The Country Dog Review

Winter 2010

Jackie Bartley

Red-Winged Blackbird Quilt

           

(after a four-square quilt by Judy Jarzembowski)

 

 

Red hearts reel                   Slip seam vine,           

under dustpan sun.             stitch, prick, burn.

White flame tips                 Sequined light and

lick red doilies.                   dark amber resin.

 

Sixteen blackbirds              Shrill song, ochre

lift over caramel                  chatter, birdfoot,

waters lapping at                 heartwood hold.

a bee-busy shore.             Behold: blackbird.



Jackie Bartley’s poems have appeared most recently in Nimrod, Harpur Palate, and Calyx. Her second poetry collection, Ordinary Time, won the 2006 Spire Press Poetry Prize. She’s currently seeking a publisher for a third collection, Sleeping with a Geologist, and lives in Michigan with her husband John (the aforementioned geologist).


***

Elizabeth Stephenson Bohlke


I Asked Him to Sing Me a Song

But instead he splits an orange,
perfectly calloused fingertips cleaving
sticky lace. Extending my half,

he laughs, says he met me in a song.
I tell him to stop being a fool romantic,
he’ll end up disappointed—worse—bored.

Truth is, word puzzle and glasses
cradled to bed, I’ve shaken off mystery.
Like a backwards cocoon, I’ve stepped out

in the dull hues of being known.
And now, I sleep the warm, comatose sleep
of a child in the crook of his body.

He says my breathing sounds like sighs.
Maybe this sigh is our song, maybe
this is what my mother meant

in all those stories of still water—
the honeyed nearness of one
who would die to keep me. And this too

is why her joy was heavy. Fruit,
both delight and grief to the tree,
and our song is the sound of its falling.


Elizabeth Stephenson Bohlke recently earned her M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Mississippi. At the university, she was an assistant poetry editor of The Yalobusha Review.  Currently, she is involved in several collaborative projects with artists in the Oxford area while she works on a collection of poems.


***



Edward Byrne

Snow Squalls

Early November and just a few fitful leaves

            still linger on thin fruit trees leaning beside

our back fence, though lifting in that wind
           drift bringing shifting rows of snow squalls

over an empty stretch of meadow. Already,
           all across this landscape seems bleached out.

Each of these features now appears changed
           to a paler shade of gray the way deck wood

weathers in winter or rich colors of printed
           images often will blanch under summer sun.

By tomorrow morning, this short storm also
          may fade away, the skeletal shapes of bared

branches will be the only things that remain
          to frame those frozen fields yet whitening

beneath brightening skies and the far scarves
          of clouds darkening the line of the horizon.


Edward Byrne is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Tidal Air (Pecan Grove Press, 2002) and Seeded Light (Turning Point Books, 2009). His poetry has appeared in numerous journals—such as American Literary Review, American Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Missouri Review, North American Review, Oxford Magazine, Quarterly West, Southern Humanities Review, and Southern Poetry Review—as well as a number of anthologies.


***



Cara Chamberlain


Hanged Elephant, Erwin, Tennessee, 1916


No extra charge after the matinee.
Charlie Sparks’ World Famous Shows.
A mere five elephants, but one
a murderess. A treat for the kiddies. No warmth
this day, light rain and mist
clumping gray shreds on the boomtown
tracks. The road a gruel of mud.

She sways to the spectacle, chained outside,
a menace, stopped from batting and pitching,
from piping, from touching those others,
their trunks and hay-rich breath.
She half-craves scattered melon rinds
despite this day that is somehow wrong,
a whiff of danger, of hatred, of desire.

She has killed a man and, as the custom is,
she must be hanged. Lifted by cable
by the railroad crane as children watch,
she’ll fall. Hoisted again,
she’ll die, suspended over coffee trees.
Come, boys and girls, the killer is here.
Now we’ll end her terrible reign.

She was brought from Asia, sailing
in a wooden ship that leapt like a stallion.
From farthest Asia she was brought, massed
power and anger and guile, a poor man’s
dream snapping in the whip
of her trunk and a tamp of that heavy foot
though the man she killed was poor enough.


 *



Savage Races

             His behavior, abhorrent as it may be to us today, reflected the scientific attitudes of his time.
                                                                                            —Theda Perdue, Florida Historical Quarterly

1
In Muskogee, Oba means owl. To wear an owl feather
is to court disaster. Long leaf-, slash- and sand-pine
cover miles where it’s not mockingbirds
that bother you but cicadas’ endless drone.
Pine warblers trill, and daggers of bluebirds flirt
with light and shade. A zebra swallowtail nurses
blazing star. Bachman’s sparrows invisible in palmettos
belt out green-hot ballads. When heat dives
like a caracara on anything that moves, when heat
holds white pipewort and rearing thunderheads,
if by some chance it broke, everything would collapse.

2
Dr. Wheedon, a man of science, wanted to understand.
The St. John River slapped through mosquito clouds
at broken shell mounds of vanished cultures. Clouds built
whiter until they fell on misty ranks of mangrove oysterbed.
Dark live oak armies, red bay, cabbage palm
where a careful eye might discover orchid species, tillandsia,
resurrection fern, or justify cane mills with living corpses,
slaves bent over distilling vats, syrup flashing
to steam to sweeten tables in Jacksonville, in London.


3
Late nights with his famous patient’s pathology of liver and lungs,
inexplicable loyalty to a savage wife named Morning Dew,
this British trader’s son dying not of war but of malaria
Dr. Wheedon wanted to understand and analyze. He claimed
the head before interment. It graced his study for many years.
He came to conclusions proving the savage races inferior.


4
Dew bent azaleas, deep walks he planted with red
camellias through oaks softened by Spanish moss. Owls in June
were giant moths silent beside his window, measuring cubic
centimeters of his skull, chock-full of pleasant dreams—
girl in clean muslin, eyes cast down, serving
tea, uncoarsening hands after years of fieldwork
becoming supple, his discovery of what he judged her dusky
octaroon beauty a chief accomplishment of his final years.
Chintz curtains floated with the softening breeze. Playfully,
she put a feather in his graying hair. Oba, she said,
which he took as a term of respect. A kind of father, he was
indeed, and wondered what admixture of barbarism leads white
blood astray until death came for Dr. Wheedon, too.

5
A curious specimen, relict of some long forgotten frontier war,
preserved and on display at the Medical College of New York—
the artifact came into the hands of one Dr. Valentine Mott,
but was lost in a fire. It was the head of Billy Powell, known to most
as Osceola. He haunts the place where he surrendered,
Fort San Marcos built of gray cochina quarried by slaves.

6
Under building clouds, remnant Florida sleeps in strangler fig.
Corpse owls doze through another tropical storm.

 Cara Chamberlain has published fiction and poetry in numerous journals, including The Southern Review, The FiddleheadAsheville Poetry Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Front Range Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Her short novel, The Devil's Party, was a finalist in the Low Fidelity Novella Contest, and she has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Her collection of poetry, Hidden Things, was recently produced by FootHills Publishing.


***

Kelle Groom

1970 etc.


A woman knit a stocking white for her body,
with holes for her eyes and a tip at the top

of her head—like a woolen condom—
and she baked cakes in the shape

of eggs, for all her lost, could-have-been
children, with dates on each cake: “1970” etc.

Maybe it’s unfair to think that if I make
a place for him, my son will find his way

back, or maybe it’s a door. I wrote a letter
to my doctor to save an ovary, my uterus,

cervix, all the plush parts safe in their beds,
to say I want another child, and when I woke

Bethany brought the yellow flowers
that remind me of boys green in a field,

pistils carrying orange suede slippers
balanced like hats on a tilt-a-whirl ride.

Kelle Groom’s third poetry collection, Five Kingdoms, was published by Anhinga Press in January 2010. She is also the author of Luckily, a 2006 Florida Book Award winner (Anhinga) and Underwater City (University Press of Florida, 2004). Her poetry has appeared in Gettysburg Review, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and Poetry among others, and is forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2010.

 

***

Tessa Kale

Totem Poles

There was the time when the painter gave up
and became a landlady. She had her
dogs, a monkey, a raccoon: they helped
in the tedium of that decade.

She was old by then: fat, grey, waddling
in the performance of her scullery
maid’s chores—a far cry from the brave girl
the Nootka had called Klee Wyck, the laughing one.

She was beautiful then too. A boy
she met on a packer fell in love
with her and followed her to the ends
of the earth, to London, England, where

she attended art school but where
homesickness had so maddened her
she had to be sent to the East Anglia
Sanatorium. There she kept songbirds

in a cage and began to lose her looks.
She became heavy and looked wild
about the eyes. How she pined
for the picket fence treetops

above the flat grey water,
the click of mussels
and barnacles,
the hiss and squirt

of clams, the cannery wharves
where she would embark with paints and easel!
Once back in her beloved British
Columbia she was sane again.

She returned to painting pictures
of totem poles not because, as before,
she wanted to record a dying art,
but because she was drawn to them as some

are to the mirror and make self-portrait
after self-portrait. She gave up being
a landlady, and made her best paintings:
trees, mostly, whose faces slept in the bark.

Tessa Kale was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. She has poems in The Western Humanities Review and The Yale Review and is the author of the novel Daphne Underground. She is the current editor of The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry and The Columbia Granger's World of Poetry online. Her chapbook The Hudson Line won the 2009 Finishing Line Chapbook Contest and will be published in August 2010. She lives in New York.

 

***

Dorianne Laux

Voice

I choose to endure the world
as it will be without me,
as it was before the torn
noise of my birth, the first
trembling vowel: ooh that meant
I’m here. My mother’s coo
returned, bounced like a ball
between us, the game we played
till dusk. The grand mimic
I made of myself, little ape:
banana, pajama, bandana. Oh
to taste such manna on my tongue,
the infant power of my lungs,
the first breathy yes, the last
explosive no, my nose, her nose,
touching in the raw new world.


Dorianne Laux’s fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon (W.W. Norton), is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award. Laux is also author of Awake, What We Carry, and Smoke from BOA Editions, as well as Superman: The Chapbook and Dark Charms, both from Red Dragonfly Press.  Recent poems appear in Cimarron Review, Cerise Press, Margie, The Seattle Review, Tin House and The Valparaiso Review. Her fifth collection, The Book of Men, will be published by W.W. Norton.  She teaches poetry at North Carolina State University.

 

***


Dora Malech

Apology

Days were display dives, sure swoop.
Then sudden flutter and fall through to triage

and the queue of singe, blister, callous, soar
to sore heart sinking teeth into skin.

I beat at the skylight, threw voices
to nimbus, my lawless frontier.

I was a windpipe when I met my love,
and he, a storm surge, lightened air

and lifted water, urgent. Now, body spent,
find me unflappable, framed with his feathers,

self-evidence, see, the straw we drove
into the post as he scattered my ashes

and spun me up, a wild vane.
Sweet apostasy. So suspend me.

What’s to trust a rusted trestle?
One last gust and I’ll return these wings.

Dora Malech is the author of two books of poems: Shore Ordered Ocean (Waywiser, 2009) and Say So (Cleveland State, forthcoming 2010). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Poetry London, The Yale Review, and elsewhere.


***


Jennifer Malesich

Some Bodies

It’s winter and snow has buried the entire house.
It’s an igloo in Prague. I become a bear
complete with the stink of bear, the love of berries,
the instinct to hibernate. I’m hibernating.
When I wake up I’ll be hungry. I’ll be ready for meat.

I don’t deserve to be a bear. All I wanted was to be an actress.
Maybe considered a great beauty. Maybe to die on screen.

Bridwell’s driving so fast that we miss the drive-in,
the double feature with the damsels with big tits,
the one he wanted to see. He thinks we’ll be safe driving all night.

I try and cover the new bruise, my busted upper lip.
I change wigs; he changes lanes.

He hums like an amphetamine, lit up, like the stadium lights
at the desert rest stop where he bleached my hair with peroxide
and shaved his beard. I hardly recognize him,

but the tattoos that lace his neck give him away. He looks like a baby,
like someone who arrives at a ranch house in the middle of nowhere
and charms the housewife into buying a vacuum.

He ran towards me in the stadium lights, laughing,
in his cowboy boots. He looked ridiculous.

I can’t believe this is the man who’s going to save me,
who’ll pull me out of the accident,
that hasn’t happened yet, with his bare hands.

The highway patrol lingers around every corner.
We smoke cigarettes to stay awake, listen to AM radio,
old country-western songs that we know, that he taught me.

We’re driving breakneck away from our latest wreck,
and there’s a body in the back of the trunk.


Jennifer Malesich was raised on a Black Angus cattle ranch in Montana.  She was a John and Renee Grisham Fellow at the University of Mississippi where she earned her MFA.   Her work has been published in Dislocate, Rattle, Third Coast and Fourteen Hills.  She lives in Missoula, Montana.


***


Karyna McGlynn

It Could Have Been Arson, But It’s Too Late to Tell

The nightworld moves
its dry-ice to the left

There is a burning Christmas tree
in the elevator of the high-rise

You will have to use the stairs

The industrial doors of this world
buzz us in & out

I have indexed our keys
I know where everyone goes
but I can’t stop them
from leaving once they arrive

Say, for instance
my father stepped into an elevator
that never returned to the ground floor

Say there were forces in this world
out to get him

Say the whole world is at the bar
doing novelty shots off an alpine ski

The nightworld smokes, as if
on fire, but there is no discernable
source of the fire

Say I am taking the long way down



                                              [Begin shooting here]
                                              [I mean my chest]
                                              [A broken intercom]
                                              [“Devil with Candy Canes”]
                                              [A tenement stairwell]
                                              [Needles crunching underfoot]
                                              [Mouth full of dry pine]
                                              [Dry ice]
                                              [A burning sensation]


Karyna McGlynn is the author of I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl, winner of the 2008 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry from Sarabande Books. Her chapbooks include Scorpionica (New Michigan Press, 2007), Alabama Steve (Destructible Heart Press 2008), and Small Shrines (Cinematheque Press, 2010). She received her MFA from the University of Michigan and currently teaches at Concordia University.  Her work appears in Fence, LIT, Denver Quarterly, Diode, Octopus, Columbia Poetry Review, Caketrain and Forklift, Ohio. She edits L4: The Journal of the New American Epigram with Adam Theriault and spends most of her time in Austin, TX.

***



Ann E. Michael

Everyday Syntax

      In the domain of the human, all things are potentially words. 
                                                                                                        —Eric Gans

The flower pot and the volcano,
the sugar bowl with its cracked lip,
a subway car handle, an acre of wheat,
two cents. These are the nouns
we live by, stacked around edges
of memories, joining clusters
of adjectives and the constant motion
verbs make in any enclosed space.
No wonder our minds are noisy:
placemat, carburetor, zinnia, jug.
No wonder we share, laugh, fight, flee,
evolve, lactate, shiver, weep, sleep.
What we can build with every letter,
whole or broken, every word,
voiced or unspoken, meshing and shoring
endless possibilities crammed into
finite lives—bed and grave,
open and shut, between, between!
Floss, fountain, boudoir, bean,
you, I, we, kiss me. Our child
runs from us, twilight dwindles,
there are always losses, we died
for empty phrases, for words out of which
we made a world, named it “everything”
and knew almost nothing of it, though
we said and said and said.

Ann E. Michael is a poet, essayist, librettist, and educator who lives near Emmaus and teaches at DeSales University. Her work has been published in many journals, including Poem, Natural Bridge, Runes, The Writer’s Chronicle, Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts and others. She is a past recipient of a PCA Fellowship in Poetry. Her chapbooks include More than Shelter, The Minor Fauna, and Small Things Rise & Go.

***



John Poch

The Wash


Forgive the sawdust fine as snow in my pockets
when you shake the workday from my shirt
outdoors. Look at the woods specifically, the twigs.
Ignoring the clock, I have thought I was a hard worker.
Yonder, I thought of you, your profile,
and tried to conjure your eyes, barely there
like the lashes of women pressed into coins,
wise, and as wanting as a juror’s birthday
and as blind as a judge’s oak wall.
Where I wanted it, the tree would fall.
I don’t want to rush through lines. I wish I were
as noble as an old tangle of barbed wire
historied by woods and stone and rain.

On a break, I walked through the clearing,
looking for some story of another.
I found some white flint.
How I hurt you with almost nothing
while you love me.


John Poch teaches at Texas Tech University.  He is the editor of 32 Poems, and his most recent book is Dolls (Orchises Press 2009).


***


Douglas Ray

Costume Heart

It’s not that I miss the necklace that much, no –
more that my pride is hurt. I gave you my heart –
wood – cut, sanded, painted red, strung just so
on a chain. You wore it around, played the part
of kept man as we pranced from bar to bar, showing
off this kitschy piece of you+me – the art
of turning something genuine – love – into faux.
Remember when you were ill and did
your best Joan Collins-meets-John Waters –
fuzzy slippers and silky robe, smoky eyelids
you thought made your eyelashes flutter
more dramatically? You said, “Make your bid
on this hot piece.” I laughed and gestured
to the necklace. You blew a kiss and purred.


Douglas Ray is equal parts Suzanne and Julia Sugarbaker. Poet Beth Ann Fennelly has described him as "100% FABULOUS" (read: really gay).  He has received grants to write poems in Spain, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and California. His poems and critical work have been published in or are forthcoming in The Journal of Textual Cultures, The Squaw Review, Perfect English, and Kitty Snacks.  He is Senior Editor of The Yalobusha Review and lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

***

Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers

from Some Snakes: A Sequence of Poems

Tongues

Born an Ashe County bastard, her house was a cracker tin
             tossed in a valley. Mountains reclined
like sleeping fathers, snoring blue-gray thunder,
             bristled and unshaven with fir and pine.
She lived where they let out rattlers
             among the congregations:
If you hold them in your hands,
             Jesus said, you will live.

Come high school, we went driving in the days
             between Sabbaths; she was blue-
jeaned and bandannaed, not full-skirted as in the sanctuary.
             In church, she couldn’t speak; couldn’t turn
or think of me, while all around her, the white-shirted army
             cried out in strange syllables.

Animalia, Chordata, Sauropsida, Squamata.
            We learned taxonomy by flashcards stacked in desk drawers,
where we might’ve kept letters had we not been afraid.
             In other lands, we read, a cobra may be drawn
out from a corner with a bowl of milk.
             And we were baited by the pale contours
of our flesh, learning a new tongue, and calling out vowels—
              that eager glossolalia of skin and want.


Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina.  She graduated from Oberlin College in 2007 with degrees in Creative Writing and Dance.  As a recipient of the Oberlin Shansi Fellowship-to-Asia, she taught in the rural Shanxi province of China from 2007-2009.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Chautauqua Literary Journal, StorySouth, and on Poetry Daily.  She is an MFA-in-poetry student at Cornell University.

***



Michael Salcman

Brooklyn Boy


I went off to school in the dark and came back
in the dark, a long walk
and two bus rides from Midwood High,
my parents having lied about the location
of our apartment and its zip code.
It wasn’t just the gray light in Flatbush
or its absence but the icy mush
over which I tottered like a drunk
on a heaving deck, almost falling off
the bottom step at the bus stop.
I was grateful to return each day
in the same condition, more or less,
limbs still attached to my thighs and torso,
having survived another beating
or its threat by blustering skin heads,
those kings of misrule.
More dangerous still my half-mile walk
to Young Israel of Flatbush
in the chill of Coney Island Avenue
where further tormentors lay in wait,
and faith in God meant forgiving Him
for polio and the children of holocaust—
each side brandishing its fist
and crying aloud, deny, deny.


Michael Salcman, physician, brain scientist and essayist on the visual arts, served as chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. Presently Special Lecturer at the Osher Institute of Towson University, he lectures widely on art and the brain. Recent poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Hopkins Review, New Letters, Ontario Review, Harvard Review, Raritan, Notre Dame Review, and New York Quarterly. The author of four chapbooks, most recently, Stones In Our Pockets (Parallel Press), his collection The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises Press), was nominated for The Poet’s Prize in 2009 and was a Finalist for The Towson Prize in Literature.

***


Jay Snodgrass

Drowned Squirrel

I wake on Sunday morning to find
a drowned squirrel in the kiddie pool

like a tiny worshipper floating fashionably
belly up amongst the priestly burdens
of petroleum rubber.

It’s as if the priests who once found seclusion
in sacred cloisters scooped from cave walls
can now perform sacrament from the hot
tub with Kirspy Kreme wafers,

and the saints, those bolsters of the lord,
can now bask in the votive glow of the television.

On this program, as the good lord waxes:
                                      come to me, squirrel,
the trumpets are nigh.

Looking down on his floating corpse,
I feel in my desperate and slow burning calamity
to get the bills paid, to be attentive
and occasionally forthright,

the rubbery zip-zip of the squirrel’s claw upon
the dazzling rubber; and the water, such water,
the yellow, the blue, the sunrise
into drowning.

Now may this squirrel remind me that I am free
to scoop the little corpses from my day.

Thank you, lord. I will continue to beat the wall
with the apparatus of my forehead, the rubber
vestibule of my brain, until it squeezes off
saints the way other orifices shoot out bullets,
or venom.

                         Remember this: the brick wall
stained with blood,
                          the scrambling claw.


Jay Snodgrass is the author of two books of poems, Monster Zero and The Underflower. He has a Phd in creative writing from Florida State. He was born in Florida and raised in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida with his wife and daughter. He teaches composition at Bainbridge College in Bainbridge, Georgia.


***



Charlene Monahan Spearen

Before the Peril of Unconsciousness

Inside an imploding corner, hands knotted,
a young mother hunts for a way out, inhabits
two states: one to live, one to die. Each world
is playing a tune and the words of a few old songs.
She cart-wheels from room to room, searches
the house, finds the tailored script, and quick
like an invented lie or a scarlet macaw’s
squawk and chirp, she enters the righteous tic
and tock, and calls out it's bath time. She kneels
on the unsteady ground, ignores the mirrored
image, the bob and sway, the clutching good-byes,
the procession of lost generations and lucid
thoughts, the baby’s last tug, the wide-open
eyes, and each of her five gulping-for-air children.

Charlene Monahan Spearen holds an MFA in Poetry and a Ph.D. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of South Carolina.  She is Poet in Residence for the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, South Carolina, and she has been awarded numerous other residencies throughout the state South Carolina.  She is the Program Coordinator for the University of South Carolina's Arts Institute and the Assistant Director of the South Carolina’s Poetry Initiative.