The Country Dog Review

Fall 2009


Joan Biddle

Apartment

They live on the street side of the building. We
live on the back side. They hear duets of men

and smoke, we hear birds chirp
and cover a fridge with pictures.

They shave each other’s heads
and take pills, we climb into blankets

and collect fur. He plays the drums,
she charcoals, I pick at the paint

on the walls. They hang
their clothes in the alley. We hang

drapes. We’re usually tipsy
on red wine. They drink two whiskeys

neat. I see a shore
of white skin on her back when she lifts

her arms. I see her wolf eyes and blackberry
lips. I see his skateboard,

a sandpaper tongue. A bell
rings in the afternoon. We lift our heads.

Joan Biddle is a writer and editor living in Memphis, TN. She holds an MA from Johns Hopkins and an MFA from The New School. Joan has been published in Half Drunk Muse, The Yalobusha Review, The Red Booth Review, and Small Spiral Notebook. An audio podcast of Joan reading her poetry can be found on Apostrophecast.com.


***

Emma Bolden



The Witch's Vision

By the well the women weave     their hair

    into skirts     night launders their skin

to plum     peel     their plump bodies

    curled root     and leaf inside     each woman

a tree     their husbands the axes      who tie

    to their backs     rowan     elder     the apple

tree’s     arms     its hands full     of leaves     below

    blades     the women will lie     bear

stomach and breast to his     stroke     and bleeding

    from them grows     a grove of saplings     weak

and in still air     trembling     the wolves

    circle     hold their teeth     between gums    the glint

built to tempt     the hunter and the hand

*

The Witch's Apprenticeship

This is the world     you inhabit     these

    are the things     you know     lard

to massage her swollen      stomach

    honey to sweeten     the infant’s

first taste     of earth     the ladder

    rung you’ll give her     to hold     her squatting

knees gored     this the rye vodka

    you’ll pour through her lips     these the fingers

to coax her open     untie the room’s knots     freeing

    their spells     this the vinegar     to make pure

the mother     this the cardamom pod     to tempt the babe

    to air     these are the questions     they’ll bid you

to ask     who have you lain with     what man

    have you ruined     this is your still tongue     calm fist

kneading her belly     this the eaglestone     good omen

    tied to her knee     this her wail     chorused

by child’s wail     yours the right hand     to turn

    a turned skull     these the dull scissors     to slice the child’s tie

to her mother     the knife to shred     placenta

    to ribbon     this the hoof     burned

to stem bleeding     this is the hemorrhage     that can’t

    be contained     this the woman     now a thing

and unholy     forbidden     from churchyard     this the salt

    you’ll let fall     in blessing     her new-mounded grave

Emma Bolden is the author of three chapbooks of poetry: How to Recognize a Lady, (part of Edge by Edge, the third in Toadlily Press’ Quartet Series); The Mariner’s Wife (Finishing Line Press); and The Sad Epistles (Dancing Girl Press).  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as the Indiana Review, The Journal, Feminist Studies, Prairie Schooner, Redivider, Verse, Green Mountains Review, Salamander, and on Linebreak.org.  She was the recipient of a Tennessee Williams Scholarship for the 2008 Sewanee Writers’ Conference, a semi-finalist for the Perugia Press Book Prize and the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry, and a finalist for a Ruth Lily Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation/Poetry magazine.  She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of English in Creative Writing at Georgetown College, where she also serves as poetry editor of the Georgetown Review.

***

Neil Carpathios 



As The Gods Booby-Trap Love

The Inuit hunters admire the bear.
They would never call it stupid or reckless,
though it might be.
They are in awe of its hunger.
They believe the bear knows the sharpened
wolf bone is buried in the blubber
and that somewhere in its primitive brain
the bear glimpses the terrible tearing apart
that will occur; the trail of blood
over miles, days, the crucifixion
from inside-out. They consider
the mutilated bear heroic.
Believe the beast chooses the temporary
miracle of the rigged meal,
its sweet juices, one-of-a-kind flavor,
knowingly and regardless.

Neil Carpathios is the author of three full-length poetry collections:  Playground of Flesh (Main Street Rag), At the Axis of Imponderables (winner of the Quercus Review Press Book Award), and most recently, Beyond the Bones (FutureCycle Press)---as well as several award-winning chapbooks. He is an English professor and coordinator of creative writing at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.

***

Louie Crew


Despoiling

We slept, close covered,
    in an iron tub,
fattening earth above us
    for a thousand centuries
in mealy darkness:
    not a doze,
yet never jarred by touch.

You folded and turned,
    my dear,
like smooth candy on the spoon,
    before the cool
and the soft-balling.

I tried to forget
    in a maze of dust
speckled with black
    and with deep purple.

We were not free,
    most decidedly not.
Bound, rather,
    in a prison of love.

Louie Crew has edited special issues of College English and Margins.  He has written four poetry volumes Sunspots (Lotus Press, Detroit, 1976), Midnight Lessons (Samisdat, 1987), Lutibelle's Pew (Dragon Disks, 1990), and Queers! for Christ's Sake! (Dragon Disks, 2003). The University of Michigan collects his papers.


***


DéLana R. A. Dameron


The Perch

Let’s say a studio, a lone wide room where all living is done.
Let’s call it solitude. For example: the dining table by the fireplace
with four chairs; the zipped up body of the guitar case
by the radiator, three un-curtained windows
opening their mouths to a grey Harlem sky.

Let’s observe the boxes under the dining table,
how they spill across the floor their unshelved books.
Observe the unflowered vases; the bed unmade – one side
folded back, the other untouched. I know it.
Let’s say: everything is half-finished, half-started.

Let’s say a bathroom with a skylight –
clear tarp, tape covers the broken pane. The dishes
in the kitchen sink. Let’s say sunlight never reaches
the oven or dish rack and that makes you sad –
that your one cantaloupe will never ripen how you like it,
and you hate how you flip the switch and the cupboard
is flooded with 60 watts, and your apples must dream of orchards.
   
Pollen collected on the coffee table, let’s say it would be nice
if someone should join you, give reason to clear the air, to bend
your back over the broom.
Let’s contemplate opening up for others.
Let’s say that in the room of incomplete things, your journal
isn’t open to an empty, lined page.
Let’s keep it written in, brimming with verses or prose or prayers.
This is home. Not magnolia and dogwood
and dandelion, but hardwood floors and butter-colored walls,
a pile of abandoned shoes by the door.

DéLana R. A. Dameron is the author of How God Ends Us (University of South Carolina Press 2009), chosen by Elizabeth Alexander as the 2008 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Essence Magazine, African American Review, Rattle, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, PMS: PoemMemoirStory, 42opus, and Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review. She has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, Constance Saltonstall Foundation and Soul Mountain and is a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective. Dameron, a native of Columbia, South Carolina, currently resides in New York City.


***


Christine Davis


Notes on Some Sort of Happy                       

We live in a small condo with yellow shag carpet, mirrored walls. Our art 
             is made of rope knotted into seagulls.   

My dad goes away a lot on business. We pick him up at the airport.

He says he can tell that we don’t notice when he’s gone.

             He is right.

My parents never take us on vacation until my dad starts wearing suits to work, taking
            limos to O’Hare and drinking a case of beer a night.

Before they go to the cleaners, I dress up in my dad’s suits
            and walk around with an Old Style can to make my mom laugh.

It gets harder to make my mom laugh.

We rent a lake house in Wisconsin, wear only swimsuits, play charades at night
           and act as if the tension and blackouts, cigarettes burning
                     the arm of the couch aren’t waiting for us back in Chicago.

I am thirteen, my dad turns thirty. We grill steaks, wear paper hats, sing Hotel
California.

I know a song about Ophelia and think of her when I am swimming alone.
          Ophelia'd know your every woe and pain you'd ever had   
          she'd sympathize and dry your eyes and help you to forget...

   
The lake water is always cold and it smells like the dolphin show at the zoo.

I float with my dad under milky stars while he talks about what it means to be happy.
          He tells me it is impossible.

In a rented speedboat, attached by rope, he pulls me through waves. Nothing has made  
          me happier. Skin smacking water, slipping under.


Christine Davis earned her MFA in poetry from the University of Mississippi in 2007, where she was the poetry editor of The Yalobusha Review. Her poems have appeared in a variety of literary magazines.  Christine is currently teaching English courses at various colleges in the Chicagoland area and working on a poetry and short fiction collection.
 


***


David Galef


Terminus

    SHI. to(maru) stop, halt, stand still, pull up; cease, be interrupted, be discontinued; be choked; alight on, perch, roost; be held in position. to(meru) check; allay (pain); fasten; turn off; detain; forbid to do; dissuade. todo(maru) stay behind; be limited to. todo(meru) detail, put an end to; leave; fix; remain (in a certain condition); content oneself with. ya(mu) vi subside, calm down, pass; die out, be extinguished; leave, go off. ya(meru) vt abandon; abolish; retire. yo(su) stop, discontinue, give up. sa(su) leave something unfinished. to(me) prohibition; end. todo(me) finishing blow.

    —from kanji entry 2429 in The Modern Reader’s Japanese-English Character Dictionary, second
        revised edition, by Andrew H. Nelson


At Izu I have come to a halt,
stopped by the peninsula
where the ocean is at a standstill,

and even the birds who cannot
alight on air, perch on my finger
and roost all night against my chest.

I myself am held in position
as if fastened to a post,
detained at the checkpoint.

What will allay the pain of movement?
I have been forbidden to cry out.
My fragile ship has stayed behind.

Here I am limited to the remains
of becalmed winds that couldn’t
extinguish a funeral candle.

Should I abandon my quest, whatever
it was, leaving it unfinished as the pier
extending into Shimoda bay?

What can I content myself with
after I’ve stopped stopping? Where is
the breath of the finishing blow?

David Galef publishes irresponsibly all over, including poetry, novels, short stories, essays, and translations. Recent works include the novel How to Cope with Suburban Stress and the poetry collection Flaws. He's a professor of English at Montclair State University and a co-founder of the M.F.A. program in creative writing at the University of Mississippi.


***


Jaimee Hills


Synaesthesia

Bonnard could see the sunset in a peach,
a pomegranate in a cheek; the flesh
of nudes broke sunlight into paint daubs, each
dull shadow grew hydrangea, from a brush,
exhausted, splayed like an orange trumpet blare.         
You can hear the word orange, colored sweet,
the timbre of a peel pulled from its meat
like diving in the sunlit water’s glare.

To the infant, the armchair has a look of anger,
or maybe the chirping birds sound light, while the fear
in Mama’s no is tinged with a yellow clang—
before senses are defined, before language
forms what’s practical, before you hear
the shadow whisper, All of this is wrong.

Jaimee Hills received her master’s degree in poetry from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars and her MFA in poetry from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She currently lives and writes in Durham, NC. Her work has appeared in The Mississippi Review, Sewanee Theological Review, Confrontation Magazine, Kennesaw Review, Best New Poets 2006, Blackbird and Waccamaw. She was the Howard Nemerov Scholar at the 2007 Sewanee Writer’s Conference and was a finalist for a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship in 2008. Her manuscript, Symbolophobia, was a finalist for the 2008 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize.


                                                                              ***

Andrew Kozma


If You Want to Survive

         You are arrested by a bicyclist who has run into you on the street, by a railway   
         conductor, a taxi driver, a savings bank teller, the manager of a movie theater.
                                                            ~Aleksandr. I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago


There is no conquering, just divide and divide and divide.

There is no end.  Your heart is an echo, a Rasputin

leering in your window, unkillable, already a corpse.

I was the official redactor, I know everything

they wanted cut from the world.  I am a scar myself,

unrecognizable to my past life, and everyone I know

has been put in storage.  Their faces stare at me from the shelves.

First, we removed friendship, then family, then love,

and in their place left a vacuum to be filled with fear.

Now, when you hear the typing beyond the walls

of your apartment, the first thought is of betrayal,

your neighbor recording those private meaningless moments

that used to be yours alone.  Now, the world witnesses

every action and you have no self to retreat into.

There is no emotion, just adrenaline.  There are no thoughts,

just electric impulses.  You think you have memories,

but you are Pavlov’s dog, a machine of modified instincts.

So we will have you believe.  But I’m no longer we

and here is what you do: If you want to survive

lay your hands of blame on any shoulder within reach,

smile with all your teeth, wrap your speech in onionskin

and allow everyone else’s words to soak in.

Stay quiet.  Walk briskly.  Avert your eyes.  And you must

strike first, at anyone, if you want to survive.

Andrew Kozma received his M.F.A. from the University of Florida and my Ph.D. in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston.  His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Zoland Poetry, Subtropics, AGNI Online, Comstock Review, Quiddity, and a non-fiction piece has been published by The Iowa Review.  His first book of poems, City of Regret, won the Zone 3 First Book Award and was released in 2007. 



***


Ed Madden


An Old Pew

                  for Ray
 
He wanted the God of the flannelgraph, God of the box of crayons, God of grape kool-aid and stale cookies, God of the paper tabernacle, God of the quiz bowl, God of the gold star, God of Aunt Maxine and Uncle Doug.
 
He got God of the tent meeting, the gospel revival, God of the cold immersion, God of the burning cross, God of Must the Young Die Too?, God of Brother Wyatt, God of the funeral flowers, God of the last verse, sung once again, for the lost, for the sinners, for the unsaved that remain out there—yes, you know who you are.
 
He wanted a song of the pitchpipe, song of the Rich Old King, song of the red and yellow black and white, song of clap your hands, song of stomp your feet, song of the happy shout, the song sung in rounds.
 
He heard the altar call song, the invitation song, the revival song, song about a fount of blood, song of the roll call and the last trumpet, song of being blind, song of sinking deep, song of the deep stain, song of the worm.
 
*
 
Let there be a song for the man who doesn’t sing. 
 
Let there be a song for the man who walks away, song of the dark hand, song of the wandering feet, song of the unsung.
 
Let there be a god of the night bloom, god of the guestroom, god of the quince and winter wheat, god of last call and first guess, god of the frozen drink, god of the hairy chest, god of the road trip, god of the home-grown, god of the homeward and homely, god of the shared home, a repurposed god, god of the unsaid, god of the old pew at the foot of the bed.


Ed Madden is an associate professor of English and director of the undergraduate program in Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.  His first book of poetry, Signals (USC Press, 2008) won the 2007 SC Poetry Book Prize.  He was selected for inclusion in Best New Poets 2007, edited by Natasha Trethewey, as well as Best Gay Poetry 2008.  His poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Notre Dame) and The Southern Poetry Anthology: South Carolina (Texas Review Press).  He is also the author of Tiresian Poetics, a study of modernist poetry, and editor with Marti Lee of Geographies and Genders in Irish Studies.  Madden is also the writer in residence at Riverbanks Botanical Gardens in Columbia and an artist in residence at the Palmetto Center for the Arts at Richland Northeast High School in Columbia.


***

Kate Northop


Skating


    --into the air!  But one doesn’t enjoy, I don’t enjoy

watching the turns they skirt the edges of,
then leap from

or watching their gestures limited to joy      
    --always a reunion

or longing: wounded, love-

sick.  Or entering their twists, their double
    axels, how they smile, smile….each muscle staking

a tent down.  Clearly
    there’s no room there       --for them

in the performance, a mimicry

    responding not to ice
but to noise, the audience.  And we eat them up!



        II


Therefore in the course of the performance, they may suggest:
    now it’s long ago

and we’re somewhere else, we’re out of doors. Soulful, this skater has come awake

in this special place, pond
        hidden beyond a stand of trees.

        III


But still it’s a sickness, to smile to be so pleasing,

so done-up in iridescence, weird
as photos of wedding cakes.  And it’s odd

to learn routines so thoroughly the body

leans into them, even off the ice,
    walking through the kitchen, down the hall

    --like a car pulling to the right

Though it’s true, I want them never to fall, want them to twist
    so tightly into their spins they break

out of being watched, combust

    into nothing, presto--     shifting grains
of gold-dust. 


        IV


But they have all the duende God gave a speed bump!

They’re silly, these skaters. Hopeless.



        V


And if, finished, emerging from a routine, one of them
    should look contemplative        --if skating in, she should drop

her gaze, hands on her hips, her face long

like a woman looking for seashells, or if one sits on the bench

terrifically skittery, waiting for scores, that’s just more art. 
    You can trust them

only at the beginning, when they’ve drifted to the center,
    before the music begins,

when they are leaving the pose of themselves
     for the pose of the routine, a blur

 where they are going in--

                                                                              *


Suddenly, Light

Flipped switch, like a kitchen
    in the middle of the night

But I expected more from the story:

There they were, returning to the party,
And the car they’d argued over

Was parked in the street, gleaming.  All

Resolved, and like a room suddenly lit, the branches
Lost in the window,

We’d been left alone.  I didn’t like it.  Did you?

The racket in the backyard, just wind.
The lights only neighbors coming home,
No one you know

Keeping her eyes there on the road.


Kate Northrup’s first collection of poems, Back Through Interruption (Kent State University Press 2002) won the Stan and Tom Wick First Book Award.  Her second collection, Things Are Disappearing Here (Persea Books 2007) was the finalist for the James Laughlin Award and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.  Her poems have appeared recently inAGNI, The American Poetry Review, The Massachusetts Review, Raritan, and other journals.  Northrop is Associate Professor in the English department at the University of Wyoming.


                                                                               ***

Nick Norwood



Houseboat at the Bottom of a Cove

Ghosting up, out of the cold, grainy dark,
an iron deckrail, stark as bone, a deck,

then foot by foot the rest: homemade, homely
as a mobile home. Along its shallow hull

rust erupts in daisy chains of scabs, lesions.
The cabin’s sloughed-off carpet slinks and slimes,

scuzzes into smoke. Overhead, like flies,
outboards pass, trailing their metallic whine.

And here, in this quieter, box-eyed haunt
of catfish and bass, a freshwater drum

hovers in the stateroom, mussels have
marooned themselves on galley shelves, then died.

Summer’s gold escape, muted six fathoms,
becomes watercolor: blue-green, gray-blue,

green-gray. The prop inters its final turn.
A pair of pink swim goggles, knotted fast,

still flutters from a bolt. In freehand script,
Calamity Jane, the moniker astern.

*

Underpass

His carapace a cave-in, the dead
armadillo lies beside the curb
like a piece of broken pottery.

The smell hovered here a week. Twice each
day on my bike I passed through his cloud,
the vapor of him that leaked out, out,

until now, he’s hollow. I’d forget,
enter his space, remember; bungled
into death’s dialogue bubble, I’d

read: mistake, calamity. As he
disarticulates into the street,
I peddle past, wary of traffic,

wearing my shell of a helmet, my
reflectors, and think each time of last
year’s possum. She lay close by, growing

flatter, less distinct, yet still there from
October to August if you knew
where to look. The odor gone, I marked

her slow progress going and coming.
Cars and semis pounding over us
on the interstate, I kept up my

devotion, remarking to myself
the nature of that particular
dark, flaking scrap of steamrollered trash

among the wrappers and cans. Then I
hopped the curb, hooked a left, and headed
up the creek she’d been trying to reach.

Nick Norwood’s poems have appeared in Paris Review, Southwest Review, Western Humanities Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Pleiades, Ekphrasis, Borderlands, storySouth, and in a number of other magazines and anthologies. He has been awarded an International Merit Award in Poetry from Atlanta Review, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship (1998) and a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship (2004) from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, twice been a finalist for the Vassar Miller Prize, once each a semifinalist for the Verse Prize and the “Discovery”/The Nation Prize, and a finalist in the Morton Marr Poetry Contest.  His first book, The Soft Blare, selected by Andrew Hudgins for the River City Publishing Poetry Series, was issued in 2003. His second book, A Palace for the Heart, a finalist for the Mellen Press Poetry Contest 2002, was published by that press in 2004. More recently, he has published a limited edition, fine press book, Wrestle, in collaboration with the artist and master printer Erika Adams. In the spring of 2008, he was a visiting fellow of Greyfriars Hall at Oxford University. Currently, he teaches creative writing and literature at Columbus State University in Georgia.

***

Alison Pelegrin


Dispatch to Runaway the Younger

In snapshots, even, reaching for the smokes, that’s them.
Five generations, a huddle of hard times—Granny,
Hip, Guy, your mother Chris and baby you,
center of the crèche, in my old christening dress.
This picture is the only proof that in the beginning
they did right by you. All your hair ribbons,
report cards—saved. Since then you’ve been dragged,
a weapon in divorce, to so many trailer parks
we let it slide and just catch up at funerals.

The last send-off—two, three years ago—was Grandma.
Out of nowhere, cousin, you arrived via cab,
comrade in tow, but not your phantom daughter.
You married? No. Any pictures? No. Does she,
this Kimberly, favor us? No answer. We wonder,
was she ever born? Did the state (which one?) step in?
When you called to say the girl was dead, so what?
She could have been anything. Or nothing. I never believed.

There will always be girls like you, faking disabilities
for pills, cloudy-minded, on extended stay in motels stocked
with strange bedfellows, hitching rides on big rigs
underlit by neon lines and safe-seeming only because
their reflectors spell out crosses and doves. Girls who depend
on Samaritan truckers tag teaming by code name on the CB,
ferrying hatchbacks into truck stops, powered by fumes.

A semi of merci led your mother to Amarillo.
All her hounding led her to your hospice bed where
lots of answers, with you, cousin, are doomed to fade.
This we deserve. This crossroads, what led us here, I’m not so sure.
You’re out of it, ripping at the sheets, the nurses’ touch,
arguing with us or the angels on the ceiling. You babble on,
crying. Please, Jesus, let that be the morphine talking.


*

Little Song for Kimberly

Child, don’t bother tracking down your kin.
Keep Out. Police line—can’t come in. Though I guess
You’ll wonder why you’re mean like a Marine,
Where you got them smarts. Blame it on us—
Olympic liars, a.k.a. your mama’s side.
We never knew there was a you, I swear.
And once we did, Amanda said you died,
Sent us hunting for your cremains everywhere.
The ones who have you now can’t be so bad.
I bet you never toddle in the dirt
With a filthy face and hands. When you get mad,
Don’t wish for us. What hurts won’t always hurt.
You mother knew she couldn’t do no better.
She’s dead. She died young. You look just like her.

Alison Pelegrin is the author of, most recently, Big Muddy River of Stars (U. Akron, 2007). She is the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the NEA, and her poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, and the Southern Review. A newly-released broadside of her poem "In Livingston Parish, Dreaming of Li Po," can be found online at www.broadsidedpress.org


***


Jay Rogoff

Banquet in Terra Nova, 22 June 1911

Seal consommé, roast beef and Yorkshire
pudding with horseradish sauce,
“Buzzard’s Cake,” “Antarctic caviar,”
crystallized fruits, nuts, mince pies,

butter cream and chocolate bonbons,
plum pudding, pineapple custard,
wines, sherries, brandy punch, champagnes.
A penguin sketched atop the world,

webbed tootsies slapping the planet’s bottom,
spices up the solstice menu.
June’s bleak midwinter has brought them
frostbite, gangrene.  May spring renew

green in their hearts, if not this land
of impossible ice whose single point
conducts them like a magnetic wand.
For now, the cold sun grown so faint

its head can’t crack the hard horizon,
they drink to daylight’s homecoming.
“Pecker up!” persists the penguin;
their whitening air:  “God Save the King.”

Reaching the pole—look, the wrong
red, white, and navy flag unfurled.
Thickening blood, frozen song
atop the bottom of the world.

Jay Rogoff's most recent book of poems, The Long Fault, appeared from LSU Press in 2008. LSU will publish The Code of Terpsichore, his book of poems concerning dance, in 2011. He has other new work appearing in Field, The Hopkins Review, Literary Imagination, The Southern Review, and several other journals.

***



J. Gabriel Scala

In a Parking Lot, a Young Boy

flies by on a shopping cart, his heels
just above the rushing gravel, black
rubber wheels circling, his white-
knuckled grip reflecting the sun’s
wide-eyed gaze. A mother’s haggard,
ninth-round eyes peek out behind strands
of honeyed hair hanging down, she lifts
sacks into the back of a Chevy.  The sky
is crystalline, the air sharp and clean.
He is on his flying saucer, rocket ship,
rollercoaster chinking and clanking
over the ridge and down, down, down,
he kicks his tennis-shoed foot, faster—

J. Gabriel Scala is an Assistant Professor at Delta State University where she teaches courses in modern and contemporary poetry and creative writing.  Her work has appeared in such journals as Quarter After Eight, Mid-American Review, CALYX, and Sierra Nevada College Review and is anthologized in One of Us is About to Be Born.  Gabriel’s chapbook, Twenty Questions for Robbie Dunkle, was released by Kent State University Press in 2004.  She is the founder and poetry editor of Valley Humanities Review.
***



Ida Stewart

Say Car Accident

And hear the meaning: the ax,
the acid, the accent clattering up

the mistake, making shrapnel
of the definition. Hear a dumpster

full of toasters, all the waitresses
dropping their trays in sync

as when we synchronized watches
and pushed our vocab books

to the floor at exactly 2:17.
(Spell cacophony, catastrophe, Calamity Jane

says teacher, the end of her rope
starting to singe.)

Say car accident and taste
a piece of care curling like lemon

rind in a glass, in your mouth—
and evanescing as

heat lifting off an engine,
lifting off a carcass. Say car-

cass and hear the trickle of blood,
steam, snake laughter

through the teeth of the wiseass:
Hiss. It was an accident. Hiss.


*



The mountaintop as an opening
and an opening

See a phonograph,
              phonographic blossom—

              see music or pollen

in the wind;
or feel me—two hands directing a whisper,
warm, to your ear: either way

the impression is transmission
through and through.

               I see you

looking down into the crater, the unsound

earth.                  I’m open like opening night.
Like the overture.           I’m a hearth to your hands.

I’m a deafness—

                            What are the words?

I’m just a woman saying
listen here, listen here, listen here.

Ida Stewart’s poems have appeared recently in The Laurel Review and Unsplendid and are forthcoming in MAYDAY Magazine. A West Virginia native, she’s currently pursuing a PhD in creative writing and literature at the University of Georgia, where she’s also co-curator of the VOX Reading Series.

***


Jay Thompson

Goodbye Television, Goodbye Kettle, Goodbye Owls

Tonight the neighbors check their roofs for owls.

If they find one, they run down the block—their kettle still on, fire still crackling,
without a toothbrush or water or winter coat, even though our gutters are all         
     plugged with ice—

for a neighbor whose roof is clean. Then they rap his door.

We two hear little feet on our shingles, but we spend tonight at home.

You push every door open, throw yourself on every pillow, cry, make a pie and burn it,
freeze at the window to follow snowfall until
just the unmoving tips of grass protrude.

If we were pilgrims, we’d walk sideways—into the blank of the holy map.

We woke to a smell like glitter and fragrant dark salts, the weatherman shrilly calling for
     sunshine,
his voice cracking on tomorrow’s highs. The old songs up next were a sourceless
itch,  
alchemical sediment. It had gotten dark early.

I stepped in, you held up a half-carton of strawberry ice cream, said the power was out.  
     Did I ever tell you what I saw?
The office tower melted soundlessly on its struts.
On the lawns, awful deep-sea fish were frozen.
Oscar and Renata and Theodore dragged their TVs into the street, beat the screens in.      
     Soundless.

What I do:
Lock the dog up when it starts to bark. Boil spaghetti (the gas still works).
There’s a wasting heat in all living flesh tonight: even you who I love and find so
     beautiful
are not immune. I set a plate of spaghetti

in front of you at the window until you shake awake, look down,
eat with your fingers.

When you’re done, I lick your hands, trace us on the wall in my No. 2 pencil.
The city outside doesn’t seem like it’s burning.

We don’t have to leave. The owls
have shock-eyes, as if no principality than our town were better known, no
obligation fresher. We sit beneath blankets, hearing. Feet leap-loping like the dark
over our little house

as if toward any marvelous origin, any inner heat. What do our neighbors run from?
How—next minute, hour—we’ll return to that
uninterrupted
plane of earth we rose from? But I’m small, and see no other chance of rest.


Jay Thompson was born in Woodside, CA, in 1983. He co-curates the Exploding Swan reading series, co-edits the journal Thermos (thermosmag.com), and writes a weekly poetry column for the Kenyon Review blog.

***

Fredrick Zydek


Letter to Tremblay in Early Spring

Dear Gail:  It’s been a long winter. 
I built a fortress of solitude to keep
gangsters, swindlers, killers and thieves
from taking up my time and things.

I spent many hours longing for the days
that raged - when all that makes a man
came easily and often.  Now that I’ve
been tested by cancer and all the things

old people get, I often feel I’m living
on the far side of the world where
everyone is infirmed but with nothing
immediately terminal.  My friend

Martha Jane Marshall died the other
day.   Like you, she was one of my
Olympians who helped make my trips
there sacred. Next year, I will load up

her old harpsichord in a van and lug
it back to Omaha.  Each time I play
it, I will remember how much she
enjoyed the mathematical clarity of

a Mozart rondo or nocturne by Turk.  
She was a great friend of Stanley Kunitz. 
They taught together at Bennington. 
I think she had a crush on him because

she couldn’t say his name without
getting a twinkle in her eye and that
distant faraway look teenage girls have
when they talk about their newest idol.

                                                                            *


Letter to Brown About the State of Things


Dear Jackie:  I’ve enjoyed an inordinate fondness
for beetles this year.   Our dung beetles are hard
workers.   You can’t help but admire them, but I
like best the ladybug beetles who always wear
those dark orange shawls decorated with periods
but never with  exclamation marks or commas. 

A couple of them are living behind the 1938 World
Book encyclopedias my grandfather purchased
for me the year I was born. I can’t think of a gift
I’ve been given that I’ve kept as long or used as
much.   I have a hunch old man Zydek knew that’s
the way things would be.  There were always things

about to happen that he knew about before the rest
of us caught on.   Now that I’m getting so old, I find
that music sometimes interferes with my dancing,
and occasionally it occurs to me that I live on a very
tiny island of sanity.   I turn on the news in fear of my
life these days.  How America ever got turned over

to academic underachievers, bullies and thugs isn’t
beyond me.  I read Thunder and Dawn by Glenn
Frank before I turned fifteen.  Still, I am not so
exceedingly miserable that I’m thinking of moving
to Canada.  Perhaps if I were young?   Truth is I’ve
gotten over my peculiarities and needs to fight for my

equality.   I’m too tired to give three farts in a wind-
storm whether people like or approve of me.  All I
want is a god-damn chair to sit in once I get my work
done and a sturdy stick to help me get from one sitting
place to another.  I read once that Roethke believed
that being old and tired was the sure proof of maturity.

Fredrick Zydek is the author of eight collections of poetry.  T’Kopechuck: the Buckley Poems is forthcoming from Winthrop Press later this year.  Formerly a professor of creative writing and theology at the University of Nebraska and later at the College of Saint Mary, he is now a gentleman farmer when he isn’t writing.  He is the editor for Lone Willow Press. His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Cimmaron Review, The Hollins Critic, New England Review, Nimrod, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Yankee, and others.  He is the recipient of the Hart Crane Poetry Award, the Sarah Foley O'Loughlen Literary Award and others.