Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rebecca Schumejda's Waiting at the Dead End Diner

Rebecca Schumejda’s collection, Waiting At The Dead End Diner, is published by Bottom Dog Press and is a very entertaining read. From budding romance to scandalous relationships both in and outside of the Diner alone with tragedies of losing a loved one to illness or to ideology, it is all here. Characters that melt your heart, make you grimace, or make you grin, you will not be able to forget the names inside these pages any time soon. Morals good, bad, and ambiguous all play out in Schumejda’s skillful hands. I have dog-eared many pages to share but will pare them down to just a few poems and I urge you to purchase this collection for yourself. You will also have renewed, or perhaps new, sympathy and appreciation for any and all who work in the restaurant industry. You will also find yourself driving to your nearest Diner and listen closely to the stories of the lives of the workers around you. Here are a few poems to whet your appetite:

The Weed Whacker

In the weeds, during a breakfast shift
with Lillian, I go into the kitchen with a
bouquet of orders that wilt instantly
under Tommy’s insults.

Back on the floor, while I dash around
in search of refills, condiments,
missing sides for the nine tables
in my section, Lillian, who is more than
three times my age, glides gracefully
around her seventeen tables
like a figure skater, poised enough
to ask each person how so-and-so’s doing,
if they got that promotion they were up for
or what place their child came in at the
science fair. I can’t even remember who
asked for the hot sauce that just came uncapped
in my apron and is running down my leg.

But Lillian knows and places another
bottle of hot sauce in front of Frank,
who’s fuming because he’s already eaten
half his eggs dry. Lillian smiles and says,
This should cool you down, and he cracks
a smile and begins chit-chatting about
the men down at the firehouse
about how big Al’s son just had a baby girl.

If you are a regular at any restaurant or diner where you live then you know there’s always that one server or employee that you look forward to seeing there. You know you’ll be taken care of and they do have that magic way of remembering you and your family. I grew up that way with my parents at a local Cracker Barrel in El Paso, Texas. I always wonder what happened to the waitress that always brought out a bowl of whipped cream for my little sister and if she still works there. Who do you look forward to seeing when you go to your dining place of choice?



Cold Soup and Overdone Steak

A woman at one of Jolene’s tables
grabs Carlos by the wrist and scolds him:
I don’t know how they serve soup in
your country, but in this country,
they serve it hot—bring this back now
.

Carlos apologizes, takes the soup
and tells Jolene. Later after the woman
cuts into her steak, she snaps her fingers
and screams across the diner,
Hey you, soup boy. She adds
incessant finger snapping.

When Carlos gets to her, she puts
her plate to his face and says,
Would you look at this? Does this
look rare to you? I said I wanted it
to moo.
Carlos says he’ll get Jolene,
but she says No, bring it back now!

Expressionless, Carlos does what
he is told. Tonight is the one night
a week he calls home to El Salvador
to talk with his kids on the phone.
He goes into the kitchen, gives
the steak back to Rick then opens
his wallet and takes out their picture.
He looks at his family,
ignoring Rick who mumbles,
I’ll make this cow moo for the bitch.

My blood boils for Carlos and the restaurant in general. Having worked in customer service (as a secretary) I can relate to rude customers who treat people the way this one does. I wish I knew if Rick spit in this woman’s food, too.



The Things We Bring

George decides to close the diner
from 6pm to 6am on Christmas Eve.
Edna invites us over to her house
and because I didn’t want to drive to
my parents’ house, I go over with a bag of chips,
a 16 oz. container of French onion dip,
a bottle of white table wine with a twist-off cap,
and a pair of flowered gardening gloves
folded into white tissue paper for Edna.

Maggie comes with her daughter,
brings a casserole, a bottle of vodka,
and two boxes wrapped in shiny red paper.
Rick carries a case of beer
with a potted red poinsettia balanced
precariously on top.
Jolen comes with her boyfriend
from the bowling alley, two twelve-packs,
and scratch off lottery tickets for everyone.
Rochelle brings a painting for Edna
and a loaf of golden Challah bread.
Carrie brings statues of the three wise men
and Danny, who carries her coat and pocketbook.

Tommy wears a Santa hat,
brings a large pan containing a cooked
spiral ham, green beans in a cream sauce
decorated with slivers of almonds,
a box of chocolates and a red envelope
for Edna. Then George enters
with a pan of baklava and a
bouquet of two dozen red roses.
Everyone is relieved his nail tapping
wife made other plans. Asif brings
a cheesecake and two small boxes.
He hands one to Edna and the other to me.
Even Hakim stops by for a minute
to drop off the clay owl he made for Edna.

We sit around two rickety card tables
pushed together and covered with
a beige laced table cloth laughing
about how Edna is running around
waiting on us on her day off. Sit down,
Tommy orders, and all the men
take over, waiting on us.

Later as Asif sits down beside me and
rests his hand gently on my leg,
I imagine what is inside each of the gifts
under Edna’s tree. Gifts, Maggie says,
Edna brings out every year.
They are the ones she bought for
her husband, son and grandson
the year fate stole them from her.

This poem brings my heart to my mouth. If you read this collection this poem touches you more deeply because you have gotten to know every single individual named in the poem above by now. The kindness of the gathering of coworkers as family and the tragedy of the ending stanza brings the complex feelings of most holiday gatherings into a bright and uncomfortable light.


There are countless poems I want to share with you but you will have to read this collection for yourself and it is definitely a worthwhile read. If you enjoyed this review you may purchase a copy of Rebecca Schumejda’s Waiting At The Dead End Diner from Bottom Dog Press for $17.00 at:
http://smithdocs.net/recent_bottom_dog_press_titles

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon…

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vow by Kristina Marie Darling

Kristina Marie Darling’s collection, Vow, published by BlazeVox press, explores the fictional tale of a bride and groom whose world is being consumed by fire. Using the effects of white space as she often does, Darling allows our imaginations to dictate the couple’s interactions in our minds. Darling creates enigmatic imagery of keys and locks, the feeling of helpless acceptance of being consumed by fire, being burned perhaps by each other. The word vow is taken to the extreme and played out amongst the flames and I am happy to share some of her work with you:

Our house burns with light. He is a shattered window overlooking the desert. I am smoldering in a field of dead poppies.
The fire is tearing at floorboards, the rooms, us. It’s the second night, and already we realize the danger of bringing children into a barren landscape.
So we bury our vows one by one. We are pieces of an altar collapsing from the inside.

I picture a couple who realize exactly what they are truly in for once they have gotten past that first wedding night, having that heart to heart talk that sets their initial dreams and expectations on fire. Hence why the fire tears at them and they realize the danger of children, the vows being buried, and the proverbial altar collapsing.



I dream another me exists in the burning home, reading aloud from what I have written. Broken glass. A sad film. The awkward silence.
I had always thought night would feel like: an electric current, the most startling numbness in every fingertip. Throughout the landscape, a small fire would still be blazing.
But somehow in the dream I’ve grown wings. Tell me, does this change everything--?
I want to use them so badly, but I don’t know how—

In this the bride wants a different version of herself in the life she finds herself, along with wings. I assume she either wants to soar above her problems or fly away altogether. Either way, the disappointment of the moments in her life permeate the words above and we feel her pain with her.



The house was vast, but so much of it seemed inaccessible: locked rooms, an iron gate, and the envelopes with their dark red seals.

This is a short piece but powerful nonetheless. I imagine the house being an expression of marriage, the secrets that are kept under lock and key, the wax seals beckoning to be opened to reveal secrets that come out after vows have been exchanged at the altar.


If you enjoyed this sample you can obtain a copy for yourself. To purchase a copy of Vow, by Kristina Marie Darling, please visit the link below:
http://www.amazon.com/Vow-Kristina-Marie-Darling/dp/1609641604/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386243579&sr=1-10&keywords=kristina+marie+darling

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ally Malinenko's The Wanting Bone

Ally Malinenko’s work has appeard in HeART, Mad Poet’s Review, and more, she also has published a children’s book titled Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb. Her collection, The Wanting Bone, is published by Six Gallery Press and is a collection of poems that get at the raw and tender meat of living and dying, from a father going through chemo to witnessing missing fingers, from finding a voice in tragedy to losing that voice in tragedy, it is all here. I have marked too many pages to share, I am happy to share a sample of Malinenko’s incredible work below:

In His Image

I’m holding out for a real bible class.
Something with stomping and hollering,
fat hands coming together
like the venom they got on the bathwater banks of the south.
The juice that makes you all itchy under the knees.

I’m waiting on Jesus
to pry his sore body off that swampy cross
yell hallelujah, give us a little meaty saving to clamp down on.
Show us he’s still working to keep the lonely coming back.
Do a little soft shoe right there on the altar,
a little Sammy Davis Jr. style miracle.

Until then,
until the proof is a pearly white smile from the maker himself,
I’m fine right here, guarding and stockpiling
my list of grievances and possible suggestions for the next go-round.
Like, a little less sorrow would be nice.

Regardless of what those stiff white-collared
missionaries say, we all go un-forgiven.
You can see it, floating in the milky cataract of their blue eyes.
They are just collecting anguish and guilt
like loose change in a beggar’s tin cup.
I know spirits, slippery devils. I hear the quick
whisper of my name under the subway cars.

I’ve seen ghosts and a handful of goblins.
I’m waiting on the big man himself.
I want to check for flesh under those silk robes
pad him down, like a criminal.
Rub my hand against his cheek,
tug at the bristly stubbly skin,
and feel the proof that we are blood.
I want to kiss him full on the mouth
tell him we are even now.

For any of us that have struggles with Faith or questioned it, this is a poem that speaks to such feelings. I love the stanza about missionaries “collecting anguish and guilt/like loose change in a beggar’s tin cup,” being raised Catholic I can relate to such an idea. We all want proof of a higher being in existence and I love Malinenko’s take on it, including the “bristly stubbly skin” which I had never pictured until her poem. It’s a great poem about the questioning of faith and relationship with Christianity.



9 Months After You Died

Leaning against the window
my thick heart pumping blue.
I press my skin to the glass
and wish I had apricot
tea from Thailand.
Watching the leaves fall
I close my eyes thinking
of gypsy women
long braided Thai tassels
all that sun kissed skin.
A country with a different season.
I think of the clock pressing forward.
Here, I think of turning to talk to the dead.
I have a thick tongue begging for ancient
tea dropped and steeped in wisdom and
respect for ghosts
tapping the other side of the windowpane.

I love how personal this poem is, I wonder what happened in Thailand with the loved one who has gone on and our poet. The ghosts of memories flooding up to the poet’s memory is shared beautifully here and I can picture her leaning her forehead against a cool windowpane. It makes me long for more of the story behind the poem.



Shipwrecked

Oh my early morning walks
I watch the cracked sidewalk blocks
slide away from me
thinking that they might just come apart completely
or that
if I keep walking eventually they will turn into
the Brooklyn Bridge’s pine slats
arching over those waves like a woman’s spine
and I’ll be able to peak through the planks,
on my hands and knees
and catch my breath
as the massive tugboats appear, like iron Triton
and then slide by.
I think of those people that wave goodbye
and gently slip from here
smacking down hard against water
so fluid that all their molecules break apart and
become their own tiny canal

or
the sidewalk could just turn from concrete right into saltwater
soaking through the stitching of my boots.
So much of me has always been liquid anyway
and there are already tiny cracks in my delicate skull.
Fissures like tributaries to the set of choices I didn’t make.
I think it would be like going home
water-logged and bloated.

It seems as though it’s taking forever to get
where I am trying to go
and my wandering has become aimless
over the years.
But I keep finding these rivers, black oil water
cold and ceaseless
wearing things down, carving slices
into the granite of this land
into the trunks of my legs
and through the center of my palms
until I have come undone
and all that is left is my shipwrecked heart
still pumping water.

This poem speaks to me because I love solitary long walks and let my mind wander just as Malinenko’s does. She has a beautiful way of capturing her thoughts, feelings, and the scene before her—I love the Brooklyn Bridge being compared to the arch of a woman’s spine—sensual and eloquent all at once. The feeling of water carving through her and leaving behind just her “shipwrecked heart/still pumping water” reveals the depth of her emotions and makes me want to reach out to her. It’s a beautiful poem that tugs at my heart.


If you enjoyed this review as much as I enjoyed the collection, please purchase a copy of Ally Malinenko’s The Wanting Bone it is available for $9.00 at Amazon at:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Wanting-Bone-Ally-Malinenko/dp/0978296265


To learn more about Ally Malinenko, please visit her website at:

http://allymalinenko.com/

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Petals and Blood, Stories, Dharma & Poems of Ecstasy, Awakening & Annihilation by Gavin Harrison

Gavin Harrison’s collection Petals and Blood is published by Pau Press and contains beautiful photographs that accompany and make up the background of stories and poems about spiritual enlightenment and growth through the writer’s pain of abuse, the discovery of being diagnosed with HIV AIDS, and the joy of living. Gavin Harrison is also the recipient of the Unsung Heroes of Compassion Award presented by the Dalai Lama for “kindness and quiet dedication to others.” I will say that you must find some quiet space in yourself in order to fully absorb his words, he is inspired by Rumi and Hafiz and his poems require quiet contemplation and in an age of technology and constant balancing acts it is worth it to take a moment for yourself and read these poems. I read them at night before bed and found them very refreshing, his stories also are inspiring. I will say his collection has arrived at a time in my own life where I feel that every moment is spoken for and that I have struggled to find balance of work, family, friends, and finding that precious and nurturing quiet time that most of us forget that we need more often than we realize. Harrison not only learns to heal himself but reaches out to those who are often abandoned by society, such as prisoners, and discovers the beauty of humanity inside of each individual he encounters. Below I am happy to share some samples, which will be difficult since I have book-marked so many poems and stories to share, so I do urge you to pick up a copy for yourself because I cannot possibly do Harrison justice:

Carnival

Is your life a frantic dash
from what has been
to the to-do list
of what may yet be in store for you?

Spinning in circles?

Dizzy?

Disconnected?

Have you joined
the carnival of insanity
sweeping the land?

Time available, never enough?

Are you moving at the speed of light?

And is this the light you long for?

There is nothing courageous
or valiant about such frenzy.

Rushing from fire to fire is no fun,
and not without consequence.

Stop before you are stopped
by the reverberations
of speeding and acceleration.

Move more slowly,
without apology or justification.

You may wish to also disdain the
exhausting spiritual merry-go-round
of cultivation,
self-improvement and purification.

Stop seeking!

You are already all that you yearn for,
and so much more.

Decry the voices of poverty and lack.

If there’s a problem
it’s one of momentum, not deficit.

Freefall from small-time
into the depths of time.

Rest within The Web
from which you cannot fall, ever.

Encounter all who have been,
are,
and will be,
within the Timeless Immediate.

Future and past are present here.

Nothing to flee, nowhere to go.

Fall to your knees.

Drink the sacrament of Deep Time.

Recognize yourself within
The Great Interconnectedness
as every jewel,
everything,
everyone,
everywhere.

Be dazzled by the realm of reflection
and refraction.

Move from stillness, like The Tao.

Upon the Great Way
you will find balance,
harmony,
rest
and infinite evolution,
without rushing.

Live with deep eyes.

The Tao is not hurtling
towards its own conclusions or agenda.

Neither need you.

Stop as the Buddha did,
under the Bhodi tree.

Set the sails of your weary heart
to the eye of the storm
where the weather is calm.

Sense the Still Ground
of Limitless Silence
that is always there,
into which all weather conditions
come and go.

Be The Stillness
which you are.

Move as Love moves,
dancing all the way Home,
for Home
is the only real happiness
and
true rest there is.

While this poem speaks to me I am also sure that it speaks to you, readers. Is there one person out there in the world these days that does not have difficulty keeping up with the frantic pace of today’s society and technology? This poem lays it out in black and white the importance of recognizing that pace, knowing that this pace is not mandatory and reminds us to s-l-o-w down and enjoy peace and silence and to seek it in order to revive ourselves. I honestly urge you to do your best to shut out the outside world and read this poem again slowly and take those slow deep breaths that help remind us that the pace of the outside world does not dictate our own. Whenever I feel frazzled at night, I return to this poem.


There is a wonderful personal story titled “Love,” and Harrison speaks of growing up in Africa and returning to Africa only to learn that there was a vast difference in the schools he went to and the village schools. Harrison offered to teach which outraged his father who was convinced that these villages were dangerous. Harrison reached out to the “white schools, churches and municipalities,” and made them aware of the village’s shortages and conditions and received a flood of support and supplies. Harrison’s father eventually came around, in a secretive way, and donated books of his own, built shelves in the school library and eventually became friends with the headmaster and eventually invited the headmaster and his wife to dinner—“the first time my parents had shared a meal with a black person.” When Harrison’s father died, the village school’s students came to honor him and Harrison’s mother asked for donations to the school in lieu of flowers. As Harrison says, “In the end, Love prevailed.” I think we take for granted the racial divide lessening in America but then we are reminded of divisions in other countries and continents as well through this story. While we strive to erase those divides it is a great reminder to recognize that biases are still there in our own community and in the greater world and that these biases can continually be overcome through Love and understanding.



It’s Just As Well

It’s just as well I did not know
how much You wanted me,
My Beloved.

For I would have fled,
panic stricken,
before the prospect of that intimacy.

It is just as well I did not know
how unforgiving Your demand
for self-honesty would be.

For the fire of that injunction
would have been way too hot
for me to handle.

It is just as well I did not know
how many lines
You would have me cross.

For I would have gripped
my prison bars more tightly
in terror
than ever before.

It is just as well I did not know
how absolute Your need
for all my humanity would be.

For the thought of inhabiting
every part of my humanness
would have catapulted me
deeper than ever
into contraction and hiding.

It is just as well I did not know
how seamless
my fidelity to You
would turn out to be.

For I would have exited,
howling and screaming,
before the magnitude
of that commitment.

It is just as well I did not know
how much Love
You would pour into this life.

For I would have drowned
within the intimations
of all that Glory and Vulnerability.

And it is just as well I did not know
how simple and ordinary
this that I Am
would turn out to be.

For
the specialness and grandiosity
that once lived here
would have had nothing to do
with The Quietude and Emptiness
that is here now.

And so,
My Beloved,
it is just as well.

This poem brings me comfort in that we often wish we knew what the future would bring but then when we look into the past we realize that had we known what was coming we would often go into hiding. Harrison refers to “My Beloved” in the way that Hafiz and Rumi do, the idea of a higher spiritual being who is there demanding our full attention and love. Whether you are religious or not I believe many of us can relate to this poem, we have encountered someone or something in our life that had we known was coming we would have been kicking and screaming to avoid but once we have gone through the experience are eternally grateful for the encounter and the enlightenment that comes from it. Another beautiful poem to be savored.



If you enjoyed this review (and as I’ve said I cannot do it justice, the photography that accompanies these poems are just stunning and the words help the reader center themselves in the present) then you may purchase a hardcover copy of Petals and Blood by Gavin Harrison for $49.95 at here:
http://petalsandblood.com/order/


Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…

Friday, February 7, 2014

Read a Good Book Friday: regina’s closet finding my grandmother’s secret journal by Diana M. Raab

Diana M. Raab is a writer who teaches at University of California, her novel regina’s closet finding my grandmother’s secret journal hit a cord with me and I asked her if I could read it in addition to the poetry collection she has recently published (and which will appear at a later date on Poet Hound). I’ve always been fascinated by journals and my own grandmother writes off and on in hers and I write off and on in mine. Diana M. Raab’s grandmother committed suicide while Diana was young and the discovery of the journal provided vital clues to her grandmother’s life journey that finally took a tragic turn. Her story has won many awards including 2009 Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice Award and 2008 National Best Books Award for Memoir/Autobiography sponsored by USA Book News.

This memoir’s direct excerpts from the journal are insightful and at times heart wrenching. Her grandmother, Regina, lived in Vienna, Austria during the time that Hitler’s forces were bearing down upon them. Horrors were witnessed, uncertainty became daily life, and the loss of immediate family members through illness and mental illness consumed Regina’s world. Regina pulled herself and her sister to safety after losing their mother and finding that their father could not cope emotionally with the loss. What stuns me is that Regina and her sister had to live in an orphanage because their brother would not take them in because of his wife. She describes the search for a decent apartment first, then is shocked when a woman spits in her face out of disgust for so many seeking refuge in Vienna, then finally the rejection from her own family that leads her to the orphanage. Family dynamics come to play a vital role in shaping Regina’s resilient character and as she grows older she begins to cling more to her immediate family (her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter) as her body is riddled with pain from the events of her life along with her unhappy marriage. As Diana grows older her grandmother Regina becomes more depressed and eventually Diana discovers her grandmother’s body on a morning that her grandmother was supposed to be baby-sitting. Diana knew her grandmother as warm, loving, and caring and had no clues at her young age of ten to understand why her grandmother had done this. Diana calls her mother upon the discovery and the family comes home along with emergency personnel and closure is at hand when Diana finds her grandmother’s journal years later. Diana then goes through the painful and emotional turmoil of cancer and finds solace in her grandmother’s words and decides that it is time to share her grandmother’s story with the world as she wades through pain of her own. Diana carefully interviews relatives and searches for supporting documentation of events during the life and times of her grandmother and brings her memoir fully to life. It is a gripping read and one you will never forget.

If you enjoyed this review, you may purchase a copy of regina’s closet finding my grandmother’s secret journal by Diana M. Raab for $9.99/Kindle or $17.96 hardcover at:
http://www.amazon.com/Reginas-Closet-Finding-Grandmothers-Journal/dp/0825305756

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tzynya L. Pinchback's How to Make Pink Confetti

Tzynya Pinchback’s chapbook collection, How to Make Pink Confetti, published by Dancing Girl Press in 2012, is a visceral and glistening collection of poems that are sensual and hard-hitting for our senses. Tzynya Pinchback happened to explain how to pronounce her name on Facebook the other day and her first name is pronounced “Tuh-zin-yuh.” Below I am happy to share a few samples:


The Stick Figure’s Lullaby

Here, in the Thursday House
I know my worth:
A dime bag is a fair trade for a little girl.
Broken smiles are a kind of pretty, Mister Curtis says.

I know my worth:
A daughter is her mother’s best currency.
(Broken smiles are a kind of pretty) Mister Curtis says
Junkies will pick you clean – to bone.

A daughter is her mother’s best currency.
See my dancing skeleton, scribbled in chalk?
Junkies will pick you clean. TO BONE!
I shimmy under the weight of this flesh.

My dancing skeleton, scribbled in chalk
Frames a hand-me-down map of the world.
I shimmy under the weight; this flesh
Sings a ramshackle serenade.

Four corners of a hand-me-down map of the world:
A dime bag is fair trade. A little girl
Sings a ramshackle serenade.
Here. In the Thursday House.

I think of this as a sinister poem, a girl given away by her mother to a character named Mr. Curtis and the girl withers away to skin and bone under his watch. It makes me wonder what kind of home she is in and what kind of broken smile is intimated here.



Auto.bio.grafy

Start with a fear of bats. brown moths. and anything capable of flutter or flight. and chitterlings. and prank phone calls. and men’s sheer striped socks like those mated to the cuff of well-dressed fellows. and premature ejaculation. and being alone. and the book of revelation. and thoughts grinding behind the eyes of children who do not smile. and marriage. and technology. and applause. and twisters that push sinewy maple tree limbs through attic windows where girls sleep dreaming of sunflowers and ponies. and sickle moons. and fat. and networking. and sunburn. and joy! and the coil of alzheimer’s snaking its way through dead daddy’s brain. and confederate flags. and God. and white sugars. and black sighs. and ultrasound image of fetal debris in jewel box sandwiched between 18-gauge hanger wire and red satin lining. and armpit hair. and blue crab mustard. and cartoon characters that cackle and peck though anvils fall onto them. and family curse. and lizards in the popcorn ceiling camouflage. and cocaine. and cherubs. and elevators. and georgia belching me from its genteel belly like yellow bile and freedom. and the sabbath. and spit on the lopsided hat holding together my head. and pop rocks. and the book repository. and sloughed-off skin. chicken wings. and fame. and pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. TELEVISION. and menopause. and goddammit! and good poetry. and my bare feet sliding on cicada carcass. and the indelible power of pussy. and the ventriloquist’s dummy. and the dark. and metal wind chimes suspended from the eaves. and death. and anything constructed by the united states army corps of engineers. the tariff on tampons and petrol. and africanized killer bees. and good hair. and bunions. and okra-harboring red soup. and chicken wings. and not being like those niggers over there/and not being like those niggers over there. Femiwomanism (insert wave #___). and middle class angst. and scorpions falling from air vents. and Sapphic pining for norma jean baker. and the dank crawlspace behind bra strap where every occurrence of being sold gathers moss. and lip stain. and faith. and your mother (that bitch). and split ends. and lead paint underneath the navy blue wall paper in the kitchen. and being irrelevant. and daily sodium intake. and fucking to music with misogynistic lyrics over a tight beat. and you. and suffocation. and titties that ride low. and the promise of free credit reports. and global positioning tracking. and love. and the penning of these words caked under my fingernail like skin from lover’s scowl.

I love the free-form flow of thoughts here and so many different images all thrown together and yet it all works. The poet telling about herself in waves and I wonder about the memories she is revealing to us, the reference to Alzheimer’s, cicada carcasses, scorpions, wallpaper, it is all brief snippets that are tantalizing and leaves us full of questions. The ending line is my favorite, a comparison that is clever and daring just like the rest of the piece above.



And suddenly

I imagined you floating
twelve weeks: limbs, skin, a rapid pulse, swimming
in tiny sac clear like cellophane,
not falling or being torn from me, but raging desire
to run, breathe, touch bread (wine, someday),
sun to lips. And suddenly we were bone
splintered in two, edge pushed through flesh –
a wound. And I imagined you a fairy
in tiny sac clear like cellophane
a swathe of copper and iron confetti,
wings glittering, folded beneath your feet,
standing on the branch of a boab tree
jutting from the lean of my umbilicus.

A dreamscape poem about poet and her child, I love that Ms. Pinchback speaks of the splintering of herself and her baby and the idea of this child being so incredible as to have glittering wings. It is a romantic and heart-splintering poem.


If you enjoyed this sample as much as I enjoy this collection, you may purchase a copy of Tzynya L. Pinchback’s How to Make Pink Confetti for $7.00 from Dancing Girl Press’ shop:
http://dulcetshop.ecrater.com/p/15360935/pink-confetti

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Night Songs by Kristina Marie Darling

Kristina Marie Darling continues her balance of strong versus delicate characters in her collection Night Songs. Originally published by Gold Wake Press in 2010 and now available by re-release, this collection focuses on music, the glint of nightfall, an audience gripped by the sounds in the music hall, Darling captures the intimate moments of music resonating within the listener and the feel and nature of the surroundings. True to her nature, Darling finds the romance in the details shrouding the reader in a world of dusty velvet folds, the rustle of foliage, the cold wind against the music player and the moon casting its own curious glow. Below I am happy to share a sample of her work:

“I WAS LIT AS IF FROM THE INSIDE”

But the room stayed dark. I’d noticed the cellist’s luminous cufflinks, the uncanny whiteness of his shirt. As the concert ended, I heard nothing but his music, & the cold night pulled each silver pin from her hair. That was when the curtain fell. The audience could only murmur before its folds of dusty velvet. Outside, the evening had been opened like a black umbrella.

I love the sensations described in this piece. A night so cold that it unravels a woman’s hair as she listens to the cellist, the cellist’s music so gripping that the audience can only speak in hushed tones after the curtains fall. I can picture the patrons moving softly into the night deeply moved by the concert and I envy the patrons and wish for all the world I could experience it myself.


THE CELLO

On nights like this I would play my cello, the snow like tinfoil under a phosphorescent moon. Before I knew it, you were there, with your handkerchiefs and melancholia. The light on my windowpane, a struck match all aglow. We would take turns cradling the instrument’s long neck, its cavernous belly, watching the cold metal strings shiver and hum. After each chord you’d swallow glittering nerve tablets, whispering: Be still. Be. Still. Its sonorous voice faded with each blue pill. And when the snow eddied and slushed, the cello safe in its towering white box, I took up sainthood to pass the time. On winter mornings my teeth still ache.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a poem that turns the cello into something sensual outside of its musicality with such elegance. I wonder about the type of person who needs to take nerve pills in order to play this instrument and I think of writers who also take measures of their own in order to write. The line “I took up sainthood to pass the time” has me eager to find out what this character means, especially since her teeth still ache on winter mornings—I imagine from keeping stress and tension in the jaw line. It’s a beautiful poem and I love being able to create my own backstory from it.



THE FOREST, OR, THE MUSICIAN DREAMS A CHANGE OF SEASON


He begins by playing the saddest song he knows, an elegy for each dark red leaf rustling on the trees. And out of it drifts a woman’s voice, ringing like an iron bell into the cold blue night. As if to postpone a change of seasons with her low madrigal, its muted crescendos, the instrument’s stuttering fugue. Yet when the frost sets in, every note becomes an ode, echoing through parched foliage. Within that music, a wilderness. The forest’s dried canopy heaves and sways.

This poem reminds me of solitary walks into the woods or through snow, the musician’s song altering in the mind of the person walking and imagining a woman’s voice instead, the voice amplified by the silence and stillness that surrounds the main character in my own vision of this poem. I love the scene that unfolds, parched foliage, a canopy that “heaves and sways” where you can almost hear the crackling and snapping of branches—a sound I miss since I now live in a warm and humid location that rarely offers this opportunity. Another poem I love just for my own tastes.


If you enjoyed this brief sample as much as I do, you may purchase a copy of Night Songs by Kristina Marie Darling $14.95 at:
http://www.amazon.com/Night-Songs-Kristina-Marie-Darling/dp/0985919183/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383785278&sr=1-1&keywords=kristina+marie+darling+night+songs

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon…

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hibernaculum by Sarah E. Colona

Published by Gold Wake Press, Sarah Colona’s Hibernaculum brings vignettes that combine reality and fairy tale. Throughout the pages I encounter familiar creatures, characters, and yet I round the corner and there is the writer and her own tales, two worlds intertwined into a fantastic journey for the reader. I find myself wanting to search out a book of classic fairy tales to prove myself correct and I also want to dive into Ms. Colona’s life and learn more about her grandmother, her life as a newcomer to the South, the world we only get a glimpse of. There are far too many poems I want to share and I am happy to reveal just a tantalizing taste of them to you:

NOW I UNDERSTAND

How did the wolf become so hungry?
How did the forest, replete with creatures,
Fail to feed such a cunning beast? Winter,
Not spring, had bitten him quickly—

Pulled her cloak of fur taut over his bones.
Bracken calligraphy swipes canvas.
There now, the path to Gran, frenzied white.
Our girl, a spot of blood, wrung from beetles.

Carmine. Scarlet hood—just so—against the cold.
Have a care with who made introductions.
Motive aside, the wolf politely inquired
After Red’s health and of those she loved.

Evergreen bears no blossom: only votive
Rag tied by our girl’s rosary-wrung hand.
Illness, the word on Red’s lip. Illness, ash-
Written in smoke above Gran’s cottage roof.

Exeunt Red pursued by the wolf. Far off,
An axe with a predatory grin sparks and sharpens.
With the soft clink of Gran’s jewelry box clasp,
Winter closes her jaws—hush now—about her prey.

I love this take on the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the foreshadowing of the dangerous wolf and the girl who has a blood-red cape. Best to read it over twice, you’ll pick up more the second time.



MUMS AND ROSES

i.
It’s Gran’s funeral and I’m twenty-six
Years past caring whether it’s pills or swigs
That did her in this last hospital trip.
It’s enough the children have given up
Pretending she was someone worth saving.

Wind slips chill fingers beneath my collar.
Mums and roses fill empty folding chairs.
The parlor read Grandmother and panicked.
Knowing how Catholic broods can crowd these tents,
They’d set two rows too many at each end.

Tithing brought kind words. The priest,
Seminary fresh, (too enthusiastic
For my uncle’s liking) avoids stories
Of how or why Gran will be missed. Silence,
Here is Death’s elaborate pantomime.

Gloved hands check watches
Or exchange a flask. Some mask it better.
I can’t smooth the amused curl from my lip.
Nod like I’m listening. The priest reminds us
We’re to be buried whole, our hearts intact.
To me, it seems a waste of space.

ii.

It’s Gran’s course whisper in my ear tonight:
A lullaby-curse to always love less.
The old crone lies atop my chest—
Ear close to my heart to hear her blood flow.

I believe many of us have someone in our lives that would make the above poem relatable, it does for me. The writer describes a funeral lacking in attendance thanks to a person who did not inspire love, hope, or any other positive adjectives in those around her. The silence is magnified against the Seminary who does not have any reasons to explain why Gran will be missed, an absence of positive things altogether. For me it is a powerful poem that darkens the room for the reader. The empty seats are filled with flowers, in the silence the attendees checking their watches as though this funeral is a waste of their time, it is a darker landscape than most funerals simply because the love is absent from the room.



THE NORTHERN BITCHES’ GUIDE TO SOUTHERN LIVING

Misfit, tell me how to fix this. Is it is as simple as a whiff of magnolia, of skunk cabbage, of boxwood’s feral stench? What small adjustment must be made to balance thunderclap of dropped “g” and grammars enough to scar Miss Snark? I’m sweet tea and porch-talk swung. Snug as a blue girl in a red state can get. August-swathed, I tiptoe over bone yards of Confederate dead. Everywhere History begs your dollar or your pardon. Accept this and move on. Expect stares from eccentric ladies bent in benediction over fringed orchids. Catholicism only just wins over. Oh, bless her Yankee heart and its lesson in patience. In Whicheverburg, locals charm with sparkling daughters. Gems of the honeyed name: Cherish, Sugar, Bonnie Blue, Junebug, and Lulu. Blossoming gossips all. Beware the cost of living in this place where Faulkner knew Medea’s truth: where darlings die at the hands of their mothers, shrouded in gospel, paraded with baton tossing, sequin-blinded, lemonade stung. Still, screen doors remain unlatched. No innocent, I laugh: lock my own.

Having moved many times as a child and now as an adult moving about from town to town, I can relate to the prose piece above. The diction and dialect of dropped “g”s and the “bless her Yankee heart,” comments, very much like the ladies who were born and raised in the South. I love the line “Everywhere History begs your dollar or your pardon,” which is true of just about every destination and so very Southern to say “beg your pardon.” I just plain like this piece and had to share it.


If you enjoyed this sample as much as I do, you may purchase a copy of Sarah E. Colona’s Hibernaculum for $14.36 at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Hibernaculum-Sarah-E-Colona/dp/0985919116/

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon…

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Compendium by Kristina Marie Darling

Compendium is published by Scrambler books and is paired with Correspondence, which was reviewed earlier. Compendium features the main character, Madeleine, and “the connoisseur” who briefly attend the landscape of the pages and tantalize our imagination into bringing them to life. When I look up the title’s meaning I am led to “a brief treatment or account of a subject, especially an extensive subject;” which perfectly describes the dance around the relationship and subjects contained within these pages. Inside the pieces are the delicate items Ms. Darling often bestows within her work, small glass buttons, delicate lockets, slippers, all part of the dance between the characters inside. Below I am happy to share a sample:

The Box

That evening, the connoisseur presented Madeleine with an unusual box. Despite its array of glass buttons and sheet music, he explained, one must never open the smallest compartment. But before long the room would darken. Alone with her sanctimonious parcel, its blue paper wrapping, and cluster of green ribbons, Madeleine heard the old piano’s most delicate song drifting from beneath the lid. Around the box, a disconcerting stillness. Snow falling outside the great white house as she danced and danced.

This scene above paints a lonely, but not necessarily lonesome, one in my mind. Madeleine is left with a box with a mystery she is never to reveal which is tantalizing enough and then to pair the scene of the room of Madeleine by herself with snow falling outside magnifies what the sound must be from the box. It makes me wonder what the relationship is and why Madeleine is dancing instead of sneaking open that smallest compartment.


From: Footnotes to a History of Desire
6. She slipped the epigraph under his door to preserve the ritual, its mythic stature. That was when the snakeflies emerged. Their delicious humming.

7. The documentary (c. 1996) follows a woman through an analysis of recurring dreams. Despite several attempts to establish boundaries between real and imagined, she continued to describe the fictional beloved. His pale hands and delicate wrists.

8. Translated from the German as The empty rooms of the unconscious.

This piece makes me wonder of the relationship between the two characters again: she slips something under his door, there is no response from him and even in her dreams she has difficulties reaching out. A barrier that is made up of the invisible walls between two people rises up to the reader and we are left to determine what might be creating the distance between the two characters.


In this collection a mystery is revealed just enough for readers to create their own story. If you enjoyed this sample of Compendium by Kristina Marie Darling's Compendium, then you may purchase a copy for $12.00 at:
http://thescrambler.com/books-darling.html

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon…

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Correspondence by Kristina Marie Darling

Correspondence and Compendium are combined together and this week I will feature Correspondence, written by Kristina Marie Darling and published by Scrambler Books in 2013. True to form, Darling’s work exposes empty spaces to be filled by the reader with footnotes and appendixes given as clues to the story unfolding in its pages. The main character is struggling with her desire for her beloved who is no longer in her life yet whose mementos remain distressingly clear. The romance and obsession of keeping these pieces close dance among the pages. I am not able to produce the exact effect of the footnotes and symbols in her text but I will expose them as best I can. Below I am happy to share some examples:

1. The ledger documents her gradual displacement from the beloved. His sparse eyelashes and luminous red necktie.
2. Within each envelope she placed violets and locks of her tangled hair. It was then she imagined him as a tiny bird in golden cage.
3. Diminish.

+1. To make smaller.
++2. To detract from the authority of.

I imagine the main character trying to distance herself from his memory by tucking pieces of herself, such as locks of her hair, away. As she tucks the violets and her hair into the envelopes she imagines him in her own way, “trapping” his memory and likening it to the bird in the golden cage. That is how I picture the scene. The bottom notes expose her way of trying to lessen his hold on her memory.



1. It was his letter, with its intricate flourishes and belabored epigraph, that prompted her to bury the necklace.
2. Within the locket she kept small photographs and a loose thread from his jacket. The little clasp at the back of her neck still gleaming.
3. “I had wanted to discard the strange trinket, with its silver chain and innumerable compartments. Now the interior has been cordoned off with a white ribbon.”

Another example of the main character struggling to distance herself from the memory of her beloved but finding it difficult: her attempts to bury the necklace are futile. I love how Darling always makes the smallest pieces that much more intricate, a trinket with innumerable compartments is hard to imagine, and then it’s been “cordoned off with a white ribbon” adds to the complexity of the trinket and therefore the relationship before it ended. Darling creates a world of delicate fragments that are further complicated with every turn of the main character’s movements and memories.



Dearest ,

this letter will burn & burn

In a series of letters where the name is absent, Darling eliminates all but the most enticing and obscure lines of each letter to which we are left to imagine for ourselves its potential contents. In the above, I imagine the main character writing to her beloved and then erasing all but that which pleases her most. Perhaps, also, the beloved’s letters have been scrubbed away leaving only that which the main character chooses to keep for herself of each letter received. Either way, it lends mystery and the capturing of the reader’s imagination and who could ask for more?


If you enjoyed this brief sample of Kristina Marie Darling’s Correspondencen as much as I enjoyed the collection, you may purchase a copy of copy of Correspondence/Compendium for $12.00 at:
http://thescrambler.com/books-darling.html

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon…

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Shared Properties of Water and Stars by Kristy Bowen

In the idyllic landscape of suburbia on the edges of a forest lies the story told in a series of soul-capturing vignettes created by Kristy Bowen in her collection the Shared Properties of Water and Stars published by Noctuary Press. Wildlife such as bears and rabbits mingle with the neighbors who live out their secrets in painted houses with little labeled boxes hidden away inside. The children of the neighborhood experience life in a way that would make their parents’ skin crawl if they had any idea and the adults also participate in rituals and lifestyles that would cause their neighbors to be wary and cautious if they had any notion. The prose is gripping, imaginative, and whimsical and has me looking out the windows from my own house imagining the secret lives of my own neighbors. Below I am happy to share a sample:


There are 3 houses in 3 different colors. Each owner keeps a certain kind of sadness locked in the cupboard. The tall man lives in the white house. The short man keeps rabbits as pets. The woman in her white dress drinks vodka and stays up late. The yellow house is to the immediate left of the white one. The woman in the second house keeps her sadness in a smallish box. The older woman with the violets on her hat lives in the first house. The girl with the blonde hair lives next door to the man who keeps rabbits. One summer the rabbits multiply and chew through the fence. Mostly, they all keep to themselves.

This is the introduction to the homes and the lives of those inside that appear through the rest of the pages. I feel it is important to include this prose poem in your introduction because it sets the stage for an odd and whimsical look at the lives within.



Inside the yellow house are two boxes. One marked with less, the other with forgotten. The girl with the blonde hair holds a tin marked desire and keeps trying to hide it in the bureau. Her movements startle the starlings that have just begun to weave themselves into her hair. If both boxes are marked incorrectly, how long until the wallpaper begins to peel off in sheets? How long until she finds herself crying in the kitchen, every cup filthy in the sink? Every shoebox marked open me?

What I love is the mystery of the contents of the boxes. The blonde girl trying to stuff a tin marked desire into her bureau makes you wonder her age, is she hiding this from her parents? The idea of the wallpaper peeling and the cups piling in the sink show the slide of neglect in keeping house and home. You wonder what is causing the blonde girl to descend into sadness and it keeps the reader engaged page by page.



Once, in the meadow behind the elementary school, the bear boy finds a cache of clean white bones. When he shows them to the girl, they lay them out side by side on the porch, running their fingers over the smooth bleached surface. Such whiteness makes her uneasy, fuzzes at the edge of her vision. Such smoothness undoes the rigging of her ribs, where the bears inside her begin shuffling their way into the cavity of her chest.

This piece reminds me of my own childhood, digging for buried treasure or scouring the woods for interesting finds. I wonder who the bear boy is and what he looks like. The girl’s unease is expressed in an elegant and unusual way: “undoes the rigging of her ribs, where the bears inside her begin shuffling their way into the cavity of her chest.” It makes you think of the movement of your own breath in your own chest and what the shuffling bears would feel like. The bones causing the uneasiness as they are laid out, one by one, on the porch.



The woman in the red dress waits for significant damage. To sprout feathers or scales. For a trapdoor inside to open and swallow her whole. She places tangerines in her pockets and hides them in the shrubbery. The story depends so much upon the hidden. The reveal. The cloaked movement under dark of night.

Another character in the story in which we wonder about the pieces of her life. She wants to escape and we have no idea why, her odd behavior of hiding tangerines in the shrubbery makes us wonder who she is hiding them for. What I love is that each character is described vaguely and succinctly and leaves a lasting impression for us to create our own story around. Kristy Bowen is a master of open-ended storytelling.


I would love to share many more samples than I have but I will leave you with those above. If you enjoyed this sample you may purchase a copy of the Shared Properties of Water and Stars by Kristy Bowen for yourself for $14.00 through Noctuary Press here:
http://noctuarypress.com/catalogue/

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kristina Marie Darling's Brushes With

Kristina Marie Darling strikes again with creating a surreal and memorable journey through her particular style of writing in Brushes With, a collection that captures a romance that is no longer, scenes and footnotes that entice and leave the reader curious and wanting more. The works themselves provide enticing instances of foreshadowing for the doomed relationship. Darling contrasts light and dark, physical space versus the words inside one’s mind, memories and imagery delicately entwine. Below I am happy to share some samples:

Cartography

We were no longer in love. The sky, too, was beginning to show its wear. A silk lining could be seen through every slit in the dark green fabric. 1
I started to wonder where we went wrong. You were holding a map of the constellations.2 Each of the minor stars had been assigned to a square on a little grid. The map seemed scientific so I approached you.3
You kept looking down at your compass. The needle spinning beneath a little screw. Maybe this is where we went wrong.
Above us, the sky is still wearing its green dress. The most delicate strings holding it all in place.

1. The photographs portray this dress as one of the most violent manifestations of the heroine’s femininity.
2. At the edge of the map, she could discern a cluster of minor stars. Their incessant movement seemed difficult to comprehend, let alone to document.
3. “I had wanted to understand the cause of this fearful disturbance. Within my compass the needle kept spinning and spinning.”

*I apologize that my footnotes’ numbers do not appear like they should, that is the limitation of trying to transfer her work to a blog post. I will say that I love how she creates her text and ties footnotes to them, along with pages of just footnotes. In this piece the overwhelming darkness and the avoidance of eye contact depicts a couple avoiding each other even while present in each other’s lives. The comparison of the sky to dark green fabric with silk lining is romantic and delicate, so delicate that strings hold it in place and threaten to smother the couple should the fabric break free. Whether that was the meaning behind Darling’s piece I do not know, I only know that it is how I picture it for myself. Darling is a master at creating a visually stimulating piece weighted with more emotion than you initially read into.


Feminism

After the divorce, after your mistress, after the stars were eclipsed by the bright lights of the city, I gathered all of the broken dishes you’d left behind. I placed each one of them on a little shelf, recorded their height in a dark green book.
I began to realize the significance of this gesture. What is love but a parade of memorable objects, a row of dead butterflies pinned under glass?
You had always loved mementos. Once you’d even rented a small boat to find your missing porcelain statuette. 18
I started to wonder what other gifts you’d leave behind. The dried insects I’d find in each of your letters.
I closed the cabinet door, counted each piece of shattered glass, and tried to imagine them all in your perfect white hands.

18. This statue of the Holy Mother would later be found headless in a tiny museum in northern France.

*I love the line “What is love but a parade of memorable objects, a row of dead butterflies pinned under glass?” So often we keep objects to remember our loved ones by, even during our courtship. How many of us have kept old love notes or gifts from past relationships? I also am intrigued by the “dried insects I’d find in each of your letters,” the significance perhaps being the dried up feelings of romance? Also, the mention of the man appearing to be scientific in the previous sample and the dried insects leads me to believe this is a clue to his scientific interests. The footnote, #18, is one I like simply because I was raised Catholic and the idea of Holy Mother becoming headless is terrifying for someone like me. For it to appear in a completely different location, a museum, shrouds the whole passage in mystery which is intriguing to me. We have an understand for what led to the separation but the actions afterwards only provide more intrigue and questions. I’ve noticed that throughout her pieces Darling makes mention of the color dark green which can connote “intelligence” or of course, lush forests and perhaps fertile growth, along with broken glass, something that can be reflective and dangerous all at once. Darling’s work is often layered and I enjoy reading her pieces several times over to find more underneath the words than initially encountered.


46. A scene in the documentary, in which the woman replies, “What he really loved was my ignorance.” Although an awkward silence ensued, the camera kept rolling for a few more minutes.

*This strikes me at my core. Many of us can relate to being adored by someone who thinks or knows we are clueless about their true nature. The camera continuing to roll despite the awkward silence is interesting, the person in charge of the camera showing that vulnerability and exposing it that much further which causes the reader to pause and place themselves in the woman’s place. Where were you when you experienced the same realization in your own life? That’s the question that comes out to me as I read this footnote.


As always, I feel I cannot truly do justice for Kristina Marie Darling, I often personalize her work in order to feel my way through it and then share it with all of you. It is a beautiful collection of pieces that I urge you to read. If you enjoyed this sample you may purchase a copy of Kristina Marie Darling’s Brushes With from BlazeVox books for $16.00 at:
http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/Shop/new-releases/brushes-with-by-kristina-marie-darling-342/

To learn more about Kristina Marie Darling, please visit her website at:
http://kristinamariedarling.com/

Thanks always for reading, please stay tuned for more featured poets…

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tim Myers' Dear Beast Loveliness: Poems of the Body

Tim Myers’ collection Dear Beast Loveliness: Poems of the Body, is a collection about the soul and the senses. Published by BlazeVox Press, these poems range from dark and shielded, to open and lively, they include love, lust, tragedy, struggle, all of the emotions that poems are meant to contain and reveal. Below I am happy to share a sample:


To My Sibling, Miscarried 1956

Catching a fragrance of nectarines
from the basket on the table,
I feel how strange it is
that you’re not here,
find myself wondering who you might have been.

At my grade school, well-meaning nuns
gave us their strange perfunctory tale
of unborn babies drifting in Limbo.
But I was born, and have come to fruit,
my sons on the floor here
giggling and bucking like horses,
as if five short years ago
neither was compounded our of infinite nothingness.

Now that the mystery of Me is a bit clearer
in the mystery of Them,
I think of You who never came from our mother,
you who are less now than
a fragrance of nectarines

in a breeze from the window so slight
only my new-shaven face can feel it.

This poem strikes me because my own mother miscarried and there are days I wonder what it would have been like to have siblings much closer in age than my only sibling, my sister who is twelve years younger. I was always envious of my friends who had siblings close to their age growing up—built in adventurous companions through the trials of early grade school--and I can understand this poet observing his children and drifting into thoughts of who his sibling might have been. The smallest sensation: that of the smell of nectarines, brings to light how the essence of someone’s absence or presence can be felt. I think it’s a beautiful poem that many can relate to either through experiencing the pain of miscarriage or the knowledge that they might have had more siblings and will never know the essence of that person.



A Boy

I saw a boy jerking along the street,
a palsied boy who walked as a stutterer stutters,
misfired genes like a great hand having
squeezed and twisted the living mud of him.

His arms joined in tight v’s, limp hands skyward,
so he almost seemed to flap them as he came,
legs crooked to a perpetual stagger.
But as I passed him in my car,

a fiddle tune came over the radio, fiddler
drawing that sweet commotion out of nowhere
onto his instrument, guitar strings
chiming intricately behind, so that

one’s heart like a child of Hamelin must rise and follow,
one’s body like some Odysseus strains to pursue
whatever sirens live in the sea of music—

and then I saw
how the boy’s twisted steps fell perfectly, inexplicably,
against the pavement with the music. This was

strange. But with sudden grace I understood. How great, how
vast the world is, rhythm-driven, all that is
flowing like notes along countless strings—

and one more dancer dancing.

Every living thing has movement and dance to them, dance is a great love in my life and so this poem trapped my heart. I love watching people as they move through a space, however they are able to move, and there is always a song or piece of music that will fit them. I love that the poet witnessed this Zen-like moment of his own music matching another’s rhythm, especially since that boy’s rhythm may have not been seen as rhythmic at all in the beginning. Haven’t we all had those pure moments of music matching our steps or watching someone else’s movements match the music in our headphones?



Song to Be Sung by a Happy Skeleton

The shy white beast you never see
is me—
for when beloved flesh is fled,
I too am dead.
I am the stilts life gave you; I will
save you.
I dearly hold within my arms
the lover
who holds his lover. A deeper I
am I,
a part of all his Is,
his Why.
Gaze long into his eyes and you
will see how true
I am, his deeper Other,
godly brother.
An animal beneath, I spring
or poise,
in every moment mutely to rejoice.
If I am death, then death
makes living free.
I am the hidden, white, and dancing
tree.

This poem makes me smile. How can the title not draw you in? I also love that Myers refers to the skeleton as “the stilts life gave you” which creates a fabulous mental picture. As a collector of Dia De Los Muertos skeletons, this poem is a guilty pleasure for me. The skeleton as the remaining essence of our flesh long after we’re gone, our “dancing/tree” is a great tribute to the bones we sometimes take for granted every day.



I hope you enjoyed this sample as much as I enjoy the entire collection. To purchase a copy of Tim Myers’ Dear Beast Loveliness: Poems of the Body, for $16.00, please visit:
http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/Shop/Poetry/dear-beast-loveliness-by-tim-j.-myers-326/

To learn more about Tim Myers who is a songwriter and also writes children’s books, fiction, and nonfiction in addition to poetry, check out his website. I have to say I love his opening quote by Rilke because I am all about it. Please visit:
http://www.timmyersstorysong.com/TM_Website/Homepage.html

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…

Friday, August 23, 2013

Read A Good Book: Making Sense by Jim Murdoch

Jim Murdoch’s collection of short stories in Making Sense is his best work yet. Twenty stories that encompass a wide range of personalities, lifestyles, and ages provide perspectives on everything from gambling to intrigues to fetishes. There are also a variety of “voices” as some are written in dialect that require you to read the story aloud in order to sound out the character. Several of the characters struck a chord with me, reminding me of people I knew, and I bet you will find the same in these pages.

There are some great lines in these stories that hooked my attention. In “Coping,” the opening line is: “If there’s one thing that annoys me about my mother, it’s this: She watches life with the sound turned off.” How can I resist? With those of us who have living mothers, we immediately begin thinking about our own. The story entails a discovered intrigue and the mother learns to live with the news, not say a word, and move on through hearing only what she wants to hear. Most of us know such people and it’s a story you might be familiar with yourself.
Another story, about a woman discovering her man is into men, has a sense of humor to it which I appreciate: “A week later I barged though the back door laden with half-a-dozen shopping bags and with my purse gripped firmly between my teeth to find him in flagrante dilecto in the hall with the bloke from 4G but what the heck? I guess they couldn’t make it to the bed in time. We’d done it in the hall before. It wasn’t exactly our place but I quite liked doing it there…” Honestly this made me laugh with the “not exactly our place” and the rest of the story is light considering the heaviness of the situation. Life goes on, is what I take away from the story.

I only revealed a couple of the stories to you, there are some funny and wonderful surprises in the pages of this collection, Making Sense, by Jim Murdoch. If you enjoyed this review, you may purchase a copy for 8.50 (pounds) by following the link below:
http://www.fvbooks.com/jmurdoch/jmurdoch6.htm

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eva Heisler's Reading Emily Dickinson in Icelandic

Reading Emily Dickinson in Icelandic by Eva Heisler is published by Kore Press and contains a collection of prose by a poet exploring the world and translations of Iceland. This is the kind of book in which you will want to find a quiet or natural setting in which to indulge fully in the nuances of the landscape, language, and characters that Ms. Heisler reveals throughout the pages. I found the work to be beautiful, savory, and best consumed slowly so your mind can absorb fully the weight of her words. Below I am happy to share a few samples:

Wind

That first winter in Iceland I didn’t mind the wind. Stillness itself was winged. The wind wrapped me in an elsewhere—else the traffic of scholars and accountants. But this year, my heart flaps like a shutter against the side of a barn. This year, the wind no longer sounds like itself. I wake in the night and mistake the sound of the wind for the roar of the snow plow in Syracuse; the squeal of tires spinning in Columbus; the hoot of a barn owl in Boyds; the whistle of a former lover’s kettle. “Don’t forget what it was like before.” Lying in bed, I tell myself this. The sound of wind engulfs me like the roar of an airplane passenger. “Don’t forget.” Remember the bottoms of your feet slippery with perspiration, and a jingle at every turn.

I feel like the poet is sharing her nostalgia of her experiences at home in America and is comparing them in her mind to her current experiences in Iceland. Her travels have brought her to different places and they all have a place etched in her heart and she is trying to remember each of those places while the winds of Iceland make their own mark. Lovely.



Something to Finish

Steinunn’s mother takes me to the flea market at the harbor. She shuffles among mugs in the shape of soccer balls; earrings made of feathers; Judy Blume in Icelandic; Bath Boutique Barbie; Working Woman Barbie; Barbie with Baby Keiko the Whale; Barbie Sassy Pony; and “Fizz Balls” advertised as “the latest in home aromatherapy.” Encountering these in the States, I would have folded into myself. But in Iceland, the kitsch doesn’t claim me. I finger the gaudy beads; they don’t take the shape of coffins—I am here and someplace else. Steinunn’s mother hands me a bundle of papers tied with boot strings. She purchased the rights to thirty-seven unfinished poems. It is a gift, she says. She pats the sheaf of papers that I press to my chest to keep them from blowing away. She says, It is something to finish.

I love that the flea market in Iceland feels different than in the States although it holds the same kinds of items. I also enjoy the mystery of thirty-seven unfinished poems being purchased with the idea of the purchaser “finishing” the poems. Can you imagine selling something unfinished at a flea market such as your own writings and allowing someone else, a complete stranger, to do so? That in itself is intriguing, just as much as it is interesting that Steinunn’s mother would purchase such a thing as a gift. It is a world of mysteries and I enjoy letting my mind wander the scene to figure out my own ending to the story that is unfinished here.



What I Remember

What I remember is neither the words nor the light in the kitchen but the press of a hand against my forehead. What I remember is not the color of eyes but what it felt like to be seen. What I remember is not the overstuffed luggage but the door, and you leaning against it. What I remember is not computing sums in the margins of my notebook, but three words and a grove of birch that I mistook for a herd of ghost horses. What I remember is not the new wardrobe but a fling of red and white.

Isn’t this the essence of memory? The feelings and colors that made a deep impression on us during our experience in a new place? I love the image of the grove of birch mistaken for ghost horses, as well as the wardrobe being a “fling of red and white.” It invites the reader to open up their own imagination and create their own memorable experience from the poet’s.


I would love to visit Iceland and see the sights and meet the people that Eva Heisler reveals in her collection Reading Emily Dickinson in Icelandic. If you enjoyed this brief sample as much as I do, you may purchase a copy for yourself for $15.95 at:
http://korepress.org/ReadingEmilyDickinsoninIcelandic.htm

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon...