Carol Smallwood

Second Thoughts

On the entrance door:
"Thank you for coming. Try our website."

People holding exit door for you
when you're entering.

Brian Beatty

Wild Geese in the West

          Birds know all about the blues.

That’s why they never stop
mid-air to consider
what they’re doing there.

          They would truly drop
          like ducks diving to the bottom
          of a river of whiskey, never to come up.

How little I know is what I think about
out on this porch
plucking at a banjo I can barely play sober

           and a dog that mopes at me
          whether I've been drinking or not

Ada Ludenow



They are apple children, which means they are so ruddy, cute and perfect that you can bite out pieces from their faces and they do not die.

But their crisp white flesh does turn brown after a while and then attracts flies, much like ours.

In cool dry places, they age and become wrinkled little grandmothers and grandfathers.

Just before the Sun has conquered the sky, they join hands and perform mass suicide in iron pots.

Their butterflesh is spread on fresh bread in memory of the last Fall and the hopes another may come.


The worst trail was the black and crooked hole you used to bore out of me. Bits of hair, and filth, mold, the mites, the barm. I saw it all, and I felt the air you let inside. The air ate me up fastest, leaving me cored and rotten. Without a core, how would I bear seeds and begin a new tree?

Thomas Piekarski

Dig It

Rip the circuitry from its guts; recycle
It as dream waste. Make memories from it,
Give it a name unlike gizmo or gadget;
Don’t train it to do robot antics. Defrock it;
Pull the nails out of its hands. Bless nothing
If not the nothingness light is. Bear blight
As long as breath holds sway. Boil oil
As the lamp dies, out of fuel. Dry eyes
That clamp the music shut. Sing sweet
About charitable apples you plucked.
Bring a heavy ball-peen hammer; pound
Blood into sheets and brand it thought.
Stammer whenever a word enters you.
Clamor for fury only fire can provide.
Deflate innate fiction fizzling; dig it.

Mark Jackley

On the Edge of a Very Small Town

So flat
you can see forever,
which is not halfway

to Clovis.
Which is nowhere.
May as well stay.

Jackie Maugh Robinson

smokin' on the corner

haight - the far horizon blazed electric orange. thousands of iron butterflies slammed through the shadows. ragnar tossed on a cannabis mattress and hummed “in a gadda da vida” in his sleep. as the dusk thickened to oblivion, the far horizon smoldered.

ashbury - tune in, turn up the song. keep time on your air guitar you don’t need meaning. hitch a ride. the words don’t matter; hitch a ride. come on, get in. hitch a ride but leave your back pack in the road. you don't care if you have to dance alone you like inanity, feeling the insanity; you get off on profanity. you don’t let ‘em get close to who you are. if they start to creep inside your mind you’re outa there.

Eldon (Craig) Reishus

The House Painter

As a baby Jimmy fell down the family clothes chute and landed in the laundry bag's faint fecal smells.

Twenty years later, hit over Nam, Jimmy parachuted to a mean rock on the Mekong. He returned a free man,

but that didn't last long, his cherished bride insisting on a new kitchen ventilator. Those rescues behind him,

bare-assed in his trailer home, Jimmy never had it so good. Lobster didn't do it for him, hell, boil him up a couple of eggs.

Then Jimmy's truck struck fire and he had to get hitched all over again. Found himself a sweet traveler though.

Aaron Lee Moore

Needle Eye

The wavy metal sword,
Forged by the neophytic
Of a gap-toothed grease monkey meth-head,
Seems so distant now
Between the unfinished syllabi
And repeated bank statements.

Far away
The blundering knife fights,
Among children,
While the obese mother
Traverses in her green Chevy Neon
On a quest for 40 golden ounces
Of premium malt beverage.

On Sunday the fat bodies whirl
Like angels before God,
Pray through the grinding knees
For two consecutive paychecks.

Now, the cigar smoke haze mal-lingers
Like menthol smoke in a double-wide trailer,
Deeply haled and droll.

Simon Perchik

Going somewhere with you
is all it holds on to
--a single blanket

the kind the dead carry
over them
--you can't tell the difference

though you wish there were
--to warm is all it knows
and you are led under

till your mouth opens
looking for her
--to kiss, empty her throat

with your own --on faith
you stretch out
bring back to the room

her damp scent
tied at one end
and not the other

--with both eyes closed
you show her her picture
without thinking.

Kusha Poddar

My Book of Noir

That I dream dead bodies
In the stream, all skin,
The authority says
Do not exist, and
The incident never happened,
And they died from their own
Fairy gang's bullets, and
Imagine those eraser marks
Across the sky, tail-blazes
Says something about
My love for life. I dream
Lying huddled with them.

Small Messages

In your absence
I water your plant,
Never during
Your presence.

I feed it bone dust,
Blood of a neck wrung
Chicken so it may
Bloom white as if

Everything goes right,
Even brighter
When you live
Somewhere else

Colin Dodds

(Go West, Spill-O)

Spill-O shamed centuries
of American romanticism when he slept
the whole way from JFK to LAX.

He barely caught the cloudy opening strains
of Queens and Brooklyn before he saw the
we’ll-be-landing-in-20-minutes mountains of California.

On the freeways, Spill-O’s eyes invent mountains,
play tricks with the bright smog,
maybe because he drank too much last night, the night before,
and maybe, the night before that.

The sign said the freeway was ending, but it never did.
He drove forever among the sprinklered palms.
Without checking the rearview, he knew
something was following him.

Maybe it was just the jetlag.
Maybe it was just the hangover.
Maybe it was just 10,000 years of the failure of love.

(Spill-O Undercover)

Spill-O overheard the grand design back in April,
when he was undercover,
posing as a ceramic hobo clown.

His styrofoam cup was a bottle opener,
his belly was a lamp and his face was a knife.

Spill-O would sleep and sing songs
when you rubbed his crotch.
He was only $14.95 and shipping was included.

Matthew Kirshman

Folk Legend

I photographed them get into the car. Have you read my “Manhunt of the Year” (Life May, 1977)? How about that close-call with the law, which might have ended it all? Their escape was a travesty, bought by suitcases of cash from the Narcotics Agency. How ironic, the shootout took place at the Ford Pharmacy. They entered Cincinnati on page 96. With a trunk full of gelatinous explosive, they headed to the Flamingo Motel. From there they followed a well-established strategy. Do you think they looked like newlyweds? I find it difficult to credit. I tailed the Jaguar to Chicago, where a cult following had sprung up overnight. To the journalistic eye, their pop-appeal was transparent: the lore of outlaw lovers, with sirens closing in.

Jeffrey Park


and polychromatic
she appears
where you least
expect –
on a bridge
or in the metallic
water of
an alpine lake –
you see her gliding
over the dry
sands of the deep
wonder if she’s
an optical illusion
or just
a mirage.

April Salzano


Grey skies wake me. A low distant
rumble brings me alive. Darkness
is strobed by electric currents
that split like impulse.
Forks and forms
I cannot touch speak to each other
in a language I would just as soon
ignore if it did not require the bass,
the roll, the echo to translate.
From the eruption, I can make it rain.

Jeffrey Zable

The Last Time I Saw Fidel 

The last time I saw Fidel was at his home in Havana.
We smoked cigars, drank rum, and talked about the future
of Cuba. “Cuba will never again be a colony of slaves and
whores serving a master who would keep us in bondage
for all eternity. We’d rather swallow the ocean or slit our
own throats!” And as I could tell he was now pretty drunk
I decided not to engage him any further but changed the subject
to Hemingway, wondering about their friendship, and if
The Old Man and the Sea was really set off the coast of Cuba
as everyone said.

Michael Amitin

Marooned Bells

Marooned on the couch brown raft –rocking l’ile de paris
Sullen blackbeard blackboard jazz blowin from across the navy new orleans seas

slo-mo angels doing slo-mo somersaults on my torn red curtain
in these broken domestic halloween bones and mask
I rummage through the ashes that crashed me into this pink– new golden dawn..

lost love is something we can never afford
head stuck on the starboard mast
crashing through storm waves painted in dead dreams

And feeling that familiar regret again that we never consummated
The close quarters then,,, what are regrets other than dead sea gulls
Floating in a ghost soup sea

Mercedes Lawry


I’m not going to the dogs
though dogs generally like me.
I’m going out of touch.
Deep sleep. Obscure.
Past the moors and the mossy boulders.
I doubt the rain will make a difference,
no matter how hammer-loud, how cold.
The windows are shuttered.
The door, locked.
This is not a forsaking, but a finish.
In some ways you may not understand,
there is a greater darkness and a lesser darkness.

Daniel Casebeer

Breakfast Club in Bed 

I used to think that Molly Ringwald was a poor choice to play Claire
Standish in The Breakfast Club. I would have gone with someone like
Haviland Morris, but I was probably biased because I celebrated the
shower scene in Sixteen Candles as my first time with a woman. I also
used to think that Ally Sheedy should have been replaced with Winona
Ryder. Her face just bothered me, for some reason. Anyway, I spent
hours with the movie poster, that iconic piling of teen angst in the
eighties, imagining how the dynamic would have changed if Michael J.
Fox took the place of Anthony Michael Hall, if Charlie Sheen stood in
for his brother. As the years progressed, and the poster followed me
from bedroom to dorm room and back again, it occurred to me that The
Breakfast Club was more than just an artful arrangement of
stereotypes. In all honesty, even the slightest change in the
lineup—think River Phoenix in place of Judd Nelson—would have
irrevocably altered my childhood.

Isometric Maps

I can’t tell if she’s lonely or just disconnected. She has the body of
a Colombian drug mule, and I can’t adequately qualify my desire
without making obscure references to the esoteric geometry of shared
experience. I need her / to understand the difference between here and
ahora, the significance of archetypes scattered like bones on a wooden
table. Years from now, when she thinks about how much I had to drink
before I could apologize for abandoning her when all she needed was a
friend, I hope she remembers that my intentions were nothing if not
relative to the amount of work it would have required to sleep with
her / a second time.

Pelamus Platurus (Acoustic)

The world’s most abundant reptile is the yellow-bellied sea snake.
With its elongated head and high set nostrils, the yellow-belly
resembles nothing so much as a sad old man. Its body is laterally
compressed, and its tail, which is usually decorated with black bars
or spots, is flattened, oar-like, to facilitate swimming across open
water. My father, who fancies himself a biologist, says that the
yellow-bellied sea snake can actually tie itself into a sliding knot
to scrape algae and barnacles from its scales. A cylindrical lung that
stretches the length of its body allows the snake to hold its breath
for hours. Long enough, my father says, to search for eels and
burrowing gobies in the shallows. Long enough for males to mate with
one of its two autonomous hemipenes. In courtship, it is up to the
female to haul her lover to the surface. Otherwise, they would both
drown, a writhing ball at the bottom of the sea.

Laura Carter

Which First?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Two men walked into a bar. One was softly whispering.
The other was an egg.
To assume an initial connection is false,
the whisperer said to the egg. You need a new schematic.
You yourself are an arbiter of it,
the man softly said.
If you can find a train,
said the first, it’s best to take it off rails.

The first man took his axe to a story’s center.
The second man took his axe to a story’s edge.
What we need is a story that precludes fidelity.
They spoke in unison. A wheel turned softly on its spokes.
The egg built a fire from a pill.
The man took a pill.
You will be waiting for a story,
he said. It will come after.
Both inhabited the same country. A text was written.

Erren Kelly

Musical Story…after the drawing by Irena Siwek

instead of roses
he tried calla lillies
roses would've been pushing it
even if her hair was red
she merely smiled
reading elizabeth barrett browning didn't work
she found a way to make
the cello sound like
a summer night
sometimes, it sounded
like the human voice
or even rain
depending on how she plucked
the strings
he then simply told her
her cello playing
felt like the hollow
in his heart

she replied "sometimes,
just asking for
what you want works


is the grace notes
at the end of a john coltrane solo
is the song sonny rollins practiced
on williamburg bridge
when trane's shadow eclipsed him
is the muse joshua redman calls
when sonny rollis has stopped
giving him inspiration
she is the poem joshua redman plays
that i listen to when i can't
articulate our friendship

Richard Dragan

The Imaginary Travelers

They could never agree on which city was the best place for their vacation, and they ended up not traveling that year. So they abandoned cities for their imaginary itineraries and instead visited rugged places: mountains, deserts, lakes, geological formations, outcroppings of jagged rocks, strange craters, impenetrable (almost) jungles, ruins of ancient non-Western civilizations, solitary obelisks, desecrated pyramids, one-time war zones, peninsulas, isthmuses, collapsed canyons, volcanic rims, archipelagoes, wildlife refuges, underwater reefs, atolls, fault lines, oceanic trenches, glaciers, pristine mountain lakes, ridge lines, the high country, buttes, mesas, oblivious uninhabitable plains, ghost towns, abandoned mines, flooded caves, meteorite craters, untamed savannas, veldts, steppes with half-frozen tundra, Machu Picchu, and Venezuela, and to top it off, birdwatching (of whole penguin families) in King George Island, Antarctica.

Karen Bonaudi

Scion Cutting for Spring Grafting

Now is the time to gather .... scion wood
for early spring. The first thing to do
is find .... variety. Some .... clubs
and .... societies make it a point to ....
make available scion wood to those
needing it.

Scion wood should be cut now and stored
away until early spring. The best ....
are those of average vigor, well-hardened
and free of .... pests. Scion wood must
be kept dormant in cool storage .... bury it
in a sawdust pile on the north side
of a building.

In March bind it fast to your .... hardiest
and most prolific .... root. Make sure no
air .... can pass between. Plant in a well-
drained, well-protected .... spot. Guard
against hungry .... slugs. Proper selection
and care of scion wood will assure
a generous .... yield.

Taken ... in parts ... from Northwest Magazine,
The Sunday Oregonian, January 3, 1982.

F. John Sharp

I'm Sorry I Didn't Finish Shoveling Next to the Garage

Favorite place-names swirl above me like snowflakes. I cannot remember the order in which I visited them, but I do know the slip of a sole, the feel of concrete upon cranium, and how blood, too, can taste the bite of wind chill. Darkness is not all in my mind, and my voice will not cut the wind, so I wiggle my hips in snow to make a bed.

I saw something like this once, on funniest home videos, after the segment with the piñatas. It seems no good can come of playing piñata; regardless of height or age everyone swings with a natural inclination toward the groin. I cannot feel my groin. Is it still there? What would I do with it if it were?

There is something sad about the start of a paragraph, every word diminishes the choices left to make. I have lost the ability to recite Shakespeare in the original, supplanting English for a language spoken with fuzzy consonants and mumbles, opting instead to simply call your name again and again. At least I think I am. I have a vague sense my phone is nearby, but I cannot recall the concept of pockets, which is for the best since I perceive to be missing my thumbs. And who would I call? Oh. You. I would call you. Speed dial #1. You are in a meeting and would think I am drunk. I would brace for an icy evening.

I never before noticed this about the cold, the way it warms up to you as you waver in the fringes. It's like a relative you can only stand when you're both at the reunion, together by the piñata. Piñatas are inescapable, it seems.

They say the red winged blackbird is the true harbinger of Spring. I would pay—I think I have a dollar forty-seven on me—for one to land right here and whisper into my ear. He would either tell me to hold on just a little longer because he is, after all, the harbinger of Spring, or complain I didn't keep the feeder full. In my defense, the feeder is in a particularly treacherous part of the yard and I worry about falling.

Just let me sleep a few more minutes. Then I'll get up and finish shoveling before you get home. I'm thinking about you naked, but you hate the cold so I'm quickly dressing you with my eyes. Now you're atop me but I'm still not feeling like waking up and there's this darkness. I was promised light. Why is the red winged blackbird singing our favorite song? Who invited Gandhi? Where is my camera? How can I get the taste of nothingness out of my mouth?

William Wright Harris

battle of fishes

scales of pencil and
fins of charcoal
giving way to crimson tinted
oil gore
hektor and akhilleus
standing on the sandy plains
of ilion
masson seeing
blood is red
in all languages

Julene Weaver

Challenges to Ars Poetica

a black painting—one tiny burst of light
it is impossible to move from the couch

        the sink hole couch—the painting we stare into  day after day

the drone of voices from the television fills our senses
our body fluids are sucked into the     vortex hole
the house sits on a city street                 like a pot hole
we can barely dance             even if we try

this house is loud
bowling alley hard wood chamber         hall for drums

        Cadillac House for bass A Hall to honor the 45

rock n'roll     rap zap
this house shakes

        uncontrollable  how loud can accelerate

a master bedroom with a BIG bed
we must dance rotund            jerk    uncontrollable

        willed, we sing enthusiastic

ordained, we do not sit still   there is no John Cage alternative
shake out the door
scream, scare the daffodils
on exit                 you fall

this is the house of political unrest
long views      craft lives     deep
into ills to heal               silence greets us

        we sit   look at the sculpture

the art         we can cry when moved
quiet is proof  art counts

        a simple picture                a sailboat

an abstract to relieve us       from the scene of the murdered woman
she is in Mexico dead           this is a mixed bag house

Jason Alan Wilkinson

The Moon-Riven Twilight

Is a crystal
feathering here
moth-burrowed vellums
gather insouciantly
down its long corridor

Piano music and wet skin
frame cavernous dreams
rendered cataracts

Glass blossoms hewn without ceremony

Colour unmade,
stippled from apprehension
from lasciviousness
darning a subaqueous ladder of hues
,flashes transcendentally

Imagined ‘scapes form vagrant kingdoms
where stile and crooked bough
along sinuous tracts
linger inchoate
charming the eye

Discarding tarragon cellophane
chrysanthemum beads
for loose chimes
their scented aria
through exiguous fronds of breath
lovers throb in timbreless delirium

A pale offering exhumes the dusky path beyond
scabrous lots disembodied

The night is a phoenix
pruning the billows of Time
caught between meadows
lighted by gems.

Jan Ball

Three Olfactory Separations


I know you must go
But take these fragrant mangoes
To eat on the train.


When you left Friday,
I sat on your closet floor
Smelling your soiled clothes.


Although you have stained
The pillows with your hair-oil,
Your scent remains dear.