Feb 1 2012

Featured Poet: February 2012 Vol. 4 # 4

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Kate Falvey
Kate Falvey's work has appeared in a number of print and online magazines, including Memoir(and), Danse Macabre, Subliminal Interiors, Hoboeye, Umbrella, CRIT, Inscribed, Hearing Voices, OVS, Literary Mama, Women Writers, The Mom Egg, the Aroostook Review, Shot Glass Journal and is forthcoming in Italian Americana. She is on the editorial board of the N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center's Bellevue Literary Review and is editor in chief of the 2 Bridges Review. She teaches at New York City College of Technology/CUNY and lives with her daughter in Long Beach, New York.
Spitting Image
Fractured, this image of a swan:
early morning, early June,
a slow sun ruffling the clouds
where they tend to their nest of storms.
Egrets watch, aloof familiars, from
the blighted coven of skeletal cedar
and red maple, dead, still reaching,
intricate with power.
And the cygnets rake coils in the green
stillness of the marsh, their mothers prodding
pondweed and stonewort, harrying the tadpoles.
There is a scrim of birch and alder, and more
herons skimming for snakes and fishing-spiders
as light curls and dabs haphazardly.
Lured by the hazy peace, I blunder 
from my clumsy blind and venture
to a translucent verge, too flimsy to bar
my love-sick gazing.
An inch too far and I am beset by
an eruption of  wing and hissing.
The egrets don’t lift a feather to save me.

Slipping Down the Mud Bank
The spot where the child’s high chair
was up-ended
was bright with ferns and creepers,
wisteria and jewelweed wanton in
a mossy undertow
of run-off from the vague peril of
the listing, storm-addled road.
A slow mist clung like stifled thought
and shaped elfish hints of fear
which I subdued while reaching for
a cloudy-seeming rung as if the chair
were root or reed and would provide
a hand-hold or a stair as the creek bank
dissolved into a sodden, undulating lair.
There was a strange animation in the
chipped red of the high chair’s tray,
a ruddy evanescent glow of memory,
perhaps, or wooden dread,
a flash of muted color fixed
inside the diffuse, muddled grey
of drizzle, clay, and sand. I took
a stand and melded into mud,
knee and ankle splayed, distended,
the sudden swell more shocking than
predicament or pain. How long
I lay and shivered before shifting, rocking
a hair’s-breadth turn from break to bruise,
I still can’t say, but then, I spied
emerging from the startled ooze,
a silver baby rattle, blackened,
swaddled in bedraggled curls
of goldenrod and bracken.
When lifted free and scraped,
this age-clenched random find exposed
my own initials etched
in murky swirls on the twisted handle.
Arms outstretched, I grabbled, rose,
shaken, shaking, to somewhat higher ground.
My proof escaped as I ascended,
rattling down the slippery slope
to where some day, no doubt,
some other wanderer will unearth it
when she stumbles.
“But whose initials will be found?”
I vaguely wondered, hoped,
pushing through veils of fog
into the jolt of a clear and sudden
play of light.
Sister Moon
I could put you to rights if
you had half a mind.
What I’d tell you is this:
your illness has it right;
nothing is starlit, nothing is over,
nothing is sacred, everything
 is scarred.
You insist on your right
to a past of snares and peril,
eyes without mercy, thickets
of giddy abandonments and
relentless disregard,
 boggy distensions where only a small shoe
lies crumpled on the verge.
Your vision is complete.
The same images flicker chronically;
the pain mechanical and prescribed.
You’ve never realized it was you
who  told all those ghastly lies.
Lucky Stiff
Cautious, she is, at thirteen,
visiting the Christmas city from the sticks.
She’s heard of tricks the monsters in the dark
are wont to play, scenting for young blood in the
thickets of the Park. She’s smart, but she’s
deliberately afraid.
She’s heard about the killings and the stalkings and
the gangs, the women turned to ashes in their glares.
They mark you unawares, then mutate into vicious
feral things. They catch your shyness in their eyes,
then spring.
Tricked out in its mesmerizing glow, the greens
and silvers smearing filmy ribbons in the snow,
the city sings
of winter work and want, wealth, and wry imaginings,
its complications muted in the gold
and dingy red tinged drifts,
the heft of gifts sparkling, crisply earnest, in
the high-strung shopping bags. She
has on her proud glad-rags, her thin-soled sling-back shoes,
like a coy suburban match-girl in the chips. Of course, she slips
into a frosty puddle of a cashmered gent, who drops his
briefcase, guard, and all pretence. Boozily roused
and absurdly unamused, he spits
 something unholy then flips
 this innocent the bird. Or maybe I misheard?
Or rashly misconstrued?
Before I, huffy Auntie Mame, can swing
to ineffectual defense, he murmurs season’s greetings
and slips into the huddling  unreason of the street.

The charming flurry in the lamplight, heckled
by crass, impatient  winds,
winds which, wilding,  push
us indoors where spills of  safe, spectacular
year-round lights dance, dazzling, over dancers –
whose nightly peril is latent in mistiming or missteps.
is frozen and forlorn, worrying her premonition:
we’ll have to pass the Park again,
there may well be thugs galore in store.
I tell her during intermission
that though this is a hungry, brutish world,
the brutes are far between and mostly dormant,
mostly tame.
A million passersby will pass the Park a million times,
will keep their purses, plans, and lives.
The bad that happens mostly doesn’t.
Self-satisfied, I think I’ve squared away her fear.
But when we tour the night again, she lags, sits
stiffly by the frozen fountain, demands
a taxi for a present.


Jan 2 2012

Featured Poet: January 2012 Vol. 4 # 3

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Shanan Ballam


Shanan Ballam’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several literary journals, including Crab Orchard Review, Main Street Rag, Indiana Review, and Cream City ReviewHer chapbook, The Red Riding Hood Papers, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2010. Her poetry manuscript, Pretty Marrow, was a semi-finalist for the 2010 Brittingham and Polk Poetry Prizes, the 2010 May Swenson Award, and the 2010 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry.  She teaches poetry writing and academic writing at Utah State University.



While Mowing the Lawn, I Realize I May Be Pregnant
Paradise of panic!  The self-propelled
      mower screams, drags
         me in messy loops around the yard.
One round, two: the blade lops off
      gold dandelion heads, lurches
         toward the broom bush,
yellow lush of fragrant blooms. 
      Frantically bumblebees suck
sweet nectar.  The world’s shrunk
      to a bright box of noise:
         my skin’s the bronze bash
of a cymbal, my footprints sizzle.
      My fingers are a crimson tingle.
         Kids across the street shout,
but the sound’s drowned out
      by the mower’s roar.
         It yanks me under the pine tree
and a branch whips my cheek, salty sting.
      I’m inside the sound of shattering:
         my father’s huge fist smashing
glass, the dining room table,
      phone splintered on the kitchen floor.
         I’m inside the wet hiss,
my mother’s drunk lips on my ear:
      Please, wrap your hands
         around my throat and squeeze.
I slip on slick grass,
      fall to my knees, but don’t stop,
         pop up like a jack-in-the-box,
knees grated, smeared wet-green.
      Just last week, on my father’s birthday,
         his new wife woke to blood streaming
down her thighs, a tear in her uterus.
      She cradled the stillborn fetus
         for hours.  As always,
Dad was drunk the whole time.
      The old bird feeder hangs
         in the pine like a broken arm,
like a forgotten piñata,
      and I want to beat it
         ‘til the stale seeds spill.
In the grass, violets shine like eyes.
      The mower slices them, spits
         out retinas, eyelashes.
Blown into sky,
      an eyelash is a wish.
         My sister tore all hers out,
held them in her palm and blew.
      Dew blazes in the lawn.
         The mower tears toward
one blade burning gold,
      lonely as a birthday candle.
Once More to the Lake
                        for my sister
Didn’t you just tell me you loved me?
Didn’t you just say you were sad about god?
And just now, was that the sound
of early morning, lake softly breathing?
Now, at this hour, I can’t
bear to let go.
Didn’t we just dance on the beach with bare feet?
Weren’t we lovely? 
And wasn’t my hair curled,
weren’t my lips painted pink,
lily of the valley pinned,
sweet perfume soaking
my hair? Wasn’t that yesterday?
And weren’t we happy, and weren’t we strong,
muscles flexing under tanned skin
as we dove in, trout spinning
their shimmering funnels around us?
Weren’t we a family?
Weren’t we?
And wasn’t our father charming
that day on the lake,
his blue hat flying off in the wind?
And wasn’t he marvelous,
his enormous authority as he leaned
from the truck window, Marlboro dangling
from his mouth, his silent concentration
as he snugged, inch by inch,
our trailer into its narrow slot?
And wasn’t he wonderful
in the mornings before he’d been
drinking, how he hauled
the jetskis into the lake,
rainbows of gasoline glistening?
We watched strapped
in bright pink life-jackets
as he choked the engines,
then throttled them
until they screamed.
I loved him, you know, this is our story.
We wore green bikinis,
cut-offs and thongs, white-rimmed
sunglasses even,
we all drank rum in a cabin,
and even then you knew
you shouldn’t marry
that man, but you married him,
even then he slammed you down
on the concrete and our parents never said a thing,
even then he forgot your birthday,
and you were only sixteen, and that was before
you were pregnant, before I whispered abortion,
before we dove into
the lake and witnessed our own
distortion under water,
before we knew our father would not
survive his life, the life we helped
construct and destroy, and everyone keeps
saying it was not,
it is not your fault,
and it’s not,
but go back, go deeper: had we not
been so clever, had we
not been so evil,
had we not fought over
the one blue cup, had we not
bawled in the Mexican restaurant—
if we went back maybe we’d try
to be better, learned to build
engines because having only
daughters, he had to do this
Didn’t we all love one another
once on the lake before
we could look back and grieve,
before cancer in the femur,
before alcohol poisoning,
before liver failure,
before all these sad children,
before everything collapsed,
weren’t we blessed,
weren’t we lovely?
Once I wore perfumed flowers
and a white cotton dress,
once we smiled
for the camera
near the lake, its cold
turquoise drowsy and deep
while we stood, clinging.
I’m asking you to take me,
take me back, once more,
to the lake.
My Paper Boat
You were an albino trout waving
its tail in the river’s cold current,
but when I crept closer I saw
you were a white swath of plastic,
perhaps fabric torn from a dress,
or paper. You were a suicide
note, or a love poem snagged
on a ragged branch.  I wanted
to peel off my socks, wade into
the shock of winter run off, wanted
to take you with me, your words,
your little body.  I imagine
someone folded you into a warm
pocket, dropped you by accident,
or pinned you to a tree till spring wind
ripped you down.  Why did I not save
you, lay you in the sun.  Why did I
not lift you, moss-limp and lovely, press
your river-blurred words to my face. 
You are my love note to the world,
 my paper boat.  I wish you
could let go and swirl away
to a place unblemished, where light
could pour its honey onto your face.
I wish you could let go and forget
I stood here on the bank, body filled
with river stones, hand clutching
a heavy set of keys.  I should have
opened my mouth to taste you,
chewed and swallowed you, rescued
you from unsnagging into new
violence, tumble-lick of rocks,
river gnashing you, ragdoll.
Why did I not kneel, crawl
into the river to you,
my bright pinwheel.

Dec 1 2011

Featured Poet: December 2011 Vol. 4 # 2

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Tim Tomlinson


Tim Tomlinson is a co-founder of New York Writers Workshop, and co-author of its popular text, The Portable MFA in Creative Writing.  Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Asia Writes, Floorboard Review, InterlitQ, Mandala Journal, The New Poet, Prick of the Spindle, riverbabble, Pank, the New York Quarterly, and the anthology Long Island Noir (Akashic Books).  His poem “Blue Surge, with Prokoviev,” in Sea Stories, has been nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net 2011. 






On mescaline we walked close to the dunes

where terns nested.  They swung into the sky


and dove like arrows aimed straight at our heads.

I wasn’t sure if it was happening,


but it was happening, and I watched you run

to the shoreline, fall knee-deep in the surf, 


your arms flailing at residual trails

the terns sliced into the ether.


How odd that must have appeared to people

not on mescaline, but how intriguing 


to me.  Van Morrison’s intrigue of

nature’s beauty occurred to me, how there’s


stillness underneath nature’s violence

and from that stillness all things radiate.


But that’s not what you were thinking when they

pulled you soaked and shivering from the surf.


Later you explained how that one image—

me watching your terror—is what ended


us.  That was the danger with mescaline:

the immutable truths it might reveal. 





Morgan’s Bluff Revisited


At dawn the gulls laugh again.


Two gray angelfish ascend …

… kiss the surface …

                … recede …

                                the water’s surface wrinkles.


Pink light separates the gray sky from the gray sea.

Enormous clouds form like the aftermath of great explosions.


How pensive this daybreak,

                                                a grenade without a pin.


In a needling insect heat the dawn’s final breeze fades.


A jeep’s lights flash on, it backs out of the commissary. 


Pelicans lift from the pylons.

The Cuban whore retreats up the Bluff Road,

                                                her sandals dangling from a finger.





Loop Current


At sunrise we piss from the upper deck

onto the flat calm surface of Biscayne Bay.

We are eighteen, the deck is high—our piss

arcs out in glorious loops, splashes with

a bracing violence, its ripples rolling

past the breakwater into the canal

linked to Government Cut where tugs push

cruise ships toward the Gulf Stream, our piss following. 

I imagine it churned up in the whitewash

of giant propellers, swirling in a blend

of seas and plasmids as it joins the world’s

great currents, hugging the Atlantic

coastline heading north past the flashpoint

of the Civil War, past New England and

Nova Scotia into the vast schools

of bluefin tuna spearing the water

columns.  Ice floes threaten shipping in

the North Atlantic.  It’s lunchtime in

the UK, in Spain they’re napping.  What drum

beats along the coast of Senegal, what

hurricane amasses?  This will be news

in Guyana, news in Jamaica where 

from Lucea to Oracabessa 

shutters are pulled tight.  And traffic

on Route 1 backs up past Matecumbe Key. 

By the time we shake off, the coffee cools

in the galley in mugs that taste of bleach,

and local birds vector south in airstreams

miles long beneath the pink and aqua sky. 

No news but the weather, no desire

but for longer, and still longer days.   







Saturdays were half-days, our pockets

full of Friday money.  We’d roll over

to the roadhouse on Elysian Fields,

straight-claw hammers hanging from our belts.


The jukebox played “Layla” 

and “I See the Want To In Your Eyes.” 

Pitchers of Dixie, package of smokes,

maybe a Stewart’s sandwich from the microwave. 


Coeds from UNO bent over

the pool table, denim skirts riding their thighs,

bootheels off the floorboards.  I promised

myself I’d chat up one of those cowgirls. 


Saturday afternoons I made lots of promises. 






Winter Sunday, Firenze


In front of the stone houses, their shutters

drawn and smoke climbing from the chimneys,

the sycamores are bare, leaves loiter

at the tires of the silent cars.

Orchestral music from a radio …

a woman’s face in a second storey window …

the shops are closed.  No aromas of bread

from the forna, no chatter outside the tabacchi. 


At the corner, visitors follow packages

into a taxi.  The taxi turns onto Viale dei Mille’s

empty lanes.  You proceed to the canal,

always the canal, your hands in your pockets,


a Camus without the Gauloises.

At the Ponte alle Riffe, a grandson drops bread

to the ducks, his nonno smiling.  And then

it’s just you, you and the purling water.





Nov 1 2011

Featured Poet: November 2011 Vol. 4 # 1


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Chris Mink

Chris Mink was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, AL. He presently sweats buckets in Tallahassee while pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Florida State University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Greensboro Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Anti-, The Offending Adam, and la fovea. Earlier work can be seen in a folder his mother keeps. 




The Mauling of a Poet


Once I pass 13th Street and MLK, I better know somebody

or know my way out.

You’d never go there. You’re like me,

in a smoke-filled wine bar reading poems.

I take notes, wanting only to be nothing like you,

my tongue over the edges of my teeth,


how I sharpen them just now, unnoticed, the way blades

drag across rock without much effort

from the hand that holds them. Know this: on Sunday

there were Blue Nose pit bulls in the yard, and everything

on that red clay earth


was a chew toy: Tonka trucks, teddy bears, pig bone and glass, blood

dried black in the dog food. They paced the same paw path

until the trench was so deep a person could get buried.


Hookmaster and Pete brought me to the barbeque.

A red bone girl licked rib sauce from the corners of her lips.

One-sixteenth Choctaw. The rest: butterscotch dipped in cinnamon.

Pits tied to quarter-inch chains strained against their handlers, pulled back


onto their hind legs. Ears up, the dogs stared each other down,

their barrel chests swollen. I think as they did: tear of tendon, ripped

muscle, snout, neck, and every little moment of life that rises and falls

              in the final pulse.

Tonight I sip my beer, pull my cigarette until my insides fill with fire.


You’re on to children now, or hotel employees, whichever one you blame

for betrayal. That horrible scarf you got for your birthday.

Oh, yes, one more story about your birthday, one more plug

for your published works, your travel, your love of cuisine,


especially from brown people. Any shade will do. I shift my chair

and remember Hookmaster’s reply when I mentioned how tough I felt

being on the wrong side of the tracks. His arms like battleship cannons,

hands that could jerk a rhino by the horn through a gopher hole.


I’ll stay in this chair

until you finish your villanelle about the trials of a writer,

or I could tell you

the weight of a pit bull’s final breath in my arms.

You better hope my chain holds.






Mr. International


On Thursday my fantasies are tall women

with lipstick like blood from a bullet wound

and toenails to match. August


isn’t even a full day old. Just through those branches,

a sky


with the orb weaver in the foreground,

and a notion that I could be

an architect:


stacking rebar, spit, and steel until

curious clouds become territorial.


Every time I see really nice luggage

in an airport I think about the swimming pool

at my apartment complex, the taller women there

burning like solar flares covered in oil.

I bet they like men that stack things.


I bet they go their entire lives staring at buildings

at the blue that backs their angles,

and it never occurs to them to see how fast


an object might fall, or how the body trembles

just before you let it go.



                        ~these two poems originally appeared in the Chattahoochee Review


Oct 6 2011

Featured Poet: October 2011 Vol. 3 # 6

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Martina Reisz Newberry

Martina Reisz Newberry’s most recent book is What We Can't Forgive.  She is also the author of Not Untrue and Not Unkind (Arabesques Press) and Running Like a  Woman with Her Hair on Fire: Collected Poems (Red Hen Press). She has been included in Ascent Aspirations first anthology and has been widely published in literary magazines such as: Amelia, Bellingham Review, Blessed Are These Hands, Women's Work and others. Martina lives in Palm Springs, California with her husband Brian and their benevolent dictator/cat, Gato.

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Say prayers where it is dark, unfathomed, unworthy. 

Whisper them in a quiet, desperate voice

as if—instead of God—you were talking to a scientifically-

tuned stranger. 

Say the prayer of the gap-toothed man

who touched the stripper’s shoe, knowing—if caught—

the bouncer would have him shaking blood from his hair like

a dog emerging from a lake. 

In any case, that would be the prayer to say.  It will not,

cannot keep you from dying,

but may give you enough time

to stop cringing, perhaps change direction, change the color of your body,

learn to give off some kind of light the way animals do,

the way birds do when they check under each wing then

praise, full-voiced, their ability to fly through the great skies.








This is the day a woman wakes

with a stone for a heart.  She awakes

in silence or to birdsong but her

chest houses a stone and she is

mystified by this.  She drinks her tea,

she sniffs the air, turns on the TV. 

Her stone sits so heavily inside her

that it makes her shoulders slump.  Soon she

surrenders, weeps, bends double, begins

to taste gravel, to vomit sand.





The bald man at the reading told me

“You’re not particularly

Existential are you?” 

I stuttered, I guess not. 

But the truth is I am.  I do

all the things the other Existentialists do: 

I write, slip on icy sidewalks, get lost on

the freeway, watch porno movies,

spill mustard on my blouses,

sit in bird shit on park benches, bang my

head on cupboard doors, burn my tongue on hot

soup, weep into the space where wind blows through. 

Maybe he couldn’t see it, but I’m as

Existential as the next guy.





A woman walks west on Hollywood Boulevard. 

She wears flat shoes, baggy jeans.  She is full of terror and longing.

She tries to remember her last good dream, but all she recalls

is her recurrent nightmare:


the one in which her belongings are lost and she can’t find

her clothes to put

on to go find it. In the nightmare, she ventures out anyway,

holding a small

hand towel in front of her naked body.  The fear in this

nightmare is enough

to keep her honest. 


This woman is a loner.  She loves museums, hates travel. 

Sometimes she stops for a coffee and when a siren wails past,

she wonders why her children cannot love her and why

her new skin

cream isn’t working and why a well-crafted, correctly

metered line will not save or even comfort

the belittlement of age

or the failure of mythos.





        December 2008:  Martha Crawford “Sunny” von Bulow died after 28

        years in the coma her husband once was alleged to have caused with

        insulin injections.



Who said lies are ugly?  That’s bullshit. 

I have embraced one thousand lovely lies. 


The unlit rooms in my head keep them safe

so that, when I do turn a flashlight beam


on them, they are in pristine condition.

No cracked canvasses here, no soft mold.


The radio always on in this room—

music, news, midnight talk shows.


I live and will continue to live

In my lies—my buttered, beautiful lies:


What was done to me

What was done for me

What was not done at all

What was fractured

What was healed

What was offered

What was eaten

What was worn

What was taken off

What was said

What was left unsaid

What washed over me during lovemaking

What I washed off after fucking


What was discovered through the looking glass

What ascended

What fell

What splintered

What did I wish for

What did I vote for

What did I conceive

What grieved me


Which goddess have I served—Danu or

The Sleeping Lady of Malta


And in serving,

what have I forgiven


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