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Poetry Special – (September 2015 / 15.19)

Maternité aux fleurs by Francis Denis

Maternité aux fleurs by Francis Denis

Artist Francis Denis resides in Longuenesse, in le Pas-de-Calais, near de Saint-Omer. His texts and illustrations have appeared in print and online around the world, including Le Chasseur Abstrait, Népenthès, Aéra zinc, Ellipsis, Les Trompettes Marines, Le Capital des Mots, Squeeze, Voxpoesi, The Ilanot Review , Taj Mahal Review, Monolito, La Ira de Morféo, The Milo Review, L’Ampoule aux éditions de l’Abat-Jour, Under the Gum Tree, Kritiks, and many more. His work has been exhibited in France and elsewhere.



A. J. Huffman

Of Ribbon

waves catching
breath of wind
for hair

A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new full-length poetry collection, Another Blood Jet, is now available from Eldritch Press. She has another full-length poetry collection scheduled for release in Summer 2015, titled A Few Bullets Short of Home, from mgv2>publishing. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poetry, fiction, and haiku have appeared in hundreds of national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, Kritya, and Offerta Speciale, in which her work appeared in both English and Italian translation. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press


David L. Paxton

Rhapsody 9.

Breath falls back on silence barred over an overzealous maw,
a hand clamped around the lips, knuckles crooked into the fatty flesh.
I stoop down off the table, leaving you sitting there
while I exited the room, this flippant exaggeration
crowing and crooning its spine in contortionist admiration.
The fabric of sweat supersedes the absolute necessity
of closure, the refrigerator dying, killing the food enclosed,
suffocated without chill or eyes to watch as death coughs through still air.

Pace liqueur syrup, spread it uneventful as your reactionary follow-up.
Air depresses, and no one is here with their chairs pulled up.
Dejection isn’t setting in; I watch it in waves,
the plastic beach stretched under my callous dotted feet.
I am fully aware what the stress inflicted on my body is
being consumed this deep into the music of melancholy,
elbows exhausted from constant defiance.
You don’t know the extent of the pressure,
the density of the body flopped onto my scapulas,
the burning sensation of staving off this chest affliction.

I can call myself coward for not grabbing your waist
and holding your face to mine, forehead to forehead,
nose to nose, breath torquing breath.
This all is intangible, a fictional fuse developed
under the priceless tutelage of Eros and handy muses.
The fallacy of my want tears through my tendons
mentoring my bones into reconstructing their understanding
of the simplest of motor function movements.
A wicked future is coming on.

Tempt me with silly games. I beg for them
just to recover some semblance of normality.
Kick the back of my knee, punch my shoulder,
flirt once again.

But, I forget I am a mute now losing what little I possess.
The grape sky looms over me, how much a little boy I remain
after all the years of seriousness, the deaths
of grandparents and philosophers,
my interests and homes. I kiss this earth
and wish it more luck than any religion might allow, considering
most beckon for its infantile destruction by fire or ice.
Let my hair and finicky attitude toward recorded music rest.

What are you listening to as I question the darkening atmosphere,
its gravity weighing on my ears blushed with heat and blood pressure?
I do not want to pull me down, but my hands
have become heavy as whole planets
attached by wrists and muscles reeking of nickel.
The more plastic these days metamorphosize, the ocean pixilates more pleasant,
territory I’ve yet to explore, expanses where you are not located in.
But I’m fairly sure your eyes will appear piccolo piercing
to the depths of my farthest reaching denial, like factories creating artificial power.

Cast this diamond mold around my fingers;
isolate them; wring them in doldrums;
silence them too, ultimately annihilating their persistent nagging casting discontent far away.

Electric is the room, but I am the solitary resident,
a towering tenor’s high note sung into itself,
only one way to pray into another world that is not in this universe
flowing through the streets week to week hard as hate.

This is not easy.

Let hush voices calm this pointed holding against you,
a polyphonic prairie matched by harmonized sound waves echoed
over lava and island edges, shadows masked by this haunted heart.
A barrage of music erupts from the torture after the torture.
We dream of machines, however miniscule they may be
from either one of us.
                                        I step back and see him
racked, a blue haired woman standing above him,
her eyes hidden with shadow, a tender smile gracing the air of uncertainty.
I help him up after cutting the leather from his joints.
You are the woman. All the sound of space crashing down around you
became shadows just as I make your eyes shadows.
I have to pull myself away from them, my literal dreams
fiending into the mechanics of my recuperation,
the mechanics of how little you display for me
when I actually conjure a single moment with you in our waking day.

There are words I scratch away from my voice
because they may only be from my chest, not yours,
and I do not desire to be the man who shoves
phrases into your tongue to spew some other instant.
Treatises arise in me, who I am and can never alter from,
demonstrating my inner inertia, but I will not haul you down with my demand,
the theatrics of my hill of melancholia, a reverberation into childhood.
You are a medicine when you are close to me,
another day of a dream, the synthetic notes of nothing real.
Be close to me. I wait as a child, my name nonexistent,
Stockholm-syndromed into what may be frivolous love, but is still
love in an antibiotic. Give me what you first said to me.
Give me that child’s look, glanced on your own hill of nostalgia.

It is alright. For you, I can be stranded in forgotten reincarnation.

David L. Paxton has previously been published in Electric Cereal, The Flagler Review, Splizz, Purple Pig Lit, and The Dead Snakes, and received his Masters of Arts Administration from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2013. He currently resides in Middleburg, FL, working as an independent arts professional as a painter and poet, growing with various curating opportunities for exhibitions.


Terri Anastasi

Flatware Sonnet

She and I were wedded as fork and spoon,
our gleaming silver luster stored out of sight –
under the lock, a crescent light of moon
luminous though stifled as shuttered night.
We shimmered together in steely beds,
crimson silk reflected on our breast.
It lined the lid above our metal heads
where we lie captive in a wooden chest.

Unnamed creator cast us both to serve,
flanking fine china on life’s fragile cloth.
My harsh tines revered her contrasting curve
as I speared the meat and she cradled broth.
Rejoice at repast and appetite’s spark
for soon the feast’s over, turning to dark.

Terri Anastasi was born in Western Pennsylvania before it became a notch in the Rust Belt. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Master’s degree in Art Psychotherapy then worked nearly a decade in mental health. Since relocating to North Carolina in 1995, Terri has made a career in child welfare. Her poetry has appeared in the Inspired Heart Anthology and The Best of Fuquay-Varina Reading Series 2014 Anthology. Terri has a chapbook entitled fending recently published by Main Street Rag.


Dennis Mahagin

Erotic Quadruple Triolet Con Edison Disaster # 69

They writhed upon the divan, intertwining hands
and waiting for the crash.
“Hold on, baby” said the man,
reading her palm right there, where they writhed upon a divan
whose leather cushions spoke of a Chesapeake catamaran, rammed
dockside to the hilt, by Big Ship Diesel, its jets of flying glass
kept briefly at bay by two writhing lovers intertwining hands
and waiting for the crash.

Yet to wake, and smell the sum of what they knew
one need only ask
for the soft scratch of a kitchen match: some clue
or “wake up” smell the … Foreplay and Prescience is all they knew
in the one or two micro seconds before a flare of blue
tongue licked the shuddering (“right there, darling”) back draft,
bubble of a mean sum, or what the blue jays knew:
one need / only ask

to be in touch —- with what they became
in the matter of a searing flash
flamed a 3rd, manifesting deep Polaroid, sepia grain
of Eros; she alone could save them from what they became
by a lick there, and here a prescience masked by slits of flame
that grew, hard on indigo through the blinds; giving way to glass
gusher overlay, a liquid Pompeii crash, glaze of all they became
in the matter of a searing flash

you may hide within, or gasp: pointing to the fact they’d been fucking
all along, really, right up inside that gusher of gas
aphrodisiac wedded to bad luck
dressed in gyres, of gasp, garments flying, getting off into mid-fuck
they managed on that rocking divan a kind of pyre, with limbs amok
writhing, but holding out, against whatever imminence at long last
you point to: whoooosh, and gasp, lips bitten on a fast flux fuck
all along it was right inside, that trenchant scent of gas.

Dennis Mahagin’s poems have appeared in Evergreen Review, Absinthe Literary Review, Exquisite Corpse, Everyday Genius, elimae, The Nervous Breakdown, Corium, Stirring, Juked, and Night Train. His latest poetry collection is called Longshot & Ghazal – available now from Mojave River Press.


Miranda Barnes


The morning light is indecipherable,
limp grey gauze in layers growing thick
with rain. I am coffee-deep into the day,
but slow and occupied with solitude.

Amidst the dark mid-morning of a Monday
in a Midwestern state famed for roadways,
there is no one near the pool at this hotel.
Green ripples wobble up from the water

over the ceiling from below my form. A storm
launches, pouring rain onto the glass windows
in a roar, beads thick as black pearls,
the lightning making canvas of each pane.

Eight laps, a headstand, some mermaid
moves and my body’s borders begin
to blur until I’m mostly water, water made
of green light and a slight chemical sting.

Water, electricity, and the gauze of my flesh,
slowly fuse with the darker clouds that slip past
until the rain has stopped, until a white towel
and a cloud break gather me back into myself.

Miranda Barnes is a poet and writer originally from the United States, who now lives in a small village just south of Bath, England, with her partner. Her work has appeared in several journals in the US, including Ruminate Magazine, AfterHours: A Journal of Chicago Writing and Art, and Blood Lotus. Miranda currently teaches Creative Writing and Poetry as she completes her PhD at Bath Spa University.




Kelly Cherry on JoEllen Kwiatek’s Study for Necessity

Study for Necessity by JoEllen Kwiatek
University of Iowa Press, 2015
72 pages

study for necessity 51pzM7cwSSL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_JoEllen Kwiatek’s collection of poetry, winner of the 2014 Iowa Poetry Prize, forced me to set aside my own understanding of poetry and enter another world. I am a fan of meaning. I am even a fan of logic although I don’t demand that poems be logical. Kwiatek, on the other hand, is both a romantic—as in Romantic Poetry—and a phenomenologist. Short as her poems are (and some are almost as short as a breath), they convey a languor, a sense of dissolving (moods, consciousness, life), of things thinning out, of the sheer wispiness of the world we inhabit, its propensity to change, to become not what it was.

An epigraph from the Czech dissident Ludvik Vaculik clues us in to the author’s ambition: “This spring has just ended and will never return. Everything will be known in the winter.” Change is loss; loss is permanent; we may expect ultimately to know the clarity and harshness of the truth (death, I imagine; did he also have in mind the Prague Spring? Kwiatek does not tell us where or when he said or wrote that).

Also prominent in this collection is the figure of Odilon Redon, the painter who said, “My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.” Study for Necessity wants to say something similar. Here is “Summerlude.” Please note that I received this book on a Kindle, and it has been difficult to guess where lines start and end.

        Eyedeep in the lake,
        the surface tremble-
        ing, dark as a revolver,

        the cold of it slipping
        cold shoes on my feet . . . Look

        up, look up—Fresh horses
        are coming. All I
        don’t know racing the sun.

How is a lake like a revolver? Where are the fresh horses coming from? Who or what does she not know? I suppose the lake is dark, as is a revolver in the sense that it may kill or maim. We certainly feel the cold water. It is always, for some reason, lovely to see a horse in a poem, but perhaps these horses are metaphorical, signifying the ability of nature or reality to outpace our minds. Or maybe I’m all, well, wet. But the word “eyedeep” is electric, the presence of the revolver is powerful, and the horses are at the very least muscular and vivid.

Or perhaps we should start with one of her poems about Orpheus, every poet’s haunting inner self. Here is “Archeology”:

        Unearthable light
        of pain—torso
        of a god, a stone

        calved by the underworld . . .

        Nothing to put away or go
        on with down there

I admit I’m rudderless. Is pain like a light that cannot be unearthed? Yes, I think, and if that is what Kwiatek is saying, it makes sense to me. Orpheus, the myth informs us, was rent asunder limb by limb by Maenads. To refer to him as a “torso” seems to the point, and “calved by the underworld” suggests he was both born and died, but what does the last line mean? That there was nothing left for him to do? But how could he be expected to do anything once he was dead? This puzzles me and makes me wonder why the line is there.

These poems are both evanescent and evocative. Perhaps dangerously evanescent, as sometimes a poem seems to disappear even as one reads it. One of the longer poems is “A Delicate Thing.” The author often includes quotations following titles to give us a sense of what to expect; in this case, the quotation is from Shelley, and the “delicate thing” is desolation. “The trees / there,” she tells us, “are like men, though not walking.” She tells us further that “paddles lifted for the glide forward / on faint intuition/ beneath those trees.” The syntax here eludes me; is it supposed to? Maybe so. Or maybe “lifted” is past tense, the entire phrase a description of a preceding “you.” On the other hand, “Planet” seems self-explanatory:

        One hand covering
        my eyes, an arm
        circling my
        belly, his
        knee punching the backs
        of mine, Sleep
        restrained me. My night-

        gown stretched like a sound. Glisten-

        ing, trembly, my own
        dreams were held
        up to me like a spoon. For
        a second I lost
        consciousness—unmined, un-
        shone, unswerving
        planet—before waking again on the ward.

Kwiatek’s quotations, titles, dedications, and the poems themselves let us know whom she admires or at least responds to in one way or another: Jane Kenyon, Redon, Georg Trakl, Shelley, van Gogh, Chekhov, Ryder, Kafka, Louise Bogan, Rilke, and Michael Burkard are among them. I am especially taken by “Ryder, Albert Pinkham”:

        The dark woods shone
        with a mineral
        radiance—deep, deep.

        All day they’ve stood
        at the end of the field like a horse.

That the woods are like a horse strikes me as true of Ryder’s paintings. Things “shine” or “shone” in quite a few of these poems, but who would want to banish those words?

We might want to ask why our author chose the book title she did. My take on it is that what is necessary is what is most important. The book is a “study” in the sense of a study for a painting. Study for Necessity might mean that the poems constitute a painting of her mind and the works of art (all kinds of art) that live in her mind. Or it might refer to the works of art and nature that are essential to all of us. Or it might mean that the poems she has written and the subjects in them are a foundation to thought.

Finally, I also want to point to this startling, blunt, theatrical, effective last poem, “Answer”:

        I took no for
        an answer. I
        took it & took it—
        more wood
        for the stove—more!
        more!—until the fire
        grew like a tree in Paradise.

There is a loveliness in these poems though it often seems like a dying loveliness. I trust Kwiatek will continue to write poetry and that what she writes will gain acceleration, strength, and energy. At the same time, I am tempted to model a poem or two after hers, as she so beautifully captures suspended moments and the phenomenological “now.” Her ability to register even the smallest moment is enlightening. I still think it rash to toss out the well-wrought urn, but I found this book interesting and edifying, and inspirational in its desire to claim new territory for contemporary poetry.

Kelly Cherry is the author of twenty-three books of fiction (long and short), poetry, memoir, essay, and criticism. She has also published nine chapbooks and translations of two classical dramas. Her most recent titles are A Kind of Dream (interlinked stories), selected by Library Journal as a Best Indie book, and The Life and Death of Poetry (March 2013). Her fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, and New Stories from the South and has won three PEN/Syndicated Fiction awards. Her story collection The Society of Friends (which, she says, has nothing to do with the Society of Friends) received the Dictionary of Literary Biography Award for Short Fiction for the best collection published in 1999. This spring will see publication of another book of stories (not linked) titled Twelve Women in a Country Called America, about women in the American south, and a chapbook titled Physics for Poets.
JoEllen Kwiatek has a B.A. from Syracuse University and an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University. She has been published in magazines such as the Antioch Review and the Indiana Review, and was the featured poet on the cover of the American Poetry Review. She has been awarded the Pushcart Prize and the Constance Saltonstall Award. Her book, Eleven Days Before Spring, was published by HarperCollins. She teaches at SUNY Oswego’s Writing Institute.

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