Blue Fifth Reviews

Blue Fifth Reviews – (April 2017 / #9)

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”

Each month 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.


April 2017

Bill Yarrow, ed.

Habeas Corpus by Cindy Hochman
Glass Lyre Press Press, 2015
14 poems, 27 pages

1.    She didn’t know her asp from her elbow because she was too busy tendon her garden.

               (from “Womb”)

2.    It’s feeding time at the zoo, but there’s nothing left in the trough. And there’s no such thing as a boxed lunch.

               (from “Mouth”)

3.    One finger on the pulse and one on the trigger. Beware the full lunula.

               (from “Fingers”)


Benign Protection by Anne Elezabeth Pluto
Červená Barva Press, 2016
32 poems, 55 pages

1.    When I am dead
        be my carpenter

              (from “Funeral”)

2.                                          the
        long lure of love burns
        celestial in the dark
        to domesticate the night

              (from “Easter”)

3.    I have been to Samarqand
        that final time
        a journey by water
        the dream geography more full than life, the mosque, the church
        the covered women singing
        the Stations of the Cross
        the goblin boat to take me back
        by morning

              (from “I have been to Samarqand”)


A Curmudgeon Is Born by Heath Brougher
Yellow Chair Press, 2016
26 poems, 36 pages

1.    The day is made of slammed doors
                    everything is labeled and certain
                    and few things are more certain than a slammed door

              (from “Yours and Mine”)

2.    Violence began as fists fists
        turned into swords swords turned
        into guns guns turned into nuclear bombs

              (from “Evolution of the Fist”)

3.    the Truth is a kite stuck in tree branches
        not a thing perfectly afloat the air

              (from “A Slant on the Truth”)


Standards of Sadiddy by Jonathan Penton
Lit Fest Press, 2016
26 poems, 47 pages

1.    our eyes forget the sunset
        our hands forget the how of when we
        climbed those yielding rocks
        those pieces pointed skyward
        to see the tapestry of fermicide
                   a map of smallpox comforts
        dust embedded in our teeth

              (from “North”)

2.    my body claims i am filled with tiny answers
        my mouth tells you how i like to lie

              (from “craving purity when i speak of craving people”)

3.    i am swimming in a long-forgotten lover
        who resides in another person’s eyes
        i am seeing an empty-pastured future
        in the honey of the stretch marks on your side

              (from “Hepatoscopy”)


Graduating from Eternity by John Goode
Rain Mountain Press, 2013
21 poems, 58 pages

1.    She was made of dice and black mascara,
        and she roamed the streets in a cocktail napkin.

              (from “The Possessed”)

2.    I fell in love so hard words
        didn’t know what to do with me
        they spun like spiders off my chin

              (from “It Was Easy to Be a Body, I Simply Touched Your Hand”)

3.    The wind is full of forks and knives.
        The century is leaning.

        I ride.

        The grocery store calls out Wednesday with red, red eyes

              (from “Bicycle”)

Comment on Blue Fifth Reviews #9


October 2016, All Chapbook Edition

Bill Yarrow, ed.

Trace Particles by Allison Joseph
Backbone Press, 2014
11 poems, 23 pagesallison_joseph_headshot_photo_by_-rusty_bailey

1.    Ignore the woman in the sad shapeless dress,
        wispy hair fine as a widow’s last breath,
        skin saddened by unmentionable griefs
        that purse her lips and twist her uterus.

        You don’t have to seek the black marble of
        her toenails, or the words she hides in this
        black hymnal: Matterhorn, blister,

               (from “Hymnal”)

2.    Disney wanted you drawn as a plump little girl full
        of adolescent cuteness, no more than fourteen,
        blanched and innocent as a foundling.

        Thank goodness his animators talked sense to
        him or their first full-length animated feature
        would have been nothing more than an advert

        for pedophilia, that eager Prince swooning for a girl
        half his age.

               (from “Snow White”)

3.    Black-bordered handkerchief to show my grief,
        black squares of white within the darkened edge,
        dark borders growing lighter in relief.

        Full year of mourning—that’s a widow’s pledge,
        the weeping veil to cover up my face.
        My squares of white will keep their darkened edge

               (from “Widow’s Weeds”)


Pleasure Trout by Gloria Mindock
Muddy River Books, 2013
33 poems, 43 pages

1.    Young Jose was a man
        of tedious karma.
        A scholar lost.
        Among corridors, among hills,
        he argued with his father:

              (from “To Be Born Jose”)

2.    I need not untie any secrets
        It is your doing
        Christ, magnetic, Christ,
        busy circling
        I will continue plucking water
        with my hands
        wondering if the starchy nuns
        have any hair

              (from “Aaaaah Life—Brick Me!”)

3.    I’m tired of being demanded.
        Don’t you know every day
        is a speck the size
        of Cleveland.

              (from “Winged”)


The Lunatic Ball by Margo Taft Stever
Kattywompus Press, 2015
21 poems, 26 pagesmargo-taft-stever

1.    Furious dancing gives way to screams;
        five men stare, ghoulish, at the wall.
        This is the lunatic ball.

        The best student Yale had ever seen—
        three months after graduation, typhoid—
        brain swelled inside his skull.

        They dosed out Calomel—five ghosts appeared
        in a mercury dream, headaches unbearable.
        This is the lunatic ball.

              (from “The Lunatic Ball”)

2.    Along the wasted avenue
        of roots, curling vines
        undress in half-dark, unfold
        toward the promise of moonlight.

              (from “Dance of the Jackrabbit”)

3.    For a year he trains in Brazil,
        studies the seven bells of the body,
        how the pockets ring and ring,
        how the pockets sing out
        when he touches them.

              (from “Pickpocket”)


Meat Machine by Susan Swanton
Exact Change Press, 2012
Winner of the 2012 Exact Change Press Chapbook Prize
25 poems, 43 pages

1.    Petroleum used to be sunlight, back when it was
        alive. We were all made of sunlight, but I don’t know about
        now. Now, what does a man know of now? What could 10,000
        tons of pankton know of now?

              (from “Garbage Barge: The Masculinity of Industrialization”)

2.    Butcher’s brain been extraterrestrial for fourteen months. He fits in mittens and formaldehyde all up and back the Hollywood coast. He’s a reindeer baby and he wax papers disease and meat-machinebrain disease and ET disease, and he slips on slick tiles under his blood feet, and he gets his hands dirty, and he farts a little.
    Visits surgeons for his hybrid brain. Told he has outerspace disease. Cure in meteorites and rocketship toilet, refrigerate the internet, been told to chemicalize blood and brain and make it cut make it chemical but he doesn’t have the right blood, he don’t live on the right planet. There’s not enough Hollywood to go around and he just need new meat in his skull, more greys in blood.

              (from “Bloodfoot”)

3.    I know this place, I mutter as I play piano and Curly Howard is my boyfriend. I climbed three ladders and was alone the whole time. When they wake me I’ll scream and scream and roll around on the floor. Everyone here wears the same sweaters. I came back from WWII hopped up on goofballs, barbs, bluebirds, blues, dolls, downers, tooties. I am so elastic. I handle those pills in my elastase, and that’s in my pancreas you know. It’s juice that digests elastin and that’s like elastic. yeah? that’s what I am. My pancreas digests me. I am easily digestible, a collision of limits. In my dream a bee stung me, but in truth no bee stung me.

              (“Bee Stings”)


Stone Bride Madrigals by Nicolette Wong
Corrupt Press, 2013
11 poems, 17 pages

1.    These drapes wrap us like contortions
              a branching white on the wall:
              mass inlets narrowing, fleeting
                                            pentacle hunger

               (from “Sky Well (II)” )

2.    On the sauté border: a bridge,
              cars branded with last night’s lava

              from unfinished permutations. That wants
              to skew my ammunition, center of dome.
              (from “Celebration”)

3.    I have no memory of gold
              carvings for a dance
              but under a corallite dusk

              our poverty
               (I am charade)

              the shredded poise
                             of your voice hardening
                             in a vignette
                             of congruence.

              (from “Stone Bride Madrigals II”)


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”)
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,

               (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”)


February 2016

Bill Yarrow, ed.

The Map of What Happened by Susan Elbe
The Backwaters Press, 2013
Winner of the 2012 Backwaters Prize
58 poems, 97 pages
1.    Hard dreams come to me this spring:
        sunflowers bending over me,
        their huge, yellow heads, cougars
        on the loose, a vampire moon,
        the street inside me full of children
        somersaulting underneath
        of Trees of Heaven, their thin arms
        and legs gleaming white

               (from “Things That Look Like Other Things”)
 susan elbe Photo+on+2014-08-29+at+18.04
2.    days unchangeable except when
        weather rolls the waves of switch grass:

        true, I’ll leave you, go back to the city
        but until I do, show me how

        to shoot this tin-can loneliness
        off fence posts, claim this place as mine

              (from “anthropomorphic” from “Five Summer Nights”)
3.    Look, it wasn’t only death that pushed me down,
        scraped my shins, and tore my sleeve.

map of what happened 41+RG8I2OFL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_        It was the bridge from there to here,
        the hum of its metal, how the girl who needed
        to cross couldn’t trust it would hold
        the weight of her grief or her love

              (from “The Map of What Happened”)
4.                    We spent hours on the front stoop,
        waiting for our lives to fins us,
        not knowing we would have to steal them too,
        not knowing every life is kidnapped,

                         or at least bartered for

              (from “Stealing Popsicles”)
5.    But now, coming home, I stop in the alley,
                    like a stranger, witnessing

        this silent, ardent work, a loosely threaded
        mend of fireflies, sparkling between

        porch and window, before the sleep that separates us all
                    undoes the fragile stitch again

              ( from “Their Marriage Fifty Years In”)



The Children’s War and Other Poems by Shaindel Beers
Salt Publishing, 2013
57 poems, 67 pages
1.    Tropical storm Debby batters the Southeast,
        and near Boston, Julia is waiting for a kidney. A father
        in Wisconsin on whim pulls out a camera and says,
        Smile! His daughter beams: his son looks sullen,
        and he wonders, a bit forlorn, How did my and my wife’s
        bodies create these two children?

              (from “What Is Lifted”)

2.    This is the heart.
        Little spark. Pulsating star on the screen.
        It is hard to believe someday you will be human.
        Right now, you are a blueberry. A kidney bean.

              (from “The Image Grows: It Moves”)

3.    This is the cradle that held their daughter.
        The stove where the wife baked their bread.
        The mudroom where he pulled off
        his boots every night after milking.
        This is the part where you realize every
        broken window is a piece of you.

              (from “This is the house of yearning—”)
 Shaindel Beers

4.    Who are at once scalpel and salve.
        They have only one spigot for honey or gasoline,
        and you don’t know which you will get until it hits
        your tongue. Sip slowly. Protect the soft palate.

              (from “There Are Men … ”)

5.                                                                                           I mourned
        for the childhood of our marriage. The skinny yelled at girl,
        the beaten little boy we used to be. I thought of my mother
        cowered in corners, my father knocking over furniture,
        your four year-old arms spotted with cigarette burns,
        your hunger locked in rooms, and how we never escape our past.

              (from “A Prayer for Angel Torres”)




The Narrow Circle by Nathan Hoks
Penguin Books, 2013
National Poetry Series Winner, selected by Dean Young
44 poems, 84 pages

1.    Everyone tells me I look like Jim.Nathan Hoks
        Jim, I say, who the hell is Jim? In truth
        I know him, but I’m feeling anxious
        About these accusations.

              (from “Personality Test”)
2.    Three or four

        feelings later the spoon wish turn to rain. A ghost finger taps
        me on the shoulder but I will not disappear with it into the
        oak’s bear-shaped shadow. I have to watch this sparrow bounce
        and eat in the grass.

        The wind pops

        the soap bubble, my face disperses with angels of teeth and
        loam. The snake sheds its skin, the tree of steam leafs its way
        into the sky.

              (from “Spiral of the Interior”)
3.    When my wife comes home from work
         The invisible bird is still hissing near
         Her head. She looks for the mail and wrinkles
         Her nose at a waft of cottage cheese.

              (from “Family of the Interior”)
4.    When I drop the glass in the sink, I want to watch it shatter in the light.

        The tunnel elevator releases the eyes and pinches the light.

        Alone with a tangerine: light in the backseat.

        The smell of tarmac that has sat for hours in the light.

        Is it possible to think darkness without also thinking light?

              (from “Candelabra”)
 The Narrow Circle 51qE3q+n4IL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_
5.    I walk around town looking
        For my god in the windows
        And in the bare branches
        And in the bookstores
        And in the dog shit.
        My god lives on a fire escape.
        My god has no tangible benefits to the soul.
        My god is the word “No” stuck in the mouth.
        My god my god every word is my god.

              (from “God of the Interior”)


December 2015

Bill Yarrow, ed.

Kohl & Chalk by Shadab Zeest Hashmi
Poetic Matrix Press, 2013
56 poems, 78 pages
1.    Listen I am a paper kite in your hands
        and this room is a star-gazer’s hill
        Beyond these Dopplers and monitors
        are the creamy shadows of passing moons
        feathery comets with soft light funneling through

               (from “Labor and Delivery”)
2.    such as the long surviving flower
        in a bottle of cream
        soda, the strategy
        of termites, song of melting ice

Shadab-Zeest-Hashmi              (from “Such as the Weight
of Salt on a Flame”)
3.    King of clocks, king
        of moving clouds
        and of everything still
        roaming, flint-mouthed, raw,
        everything dribbling over the green
        of birth, everything in the soft
        of waste.

              (from “Writing to My Maker from the Café Between Afghanistan and Pakistan”)
kohl & Chalk 51icT+bwPXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_4.    There is a kneecap in the word diction
        where memory collects

              (from “Malabar Hills”)
5.    I looked but did not find myself
        under the desert’s back lit
        piercing clocks, its lexicon of loss,
        lures and winds
        of woven fragrance

              ( from “It’s in Sleep a Soul Will Know Itself”)




Beast in the Apartment by Tony Barnstone
Sheep Meadow Press, 2014
50 poems, 90 pages

 beast in the apartment 51ffMW+0E-L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
1.    The wooden Buddha was wrapped in canvas
        and buried beneath a certain spot
        and there he dreamed abstractly
        for twenty wild years while children
        with red armbands cracked the cellist’s
        knuckles with pliers, axed the faces
        from statues, made monks kneel in dunce caps
        and watch the temple whip the sky with flame

              (from “The Buried Buddha”)

2.    I wanted to write something about the shout

        ripped out of the mouth by joy, the strangeness of being
        a being channeled through time
        pierced by the needle of right now, and the way

        I kill my life by living it, and the song of
        all I was unraveling behind me, the song that plays
        as a record spins to its end, and the sorrow

        of that, and how I still sing in the shower.
        That’s the poem I wanted to write

              (from “Why I Am Not a Carpenter”)

3.    Small stars are shining in the sand light,
        and here by me, skirt splashed like melted glass,
        is beautiful you, Gwyneth, curled on the beach blanket
        watching breakers fail to break the shore

              (from “The Strangeness”)
tony barnstone Mezzanine_684
4.    The great oak, hollow as a throat,
        emits the darkest sound when wind
        unwinds invisibly, strange note
        that summons nothing in the mind,

        in a black rush of wings.

              (from “Vermont Ghost Song”)

5.    And so the cosmos wavers, scared by whys
         (Yet still this poem would like to kiss your eyes)

              (from “Rota Fortuna”)




between my eye and the light by Paul Breslin
Northwestern University Press, 2014
25 poems, 73 pages

1.    So little to separate us
        from the one the siren is for,
        whose house flies into the air as cinders,
        who lies on his bed turning purple and clutching his heart.

              (from “Siren”)paul breslin reading
2.    How do you plead?

        Guilty. But guilt
        preexists the crime.

        We investigate crime, not guilt.

        Solve the guilt, and the crime will follow.

              (from “Police Interview”)
3.    Grant us this breath and another, grant us tomorrow.
        Hold us closely, lest we fly apart as we would in space;
        Incline your full weight so that we feel you hold us
        Just as you hold the dew before nightfall, the cloud before rain;
        Kiss us as we wish a lover to kiss us, without forethought or purpose.

              (from “Wind Rose”)
4.    … as new minted stars climbed from the sea,
        And shoals of fish leaped, shedding concentric rings of phosphorous—
        To anchor, after prolonged delicious loneliness,
        Where no one who was not a child could follow me.

              (from “The Lanterns” from “Octets”)
 between my eyes and the light
5.    How do you know you’re broken?

        Because you know it, you are.

        How do you know when you’re not broken?

        Because you don’t know that you are.

              (from “Catechism”)




November 2015

Michelle Elvy, ed.


This month, we dedicate the Blue Fifth Reviews page to Walter Bjorkman, who passed away on October 8, 2015. Walter was a poet and story-teller, often drawing on his own life experiences to paint memorable images from the past. He was also active in the literary community, most recently as Managing Editor of A Minor Press. His many other contributions included his stint as editor and designer for Thrush Poetry, his work as the mad mind behind the brief literary farce Voices and his immeasurable input as the design editor of the 52|250 project. Maybe you met him at one of those venues; maybe you read his work at Fictionaut. Or maybe you saw him in one of the many online journals where his work appeared over the years. He was prolific and enthusiastic and, besides being a creative writer, he was also a friend with a good heart.

Walter loved nature and poetry, words and the thrum of life – with its highs and lows. His emails were bursting with his personality, from backyard encounters with deer and dragonflies to reminiscences from Brooklyn or Norway’s distant shores. We hope you’ll enjoy this visit with Walter, and we are honored to have known him and his creative energy. Our hearts go out to his brother Allan and his son Donovan.

Portrait of Walter Bjorkman, by Rebecca Venn

Portrait of Walter Bjorkman, by Rebecca Venn


download (1)From Strand by Walter Bjorkman
2015; more here.

you awake and it’s nine past your time, nothing to do but drive where
disturbed people stand by the side of the road holding hands with
themselves and staring at the

headlights as they eat the gravel, walk into the field muttering about
odometers and not caring, splashing neon lights on their stones and
watering hydrangeas till sick rants

of madmen cease only when no one listens, water flows sideways when
nobody looks and the sky is yellow when dylan sings when it is.

(from “driveby”)

your dam with no water behind it is a burst of sand, leaving phrases in
an empty river bed. my sun hides in the valley, dawn in another
continent. i feel the calf give birth to its mother, a cloud rejoices.
square flames shoot from the rooftop, sniping at my scavenger dog’s
feet. below the bakery truck smells of corked wine, and wet
newspapers on porches. your hand reaches for rusted words, a tugboat
creaks, the harbor groans, weary with mold. i lie inside the floorboards,
waiting to see the foster moon’s child.

(from “aubade”)

Deer outside Bjorkman's window.

Deer outside Bjorkman’s window.


i am hidden in a city garden of milkweed
unseen by gypsies who gamble in alleys
who talk to you through fire escape walls
through bricks bleeding mortar,
as chrysanthemums hang
from window box lies

(from “contralto”)

tattooed rocks below the surface lie awake for seeds
prairie dogs behind us begin morning screams
we sit on nervous banks, fall shivering in sun
to sunken beaches voiceless from below

beneath rivers of silverfish lie bottles of wine
tasted by troubadours with reeds natives made

we watch in dark-eyed awe, serpents living lies
of often sought scars years ago

sweetwater entering pores of sight
green floating insects enticing cry
walking in opium skies, sipping velveteen
in drunken boots of spanish sailors

(from “western front”)

download (5)5.
upstairs a woman sings arias in contralto range
here the lilies quietly hum dirges

in the desert there is a petrified winged duchess
that has never flown aloft or sat on a throne

she waits for me to return her to flesh
i am not that pure

( from “contralto”)




from Elsie’s World by Walter Bjorkman
2013; more here


I stole a quince from the gardens at The Cloisters. Leaned over the wrought iron fence and my fingers couldn’t reach so I sipped on my toes to try to snatch the forbidden fruit. I thought about trying to squeeze through two posts, the quince was hanging low, but the red lights flashing the sirens blaring the adults chuckling the crowbar working the other kids humiliating laughter forever the memory once sealed now opened I wasn’t going to be caught red-handed there, the spaldeen of youth left on the bough.

(from “Quince Orchard”)

download (3)2.

It was the summer of sixty-five. I was seventeen, had a second-cousin of twenty, of magnificent pulchritude and some bucks. She owned a fire red Mustang convertible, would pick me up on days off, with her magnificent girlfriend, blonde hair waving in the sun, and, with a lucky friend of my choosing, we’d drive off to Riis Park beach, listnin’ to the Beatles and Beach Boys on the way, then put our blanket down next to The Fugs, the Anti-beach boys. Later our friends would show up from their 90-minute bus ride from the steam of the city streets. They had to go home the same way, sunburned and tortured with sand in their crotch, while we enjoyed the cool breezes from the open ragtop.

But that is not what this is about – this was war. Civil, foreign and personal identity war.

(from “Watts Burns, I Save the World From Destruction and Have Fries With That”)


Uh-oh Eddie thought, now what? He was just caring for the critters as a favor to Chalky who was down somewhere in the Caribbean, trying to find a woman he saw in a PBS documentary that he fell in love with. The snakes were two Coral snakes that Chalky snatched out of the Everglades last spring. They are venomous, but Chalky assured Eddie that they didn’t bite unless mishandled, as if Eddie knew how to handle a snake.

(from “Marzy Gets Even”)


Tante Emma and Tante Anna, pronounced ah-na, kept a dress shop on a side street just off the main artery, Lapskaus Avenue, known to outsiders as Eighth Avenue, in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn…

Tante Emma and Tante Anna, always spoken in that order, never Tante Anna and Tante Emma, were always draped in black to ankles, but not always in the gunny-sack raiment of the typical Tante or Bestemor…

The dress shop was a storefront less travelled, away from the bustle of pastry shops, meat and fish markets, a dusty windowed enclave housing a lone black dress on a limbless mesh dummy, with scattered swatches on the raised floor below it…

When they came to visit, with their knowing slight smiles, respect was given by all, along with a hint of tolerance, why needed it was unknown to me.

(from “The Strange Tantes”)

Bjorkman with his dog, and his guitar, and his cigarettes. NH rock quarry, a long long time ago...

Bjorkman with his dog, and his guitar, and his cigarettes. NH rock quarry, a long long time ago…


The first music Eddie ever wrote on his beloved Favilla guitar was a few years earlier, to Ezra Pound’s Nicotine: Hymn to the Dope. It was a bass-driven drone of merely alternating E minor and G major, the stressed words evoked by the tempo and how he thumbed the bass strings, growing faster and louder, driving stronger until it reached its final crescendo, where Eddie had it suddenly drop off into barely audible notes, with whispered stretched-out words of the last half-stanza…

(from “When Out West”)

The editors would like to thank Susan Tepper for her assistance with material for this tribute.




September 2015

Bill Yarrow, ed.

Alloy by Jan Bottiglieri
Mayapple Press, 2015
56 poems, 78 pages
 Alloy Bottigliari-Front-Cover-Medium-192x300
1.    I love how the sky doesn’t murder us,
        how even daffodils, with their big dumb
        faces and skinny necks, will get a chance.

        I understand it all: your igneous
        skin; your melancholia, the tide
        that brings boats in. With me, you’re not alone.

               (from “Dear Atlas”)

2.    Today I practice making kolacky. Outside, the turning leaves.
        Poring over my mother’s recipes, I cried while turning leaves.

        I fold two points of each square to the middle: small crossed hands.
        Colors of apricot, berry, darken inside, like turning leaves.

        Like my mother, I make kolacky, and I want to get it right.
        Waste, a bitter taste: the sugar-scorched underside that burning leaves.

               (from “Baking Ghazal”)

3.    The boy nearby pretended
        to be poisoned by berries
        so everyone would laugh, but no one did.
        She thought the boy was beautiful
        as a bowl-eyed pony.

               (from “Persephone of Maple Street”)Jan Bottiglieri

4.    And suddenly I want to know how turquoise
        is mined, I want to see the river of rock supple
        beneath the earth, I want to bring water
        to the ones who freed it from stasis,
        polished it, brought it to the light.

               (from “Squash Blossom”)

5.    But if there were time or world only
        for one more bite of this

        soft-spilling flesh, this gold
        greening ripeness

        I would eat
        from the bottom of the pear

        where gravity has pooled
        the sugar

               ( from “The Pear”)




Brief Nudity by Larry O. Dean
Salmon Poetry, 2013
32 poems, 82 pages

1                        Her eyes toggle
        like a clock’s second hand
        in a synchronized spasm of deliberation;Larry O Dean
        blinking, she straightens herself
        and resumes walking westward

        when a sudden breeze flips Tweety
        up and over, underside a bright white
        against colors corroded by sunlight

              (from “$8 Towels”)

2.    She crossed her legs and smoothed the skirt she bought.
        She babysat for change and for the chance
        to learn the things that girls could not be taught.

        The stockings that she wore were torn but taut.
        She thought that she might wear them to the dance.
        She crossed her legs and smoothed the skirt she bought.

               (from “Pulp Villanelle”)

3.    My penis doesn’t get what all the fuss is about.
        My penis is financially irresponsible.
        My penis likes quiet nights at home,
        and long walks on the beach.
        My penis is bona fide.
        Cogito ergo penis.

               (from “My Penis”)

brief-nudity-cover4.    Cuneiform

               (from “New Age Baby Names”)

5.    Enough already. We get it:
        You’re a badass. Your reputation
        precedes you, your fans need you
        to flex that steroidal muscle, but if
        you didn’t, would they love you any less?

                                                                       (from “Hey, Hercules”)




Letters from Aldenderry by Philip Nikolayev
Salt Publishing, 2006
99 poems, 122 pages

1.    Time to recount the sparrows of the air.
        Seated alone on an elected stair,
        I stare as they appear and disappear.

               (from “Hotel”)philip nikolayev_philip-processed

2.    In this modern age and style
        everything is crocodile:
        crocodile purses, crocodile tears,
        crocodile sized chandeliers.

        Purse me something crocodile,
        weep me something crocodile,
        light that candle and redial
        something likewise crocodile.

               (from “Crocodile”)

3.    Local cries for local, distant for distant.
        Oven of knify long phosphorescent
        testimonies, the soul in common parlance,
        whenever thus touched blends
        the Syracuse of your presence
        with the ports of my syzygy.

               (from “Morning”)

4.    Don’t ask. I can’t explain. Roses stream forth deciduous
        froth. Smoke exacts its toll, celibacy or not.
        Lucid, we grow to grief, faltering past invidious
        symmetries still unwooed, battles as yet unfought.

               (from “In a Hospital”)

5.    Snow is a cad. The phlox-plucking
        snow. Rude lips whisper
        more than the mind knows,
        yet it is by whispering
        that the mind learns to know
        how to whisper
        and the body how to understand.

               (from “Pensées”)



July 2015

Sam Rasnake, ed.

Poeta en San Francisco by Barbara Jane Reyes
Tinfish Press, 2005
Winner of the 2005 James Laughlin Award of The Academy of American Poets
Book-length poem, 111 pages

1.    there is ghazal swimming inside of her, wanting to be born. on the matter of foretelling, of small miracles, cactus flowers in bloom on this city fire escape, where inside your tongue touches every inch of her skin, where you lay your hand on her belly and sleep. here, she fingers the ornate remains of ancient mosques. here, some mythic angel will rise from the dust of ancestors’ bones.

              (from [asking])

B J Reyes hqdefault2.    our lady of salt pilgrimage
        our lady of building demolition
        our lady of crack houses
        santa maría, madre de dios, pray for us sinners

              (from [ave maria])

3.    she whispers desert trees, thorn-ridged, trickling yellow candles; roots spilling
                snakes’ blood
        virgin of ribboned silk; virgin of gold filigree
        one day’s walk westward, a crucifix of fisherman’s dinghy dimensions washes ashore

              (from [galleon prayer])

4.    That blank space on your map, that’s where I was born.
        The more blank your map, the more darkness for exploration.

        Gold stars pinned to your chest for every military and civilian
        slaughter, for every child defiled, for every rice field set ablaze

              (from [Kumintang])

5.    To honor movement in crescendos of text, combing through ashes for fragments of human bone, studying maps drawn for the absurdity of navigation — what may be so edgy about this state of emergency is my lack of apology for what I am bound to do.

              (from [state of emergency])




Together We Can Bury It by Kathy Fish
Lit Pub Books, 2012
40 fictions, 162 pages

1.    They are watching a movie about a man who cheats on his wife, whom he loves, and is so disconsolate that his wife eventually loses all patience and leaves him. They are at the point in the film where the man considers kathy_fish 90 perhis many blunders as he walks along a rocky shoreline carrying what looks to be a large vase.

              (from “Foreign Film”)

2.    The next morning I went down to the basement, and just as the woman had said, the moths had all died. At first I thought everything, the floor, the furniture, the shelves, was covered in thick, green leaves. Then I realized.

              (from “Moth Woman”)

3.    In the spring we’d get twenty-five-cent kites and stand in the middle of an open field and give them up to the wide blue sky. My dad scribbled on a piece of paper, tore it halfway and stuck it onto the string. After a few stutters, the paper hurried away from us, up the kite string, until we couldn’t see it anymore. I asked him, was that a prayer? No, he said, it was a secret.

              (from “What Kind of Person Gives Secrets to the Sky?”)

 together we can bury it kathy fish revised
4.    Tom Brace stands naked in front of a mirror doing something resembling the Twist. He watches his paralyzed left arm arc across his body, then swivel around and disappear behind his back. He does this over and over again. He’s very high and it makes him laugh.

              (from “Lip”)

5.    Later, they are woken by laughter. The girls tumble from their beds and look out the window. It is their mother, beyond the hollow on the edge of the cornfield in the blue night, her arms wild, waving down the moon.

              (from “The Hollow”)




a half-red sea by Evie Shockley
Carolina Wren Press, 2006
47 poems, 82 pages

1.    i am southern hear me roar i am burning flags bearing crosses i am scarlett and prissy like a piece of carmine velvet at christmas don’t know nothing bout birthin no rabies so don’t come foamin at my mouth i am miss dixie and a miss is as good as a guile i am a daughter of the con-federacy come on dad don’t you know me here let me put on this hood and sheet do my eyes look more familiar now surrounded by bleach

              (from “cause i’m from dixie too”)
evie shockley1
2.    the graveyard on the corner becomes the lower jaw of a whale sown with crooked rows of granite teeth. the roof of its mouth is the sky, falling, the grassy dentured mounds struggle up, the jaws of the whale close, and i am outcast, neither ahab pursuing nor jonah pursued, but woman, alone.

              (from “waiting for van gogh”)

3.    i am named for a poet who never in her lifetime
                published. her notebooks survive her–attic stacks
                of flimsy spiral-bound pads–narrow-ruled. her
        poems read like grocery lists. i need–a dozen eggs
        –a tub of lard–loaf bread–fatback–and rat poison
                for the rat who sleeps in my bed.

              (from “ode to ‘e’”)

a Half-Red sea 
4.                  the night
        before the full moon

                the moon seems
        full. what is missing
        is a dark hungry
                sickle, the sliver
        of shadow eating

                us up inside.

              (from “–shall become as–”)

5.    found in africa / dawned in freedom
        raised in boston / rose in slavery
        schooled in greek / grew in god
        published in england / died in poverty

                        for phillis wheatley

              (from “bio / autography (or, 18th-century multiculturalism”)



June 2015

Bill Yarrow, ed.

Trying to Help the Elephant Man Dance by Tim Suermondt
The Backwaters Press, 2007
69 poems, 100 pages

1.    Summer does have glorious stories to tell,
        placing my eternal soul in peril,
        one of the eloquent vixens capable of making a man

       forget he lives in Hell.
tim suermondt
              (from “Patton Bumps into a Sense of Peace Outside Avranches”)

2.    A world away
        a man is swept

        off the street, disappearing
        into the small h of history.

              (from “Bad Night at Club Solitary”)

3.    A candelabrum in my soup–
        nonsense, though nonsense
        born of living.

              (from “An Understanding”)

4.    I grew wings, somehow,
        and may I say
        they look damn snazzy on me.

              (from “Apocalypse”)

5.    I confess: lyricism has always escaped me
        but I’m flying as well as everyone else.

              (from “Flying, Without the Geese or the Plane”)




The Undermining of the Democratic Club by Rob Cook
Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2014
63 poems, 130 pages

1.    Today, I exchanged a song for the terrorist elephants, the terrorist giraffes, the terrorist oxygen, the terrorist fern forests, the terrorist mercies of medicinal marijuana, the terrorist sunsets, the terrorist shark sleep, the terrorist carrots and celery and kale that do not leave the body, the intestinal photos of the Gaza Strip taken from the cries of a leaking child, the war on shadows, the war on people who find enough to eat without having to plant pancreatic spores in the hells of the soil, the creek bed underminingofthedemocraticclubLakota whose fully-subsidized hack drinking earns the status of enemy activity, and though I saved his name on a dollar that trusted me once, I won’t discuss the terrorist child helping a turtle find its little door in the terrorist grass.

              (from “Sand Song of Mesopotamia”)

2.    The howling of guns in your eyes
        a North Dakota loneliness in your throat

              (from “Red Lake”)

3.    She comes from a long line of missing information.

              (from “Woman from the Village of Painted Weather”)

4.    Who could trust
        the flag with its middle finger
        pointed at Mexico, Pakistan, Iraq?

              (from “Darkening Dust Village to the North”)

5.    No language left anywhere. No one paying attention.

              (from “In the Absence of Great Men”)




The Park of Upside-Down Chairs by Alexandra van de Kamp
CW Books, 2010
43 poems, 130 pages

1.    Life is a parade of molecules showing off
        its different disguises, so why couldn’t I be
        part tree or table? Who know the exact boundaries
        between ourselves and what surrounds us?

              (from “Scientific Theory”)
2.    Van de Velde choses his miracles
        carefully. A man bent on the ice
        ties his skate. His red sleeve
        burning out towards you
        like a caught flame, a promise
        not quite forgotten.

              (from “Winter Landscape”)

3.    In all these photos, nature is a mute witness. The day
        always seems on the verge or snow or rain—the sky gray
        as a pearl, waiting for something to occur. History is
        constantly overcast, reduced to a brooding tone, as if
        it knew the metallic grimness the next century and a half
        would bring.

              (from “Daguerreotypes”)

4.    The heart is a cave and grief sputters its flames, throws
        its flare of clarity against the trickling, furrowed walls.
        Then the glyphs on the stone glow, and I am forced to read
        my one story back to myself.

              (from “Regret”)

5.    … Think of me as a shawl
        thrown over the tenuous shoulders of a thought,
        a shimmering pullover hugging each lift
        of the arm, a perfectly-weighted gabardine
        that lets pass the bare essentials, while a dream
        flickers its lightning, uninterrupted, across the mind’s
        voracious sky.

              (from “Arachnoide”)

Comment on Reviews, #3, September 2015.


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