Wednesday, August 16, 2017


She sent me to the porn store
with the following instructions:
don’t buy anything gross.

So the 19-inch dildo with a purple tip
and rippling veins is probably out
but maybe not.

One woman’s gross
is another woman’s orgasm.

-- Dave Newman


Years ago
when I was in grad school
I had a poetry professor
who wasn’t much of a teacher
but was a lot of fun to drink with.

One evening after a night class
he pulled me aside and said
in a very serious way
“I may drink a whole bottle
of Jack Daniels
and fall down the stairs
but it doesn’t mean
I have to put it in a poem”

which may have been decent career advice
and suddenly made clear his own PG-rated poems.

I was writing autobiographical narratives
like most young poets
and my autobiography was pretty scruffy:

I lived an old apartment with a struggling Army vet
and an undergraduate alcoholic who stood
six feet tall and sometimes set his hair on fire

I was 3rd assistant manager at B. Dalton
which meant I had to steal dinner money
from the cash registers to have a proper meal

I read and believed Baudelaire when he said
“Be drunk…with wine, virtue, or poetry”
though I would have added dope and fucking
and long mornings staring at the ceiling
with vigor and great seriousness
and eating long slow breakfasts with bacon
and listening to Bo Diddley at midnight  
and tongue kissing strangers in Dee’s Bar

I didn’t have insurance and wouldn’t for years

I was a recovering born-again Christian
who woke each morning with God
puking last night’s sins in his ear.

I subsisted on writing and reading
believing that somehow my poverty
might end up useful.

What my professor meant was: be fake.
He meant tell half-truths.
He could have been everyone I knew
at church and work, the people I’d hoped
to ditch by becoming a serious writer.

My professor put his arm on my shoulder.
The other students walked off, maybe
believing I was receiving extra praise.

What my professor meant was: bullshit.
He meant: the way to success
is inaccuracy and a spit-polished life.

I laughed at him, not in a mean way
but because I was stunned.

The language I most loved and wrote in
was barspeak, dive barspeak, and it may
have sounded garbled in a workshop
obsessed with politics but it told more truth
than anything I’d ever heard in a classroom
and I’d have quit writing before I spoke
in anything less than what I heard in the night.

Do I have to say my professor is more successful
than I am and will ever be?

This was more than 20 years ago
it’s still everything that’s wrong with literature
and the general fuckheadedness of the world—

no one telling the truth and claiming it’s the truth.

-- Dave Newman


Sitting on the edge of a vibrating bed
without any quarters

     truck parked outside
with some
other trucks
at least one
still running

woman next door
threatening to gouge
her husband’s eyes
out for looking
at pornography.

I paid 60 bucks for this place
and the water is cold
and the bible
underneath the nightstand
crushes a generic tissue box.

Do you know the story of Mizpah?
He walked across Israel to become
a fisherman and the Romans
hung him upside down on a cross
then stabbed him in the side with a sword.
No one knows if Mizpah loved Jesus.
No one knows if committed a crime.

I took a bus across the country
to work a job I hate.

Now I hear sirens.

My three options are:
or home.

I turn the bible upside down and shake

but the verses refuse to fall out.  

-- Dave Newman

The Climbers

We leave the world with our heavy clothes on,
slough off a day's worth of sweat and strip dress clothes

stuck to our skin. forget the television with its terrible news.
We know that we’re too tired for change, except for a worn sweater

and slippers, share just enough energy between us to climb the steps with you
to our bedroom, untwist the question
of floral blankets, cackle together like old spinsters, slide off

into this shared body of sleep. After the dream, tomorrow will be rain,
and the city sky will  bleed out over the three roofers I watch, climb

a neighbor’s house, as I walk to work under their downpour
of bent nails, the dust their work stirs up. They toss over empty coffee cups,

ragged shingles, the green one scurrying up with tools.
already knowing the importance of being helpful, too young

to consider the edge, slip of a tennis shoe on wet gutters,
that eternal oh shit moment.

I’m thinking of the first time I fell from a ladder, How the plumber
I worked with said, they’d bring flowers if I was dead, hire someone else the next day.

I learned to survive the white knuckle climb, to hide
the shaking knees, the flaming back and get there. Leave the boy

on the steep, wet rungs below. Don’t look back at him, ask if he’s ok,
let him think about what might happen, the grip this has on his hands,

the rain, when it picks up, how it’ll make the decision for him.
never again and never again and never again.

-- Bob Walicki

Frances Feeds the Bear

That's a bear, Frances.
Yeah, says Frances.
Do you want to feed the bear?
Frances smiles and shakes her head happily.

What should we feed it? Apricots maybe?
Yeah, says Frances.

The bear wears a soft smile.
And I have a soft heart for him.
He belongs to Frances's mother.
The bear feeds on invisible apricots.

Frances disappears behind the sofa.
The bear stays still.
The afternoon grows into evening
like Frances's hands looking more like my own.

-- Joseph Hurtgen

Like I Before

Sober and undrugged I rehearse in my head
to my wife in the kitchen "I'll have a cup a coffee,
Please, love," but instead hear myself say
"Ittlebut wattleap..." then "Spipton,"

when I want to apologise for nonsense.
I see my right hand side as a grey blur,

my left hand side is clear and sharp,
my headaches. I can't communicate.

I wobble as my brain sloshes from side
to side of my skull until I sit.

-- Paul Brookes

The Ideal Husband

Should know his wife's knicker and bra size,
her favourite perfume,
shoe size, how she takes her tea and coffee,
what she hates to eat,
her ideal colour scheme.
Especially after 16 years,
until she changes her mind

-- Paul Brookes


herself to use her legs when pulling out weeds
so she don't get pain in her back aggravated

by weight of cat litter bags she puts
in her tartan shopping trolley when she meets

her friend Flora in town to share a tuna salad
homemade by Sully the African refugee.

-- Paul Brookes

Three by J.B


yellow flowers
surround brazil
the popcorn festival
is no more

Ozark Sunset

by an Ozark Sunset
and twelve hours 
on the road

headlights spark
with sleep
still in their eyes

For Don Wentworth

there’s magic
in the room
as I watch’
your words

-- Jason Baldinger

Horizons, Et Cetera

It always goes back
to these crowded bars—
talking of nothing
in between sips of beer foam
it always goes back to
the stage where they hammer
out love bites into sound,
beat their feet with the pulse
of a hundred lungs inflating
staring into the spotlight of
a vagabond horizon.

These weirdos, jock heads, stoners,
yupsters, post hippie-hipsters, 
free-love megalomaniacs, dead poets, these
burnouts, these forgotten souls
look a lot like me.
And I'm wading through their
choruses of self-deprecation 
humming my own refrain.

-- Damian Rucci

The oddest things can save us

Every broken piece
                                is a part of something

                                the form that it takes at the end 

is only a sign 

of how we survived. 

--- James Diaz

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mario Lemieux

Waits for the puck in a New Kensington living room.
The wall poster action shot above a worn out couch.
A woman bends down to sweep her carpet with a broom.

Dog hair, Dorito crumbs, torn receipts. I wait
with tools to be told where the broken sink is.
“That was 92" she says. "Their second cup.

Third period. I was there when he scored the game winner,
banged that puppy right in.” I walk past toys, strewn clothes,
a ceiling fan dangling by the wires and kneel before the porcelain God.

A cracked sink and faucet that screams burning hot water or nothing
at all. When I leave, the new sink shines like a full moon in the dark
of burned out lamps, the unswept dirt of pizza crusts and Legos.

Mario on the wall, looming like a ghost on ice, before the shot.
Before any goal could save a city. In town, the buildings I pass
fade into a wet blur. Flecked with rain, the businesses stripped

of names, boarded up glass, soaped up or duct taped.
Nothing open but a bar and a bank, Citizens
flashing alive in neon.

No one here will scoring anything tonight, but maybe a little weed,
a six pack after work and the game on tonight, the ice
cleaned of its scratches and cuts, made new,

TV’s filling our rooms with blue light, a chorus of screams.
That hunger we don’t want to name.

-- Bob Walicki 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Warm Winter

I pine for the
soft robots
and fast sloths
of spring.
it’s been months of
hot blood:
hot blood
at lunch,
hot blood
in the shower.
I want to kiss you
like a kitten licks
but we kiss
like we’re chatting,
not like cats
at all, and
anyway, ever since
I found that cat
and brought him back,
my life is
through a haze of fur.
I saved his life
instead of watching
now it’s all stupid
meows instead of
even my nosebleeds are
there’s no snow.
we hike in the mud.
my only pleasure is
the feel of your arm.
please don’t
tell me that anecdote

  -----Tessa Barber