review, and Best New Poets 2011. He lives in and works for the city of Los Angeles.

2 Poems: John Calavitta

Cypresses

For one day only
those who walk don’t have to think

that we were born here, not there,
which means there’s a chance

in a land without a meaning,
an answer in the frozen ground

like an unexpected comma.
A page is missing from the book

in the forest. Out of the question
each arrow strikes a bell which shuts a door—

thank you for seeing in the dark
what is wrongly called the distance;

what we ask for
when we cut our losses and proceed

as if we were protagonists, or lovers;
salmon headed upstream.

I remember the illusion of persons
acting younger than I am. We stand

convicted of the topical and transitory,
the sea deliberately gone.

Crates of Oranges

on the rulered page (of a Moghul garden)
the best word is water

but the first ocean was the best
between the horizon’s brackets

the main sentence waits

the world ahead was daylight
and no one dared get out

liars in the glass
argue that light will last

regardless of tenses and final clauses
the black bureau of history

is a maelstrom of loves and hates
and our shadows walk on stilts

at high altitudes
because my breath is gone

leaving stone blocks for goodbye
that painters find innocent

John Paul Calavitta studied poetry at George Mason, Naropa University, and the University of Washington. His work appears in Camas, The Monarch Review, and Mudlark, among others.