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Monday, April 21, 2014

Two poems ----- James Bertolino

Contrary Metaphysics

When the stalk
is more impressive than
the flower, what are we
to think?

If the high note
has more resonance
than the low, how
can that make sense?

Looking through the wrong
end of the microscope
will bring an order
that your knowledge has lacked.

Open a ripe peach and
chew on the pit.
Reach for a black speck
between your toes, look
to your dearest friend
and sigh, "This is it."

What The Dragonfly Told Me

We don’t mind the beetles.
The mosquitos are fakes.
The correct balance between sunlight
and moisture equals food.

As you know, we have wings,
and when the breeze has throttled
down, we are the undisputed
champions of the air.

When you’ve noticed we’ve settled
on a tall stalk of grass,
or fuzzy cattail, it’s hands-off!
You don’t pet a dragonfly.
And don’t be shouting, or we’ll
sew your mouth shut.

Also, it would please us
if you didn’t laugh when you see
two of us conjoined while aloft.

When we’re in the mood for love,
you can just move along—get back
to your wood and glass traps.
This delicious world
was not made for you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Three poems ----- Koon Woon

Love me when I am old

No need to love me when I am young,
because I can only love myself then.
No need to kiss me under the apple bough,
as any pair of fair arms would me arouse.

But love me, love me when I am old,
when the extremities of me grow cold,
when neither food nor drink will do.
For all the years that we drift through,
pretending we each other didn’t know,
now love me, love me as we stand in snow


Static as Buddha
inert as a rock
I move you not,

But snow melts
and rains fall
on mountain top,

Even as I breathe
vapors of December –
that after taste

of my days, I hold
you in memory
as a photo in wallet.

Oh come run with me
for a day more
in the valley

And linger there
as the ice melts
and snow dissipates.

How like a clearing in the woods

On the 10th day of the 19th year we finally stumble
out into a clearing

The remaining men shrieked like children
as our captain in full beard

Supplicates to the blue sky

We had killed our imagination for otherwise
the numerous cries of the jungle
haunt the years we are forgotten

As men on expedition

And finally we have each our own place
even though as our neighbors

Have changed to the right of us
to the left of us

And the truth now is to put our machetes
down, disrobe, and cleanse

In the creek
with the dense foliage of the jungle
behind us

amid the fearsome flights of Gothic
bats and growling bears

But now our wise captain leads us
into this clearing

Where the light is right for a van Gogh
the price is right for a Picasso

And on this 10th day of the 19th year
we cry, but we no longer know
why we are here

We will go back into it for another 19 years.

Four poems ----- Katherine Grace Bond


Once you write that first word
You have already marred the perfection of the page.
You grab some easy metaphor –
The crooked lampshade,
The masks on the display shelf staring at the ceiling –
And you know that it is already pretense.

Today you stood in the grocery aisle with a poet,
Each of you clutching sacks of oranges.
He said his heart almost exploded
The day the muse played hard to get.
One night he ran his aging body up the thousand steps at Suzzallo Library,
The next he woke up five hours into sleep,
His heart banging in his rib cage like a trapped kestrel.
Five years shaved off his life by looking for the right phrase.

You had that same sensation
The night before you read your fear of death
To a panel of dispassionate politicians.
You recall the month you killed your ten-year novel,
How you knew that you were dying
After thirty hours comparing airfares
To luxury resorts in the Bahamas.
That death was a slow suffocation.

The poet says the journals are all pretense now,
Academics vying for the best Italian phrase,
Serving up their cynicism with just the right Chianti.
You weigh your oranges and confess
That you’re not smart enough to compete.
The truth is you are still afraid to die.

You and the poet stand besieged by
The insult of frozen pizzas,
Stacks of marshmallow chicks,
The celebrity who cried on Oprah.

To face the cynics, you’d both have to acknowledge
That words are all you have,
To say them is to risk annihilation;
To say them is to broadcast that a poet
Is but one small step from madness,
Worse, that he’s a fool,
Worse yet that he’s not a poet at all.

You have the sudden urge to grab the poet’s hand and bolt,
To pelt the shoppers with oranges and gum,
To flip the bird to the academics,
To run those thousand steps and hear, on the final flight,
The yawp of your barbaric feet.


The day I stumbled into the house you built,
it was a labyrinth—
Chinese boxes
or Russian dolls,
each growing smaller
until I disappear.

You can get lost in a house like that.

I wonder about the rat.
Did he starve
when there was no longer any malt?

I could never begin to clean a house like yours,
all lopsided,
falling in on itself.
It makes me angry.

You should hire
the third pig,
the one with the bricks;
he knows more
about solid things
than you.

As it is
you trap people in here—
all the stairs,
windows that go nowhere,
the locked back door.


The night you stole the hives,
We had gone out—
A thousand of us guys—
One last rollick on the town
Before sampling the delights of our virgin queen.

The girls had fed us ambrosia for days
As they gazed into our compound eyes
And exclaimed at the size of our mandibles.

The queen could hardly wait, they sighed,
Assuring us that every man would have his turn
At ecstasy.

That night, mustered just beyond the apiary,
We boasted how we’d dive like comets
Over her—each one of us was sure
He’d be the first and best to rock her world.

But flying home, a little drunk,
We found the bee house carted off,
The homestead vanished,
Our drowsy queen
An adolescent dream.

And now there’s not a wing
To prove we’ve not imagined our own race—
No buzz in rhododendrons, no
Dancing grace notes on the wind,
Not one sweet treasure left on earth.

Unless it’s true the night you
Spanned the globe and made off
With a million honeyed palaces
You found some best-forgotten mercy
And left a scent the drones could follow.

It’s said that a year’s walk from the horizon
Where lone and level sands stretch far away
A solitary storehouse thrums with bees.

And so we wander,
Stingerless and hungry
For the sight of her—
A thousand consorts, who sweep the barren land
And mourn the kings we might have been. 

The Fall

When publicly undressed
You must
Remain serene.
Do not notice
The breeze across your belly,
Tightness of shoulders,
Weight of your breasts.

No one stands, head atilt,
Scrutinizing the curves of your body,
Crook of an elbow,
The intermittent catch of your throat.

Imagine you do not lean
Over a precipice.

Instead, be rain,
Shale, Snow,
Small tumble that shakes the mountain,
Behind your face
A clandestine smile.

You alone
Know your secret tipping point,
How to slide out of view,
Hidden in your skin.


Do not mistake
Serenity for safety,
You, who chose this starkness.
Danger attends revelation,
Like a brooding lady-in-waiting.
Has her own secrets.

For the one who will stare into your eyes.
Hold still and do not look away.
The earth tips under both of you.
Let it.
Like a flame,
Like a dying star,
And do not be afraid.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Five poems ---- Kevin Minh Allen

Backseat Business

When I told you I loved you, you nodded
as if I would just evaporate into large cities
I planned to move to and you’d return
to small houses you planned to sell.

Kissed while twisting in the backseat and laid
my hand on your nude stomach only to watch
you blend back into your mother’s thigh,
thickened with every slap of your hide.

In your family’s cramped living room, your father watched
me watching you and your brother on the sinking couch
singing loudly to Vietnamese karaoke with a voice
only my mother could have taken to her grave.

Walking Along Airport Way South, Seattle, WA

walking through, faces caught
in the hurdles and voids and No-Left-Turns
of this revolving city.

burrowing umbrellas
press into onyx-drenched skies,
precipitating the downfall of hems,
clinging to that last inch of ankle.

church bells peal woe
for a fallen soldier and
plaster their sagging tears
to reflections of children and dogs in windows.
thick, thorny blackberry branches
push pieces of sidewalk
into gutters swelling with bloated leaves
and the occasional sandy heirloom.

highways converge overhead
in a time-worn thimble-fingered stitch
that mainly mends air pockets,
but is re-used to attach sequined neon auras to night’s black cloak.

Our Rejoinder

if they were to ask us:

‘why then?’
‘what were you thinking?’

our answers would appear too shallow for their lofty ears.
lock our reasons in a box and keep them high on an attic shelf.

our time was our own for standing on the balcony
and letting crickets land on our fingers, playing fiddles in our palms.

if we were to turn and ask each other:

‘why us?’
‘why now?’

the vast hay field we lie in the middle of would answer,
‘foolishness is not the provenance of the young.’

incredulous, we release life’s little tantrums under the setting sun
and watch our devotion skip from one blade of grass to another.


It’s November, and with a lot of time on my hands, I stand in line at church and vote Libertarian, and then come home to make myself a fried baloney sandwich. Feel like calling my friend at his auto shop to check on the new front fender I ordered for my mom’s van. She slid into a snow bank at the mall trying to avoid a renegade shopping cart. Instead, I walk outside to the sidewalk, roll a couple of packed snowballs in my hands and throw them at passing snowmobilers. Hit one and missed the others. Sometimes they chase me down to the school and back, but this time they respect the truce. I walk back into my apartment and finish eating my sandwich.


too many graves
prematurely dig themselves
out of bones that lie at rest
inside memories of a child
whose laughter fills the room like
sunlight you can never wash off

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Five poems --- James Eret

The Thin Red Line
“There is only a thin red line between the sane and the mad.”

A crocodile, silently malevolent, slides slowly
and secretly into the tropical algae,
where the mosquitoes breed and inject malaria
from their blood-bloated syringes,
hovering and swarming in paradise.
“Why does nature vile with itself,
land contends with the sea? 
Is there an avenging power to nature,
not one power but two?”

Beware all the youthful innocence,
beware the mothers who send their healthy-born
into an imperfect world.
Yet they long for answers beyond the distant horizon line,
for they come with their dark tasks
to set this paradise afire with crimes
against their own natures.

Yet there is the endless discovery of beauty,
like the rainbow-colored parrots, tamed to the touch
mimicking their names, seeing the sweating uniforms,
thirsting from every pore in the deep kunai grass.

Hermit crabs tingle the friendly palms.
Tribal songs in their harmony
show no portents of the destructive history to fly
towards them from the near future.

Look what alien stares can lead to,
innocent heads swimming together in a paradise of crystal lagoon,
moving in a womb of time
and treading towards the light of death.
“Who are you who live in these many forms?
Your death encaptures all, all that is to be born.”

How are we to know the right path,
how to cast the dice of sanity, to remember
the splendor and the wide power of the sender,
the world’s mortality and wrath pass it on after our surrender,
the uncompromising figures
of the global Math?

“Your glory, mercy, peace, truth, you give calm,
a spirit’s understanding,
causes the contented heart.”

Always Finding the Moon
 (For my son, Dylan)

No matter how overcast the sky is,
My youngest son always finds the moon,
Pointing at it like he had just discovered it,
Full of youthful excitement, saying “It burns.”
 We drive past a field of dead sunflowers,
Slashing over the puddles and bumpy roads.
From a moving gray haze in the east, rising
Like a dream over the restless Lake Michigan waters,
A full moon appears, disappears, then appears,
My youngest son pointing his rigid finger
Into the eye of The Sea of Tranquility,
Before a lunar silence pulls a tidal blanket
Over once deep-remembered, magnetic night.
 Luna moth, in your sacred greenness not to be seen
By any mortals, fly at the light of the moon, you sporting
Your delicately ribbed lime green and veined wings,
Perfectly camouflaged–flitting through the dark forest
Like a phantom, like my youngest son’s unbridled imagination,
All our imaginations, when we choose to use them
For moonlit visions and Luna moths dance till dawn
 In the fullness of the moonlight.

 Death at the Kabul Marketplace

I awoke to the wails of the muezzin
From the minaret. On the mountains,
Layers of fog masked the fir forests.

I awoke to the calls from the horn of plenty,
Seeds planted in my memory.
Today’s sun shines on market day.

Forgetting the fire and fear of those slayers
Of my sleep, my sons and daughters,
I haggled for fruits and fares.

Arcing from the mountains came produce
No one bargained for, let loose
From the mists that always hide a truce.

I awoke, hearing  shrapnel burst and fly
Around me like a mad festival, the brooding
Mountain peaks silently soaking up

More of the feuding history of my blood.
I awoke and haggled for fruit and my life and lost.

“Who will walk with me into this terrible and beautiful world?”
—Dorrianne Laux

Looking down from the rocky fortresses, the imposing parapets,
In the crystal Valletta Harbor, the dghajsas, the bum-boats we called them,
Moored together in families of primary colors,
Sun-saturated and joyful bobbing,
Laid-back lifestyle of Malta.

That eyeball staring at the sun too long,
Slashed with blood and veined
8-Ball hemorrhage.

The sailor, lone sentinel swiveled on the bar stool,
Knew we saw his eye but said nothing;
But so much anger burned in his eye.

Just how did you get that eye?

The White Mice, the Shore Patrol, did this to me.
At Mail Call I got a Dear John letter from my girlfriend.

He ascended the elevator from Hell
To the Garden of Hesperides,
Where the lovers strolled, hand in hand, made out,
Surrounded by the olive trees,
Those benevolent branches,
A quietus in King’s Cross,
The sounds in the distance
Of prayers and chanting Latin vespers.

So filled with good tidings he approached the precipice.
The idea was to finish his leap,
To die in Valletta, Malta,
Such an exotic and mysterious country.

The White Mice talked him down,
No ordinary drunk poised on the edge of the cliff,
His mistake to start cursing them back.

They did it with their night sticks,
While straightjacketed on a litter-
He told the White Mice to fuck themselves
And they thumped and thumped
Blunt trauma bloat his evil eye.

Blind Homer, strumming your sad lyre, sing those songs,
That smell of lemons and olive trees, sea- surge of distant lovers,
Never again to walk, hand in hand.

(For Taro Aizu)

Beyond the Pacific beaches
The blind rip tides try to shake
Off their bruises as it is always done. The building many called
"The Two Tits" nipples erected
In the cool sea air, will shut down.

Taro Aizu, haunted in Mt Fuji's triangular shadow, victories come
Less frequent as the world grinds
Off its axis by the man-made fission

Already, the detritus of Japan's tsunami
has drifted to our unclean shores.
Now ghost ships settle down in the lapping surf
Devoid of their captains. 
The two maimed nuclear reactors
Are joined by that vast Pacific
I once crossed, Japan to Hawaii,

When my ship tracked the Apollo 10
With a special radar dish.
So we are close now
In our laments.

San Onofre, silenced nuclear plant,
Some brave souls complain of your closing; lost jobs dog us now.
But Taro Aizu smiles in the wreckage. 

There, on contaminated Fukishima soil
He plants seedlings
Of cherry trees which might thrive,
Given a chance, given a chance.