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Blue Fifth Reviews – (June 2016 / #7)

Any conscientious critic who has ever had to review a new volume of poetry in a limited space knows that the only fair thing to do would be to give a series of quotations without comment but, if he did so, his editors would complain that he was not earning his money.
               –W. H. Auden, “Reading”

The editors will select collections of poetry, flash, and short fiction to present to our readers. We will be heeding Auden’s advice, listing, without comment, key passages that we consider representative of the featured works. Our hope is that readers will also be moved, and will seek out the books.

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June 2016

Bill Yarrow, ed.

 
 
 
Bury My Clothes by Roger Bonair-Agard
Haymarket Books, 2013
56 poems, 160 pages
 
 
1.    Chicago is a city of sorrows:
        Let the 100 brown boys dead
        raise up and tell you different.
        Chicago will say it is the city
rogerbonairagard-processed        of the get down, city of grimy,
        city of house music and hard work.
        All that’s true. All that means
        is that Chicago won’t tell you
        how to fall in love. Chicago won’t
        give you back the chance to tell
        that woman No.

               (from “city of sorrows”)
 
 
2.    Just today, telling a boy in county
        how to write a love poem,
        I’m stammering over ideas
        of detail, trying to get him
        not to say happy
        or sparkling eyes but to talk
        about what is his love’s, only
        hers, and no one else’s
        like how the first time
        I picked up something
        from somewhere, a book, maybe
        a phone, and on the train platform
        you smack it straight down
        out of my hand and we stare
        at each other dead-faced
        for a millisecond and then bust
        out laughing—like that, I tell
        him and he’s cracking up; he’s
        dying in this jail, where he doesn’t
        know how soon he’ll be out
        even though he’s just eighteen
        but right now he’s full belly
        doubled over and I describe it
        to him again and who knows
        what this beautiful tethered young
        man has done to forfeit his life
        in this place…

               (from “how to write a love poem”)
 
 
3.    The Caribs did not kill off the Arawaks
        like we were taught in primary school.
        The Caribs and the Arawaks managed to live
        side by side for centuries before Columbus
        showed up. This is today’s math;
        today’s lesson on how to build a village
        like a fortress; how your descendants
        survive despite every attempt to kill you.

               (from “Today’s Math”)
 
 
4.     The tassa is heavy with water.
        Its doon-doon is deep as the Indian
        Ocean. The tabla is a ruckus of
        celebration. Such a paganism; such
        beauty that ignores the convention
        of space on a dance floor.

               (from “Ode to basement bangra”)
 
bury my clothes 
5.    All he wants to know is why all his roads
        have turned to rivers. Why all his spirits
        have begun speaking in different unrecognizable
        tongues. It’s not that he’s complaining
        but there was a time when everywhere
        the ghosts spoke in pianos. They spoke
        waist music. They spoke a pore-stippling
        staccato. And now this. All this river road
        and him without a way to know if to cross
        or be carried downstream.

               (from “Crossroads”)
 

~

 

Justice    Freedom    Herbs by Margaret Rozga
WordTech Editions, 2015
60 poems, 91 pages
 
 
1.    Maybe so much depends on
        what tune you’re looking for,
        what you’ve done with silence,
        what notes you’ve already begun
        to sing, what rhythm your heart beats.

justice freedom herbs rozga               (from “Butterfly Song”)
 
 
2.    Taste
        bile churning up
        into your throat?

        That’s the bitter moment before
        courage           Courage

        itself has a wild, fresh air taste
        something like the soft grey-green of sage

               (from “Seasoning for Courage”)
 
 
3.    Let all the named and nameless women who
        ever cooked in this kitchen return with their blessings.
        Let all the dear women who wanted to—or had to—
        start over start over here with me.

        Let us continue in each other’s names.

               (from “Housewarming Prayer”)
 
 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
4.                                                                   The beach
        lulls dark, white edge of waves alone
        show. The mess of war, more war, seems tidied
        at least for this night. If tomorrow we find
        conflict, may we have the courage to do the work
        we will feel called to do, the work
        likely to wind
        up in our laps when we find
        less peace than we discover on this beach

               (from “Peace Sestina”)
 
 
5.    Aretha sings R   e   s   pe   ct. You age. You live
        alone. Waukesha, Wisconsin. No one plays the piano.
        No one even dusts it. You read Flannery O’Connor’s
         “Revelation.” You need bifocals, and you no longer ease
        through stretches of night driving. You’re just another
        face in the crowd of those whose dreams shadow the
        lucky on stage. You tell yourself to dream strong.

               (from “Searching for First Person: An Autobiography in Four Paragraphs and a Coda”)
 

~

 

Longshot & Ghazal by Dennis Mahagin
Mojave River Press, 2014
50 poems, 118 pages
 
 
1.    O plover, cormorant, slick pinnacle of a soul’sdennis mahagin 6505866
        flight— or flit, the eye mates for life: strong soul

               (from “Doc Williams’ Pigeon Breast w/ Soul Ghazal”)
 
 
2.    I was near broke, and entertaining Suspicion.
       He’d called me, from a convenience store, a block
       away from my home, where he’d crashed, only the
       night before. “Look, I’m lost, bro,” Suspicion said,
        “these here streets are so different in day glo.
        You better come pick me up…”

               (from “Longshot’s Allegorical Rag”)
 
 
3.    In this world of fake books, Eskimos, sheer
        unkind and minefield, strobe light, they come at you
        with calliopes in lieu of insight, sonic tribulations
        of Job, tone deaf, beaten
        down, and when you finally get the hang,
        might wish to sing along … But it’s too late
        to catch a second song, gone,
        gone…

               (from “Manfred Mann”)
 
 
4.    I ran into Jack Bruce, outside the Elephant Castle
        on Washington Street in Portland, 3 blocks from
        the river, ‘92 or thereabouts. Jack stooped low
        in a mackinaw. “Dun, dun … and done,” he said
        dragging a kitchen match across a patch of very
        rare, dry concrete, color of the reeling
        sky, his genius eyes.

               (from “Kill what’s Inside of You”)
 
 Longshot & Ghazal AGfrontcover-700w_original
5.    Lukewarm Diet Sprite on the night stand
        a bowl game on TV, vital sign monitors kept
        an insane rhythm, measure for measure
        with respirators as a windshield wiper sloughs
        crystal beads of snow. I was forty two
        years old, New Year’s Eve in Vegas;
        been told that around nine, some lost twin
        of mine rolled his sleeve in Reynolds Wrap,
        speed ball and chrome; he bought it
        on Elizabeth Street, the sirens
        got him home.

              (from “ICU 2”)
Comment on Blue Fifth Reviews, June 2016.

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