Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Thieves, Pharaohs & Mexican Daredevils

Brandon Whitehead’s collection Thieves, Pharaohs & Mexican Daredevils is published by Spartan Press. The title promises a captivating collection and doesn’t disappoint. From historical and biblical figures to current day characters rough around the edges, Whitehead delivers up stories through poetic form along with a twist of humor in some of them that he executes well. I’m happy to share a few below:

Horse Latitudes

When they found them,
a cast hook pulling from the depths
an apparently endless iron chain,
it was just another mystery
to marvel at in an ocean
filled with more than enough.
But still the story spread
from ear to ear,
until finally, an old man
in a dockside bar
with a face more wood than skin
heard the tale
and laughted at the fools
who now call themselves sailors.

How could they understand
what they had found
without knowing why it was
they called that part of the Atlantic
by that old, almost forgotten name?

You see, long ago
Spanish Galleons,
filled with soldiers
greedy for the plunder
of the New World,
often found instead
the sickly winds
and Sargasso weeds
of a mariner’s oubliette
a part of the sea that loved
their ships so much it would not let them go.

Finally, near dying of thirst,
they would cast their own stallions
by the hundreds into the sea…

But sometimes, the leather harnesses
and the salt of the sea
might mix in some silent,
unknown alchemy
and the corpses would rise,
some even centuries afterwards,
still chained in great lines,
floating right near the edge
of the sun-dappled surface…

Imagine that, being some fisherman
or deckhand, and looking into the water
for one single instant to see
the bones of Spanish stallions,
somehow in the currents, moving
for an instant in stunning grace,
as if racing in a last charge,
chained to your brethren,
great manes flying,
hooves thundering as if to turn
the very ocean to earth,
in a race with no finish,
for it circles the very world.

What I love is the legend still coming to life in present day, the stallions rising above tragedy to surface from the waters and surprising the sailors. Just as mermaids are still captivating, the images of Spanish horses capture my attention and imagination which the poet does well in bringing to the surface of the waters.

I, The Vampire, Move to the Suburbs

I rise at sunset from my backyard grave.
a terrifying and monstrous sight,
my great cape flowing in the wind
as I slide like a shadow in the darkness

…only to trip over the barbecue pit.
You see, a castle isn’t exactly cheap,
the upkeep alone was a fortune
and Renfield was a lousy maid.

So, I moved to these residential outskirts,
got a mortgage, a toaster oven,
one of those little Garfield dolls
to stick on the back window of my car.

It’s not such a bad unlife,
except that sometimes, now and then,
I can see myself in the bathroom mirror
and wonder at the change.
What has happened to my sharp nobleman’s face?
Where are my gleaming canines,
my dark Carpathian allure?

What woman will swoon in ultimate orgasmic horror
to a balding middle-aged man
who drives a dented Civic?
How can I rule the countryside
from the back deck of a duplex,
or terrorize the villagers
wearing Dockers and a t-shirt from Target?

Once, I dined with (and on) the finest
of European aristocrats.
Now, I eat Doritos and watch Battlebots
on my 52” TV.

Sometimes, late,
on yet another lonely evening,
I rush as last recourse
into the darkness and tilt back my head
to howl to the wolves,
my children of the night…

…the only reply
a little poodle down the street
who yip-yip-yips all the way to morning.

I absolutely love the sense of humor in the poem. So much so that I insisted my husband read it and he, too, laughed aloud. Not the “lol” but actual laughter. This poem alone makes me thrilled to meet Brandon Whitehead’s work. A humorous twist on a much-copied character, a truly modernized vampire. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

A Lack of Illumination

Why do you have so many
broken flashlights?
She asks me,
frowning at the defunct contents
of my junk drawer
in my kitchen without a stove
that I do not cook in,
like my bed that I do not sleep in
or the piles of poems and stories
I’ll never finish.

Immediately, I do not like her anymore.

No one needs to be reminded of failure,
I reply with mantis eyes.

We watch a movie and she leaves.

Afterwards, I wander through the rooms,
standing old toys,
brushing away dust.
I take the darkened lights—
broken bulbs, stripped switches,
dead batteries—
and set them up on the roof
in tiny columns,
silver reflectors
glinting starlight
as their distant cousins
dazzle us all.

This poem employs humor again and the line “Immediately, I do not like her anymore” is funny and relateable. How often have we been criticized by someone we wanted to impress only to fall short and to save ourselves shame we decide not to like them or show interest anymore? Whitehead does a wonderful job telling a short story of a failed date night. The main character takes the offending items and places them out of reach and out of sight, yet not exactly getting rid of them. The items reflecting their potential of the stars above that the main character had such high hopes for, just like his evening with the lady who came to his place for a movie. How do you deal with dashed hopes?

If you enjoyed this sample you may purchase a copy of Thieves, Pharaohs & Mexican Daredevils directly from Brandon Whitehead for $20 (includes shipping and handling) and he will sign it for you. E-mail Brandon Whitehead at, he does accept PayPal and you may negotiate other methods of payment. You can also find him on social media such as Facebook. It means a lot to every writer to find out if their work made an impact on them, so never shy away from making those connections.

Thanks always for reading!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

dreamflowers by Anna Ciummo

Anna Ciummo is the recipient of The Dorie Renee Hogan Poetry Contest Prize for her collection, dreamflowers published by Asinimali Publications, Inc. The contest was creating in memory of Dorie Hogan, a resident of Tecumseh, KS and a student of the University of Kansas who passed away in a car crash on October 22, 1996. The contest allows female poets between the ages of 17-22 to submit their first book of poetry. Her poems speak to the experiences of college campus life, the changing seasons and finding one’s place in the world:


Perfecting one’s self can be
at least not as frustrating
as attempting to perfect another’s
our spirit’s posture
sits perfectly upright
while others slouch
or even lie down
for an afternoon nap
unsuspecting of their own
human selves
to be humane
their lifeblood
nonchalantly gray
ignorant of how the world works
not working themselves
never giving back a WONDER
to the world.

A thoughtful poem that mentions the spirit of humanity. I think it’s interesting that she speaks of “our spirit’s posture” whether the spirit inside of us slouches or sits upright, separating spirit from human form. Here she brings attention to the difference between the human spirit inside us despite our flesh. She brings attention to those who are trying to grow as people and those who “slouch,” are “ignorant of how the world works” and have no thought of working on themselves within a world filled with wonder. Which version are you?

Growing Up

How many years taken for that
to decide between the clothes, I liked
the ones that others liked

Even at eighteen
still unaware
still unsure of
if I do what I want, really want

I’m still pulling this body of mine
from that mold of media, television
they pushed me inside and picked,
until I was just right.

This poem perfectly encapsulates life as a young adult. I remember feeling the need to fit in yet the struggle of trying to define myself outside of what media, family, friends, and college majors defined for me. This young lady may or may not realize that this will be a lifelong struggle. How many of us have changed careers multiple times seeking what fits us best? How many of us have redefined our sense of style, interests, friendships, as we’ve moved forward in life?

Anna Ciummo is a native from Kansas who is attending Washburn University of Topeka, she is a reporter for the campus newspaper and has begun work on a novel. You can find her on social media sites so please find her and support her work. If you enjoyed this sample, you may purchase a copy of Anna Ciummo’s dreamflowers for $5.00 at:

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Crown for Gumecindo by Laurie Ann Guerrero

Dedicated to her grandfather, Laurie Ann Guerrero’s fifteen sonnets A Crown for Gumecindo published by Aztlan Libre Press explore her relationship with grandfather Gumecindo during the first year of his passing. Poet and artist Maceo Montoya provides fifteen paintings inspired by each of these poems creating a layered texture within the pages that will also move readers. There are excerpts from journal pages about her grandfather in addition to these poems, all of which explore her grief and the daily life that parted this Earth. Her exploration of memory, the surreal, and their roles within their life spans are beautifully presented:

4. The Absence of Water

Only the goats are here to say hello
when I kneel at your grave. I straighten blue
ribbon from your casket, wipe dust settled
in plastic red roses: your headstone has
no arrived. I rearrange rocks, pull newborn
weeds that sprout like vocal chords: he’s dead,
they hum. In my nails, your dirt burrows like worms.
I watched my tear fall into the lining of your blue casket.
I watched my tear fall near your shoulder and disappear
into the fabric, fast, like a raindrop into the thirsty earth.
My hands are dirty and you are not here
in your blue jeans, with your slow eye, to throw
me a manguera, to rinse my hands, to
wet my lips, to bless the little bodies
of tomatoes—trying to follow a sun
they can’t see, shrinking, puckered on the vine,
shaking in their skins, faces split as mine.
Take me with you.

Laurie Ann Guerrero shows the tender side of her grandfather, the gentleness in his ways when she speaks of his life outdoors tending tomatoes. She provides the same tender care at his grave and like so many of us who have lost a loved one she asks to be taken with him. I love the reference to weeds likened to vocal chords, speaking up for her grandfather, a hard reminder that he’s no longer able to speak aloud.

8. Dia de los Muertos
El Carmen Cemetary, Bexar County, Texas

The oddity that was put in my hands—
your truck. It used to be I drove this road
each week to pick you up. Now I drive this road
each week to lay you down again. Today
is the day of the dead: When did you die?
Today I bring you chicharron con huevo,
chile. Which is to say, I brought breakfast
to the goats. I want to slip my hand into
the photo of you, fix your hair as I did,
help you with your sweater, guide heavy salt
to your plate. Grass is starting to grow over
you. Shards of rock gone smooth. I sing to bees.
I lay my ear to stone; it doesn’t hurt:
I hear your song—water rising from dirt.

For the poet, the vehicle that transported life now transports her to the place of burial. On Dia De Los Muertos, the spirits of the deceased visit the living and it is custom to bring the deceased person’s favorite foods along with other offerings. Here, the poet knows that only the goats will consume the food offered in honor of her grandfather. She tries to get close by laying her ear to the stone of his grave in hopes of hearing his voice again. Her tenderness towards him is brought to life as she recounts the way she’d fix his hair. She reminds us of the small things that we take for granted in life, small acts, that once our loved one is gone means the world to us.

10. Stone Fruit

Good? I would ask. Good enough, you would say
of the wine we made from plums. Didn’t we,
for years, tend the mothertree? Didn’t we,
for years prune, pluck, hold in our hands the purpled
bodies bursting, that begged: me next, have me?
Weren’t we so nourished in the nerve? Someone
is burying our tree. You are reduced to pit.
I put seed in dirt, wait for you to come
back to me in a jar by the window.
You are not growing. Aren’t you a plum?
Little red, little kidney, little mouth
singing, calling: I’m here! I’m here! I thought
the dirt would give you something to take hold of:
I’ve buried everything I’ve ever loved.

I love how Guerrero seeks bringing her grandfather back to life through the plum tree from her grandfather’s property. A way to bring his livelihood closer to her home, she buries a pit from a plum by her window only to find that it isn’t growing and remains buried like her grandfather. Her sadness is poignant through this story she shares with us.

Laurie Ann Guerrero is based in San Antonio and has been previously featured on Poet Hound. If you enjoy these poems, you may purchase a copy of Laurie Ann Guerrero’s A Crown for Gumecindo here:

As always, please support living writers and artists by letting them know if their work moved you, and you can find her as well as others on social media. Purchasing their work means more than you’ll ever know so anything that moves you I urge you to purchase a copy and you can also ask these writers to sign your purchase.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Verging Cities by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Natalie Scenters Zapico shares a visceral collection of poems titled The Verging Cities about El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Chihuahua in Mexico. These two cities are always counted as “sister cities” and I lived there in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s. Her work describes the blood-throbbing pulse of the Border and is not for the faint of heart. From tender lovers to the dust storms to the blood shed on the sands, it is all here. I have a personal, deep love for this collection as it reminds me of home once-upon-a-time and she doesn’t sugarcoat anything that has happened and is happening in the Borderlands. I chose the grittier, tougher poems because I think it’s important that poetry doesn’t always speak to the romantic side of life. Sometimes you need to be shaken awake and that is why I chose these:

After I Read Your Obituary

you crawl into bed with my husband
and me. Your body is smaller
than I remember. I hush your voice

when you complain: The aloe vera
in the pot is made of plastic.

Your breathing grows, a weed

in monsoon—you whisper: Mother,
father, and sister fell open as birds
in their chairs when they were shot

at dinner.
You show me how
you dove under the table, felt specks
of their blood on your lips before

seeing the scuffs on your father’s leather
shoes. As you measure the depth
of my weatherproof windows,

you tell me you buried your family
in the walls of an abandoned
restaurant. With the tip of the plastic

succulent I rub your swollen ears.
I tell you: In this new country I am worse
than the city of thousands dead;

I am a wound red with iodine.
My husband
wakes and I beg him for water
I’ve never known to taste so clean.

This poem captures the truly random and senseless violence across the Border in Juarez. It wasn’t unheard of (and perhaps still happens) for family get-togethers to be interrupted by gunfire. For no reason that anyone could see. Here, the poet draws the experience of a young survivor into her midst. The child tests the safety of the home in El Paso, referenced by the poet as “In this new country…” Can you ever really protect someone? The water at the end of the poem is almost baptismal of a new life in the U.S. for a clean, fresh start.

Guerrero Pears

The tree hangs brown pears over his head.
From his pores white snakes pop. They swim
down his face to turn the soil. His tongue lies
in blood that’s collected between his teeth.
He swallows red until he cries it. Streams run
around his nostrils; they bloom into a field
of roses at his chin. Birds perch on his gums
and drink the salt of him. His body, three feet
away in a cooler, rots with two beers and a knife.
His wide eyes are bruised and have turned black.
A girl comes to climb the tree for fruit and shakes
at each branch. The birds, scared, fly into the tree.
She opens the cooler, she covers her face, she
vomits. She looks at his head and says, Un hombre.

There are fields of dead buried, it is not unheard of that a child would happen upon such a victim that may have been trying to cross into the USA. Scenters-Zapico captures the vivid decay of the victim , the animals and insects at work to break the head and body down. The beers and knife kept in the cooler with the man’s head shows the desensitization of the killer, whoever the killer may be. A gruesome reality revealed by the writer.

Angels Fall From The Sky to El Paso, Texas

I wonder what he sees first: a building,
perhaps a bank of windows cutting
into the sky. Or a road, a freeway stitched
with cars so small it looks like a fine
embroidered curtain. And Angel,
what do you think of? Do you think:
This is me—dying in the sky? Do you
scream to God? Do you tell him,

you are not that kind of Angel? Do you say:
I am merely a man named Angel—
I have no wings to fly.
And when he does not
listen, do you scream or close your eyes

and unwrap the gift of gravity? That pull,
that tug of organs. And Angel,
do you see me? Just before you hit
the middle of five o’ clock traffic?

Running on the sidewalk searching
each body as they hit the ground
for any one of them that might be you?
A city of fallen angels, each one a collection

of human arms, and legs, a torso, and
bleeding mouth. I knew when immigration
arrested you, when I had to pay a fine
for ever having loved you, that they would

take our one bedroom, our washer and dryer—
anything of value. But how was I to know
that even God would push your frail form
from the sky? So when I find

your body naked, your skull cracked
in shards across the tar, I take
my clothes off and cover you.
You whisper: I can’t die here, I wanted

to fall on the live side of the border.

And I know it isn’t your voice
I’m hearing but I take your severed hands
and carry them across to Juarez anyway.

I breathe bone as I cross—your blood running
to my elbows. I breathe. I breathe
to exchange your body for an explanation.
I breathe. No one says a word; I breathe.

For those who may not know: Angel is a popular name for men, pronounced “Ahn-hel.” Whether the Angel is a reference to heaven or to a man, or a combination is open to interpretation for the reader. Here, I imagine a loved one being found dead from injuries as a result of sinister patrol officers who didn’t get a bribe in time. An immigrant dropped from a building. The poet brings us to the side of the victim and brings honor to the dead by way of bringing the parts of the body she can carry across the Border into Juarez, Mexico. Most likely this is so the victim will be brought to their home country. Vivid, heart wrenching language that captures my attention.

As I said, I picked the grittier side of the collection, there are also poems of tenderness and love, the battle of identity, and more. You can find Natalie Scenters Zapico on Facebook as well as search reviews and readings on-line. If you were moved by these poems, you can purchase The Verging Cities by Natalie Scenters Zapico for your Kindle or in Paperback at:

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon…

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Warsan Shire’s teaching my mother how to give birth

I wish for all the world I had discovered her sooner. Warsan Shire’s teaching my mother how to give birth> was published in 2011 and her poems transcend time. If you know any women or are female you are going to want to read this. Born in Kenya as a Somali, now based in London, Warsan captures the nitty gritty of every woman you’ve ever met or happen to be yourself. Her words are dynamic, at times acidic, at times tender. She is honest, earthy, and opens up the reader with a razor they never knew was being applied. I urge you to obtain a copy of this collection, please savor these poems:


Sofia used pigeon blood on her wedding night.
Next day, over the phone, she told me
how her husband smiled when he saw the sheets,

that he gathered them under his nose,
closed his eyes and dragged his tongue over the stain.
She mimicked his baritone, how he whispered

her name—Sofia,
pure, chaste, untouched.
We giggled over the static.

After he had praised her, she smiled, rubbed his head,
imagined his mother back home, parading
these siren sheets through the town,

waving at balconies, torso swollen with pride,
her arms fleshy wings bound to her body,
ignorant of flight.

This poem isn’t for those who shy away from intimacy and women’s experiences. All over the world women are raised to keep their virginity for their husband. This poem illustrates the lengths women will go to protect their husband’s perception of them. It also beckons to how families present their values, the pride and the joy that comes with keeping family traditions. The reactions may seem dramatic but it is a dramatic moment, the consummation of marriage. I love that Warsan Shire is “no holds barred” in her portrayal.


On the drive to the hotel, you remember
the funeral you went to as a little boy,
double burial for a couple who
burned to death in their bedroom.
The wife had been visited
by her husband’s lover,
a young and beautiful woman who paraded
her naked body in the couple’s kitchen,
lifting her dress to expose breasts
mottled with small fleshy marks,
a back sucked and bruised, then dressed herself
and walked out the front door.
The wife, waiting for her husband to come home,
doused herself in lighter fluid. On his arrival
she jumped on him, wrapping her legs around
his torse. The husband, surprised at her sudden urge,
carried his wife to the bedroom, where
she straddled him on their bed, held his face
against her chest and lit a match.

This is a poem that I struggle to say anything about because the poem says it all. As a spouse, I can imagine the kind of rage that would cause such an extreme reaction. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” could easily be the title of this poem. When I read it, I felt all the emotions that the wife must have felt and while initially surprised at the ending I also completely, deeply understood them to my core. What I really want to know is how you reacted?

From: Conversations About Home
(at the Deportation Centre)

They ask me how did you get here? Can’t you see it on my body? The Libyan desert red with immigrant bodies, the Gulf of Aden bloated, the city of Rome with no jacket. I hope the journey meant more than miles because all of my children are in the water. I thought the sea was safer than the land. I want to make love, but my hair smells of war and running and running. I want to lay down, but these countries are like uncles who touch you when you’re young and asleep. Look at all these borders, foaming at the mouth with bodies broken and desperate. I’m the colour of hot sun on the face, my mother’s remains were never buried. I spent days and nights in the stomach of the truck; I did not come out the same. Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.

A prose about refugee life that reaches deep. I often cry when I see how careless people are about immigrants coming to our country, how rare do you know their tragic back story. If we all knew the refugee as an individual I believe we would be far more open minded with a far more open heart. Here, Shire captures the feelings, the images, and the disconnect within one’s soul of a woman displaced from her country of origin. The feeling there is nowhere safe to sleep, whether it’s your own country or someone else’s. The raw images blow me away in this poem.

If you were struck by these poems, I would urge you to obtain a copy for yourself. You can purchase Warsan Shire’s teaching my mother how to give birth in paperback or via Kindle at:

While she isn’t active on Facebook I did read an interview that she is on Twitter, so please know that she is on social media and has more work out there. The link to the excellent interview I read about this collection and how Warsan Shire came to be who she is, is here:

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Laurie Ann Guerrero's A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying

It is a rare opportunity to drink in such metallic and sweet alchemy of words as this collection provides. Laure Ann Guerrero’s collection, A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying is layered in language, culture, life, birth, death, nightmares, dreams, nostalgia and everything you could want in a full bodied collection. Whatever your mood, you will find a poem for it here. I thank my friend Reyes Cardenes for lending me this book. I hope you will thank me for sharing a taste of her work below which is really quite remarkable:

Sundays After Breakfast: A Lesson in Speech

There were no names for men like that—gringos
who stitched up their rules, their white garb, laced snug
the issues of the day: Lord didn’t make us to mix

with them folk
, they said. But God’s got nothing
to do with black boys dumped still alive into a restless river.
God’s got nothing to do with having to tell their mamas.

That bloody water ran through each dark vein across Texas,
fed the Gulf, all its brown-skinned people. This, grandpa could name:
los cuerpos—bodies swaying above the cotton like sheets on a line.

No importaba que no eras nego, pero que no eras gringo.
No, it didn’t matter that you weren’t black, grandpa says,
pushing himself from the table, but that you weren’t white.

He lived his life this way: silent, like every man after him:
opening his mouth only to eat, holding his head above
the cotton, between white men and black boys.

For those of you unfamiliar with Spanish, Guerrero provides the translation immediately after the line so you haven’t missed anything. Her grandfather’s native tongue is given in this poem to show the culture and life she has grown up in. The hate crimes of her grandfather’s day that silenced men so as not to draw potential negative attention to themselves are still going on today. I present this poem to show that these stories aren’t “old” or “forgotten,” they are very much alive and still being carried out today. Better to speak out about it than to continue to silence the voices of those who are being victimized for being a different color, culture, or for speaking a different language.

Esperanza Tells Her Friends The Story Of La Llorona

She killed her babies in the river over there by the Bill Miller
barbecue place, you know, by the Holy Mother Church. She was
friends with my grandma; they played bingo together, I think.

Oh, yeah, why did she kill ‘em?

They were brats. And they probably never helped her clean house,
and they were probably really whiney and always wanted candy
in line at the H.E.B.

How’d she do it, Espi?

She drowned them one at a time, and herself, too, I think. That’s
probably why she cries. She probably didn’t mean to kill herself,

That’s not how the story goes.
My mom says it happened in Mexico,
not in San Antonio.

Shut up, Patty, what do you know? Your mom’s not even
Mexican like us. Anyway, I think she re’carnates herself. Or
maybe God doesn’t want her in Heaven because she’s crazy and
killed her own babies…but she keeps coming back.

Whatever, Espi.

Serious. She comes back in real life and keeps on killing her
babies. But, I don’t think she cries anymore. She’s so used to it
now. She’s gone to Houston, to Hudson Oaks, to Plano, even
back to San Antonio, right here in the Southside.

You think you know everything—
tell us how come sometimes
she kills herself
and sometimes she don’t?

I don’t know. Maybe she cloned herself and now there’s lots of
Lloronas. Maybe someone you know, Patty. Maybe your mother.

Everyone has their haunted tales, La Llorona is a famous one in Mexico with many who know the words to the song about her. The woman who drowned her children and cries every night about it. This poem shows how children pass these tales to one another. For me, it was learning about El Cucuy (if I even spelled that right). I learned about La Llorona as an adult but I imagine this is exactly how it would be told to me, being taunted that my white mother could very well be this terrifying creature, La Llorona. What tales do you carry from your childhood?

Pinedale, CA
for my brother
in memory of Uncle Eddie

If you follow Aunt Eleanor to the back of the house,
you’ll see the pomegranate bush we sucked from,
the olives puckering in five gallon buckets. Open your jaws.
Let the eye of your tongue see what we have done here—
how we licked fat black olives from tamales, rolled them
up into the wide river of our mouths like cats licking
clean their babies. We can do this one summer,
with Uncle Candy and Uncle Eddie, and we can tell mama
the wine we drink from the jug in Aunt Esther’s kitchen is juice,
and we can pick peaches and we can pick lemons and we can pick
fights with cousins we will never see again. And when they die
on the other side of the country, and we still have grandpa here,
we will pretend we’re eleven and twelve,
sitting in the sun, singing rancheras
with old men who knew him before we did.

This poem makes my mouth water as soon as I see the fruit and olives being mentioned. It’s a poem that triggers the senses, the taste of sweet and salty, the juice from wine or sour lemons. The nostalgia of playing with your cousins when you’re young, this triggers memories for me, too. The reveal of family being scattered across the country and therefore never to be seen again until a funeral when all those sunlit memories come rushing back… It brings out the young child in yourself as you sing through the memories as the poet does. It’s a beautiful poem that I couldn’t resist sharing.

I will say that there are many different kinds of poems and the ones I’ve selected may seem a bit dark, but that is where my bias tends to lie. I like poems that hit me hard in the chest. You can find Laurie Ann Guerrero on Facebook and learn more about her as well as let her know if any of these pieces struck a chord with you. If you enjoyed this sample, you can download or order a physical copy of Laurie Ann Guerrero’s collection A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying at:

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Poems For All

Richard Robert Hansen is the creator of Poems For All. He distributes “seedlings” of poetry and creates the cover art himself. His poems appear in all kinds of places and you must check out his blog for details! His link is at the end of this mini review. My friend and fellow poet, Jameson Bayles, sent me five of these wonderful seedlings and I am reviewing them below. Each seedling contains one poem, they are each unique as any snowflake, as any seed which grows as you may well imagine. Enjoy these wondrous pieces below:

banking on
by Mj taylor

i create to
please you.
i sd it.

albeit all i create
will roam the universe
unseen by its Muse.

riding kell robertson’s
horse called desperation
bent/busted knuckles
clenched white ‘round
reigns of who
cracked faced against the
weather of eternal wander.

but perhaps maybe
one of these days
by the starch command of Sol
the celestial grace of Luna
approved by the higher nod
of Bill Murray,
everything will
align just
& what you feel
is all i create
for that one

Mj Taylor references the poet and country singer, Kell Robertson, who published a collection under the title “horse called desperation.” No doubt Robertson inspired this poem and I love when writers inspire one another. Here, Taylor expresses his desire as a writer to his Muse. Taylor aims for that satisfying moment when everything aligns and “the Gods” nudge the reader in his direction to find satisfaction in this moment of creation. We all strive for that perfect moment, whether it’s through spoken or written word when we reach our target audience and hit the right note. You can reach out to Mj Taylor at:

Dia de los Muertes
by: Dianne Borsenik

Dead will have their day,
And the living, all the
Years before and after.
Ofrendas honor departed
Friends, familia. Smile of
The calavera along with the
Headiness of marigolds.

Everything in its place:
Dead in their deep sleep,
Estranged from the earth,
And the living, a parade
Dancing on their way home.

Dianne Borsenik encapsulates the celebration of Mexico’s Dia De Los Muertos celebration. It is something I have grown up around and enjoy seeing because it celebrates the transformation of a person’s spirit instead of mourning them. Families bring marigolds and offerings of food and drink (ofrendas) to the gravesite. It is a family gathering that brings comfort and even joy. Hence why Borsenik references “dancing on their way home” at the end to show the convivial spirit of the occasion. Dianne Borsenik can be found on social media, she is also the editor/publisher of NightBallet Press at

“no guardrail”
by Dianne Borsenik

no guardrail
between us
and the

One of the shortest poems I’ve read in a while, yet packed with suspense. Dianne Borsenik stops us in our tracks before we ever get comfortable, just as any accident or tragedy will. Great piece in just a few short lines.

The Weight of the Moon

by William Gainer

Anyone interested
in helping raise
the moon?

I’m in,
but I’m too old.

It would be nice
if you
could lend a hand.
I’m thinking
we can do this
heave it up
just past
the tree tops.
That’ll do.

If not
I’ll do what I can
stay up late
have a coffee
think about all
the other old guys
who had this job.

how many nights
they lost

and how many nights
they just said,
fuck it,
and went to bed early.

Let me know,
I can use
a little help.

The damn thing’s
than it looks.

I love the mental picture I get when I read this poem. William Gainer as an aging man looking through his kitchen window as the moon looms low over the trees behind his home. I’ve no idea if he lives in a picturesque location but that is the way of poets, to allow our imaginations to soar. I also picture him with a rake or broom trying to hoist the moon back up over the trees as he asks for help, only to find none. The idea of someone having this job is quixotic and mesmerizing to my mind. Would you help him raise the moon? You can visit William Gainer’s site at

Harry’s Diner Poem
by John Dorsey
For Mj Taylor

as i sit here talking to a friend
between sips of black coffee
i think about the young couple
sitting in the booth across from me
how they don’t seem any happier
than i am right now
how tomorrow they’ll probably be sitting
in that same booth
or some carpool lane
as the cat nuzzles my door
while i am dreaming
of fried eggs

John Dorsey brings his observations while people watching at the diner to us. How often we look around and watch other people, perhaps capture words of their conversations. He notices that they don’t seem “any happier/than i am right now” and I wonder what is the exact level of happiness at this moment in the diner? Are they blurry eyed at breakfast or quietly content? The poet invites us to wonder about this other couple and their future as he brings us into his own home where his pet cat will nuzzle him before he gets up to eat what I presume will be breakfast. What do you observe when you’re at a restaurant or diner? What thoughts enter your mind of the people there? John Dorsey can be found on social media and you can find poems by googling his name and adding “poet” after it.

If you enjoyed any of these poets and their poems, please let them know. Make sure to visit the Poems For All Blog and keep your eyes peeled for seedlings in your hometown. Richard Hansen can be found on Facebook, the creator of Poems For All. Poet Jameson Bayles can also be found on Facebook and Instagram so be sure to support writers, publishers, editors, and let them know you enjoy their work. Thanks always for reading, link to Poems For All is below:

Poems For All Blog:

Monday, February 15, 2016

This River Here Poems of San Antonio by Carmen Tafolla

Many thanks to Reyes Cardenes for introducing me to this collection by the first Poet Laureate of San Antonio, Texas, Carmen Tafolla: This River Here Poems of San Antonio. As of 2015, she is the Poet Laureate of Texas. Rich with imagery, culture, history, and language native to the area, Tafolla draws us into the soul of place through the ages. There are also photographs to show changing families and the city through the years, it is an extraordinary read and very difficult to pin down just a few poems to represent such a well-lived collection. I am happy to share a few samples below:

There’ve always been rattlesnakes

especially if you live in Texas,
quietly coiled potent surprises
filled with regrettable poisons
scorpions startled under rocks
tails poised for incisive action
flash floods submerging the floor, the bed
wiping away anything not rooted yards deep
droughts that wilt the cactus,
bake the trees, suck dry the elderly

there’ve always been rattlesnakes,
husbands collapsed to the ground, stores gone broke
grandmothers fading away, bills eating the grocery money,
heart attacks at midnight, heat strokes at 4 p.m.
wagons, cars, bikes, crumpled into broken skeletons
tornados that wreak havoc, lightning that incinerates homes into black ash
cancers that appear when least expected,
disasters that life or nature makes

But even the cruelly unexpected fangs of rattlesnakes
grow brittle over time
crumble into the offended earth
even droughts bathe eventually in the abundant August chubascos
even long-staring skeletons become rich abono
fertilizing the persistent pecan trees
the hope-filled shoots of chile serrano
the motivation of survivors trying to rebuild
bone by desperate bone
to rebuild

Here Tafolla captures Texas in all its glory, with all its critters, flora, and fauna. She encapsulates the way modern civilization coincides and collides with the landscape through heat stroke, flash floods, rattlesnakes. No matter Mother Nature’s arrows, even the “fangs of rattlesnakes grow brittle over time,” even grandmothers fade away. Her poem about all of the living creatures fighting for their place, building and rebuilding, everything will eventually fade away.

Alli por la Calle San Luis

West Side – corn tortillas for a penny each
Made by an ancient woman
and her mother.
Cooked on the homeblack of a flat stove,
Flipped to slap the birth awake,
Wrapped by corn hands
Toasted morning light and dancing history –
earth gives birth to corn gives birth to man
gives birth to earth.
Corn tortillas – penny each.
No tax.

I love the rhythm of this poem, the imagery. If you haven’t seen the flat stoves that tortilla makers use, it can be easily found on Google Images. Tafolla links the earth to man to earth again through the making of the corn tortillas, rightfully poetic, “slap the birth awake,” the tortilla makers slap the tortillas into being just as women and doctors slap a baby’s bottom for the cry—to awaken the birth. Beautiful.

San Anto’s Mezcla Magica

What it means to co-exist,
to bloom together,
is that the lines grow fuzzy,
optical illusions with two different faces
appearing at different times
there is not a street that marks
a neighborhood others have not
crossed into
eaten, loved, lived in, tasted in a different way

Even in Alamo Heights,
tamales end up on the “Old Texas” families’
Thanksgiving tables, while “Graciela’s”sells
designer suits in sarape colors
Even on Nogalitos Street
the Chinese tamarind seed is the top-selling snack
at the Mexican food counter,
Indian curry gets scooped up
in comal-warmed pita bread
Vietnamese eggrolls brim out of
toasty tortillas made from
German-milled white flour

At the corner of French and Fredericksburg Road
Martinez Barbacoa pairs steaming barbacoa
with ice-cold, carbonated Big Red,
imports El Milagro tortillas from Austin
and Virgen de Guadalupe wooden bracelets from Mexico,
stacks avocados just lusciously ripe enough
but not too soft, in front of the lusciously Olympian Aztecs
posed on a calendar that only distantly layers
echoed rhythms of the Aztec Calendar

After barbacoa and corn tortillas for breakfast
we want “something different” for lunch
and pair black-smoked Jamaican Bar-B-Q
with chile-roasted corn
So nighttime at Sam’s Burger Joint we are not surprised
when in the Music Hall out back
a tall, blonde Chicana named Patricia Vonne
(nee Rodriguez and freshly back from concert tour in Europe)
rattles the cage of the stage and
sings a blend smooth as honey
to the harmony of a rock electric guitar
country fiddle
and Spanish castanets.

Blend. This poem is about the ultimate blend of cultures and flavors that continue to percolate here in Texas. It’s a luscious mix that is as addictive as it is beautiful, varied, and extreme. I would dare any visitor to San Antonio, to find it boring or bland because it is anything but. If you ever visit the area ask the locals where to eat, you won’t regret it. The music at night is wild and bright, smooth and sultry, just like the night air. Tafolla captures it completely.

If you enjoyed these poems as much as I do, you may purchase a copy of This River Here Poems of San Antonio by Carmen Tafolla at Amazon for $14.85 here:
You can also download it onto Kindle here:

To learn more about Carmen Tafolla and her work, visit:

You can also find her on Social Media such as Facebook, please support your favorite writers and follow them.

As always, thank you for reading and drop in again soon…

Thursday, January 14, 2016

In 2015, Jameson Bayles, Dianne Borsenik, John Burroughs, Joan Koromonte and Michelle Roberts decided to collaborate this project, A Case For Ascension, published by Asinimali Publications, Inc. These poets will be gathering in April for National Poetry Month in Kansas City, MO at a literary festival and decided to write/gather poems in honor of a recently constructed staircase inside the bookstore, Prospero’s Books, where the literary festival is to be held. Each author used the title as their muse for the poems inside and while they all wrote separately I couldn’t help but notice similarities. There are words used from Buddhist and meditative teachings or practices such as karma, OM, bodhisattvas, sage, incense,etc. in several writers’ poems. Perhaps because of the idea of heights via a staircase can also translate to a higher sense of enlightenment. Others spun out a tale through their poems. It is an enjoyable read and best read over more than once. It is a short collection, easy to sit with over a hot beverage and a restful moment. Here are a few samples:

Excerpt from The Five Breaths by Jameson Bayles

IV. Rechaka

…and the pendulum keeps on

As benevolence evolves, uncontested
karma reciprocates.

It’s a surgical carving of your soul.

Not a repairable tear
An erosion of causation –

It’s a deliberate


In retaliation,
the evaluation of your heart is not

on the typography of your scars
but in your mockery of each swipe
from the blade.

…and the pendulum keeps on

Bayles let me know that this poem is based on the need to rise out of cyclical and dysfunctional relationships. This poem causes me to pause and wonder about the main character’s story and which side of the relationship they were on: Did they leave or were they left? Which side has them contemplating a drastic measure and then seeking to rise above it? It is a piece that shows that whether or not blood is let out, the “pendulum swings,” time goes on whether you participate in moving with time or stop your own clock. We can all relate to heartache and the struggle to move onwards and upwards when it feels as though we can only curl up and give up.

Excerpt from Sutra for the Four Monkeys by Diane Borsenik

2nd Monkey

Humor is a precious resource.
Energy—positive and negative—wells from
Allow yourself time to breathe.
Relish the extant moment.
Nothing can prepare you for what comes
Open your heart to possibilities.
Enter through the exit.
Variety is the vitamin of life.
Is this where you want to be right now?
Lennon had it right: imagine.

There are four monkeys and they have life lessons to share. From a personal perspective the 2nd Monkey poem hit home for me since I had a radically unexpected change of plans in early Fall 2015. So for my background and for you to relate: Imagine feeling solid in your existing life and career—you’ve settled into the right home, you have perfect neighbors, a job you have the rhythm of with a team you adore working with, people in your life who you adore, family nearby, etc. Then an opportunity arrives: one you had wanted YEARS ago. It happened to us, my husband landed a job in Texas and so we took a leap of faith and I had to trust that I would find a job soon after selling our home and moving after him—and I have.
So that is why I picked THIS poem. The poem above exemplifies everything about the unexpected journey. Have you ever gone through a major life change and took a leap of faith? Variety is indeed the vitamin of life, while it can be a large vitamin to swallow, we all grow in unexpected ways when we allow ourselves to live in the moment, find the humor, and open up to possibilities we weren’t ready for. Ms. Borsenik gives us a seemingly simple poem but if you take it into your heart you will find so many layers.

Since this is a short book, let me assure you there are wonderful poems that take on a variety of tones, some hard, some tongue-in-cheek. I don’t want to give it all away, so please be kind and purchase a copy for yourself to discover the rest: A Case For Ascension: A collaborative sample reader by Jameson Bayles, Dianne Borsenik, John Burroughs, Joan Koromante, and Michelle Roberts is available for $5.00 at

You can find many of these writers on social media, be sure to engage them. When so much of social media can be plagued with the negative I believe it is vital to find inspiration and positive energy through those whose work you enjoy reading. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogspot, you name it, take advantage and create an inspiring world for yourself by connecting to those who inspire YOU.

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Schizo-Poetry Fragments of the Mind by Susanne Wawra and Kevin Nolan

Susanne Wawra and Kevin Nolan, two poets residing in Dublin, Ireland, created a collaborative work based on images brought forth by color—15 colors total. The first poem in each set is by Wawra, the second by Nolan. Their poems are rich with imagery, sensuality, memory, and philosophy. Self-published by in Dublin, Ireland I am surprised that a publisher didn’t pick them up. The work is imaginative, thoughtful, and worth reading over and over again. Below I am happy to share some samples and I urge you to support these poets and their future:

(bright yellow)

A colourable moon perspires down
on a foreign country.

A road surrounds an Anglican church –
the door swings open and a distant high pitched sound gets higher.

The air is wet with Ave Marias, a solitary singer searchingly fingers her
soul and moans low while city foxes dash by dizzy and wild-eyed with
questioning snouts.

Sitting near on footpath
are two people, in love, smiling at each other, knowing each other

In one beats a heart:
its drawers swing open and shut in slow motion, catch imaginary
snowflakes, which melt and leak down to collect in the swells of her eyes
opening like butterflies.

The other’s heart
is wet with vitality, desperate in its countenance
opening and reaching out to her like a legousia flower to the heat of
flavescent moonlight.

By Nolan

The first two lines alone are captivating. Who on Earth wouldn’t want to dive into this poem after reading the opening lines? Along with “The air is wet with Ave Marias,” lending a magical quality to the scene that further unfolds of two lovers sharing an emotional intimacy with each other. Nolan romances us equally as well as the lovers romance each other.

(gray blue)

I hesitate, a breeze beats my back
As if to push me, I start walking in
The crisp cold water swallows my
Feet, knees, thighs, my breath

Hardens. I stand and wait for the
Waves to invite me in, they come
At me – hit, foam, draw back an
Then again. I inhale and advance

Until my heart reaches sea level
It pounds against the wall, throws
Itself towards the new encounter
Entering a dance to its intriguing

Rhythm. I spread my arms and feel
the resistance, I move them back
And forth, the water runs through
My outspread fingers, I shiver.

I give myself to the sea, plunge deep
Into the cleansing blue, grey, green
We embrace each other, we become
Lovers, unified. I am the wave, the

Push, the take. For once, I feel whole,
Complete. I surface, shake, then turn
Around and walk back to the beach
Seasoned with salt, bliss, intensity.

By Wawra

This poem is sensual, enigmatic. The reader can place themselves into the writer’s shoes and feel the waves and be renewed by nature’s envelopment. I live within driving distance of the ocean and it can be therapeutic to wade out into the waves, especially in the early hours of the morning when there are very few, if any, other people around. This poem reminds me of the importance of immersing oneself in Nature, I hope it inspires you to get outdoors as it does for me.


She is dressed in black, a heavy cloak
of darkness mantled on her shoulders.
As she enters the room slowly but
With fortitude, the lightbulbs explode.
A thick blackness immediately fills
The space, it seeps into every corner
Of our being, we become the night.

She speaks of wrong and death and
Hate with a voice that catapults our
Synapses into a warping war of words.
We start spinning, swirl, twist around
Each other till we manifest into a knot.
The sounds echo down our spines,
Vibrate viciously, we are left shaking.

She moves closer, her breath so cold
It clenches our hearts, grips our guts.
A pulsating pain possesses our bodies,
Beats in every cell. A weight pushes
As if to crush us, holding the pressure
To demonstrate its power. The attack
Blows our defence, we are weakened.

She enters our being, spreading her
Poisonous black, detracting all colour,
All light, all life. She empties our very
Inside, only rawness, hurt and despair
Remain. We are shapeless on the
Sharp boards of the floor, surrender.
The ruins moan but we will rise again.

By Wawra

This poem strikes me personally. There is always someone in life that seems to suck the life out of the room when they enter—whether they realize that about themselves or not. This poem is deep, dark, and I wonder who the poet is speaking of, if there is anyone in her life that causes her to truly feel this way. The woman who spreads the darkness in this poem is powerful, so powerful in her negative words and actions that she leaves her victims writhing inside and out. I am thankful for the ending line “the ruins moan but we will rise again,” lending hope that the victims will overcome this poisonous person, just as we all strive to overcome the poisonous people in our own lives.


The moonshine sits on the waves
Making their way to the flat beach.
As they are rolling in, it dances
Across the waterlines. Upon their
Breaking, the white foam thunders.

All colour has been washed away,
All is condensed in shades of grey.
The night simplifies my view, eases
My mood and sharpens by senses.
It talks to me, tells it like it is, makes

No apologies. I can see clearer now,
I listen and understand. The wisdom
of the sea opens up and lets me in.
Everything makes perfect sense,
The answers are right there, I am

Ecstatic. Without looking I have
Found it or it may have found me.
But as the sun pushes herself up
It disappears, I am overwhelmed,
Swallowed by a tsunami of colour.

By Wawra

The poet ties nature into its restorative abilities here again. Quiet contemplation and observation greet us, seeing the world in “black and white” before daylight spreads to obscure the simplicity. It is a beautiful poem and I’m happy to share it with you.


Somewhere in a dark room
mists are mistaken
for spiders’ webs
softly sifting through the air
in beautiful motion, like
those seahorses
lovingly negotiating, the pull
and trusting language of the sea:
its deep shifting tides

a grimy underpaid
emigrant boy is printing yet
another copy of Finnegan’s

He’s never read a word
for his language
and the language of Joyce
are very different.

On a break he exhausts
a cigarette
and traces the image
of the words
as if reading braille

while back in the room
the wings of a gallivanting blue-bottle
surreptitiously kiss,
into a drifting web.

By Nolan

This poem captures a scene that upon observation may seem serene but hints at something darker. An emigrant worker trying to make his way, unfamiliar with the language and the world he has placed himself in, just as the blue-bottle drifts unsuspectingly into the dangerous web. This is another poem that strikes me personally, having moved several times in my life and having to learn the language, customs, lingo of other locations, even within the United States Midwest versus living on the Mexican Border in Texas. The world is mysterious and full of secrets, just like the ocean and its shifting tides in the poem above. A beautiful poem layered with meaning, it gives us pause to linger over Nolan’s words.

I hope you enjoyed these samples of Schizo-Poetry by Susanne Wawra and Kevin Nolan as much as I do. You may purchase a copy of their book for 10 Euros + 2 Euros shipping and handling if you reside outside of Dublin, or 10 Euros + 1 Euro within Dublin at:!schizo-poetry/c1m56

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon…

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kristina Marie Darling’s Double Feature: The Arctic Circle, Failure Lyric

I admit that lately I have been very slow to read and review books these past two to three years and I can assure you I am working on ways to get back to doing these reviews more often. It will take a bit longer to achieve some of the goals I have set for myself in order to accommodate more reading, writing, and creating. I thank all of my loyal readers for sticking by. In the meantime, I will post as often as I can:

Today I review one of my favorite writers for a Double Feature. Kristina Marie Darling’s work continues to inspire me and sets my imagination spinning.

First is The Arctic Circle, published by BlazeVox books in 2015, is a haunting collection where the ghost of the first wife lingers over the current couple’s lives. The current wife begins slipping into the first wife’s character, alarmingly the husband voices approval. The environment surrounding them grows cold, frosted over in ice. Below I am happy to share a few pieces:


The name I was given at birth was no longer my name. When I arrived at the reception hall, I was mistaken for another bride. Laced into the wrong dress, wearing the wrong shoes.

My husband would later confuse me with his last wife. He thought I was supposed to bring him cigarettes, and for a moment that seemed right. He mumbled as I handed him a purple lighter, and I left behind the only life I’d ever known.
But we were so good together. I never argued with him, afraid for years he’d remember his first wife was dead.

This poem describes our main character slipping into an expected persona and losing her individuality to make her partner happy. I fear the number of women who do this daily. I wish they would fight to keep themselves intact. Here, the bride succumbs to what is “expected” of her.


From the start you made me promise not to ask questions about your first wife. You’d leave for weeks and wouldn’t tell me why.

When you finally came home, dinner always began the same way. I’d catch a glimpse of something in the window while warming soup or vegetables. Then I looked out into the yard and saw her face. Sometimes she stood at the door, straightening her dress, about to knock. Most of the time she was out of breath, as though she’d walked a long way in the cold.
No matter what you told me, I was afraid to open the door. She carried no purse, and no luggage, because everything she needed was already here.

This is when the ghost of the first wife makes her appearance. It is telling when the new wife says “because everything she needed was already here.” It leads us readers to believe that the husband never cleaned out any of his previous wife’s things. The new bride is simply there to become the former bride. Haunting, isn’t it?


When I woke in the middle of the night, I saw another woman in the glass. She looked the way I had always imagined your first wife: white blonde, pink lipstick with a hint of sparkle.

I climbed back into bed and you asked me why I was shivering. I told you I was cold, but really i wasn’t. I knew I could never sleep in the same house as her. That was when I noticed something glittering on the side of your mouth. I told myself I was imagining things, but even I didn’t believe it.
After we’d been married a few years, things started to make sense. You never told me the house was haunted because you hoped it wasn’t. Every night, when you thought I was sleeping, you kissed the woman on the other side of the mirror.

Quite disconcerting, this piece. Not only is their home haunted by the first wife but the bride’s husband continues to carry on a relationship with the ghost in the mirror. It turns your heart for the current wife and you wonder why she stays.

The garden was all thistle and frost.

I had been living in her house,
wearing her clothes, answering
to her name.

This is where I leave you, dear reader. To learn more about the life of the current wife in this haunting tale, you will have to pick up a copy for yourself. The bride’s transformation, the husband’s acceptance of this transformation, and then ultimately… The rest is for you to find out in the pages of this indelible tale.

If you enjoyed this review and are curious to learn the rest of the tale, please purchase a copy of Arctic Circle by Kristina Marie Darling for $16.00 at:

Failure Lyric, published in 2014 by BlazeVox books, is a collection of unexpected heart aches, failures as the title implies, and a couple’s relationship at the center. As always, Darling uses vivid, beautiful language to create scenes that etch into our minds. It is nearly impossible for me to narrow down which pieces to share, so please forgive me for sharing so many, and there are many more for those of you who wish to read more:


My sister looked at me and said, You choose the love you think you deserve. She poured another cup of herbal tea. Out the window, I see birds burying their dead.

This is one of the first poems in this collection and sets the tone for what follows. “You choose the love you think you deserve” is relatable to so many of us and it pushes the reader’s curiosity forward.


At first, you didn’t quite understand. How I carried all that grief from city to city, until it turned into an enormous white halo around my head.

And the stars. The way they followed my sadness, rising and falling like an ocean. Before long, even the cities where we lived began to circle around my melancholy, each one a thread spinning through the eye of a needle.

One morning, you woke and noticed that the world around you moved differently. The freeway no longer led to the subway station. And the flower stand wasn’t where you remembered it.

You cried, but neither one of us could change it back.

This piece hits me personally. Growing up our family moved many times and there was culture shock as we yo-yoed between the Midwest and the Texas Border on Mexico. My dreams are vivid and filled with scenes from both, there was heartache from being such an obvious outsider each move. So this piece allows me to relate to both the wife and the husband, feeling grief that grows with each change, then tears when you return to a place only to find it has changed drastically. This piece I feature for personal reasons, I hope you can relate to it and love it as much as I do.


At first I thought the gift was for me. A little box, wrapped in green paper and tied with a silver ribbon, sparkled on the kitchen table. Each of the corners had been taped shut so I couldn’t see what was inside.

That was when he walked in the door with a bag full of wrapping paper. Ribbons in every color. Roll after roll of sticky tape.

He told me that he was going to an anniversary party. I didn’t hesitate when he asked me to help wrap the gifts.

Before long, I realized the presents were meant for his last wife, waiting at the restaurant. I couldn’t help but recognize her favorite chocolates, that ungodly perfume he always dragged with him on his suit. Now the gifts shimmered in their boxes. All that ribbon curled at my feet.

You see, when we married, memory fell asleep in the chapel. We left her in the pew, wearing her best dress.

Somehow she never found her way back to the door.

This piece makes my heart ache for the current wife. How does a woman wrap gifts for the former love of her lover’s life? The mention of losing the memory in the pew is poignant. The wife conveniently forgot the husband’s previous life when she married only to stare it in the face now while wrapping up gifts for the last wife. Strange that the husband would do something so elaborate for an ex and ask his current wife for help, there are layers upon layers in this couple’s story in such a short piece.


There is a room where grief doesn’t sleep.

She tosses and turns beneath a white blanket, that silk canopy draped around her. When I open the door, she asks for a glass of water. Anything but the orchid on her dressing table, the shriek gathering in its perfect mouth.

Because when she closes her eyes, she can feel the same burning in her own throat. That smoldering beneath a violet nightdress. A fire in every eyelash.

The first line caught my attention, didn’t it for you? We all know that room, whether it is in our minds or a place that brings back tearful memories. I love that grief is a woman, just like La Llorona (The Crying Woman). Not only does she toss and turn, she burns with fire, just as we all feel inside during our own grief. It’s a beautiful piece.


I walk between two rooms, but somehow the furniture is the same: a torn envelope, a lifeless clock, the armoire smoldering beneath a beveled mirror.


I unwrap relics one at a time. The room aches with light. You are the patron saint of lost causes, of silent vows and a scorched altar. We are the windows of a chapel shattering as it burns.


Now the plaster angel speaks his final benediction. In my hand, a bouquet of paper flowers, aflame. Still these attempts to catalogue, this desire to preserver.


I had always imagined the mind as a museum of memorable objects. Those endless rows of dried butterflies pinned under glass.


When asked, the docent told me that the placard couldn’t be trusted: The colors have been known to shift with the light. You see, at the time the glass case was built, the specimen wasn’t quite dead.

This is where I feel Darling excels. These moments, these vignettes, they speak worlds to me. I see a museum filled with relics and glass cases and the idea that the butterflies weren’t “quite dead” when they were placed in their case is frightening to me. The idea that all of our beloved keepsakes may have some sort of life and then be left for dead in their “display cases” is what makes me look at my own things in a different light. I feel that Darling is well versed in turning the beautiful and sacred onto its side and holding a prism up to give us a new and unexpected perspective.

If you enjoy this feature, please purchase a copy of Kristina Marie Darling’s Failure Lyric for $12.00 here:

Thanks always for reading and please drop by again soon…

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sarah Sousa's Split the Crow

Sarah Sousa’s collection, Split the Crow, is published by Parlor Press in 2015 and weaves indigenous tales with natural world imagery that burrow deep into your memory long after you read them. Her work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Barn Owl Review, and more, she has won the Red Mountain Press Prize for her collection Church of Needles in May 2014. Below I am happy to share a few samples of her recent collection:

The Dead’s Bright Copperas

Could it be held in a bottle like smoke
or liquor; the color of shadow. Could it
be one of the sad animals, one of the instinctual.
Sad because extinct but still
possessing mythical teeth, legs, claws.
Carnivorous and sad. Furred, plumed, spiny
and sad. Could it be hollow as the keeled sternum
of a gull or the pitch of the cricket’s flat
note. Could it be trapped like a song in the skull’s
dull kettle. Sometimes resembling anemic condolence,
sometimes largesse. Primarily unique unless
born again of some woman. Could it be the sun
festoons the dead with necklaces and bracelets
of fat flies. Fishing for dead. Hunting the dead.
Always engaged in pursuits of the flesh.
Or could it be ghost infants who flop about
like trod-on birds. Without the strength to pass they stay;
eat our corn, settle invisible villages among us.
And wear their broken breastbones
like knocked-askey shields, stirring the flaps
of our doors—like a breeze their ingress and egress.

Sousa talks about the dead and decaying, the decomposition akin to “the sun/feasting wolf-like on the dead” and the spirits of the deceased creatures and people remaining in “invisible villages among us.” The imagery is striking to me, lines such as “the sun/festoons the dead with necklaces and bracelets of fat flies” is clear as a bell in my imagination, as is the idea of the dead “trapped like a song in the skull’s dull kettle.” This poem strikes me for its imagery and for Sousa’s ability to remind us of death’s every day presence.

Of Creation

Man and woman were made of stone.
But Cautantowwit, displeased, broke them
into many pieces and the mica shone out
like stars. Our cut places still glimmer.

So he started using trees.

Now you want the trees
to grow like corn, an inch for every rain.
You want the trees for ships—to take a gale,
rock on the angle, unbroken. You want the trees
to get you to another shore and back?
Better barter with the sea, god of tide-sucking
moon, god that rules your bird-caged lungs.
If the timbers of your roof stay true, thank the roof.

Cautantowwit is the Native American tribes Algonquin and Lenape’s version of God the Creator. Here Sousa shares the tale of their version of creation, filled with stunning visuals: “broke them/into many pieces and the mica shone out/like stars” and when Cautantowwit wasn’t satisfied he decided the living, growing tree would be a better way of creation, and the poet asks the Creator “You want the trees for ships—to take a gale, rock on the angle unbroken…” which leads me to believe the poet meant the Native American people’s ability to weather the storms in their lives.


It is said the women wended
their way in the dark between empty
cabins, cold fire pits, into the forest
they would abandon. It is said the procession
was formal. They wore embroidered robes
similar to the ones the Hopi lay
upon the ground when the first horses
entered into their country. Sacred horses.
Sacred trees. It is said the women whispered
to oaks and elms, wept and stroked
the bark as a mother strokes her child,
one last lull,

She makes a ghost of herself then
leaves leaves leaves.

Sousa describes the way Native American women would prepare for childbirth. The women would go far away from the rest of the tribe and prepare a sacred place from which to give birth without assistance. Sousa’s words envelop in the senses of the woman preparing for birth, leaving cold fire pits behind, the silence of the forest surrounding the woman, the feel of the bark as the woman makes way to give birth, all of it beautiful.

If you enjoyed this review, you may purchase a copy of Sarah Sousa’s Split the Crow from Parlor Press for $11.00 at:

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kristina Marie Darling's Fortress

Kristina Marie Darling’s Fortress is published by Sundress Publications and showcases the dance of doomed domestic bliss from the perspective of the wife. The main character alludes to the field of dead poppies that welcomes her to her new home. The husband does nothing to coax them to life and creates gardens elsewhere only to fail. The possible greenery is a metaphor for the relationship when the husband disappears after the poppies catch fire and spread disaster to the homestead. The wife is left to determine what to do about the outcome on her own, just as many relationships leave at least one person wondering what happened and what to do next. Below I am happy to share some examples:


Another night. The same lifeless corsage. I wondered if the landscape, rather than affection for on another, had been the source of our euphoria.

Here, the wife tries to understand what brought their marriage happiness. Dead flowers permeate the landscape of this collection and are romanticized as a display of love and affection for the characters.


I could not endure the boxed geraniums beneath every window, their long stems like dried insects under glass. It was then that I began to examine the iron gates and coaxed the locks with such care, as though they were hothouse flowers or small children.

What caught my eye was the line “their long stems like dried insects” because I am fascinated by insects. It is easy to picture the hollow, fragile stems driving the wife to escape. The gates surrounding the house have kept her in and now she is trying to escape as carefully as she can, not just from the landscape but from her marriage.


What is there left to say? When we married, I became his wife. I can no longer remember what I looked like before that veil descended, or the vow exchanged between us.

The lines above ultimately sum up my worst fears. I have witnessed this myself watching other couples: when they come together, they lose their individuality completely and it is terrifying. The wife above became “wife” and forgot everything about herself in the process. Truly terrifying to me.

Kristina Marie Darling uses her skill of erasures and of footnotes to create a world in which a couple’s marriage dissipates over time in a landscape that echoes their lives. If you enjoyed this review, you may purchase a copy of Kristina Marie Darling’s Fortress for $12.00 at:

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Alessandra Bava's They Talk About Death

Alessandra Bava’s collection, They Talk About Death, is published by Blood Pudding Press. Her collection is surreal, rich, and thoughtful. Inside these pages dwell iconic literary and historical figures, she dips her pen into their universe and extracts her own thoughts from them. It is my pleasure to share a few samples:

St. Baudelaire

I dream of you at night
entangled in the spires of evil,

tied to a living pillar in the
profane sanctuary of Poetry—

the spores of wild flowers in
your nostrils, the ecstasy of

“the Word” painted on your face
& slowly dripping from your

St. Sebastian-like wounds
in sanguine lines.

I twist the arrows in your flesh,
I dip my fingers in your scars

as you spit out your own
poisonous mythology

into my soul.

I love the poet’s macabre language for dreaming of meeting Baudelaire, the poet who wrote Flowers of Evil which was banned once it was published. I love Baudelaire’s poems and this tribute to him is dark and beautiful.


She has danced and played all night long with her Madame Sosostris’ wicked pack of cards and now she holds her trophy in a silver platter. John’s beautiful severed head. Salome likes her meat rare. She is hungry. She’ll bite his livid lips awake with her love words. One day, when the head will turn to skull, she’ll make a lamp for her own enlightenment and write chiaroscuro poems.

This piece is as dark as the biblical reference itself: the stepdaughter of the King, Salome, requests the head of St. John the Baptist. Here, a reference to T.S. Eliot’s tarot card reader, Madame Sosostris, is linked to the act and delivers a mystical, clairvoyant quality. Salome’s thirst for vengeful blood is presented in a gruesomely beautiful way thanks to the poet.

Dreaming Arthur
“A thousand Dreams within me softly burn” --Arthur Rimbaud

I take seat at the
Big Bear tavern,

redolent of smoke,
absinthe and dung.

A pale blue eyed
seer at the counter,

in his ruffled scarf,
sells illuminating

prophecies. I order
my glass and he

fills it with green
ink in which

we dip our loaded

I stare at his
provincial clothes,

at his holsters
full of satisfied

flesh, Christian
mothers’ morals,

deliriums, vowels,
poisons, Ville Lumiere,

Abyssinian darkness,
seasons in hells, pure

monstrosities, burning lines
crows, leg-eating gangrene
suns, Eternity…
We aim
high at
the sky.

I pause, I pant, I shoot,
I write.

He grabs my hand
and cries: “Wake up!

I’m just a ghost
selling false promises

and watered-down
wine. I am only an

extinguished meteor
blazed away to ash.

How can I rest in peace
if even my words refuse to


In this poem I picture the poet dreaming after reading Rimbaud and having deep conversation with him in a dank tavern. I personally feel as a writer that my own work sells “false promises” as the writer says above, as every piece of literature takes its liberties.

If you enjoyed this sample, you may purchase a copy of Alessandra Bava’s They Talk About Death from Blood Pudding Press for $7.00 at:

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Starting with the Last Name Grochalski by John Grochalski

Published by Coleridge Street Books, John Grochalski’s collection Starting with the Last Name Grochalski is bared teeth, pull-no-punches honest and at times humorous. From daily observations that hold the poet captive to memories stripped down to their essence, Grochalski takes us on a journey of his life observed in detail. Below I am happy to share a few samples:

the sunbather’s ass

she sunbathes

in a rose garden
in brooklyn

her bikini top off

her ass barely covered
in a thong

the young boy
walks by

pointing and smiling
at her

tugging his
embarrassed mother’s

feeling a new kind
of want
inside of him

one so deep
that he’ll one day
beg for it

to let him go.

This poem makes me smile because it makes me think “this is how it starts,” when young boys learn to be interested in females. I think every parent has had to deal with this scene in some way, their young child noticing bare flesh and the parent being at a loss for a reaction or what to say other than to be embarrassed. I also love that the poet adds that the young boy will beg for this want inside of him to let go, the beginning of lustful feelings and their powerful hold will be wished away.

that’s what i want

there’s never enough money
in my wallet

never enough money
in the bank account

once when i was younger
my mother broke my piggybank
to buy us milk and bread

she cried when she told me
she’d pay it back

and all those years later i’m still so scared

that there’s never enough money
hiding underneath the soiled couch cushions

never enough money
in this little old world

for me

This poem strikes a chord with me and I’m sure it strikes a chord with many of you. We all struggle with money at some point in our lives and it makes you feel vulnerable no matter how young or how old you are. The line “and all those years later i’m still so scared” is a powerful statement. A memory so deep that years later it still makes the grown version of the boy feel scared about having enough to this day.


bobby mueller had these
two doberman pinschers
that he’d sick on us
whenever he walked past his house

you’d hear a whistle from the porch
and then these two salivating beasts
would come tearing across the yard

smacking off the fence
foaming at the mouth
trying to get at you before you knew
what was happening.

no one knew what made bobby do this

he was troubled people said
there were family issues
the kid was just a world class asshole

when he wasn’t sicking the Dobermans on us
bobby would ride around in his old man’s car
and throw his garbage at us

mcdonald’s bags full of half-eaten food
the carton of eggs he’d bought at foodland
or wd40 canisters from his backseat

in the winter he’d throw snowballs at us kids
that were laced with rocks and other things
just to give them an extra sting when they hit
your cold, red face
or he’d toss icicles like they were darts

but nothing was as bad as watching those two
goddamned dogs come charging at you

looking at the mueller’s fence as it shook
the gray foam on the beasts’ jowls

their yellow fangs snapping at air, hoping for flesh

listening to bobby’s laughter on the porch
as he chain smoked winstons
and asked you if you’d pissed your pants yet

knowing that you probably had before you tore off back home

his sick laughter trailing you
the convenience store and baseball cards be damned

when bobby took his own life on new year’s eve
in that devil car with the motor running in the garage

a lot of us kids
were more relieved than saddened
as our parents sat us down to make sense of it

it was like a war had ended
peace had somehow been restored
our trivial civilization saved
from strawberry milkshake Molotov cocktails
snowballs with rusty razors hidden in their core

or the snap and strangle of those Dobermans
who now stayed in the Mueller home most of the time
looking out of darkened windows

or when they were in the yard
paced around the muddy landscape
with thick chains around their necks

while all of us emboldened bastard kids
taunted them like paper tiger tough guys

happy to have the vigor and fight
drained from their murderous bodies

now that their master was gone to heaven
like all of those fat priests had said.

This poem hits me at my own core. Having been through hell as a kid in a variety of ways, this one about bullying I can relate to. I can also relate to feeling relief instead of sympathy or sorrow when the bully falls into tragedy. I could go on for pages but I won’t. I’ll simply say that having been through hell inspires people to either become hell raisers themselves or to become those who champion against bullying. I champion against it.

If you enjoyed Starting with the Last Name Grochalski by John Grochalski, you may purchase a copy for yourself for $9.00 at:

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…