from "Waiting for Ralph at the Milner Grill" - Aralee Strange

from "Waiting for Ralph at the Milner Grill"  (1992) - Aralee Strange

... Just goes to show you the power of words why you can build bridges with them if you just believe I believe I believe in love I believe in the innocence of animals I believe in dancing one two-three one two-three to a world waltz beat I believe lame Beauty could tame the beast in me but all I can say is May I have a cappuccino please? And Ralph commences jamming bandy legged and jive in another tongue Can you clap your hands (clap our hands) Can you stomp your feet (stomp our feet) Do the right words come when you need ‘em? Well drum! jump and cook a gumbo Free! all the deep down held back among you Allow it release! the one thumb piano plunk on a Sunday tambourine thumping ring around the shakey Pole who is unafraid exposed whose language transcends All do lament! another good man gone (to hell probably)  Whose slit throat bleeds Whose black skin’s unseen bruise pains deep and overwhelms and  I may be high on cheap wine and caffeine but I swear I see pale Death flying out the win­dow flying over the used car lot flying across the unbridged flood muddy river headed west. Even Death has a home. And Ralph (yet untuckered) still stalking the wild improbable However you can man do you dig it oh ain’t it dandy (and I do) in all simultaneity and with silver tongue to sing “livid and aloud” ipso facto is allowed on the open read but try as I might I am just one more white cat on the conga line dancing to another man’s drum. Am I sufficiently engaged? Does my conscience work? When the right words come crude rude and dead on will I need ‘em? I have two good ears and listen. I have two good eyes and see. I have a mind that wanders how much pull blue yonder the wild turkey’s song (strong as gravity). ... And now Ralph’s working his way out there where the sun don’t shine and if we’re lucky he’ll come back singing looking to shake things up shaking things up better watch your back when Ralph’s around better mind your poetic skew and hew a new one everytime or why bother brother for we are Us here now and they are Them there then and the question before us is not when but How do we cross over if the bridge is blown in three sections and according to plan?

An excerpt from the prose poem "Waiting for Ralph at the Milner Grill" by Aralee Strange, which appeared in Evil Dog and is dated  8-27-92. The full text is  posted online with the following note, and appeared after Aralee's passing in 2013:" .. there was a piece by Aralee that could be described as a prose poem or a non-fiction narrative. I remember hearing her read it at a literary event. Where that reading took place I can’t say, and visually I can’t recall a single detail. I still remember, though, what it sounded like when she read it—and I’ll bet that anyone who’s heard her read can imagine what it sounded like when she delivered these words."

"This is" - Ciera Durden

"This is"
(Ciera Durden) 

This is
Come into my home.
I have eaten the lock off for you in anticipation,
And you have scared away the dogs from the windows with the sound of your running.

This is
I wait for you and that is
Not a threat but a promise.
I do wait for you.

This is
Let’s be what the villagers whisper about in fear,
Let’s be the rumor on neighbor’s lips,
And this is
Let me kiss your hands,
Good, rough, heavy with Wisconsin snow and deer antler fights,
This is
Wrangle my own, too soft for what I want to be, but I also have horns and cinderhooved feet,
Smoke to your clear river water laugh,
Witch howl to your tender spirit charm.

This is
Touch me like an Ouija board
And I’ll grasp you like the lightning rod.
These are raw, dangerous actions,
We know what we are doing,
We are old women for all our youth,
We both carry ghosts and thunder,
We are capable of séances and mad science,
We are both willing to risk haunting and electrocution.

This is a fire and a lute song,
Willow, fur, and jade,
Coyote runs,
A thousand mile dance,
Two scepters,
And real things, too:
Your scent still calling me forth,
Reaches up gentle
Then grabs my hair,
Demands me to lean down,
Dip my face where yours was,
Laughs in my ear, says go ahead and wash me,
I have friends still waiting for you in this house,
And I can’t wait to find them.

This is
I walk like an old woman in the morning, grateful and sore,
Ready for you in every corner your body has already left.
This is thinking ridiculous words like soul, heart,
My heart, come here, let me fiddle with the Jammed knob once more,
Every twist and curse rattle saying not yet, not love, not quite, but
I have kissed your feet and seen you ravaged at mine.

This is
A staunch atheist and some wild mystic agreeing on the power of intention.
Hungry energy.

This is months of just two voices in the void
And then three hundred ways to give flesh to them
In only three days.

This is the fact that more empty months wait after those fever hours.

This is
Being tired
But wonderfully triumphant.

This is
But we are making this work.

This is not a love letter—
It’s a thank you note.

"Bomb Shelter" - Jay Morris


"Bomb Shelter" 
(Jay Morris)

I'll ask you if you think it's possible to love a bomb shelter

You'll ask me why

I'll say it's because that's what I pretend to be

When I feel like the world is closing in on me

My meditative happy space

To meditate or medicate

That is the question

These hands are not my hands

These feet are not my feet

This heart is not my heart

They are the brick and mortar

I bought with my defense budget

This skin is not my skin

It's 7 inches of hard, cold obsidian

To fend off the inevitable irradiation of an erroneous environment

You'll laugh at me because you think I'm making a joke about my dick

I'll tell you not to interrupt my existential crisis

It's serious

It always will be

I'll tell you how some days

Every word said over me

And not to me

Whistles like the mouth of a warhead through the air

Terminal velocity until its detonation of impersonal conversation

Around me

When other eyes register my perimeter and then quickly look away

I feel like the landscape is splintered around me

The bombs go off in my vicinity

Barely missing me


Disguising this test of endurance

As a test of luck

I'll tell you how some nights

I can sit in a room full of people

And feel as desolate

as the aftermath of a nuclear fallout

The ruins of my city

Populated by the inevitable irradiation

This erroneous environment reeks

Of a macabre miasma

The smell of spoiled vintage

And silver aura radiating

Around the halos of skulls long in the tooth

No longer aged and wise

Just decomposing

As our vitality pretends we won't

As our mortality portends we do

I try to ward off the vapor

With the salts and silver smelted in

The enamel of my too short teeth

But they stay rooted in their canals

Guards of show, not of action

Wanting for hands to cover my mouth with

Wanting for feet to walk away

Wanting for a heart to pump life and color

To differentiate me from this silver haze

I have become a macabre monument

To edify this radiated ruin

Populated by you

Fluent in the language of light

Clairvoyant future demystifying the fog

I stood still in

You stand at my barricade

You look me in the eye

Then down at the weeds encroaching on my perimeter

In your presence, the weeds whisper flowers

Forget-me-nots if you’re romantic

Roses if you’re not

You rub your fingers gently along roughness of my rocky walls

Spread your warmth on the coldness of my obsidian facade

Press your lips against my door

Reminding me of my mouth

And with it, newly formed I ask you

Do you think you can love a bomb shelter?

You say yes

I've even made it my home.

"Catkin time" - Bob Ambrose, Jr.

"Catkin time"
February 25; March 14, 2014
(Bob Ambrose, Jr.)

When catkins swell the tips of alder 
red fringed auras 
of river side maple 
soften the bare edge of winter 

In air set sharp 
against the stale drift 
and sullen throes 
of late stage February. 

You would not call this tame day 
mellow – that is past and yet to be – 
but buried deep in dead brown 
sameness, spirits gather. 

I wish these days would hurry on – 
my mother’s presence 
pierces years to conjure sun 
and wrap the world in warmer tones. 

And I hear his gentle rejoinder 
that soothing faux-scold timbre 
tinged with a twinkle – 
Don’t wish your only life away. 

Dad was the ever-enduring hills 
she an effervescent air-kiss
the smiles and dreams of springs to come.
Now both are gone. 

So I throw on a warm layer 
zip inside my black hoodie 
and huddle out back 
in a broken pool of light 

Wishing with mother for 
ever warmth and winter’s end 
and feeling my father’s calm 
as if from distance – stay, stay 

Spirits of the earth and air 
are washed clean in cold breeze 
beneath the bare-branch starling tree 
on catkin edge of winter time. 

(photo by Michelle Castleberry)

"Hellwave" - Kayla Sargeson

(Kayla Sargeson)
Twelve tattoos and can’t stop want my body covered/
no space for that night at the fraternity house:
body cracked open like glass.

I want a needle in my skin.
I’m the queen wasp thick and pissed off.

My friends say girl you’re on the fringe/
father likes to get me drunk/show off:

This is my smart daughter. The pretty one’s at home.

I know the push of a hand on the back of the head/

faceful of cock/baby no teeth

do what I tell you
/stepfather’s raised fist: bitch I’ll hit you.
At the Rock Room, for a tit grab
it’s all-you-can-drink-all-night.

I’ll suck you off for a joint.
I’m looking for my studded Sid Vicious cliché:

skinny punk with the bass guitar.
He’s got the chain wallet, leans

against his amp and almost looks alive.
He rides a Fat Boy/he’ll get me out of here.

We’ll ride the hellwave screaming.

KAYLA SARGESON is the next featured reader at Word of Mouth, upstairs at The Globe, Wednesday, May 7. She  is the author of the collection Mini Love Gun (2013). She recently told an interviewer that "Mini Love Gun is important to me because it deals with a variety of tough subjects—rape, violence, sex, being a woman in the gritty/urban world, etc. I’m interested in pushing as many boundaries as I can, both in my work and my life, so I feel like this collection does that as well, but not without having fun. Most of these poems are really funny to me." Her work has been anthologized in the national anthology Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye as well as Voices from the Attic Volume XIV, and Dionne’s Story. She co-curates the MadFridays reading series and is the poetry editor for Pittsburgh City Paper’s online feature Chapter & Verse. Her manuscript Hellwave is being submitted for publication.

"Roots and Weeds" - Emily Gundlach

Roots and Weeds
(Emily Gundlach)

Is every word so intentional 
that it must ring out like gunfire – buckshot
scattered across the hide of the intended kill?
Even now, curse words dropped like miniature bombs
-the irony of a classroom discussion on female power
and the patriarchy
being led by the sons of the daughters of the revolution 
is inescapable-
maybe this language is no snare but rather
remnants of a life pulsing between dingy bar walls
absorbing beer breath and cuss words all the same to her
middle of the afternoon drunk, wearing warm
around the middle

Late in the day, face upturned toward window pane
sunlight is poured against the glass, spills golden 
on our faces, but 
we are cold
Stunted growth presses against the ceiling
Why give us this much sun but not enough room to grow up toward it?
are we not meant to turn our faces toward the light?
Must every revolution start with rebellion?
I think God has no need for punishment
no hierarchal system of shame, consequences meted out
no God, no father, no Son, no holy ghost of conquering terror

A tenacious, dumb grasping of root toward grain of earth
has brought me this far
sniffing the air, refusing flower
pricking hands that grasp through greenhouse gloves 
with professed knowledge despite the barrier of skin
the bondage of a sexual dichotomy, the bone crunching boldness of answering every unasked question with authority
I’d rather shatter under blood stained glass of ceiling crash
then bend to garden shears and decorative life
Yes, I choose cramped quarters, the rubbing up against the sweaty backs of strangers, the gasped breath and sip of fresh air through the cracks in the glass as we train all our energy toward the bending of one beam of silent sun into interminable fire.