My pen is too noisy
My paper’s too thin!
My poem is too short.
Maybe I should go out to the real world
to be an actor or even a waitress.
I hate it!
My pen is too noisy
My paper’s too thin!!!!
—Rosa Weisberg (9 years)
Must I Always Blame You?
Every time I think of killing myself,
I also think of you.
You have a bittersweet aftertaste—
same one as becoming famous
after you’re dead
being a working writer
instead of a good one.
Well I woke up
and changed my mind
the way a metronome does
—set up and then
in the middle of a movement
to play a very different,
very ugly tune.
I listened to your song
then rewrote lyrics I actually like
—crossed them all out
(it’s not mine to change)
So now when I think of killing myself,
I don’t think of you
I think of my song
The snow tastes like salt.
Little Red Boat fills with water and tips over.
Sometimes I am like that.
Sometimes I fill with water and tip over.
But I rescue myself.
I straighten myself out.
May I continue to float on the water.
Three sexy things—almond
Eyes—a crooked smile—a voice
That bends my knees—that’s what
—Anthony G. Herles
Drilled and Tapped
The rig cost me a fortune
and what was left of my marriage
but the boy understands;
the former, at least.
He seemed disappointed
to wear those service blues at first
though the day I ironed on that patch
with his name above the breast pocket
he started to take interest
in what became our family business.
Community school was a waste of time
for both of us
so now he helps set up the auger
and watches for signs of danger
while I run the levers
as the homeowner
—unfortunately, off from work—
spies from cracked blinds
in a house without running water
and toilets that don’t flush.
The best of them know that much:
To stay inside
avoiding stupid question time.
If they’ve called me—us, really—
it’s because their well’s run dry.
They need us—our rig, really—
to tap into what
they can’t obtain on their own.
And that’s what I tell the kid
after the man dressed down
in the polo shirt
and crisp dungarees
hands him a crumpled twenty
behind my back:
The tip is only there
because the blade’s tip is sharp.
It’s harsh, but it works.
At night, he gets the file
and heads out to the shop
while I make sure that our ad’s still printed
inside those yellow pages.
Describing Frozen Rhinebeck to an Abequiú Native
The tree dipped its elbow limb
to the fondant ice
and I, the morning meeting,
fell in love
with so serene
—Heidi Evans McArdle
Walking with Dad
I watch you
in soft cushioned slip-ons
swish of slowtime;
(once intimate with a jitterbug)
stubborn anchors now—
I watch you inch one
then the other
but I hear your alto sax
crooning big band jazz
and I see your toes—
donning polished Florsheims—
tapping out its measure
do not tell me you can’t
my heart hears your song.
shed no tears for the snowman,
who was born yesterday
who smiled all his life
who smiles at us still
whose face has returned
to next season’s particles
who is like us in that
is the rule.
In the garden, gold and silver dew
sparkles on the dazzling grass,
as if starlight has been harvested,
then distilled in globes of glass
and displayed on the morning sun
for all of Nature to adore;
it’s proof that fairies work—at beauty—
while we humans play—at war.
Floating slowly north
And taking my eyes with it—
The morning fog....
Last night I dreamt of baby bats
flitting out of the kitchen woodwork
up a step stool I climb,
fly-swatter in hand
slip it deftly
into the crevice but the smallest
bat skittered back in.
i step down to the linoleum floor,
as the bat reappears—
clings to the ceiling above me
the Italian word for bat that sounds
like the sounds they make when they fly
in black formations over our heads
almost invisible, but always audible
I am relieved when you appear.
you look up,
silently arrive at a solution.
your steady hands,
move through the air.
gentle and swift,
you steer the bat to the window
let it fly in the bright midday sun.
She says she wants to ride
and pulls up on her Harley.
I roll my Schwinn
back into the garage.
To Eulogize Mary Butler
Eternal Effervescence! No, not even close to that spark. Emotions are way too strong and describing is far short of the mark. Like the drugged archer shooting satellites at your bosom, or an endless chasm, or a beautiful lust ETERNALLY, in caps. A love found every century...Perhaps! So, if I’m to drown tomorrow in the Catskill Creek you can wipe the smile off of my face and unlodge the eels from my eye sockets. Thank you Mary, for the Bowman has pierced my heart. I love you.
—Steven A. Grogan
Seeing You Seeing Me
Above the steady whir of the IV pump
And the low moans from the other side of the curtain,
Your voice resonates down the corridor
Somehow amplifying the emptiness of this place
It was dark when I awoke to the sound, confused
I had been in my bed, covered by an afghan I crocheted myself
It’s light now and from my position in bed I can see an expanse of rooftop
It reminds me of me, this rooftop, with odd and ugly objects jutting from it
A woman in a hair net briskly set my breakfast on the table earlier,
With a second thought that keenly reminded me of pity,
She came back, kindly moving the table over my bed
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my bed was too low and I could not sit up
I smiled and nodded as best I could
My gaze was always downcast now
The hump in my back made looking up almost impossible
My limbs are numb
I should have pressed the call bell earlier when I might have been able
But I didn’t want to bother this nurse with her too loud voice
Amidst the backdrop of noxious smells and cold dampness
I lie there in bed, lost in the agony
A knock on the open door rattles me, you breeze into my prison
“How are ya doin’ sweetie?” you ask, not waiting for an answer
You take in the situation, your gaze never meeting my eyes
I struggle to answer the questions you bark in that annoying sing-song way
What is my name, my date of birth, why am I here
“Why am I here?” I wonder
I see you seeing what has become of my body
The colostomy bag that needs emptying
The catheter which seems to be leaking
The bedclothes a damp and fetid mess
I see you seeing me
—Lisa Hafner Stafford
Outside of a maritime dive bar, in the briny neon light
leaking from the shape of a palm tree, three men share a single cigarette,
the tallest in distressed denim and high tops with a hat reading OBEY,
his stockier companions with matching haircuts—the fade from crown
to nape of neck a masterpiece of Brooklyn barbership.
The doorman nods as usual as they step inside.
When they approach the well-worn bar adorned with miniature umbrellas
ready to be stabbed through warm, red cherries
and served to smiling women in pineapple-shaped soft drinks, they turn
to scan the room, eyes black as scorpions.
The sandy ocean-themed floor stained with the evening’s spills,
appears as a dune field of stark hollows and aching peaks
shaped with each boozy step, formed in a place where women were earth
and men wind and water. The leader
orders a mixed drink, leans over to pluck an extra garnish
from the bartop dispenser and mixes it in with a middle finger
while the others grin, clink shot glasses on the counter
and devour them before ordering two more from a bartender who smiles stiffly
when the hand bearing cash lingers with a prolonged grip.
Two women in the corner conclude happy hour and motion to pay the bill,
joking about work emails, about bureaucracy, about the insufferable
stench of the city. They part ways with a hug
and then turn to head to different hotels.
The tall man crunches an ice cube like a bone and follows,
leaving his friends behind, the street throbbing with traffic
and stars drowned out by pollution,
the sky replaced by a numb gray void.
He catches her as she rounds a corner, stands in front of her like barbed wire,
his face handsome and persuasive, when his friends catch up and flank him,
now a brick wall closing in. The avenue is empty and
the nearby bodega’s metal gate has been lowered. A street light goes out,
catching the attention of the smaller man with brown eyes, who looks
at his friend and back at the woman, then back at his friend for a long pause,
before saying, quietly, Let her go,
and, having undone the spell that held them all there together,
the group steps aside as she ducks around and disappears
into the haze, sprinting all the way to Bedford on a single breath,
pressing the elevator button two hundred times,
dashing down hallways until her hotel door
was latched and bolted, her small shoulders collapsing inward,
smaller and smaller,
on the freshly made bed.
storm coming brewed
strong like coffee
i smell it